Subtly violent, at times quite bizarre, Alfred Döblin’s stories of romantic futurism reinforce fairly everything that one has come to assume about German literature. The author, most known and best-loved for his modernist masterpiece, Berlin Alexanderplatz, a darkly epic tale of a convicted man’s struggle with the criminal underworld, is celebrated today as one Germany’s most important figures of the European literati. His stories are often Faustian, disturbing probes into the darker recesses of the psyche which turn up many unpleasant truths.
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After Donald Trump’s human smokescreen Kellyanne Conway famously announced that the president was simply presenting the world with “alternative facts”, the connection was quickly made to George Orwell’s 1984. There’s good reason for this. (And while one should be happy for any resulting increase in sales of the book, we shouldn’t presume that it will be any guide to the remaining years of the Trump presidency. More on that below.)
Don’t mistake The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, written by Padma Laksmi with Judith Sutton and Kalustyans, for an advertisement. Yes, Lakshmi is a Food Network star with model looks, a high-profile divorce, and tell-all memoir. And yes, Kalustyan’s is a specialty market in New York City, famed for its spices.
As for Judith Sutton, hers is a name sharp-eyed cookbook readers come to recognize: the writer who often works the hardest, earns the least, and whose name tends to appear in the smallest print. An experienced cookbook author and co-author, Sutton’s name is reassurance that The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs is a serious work. At no time does the book push Kalyustan’s as a marketplace.
As I wrote this, from the corner of my eye, I could see CNN providing coverage of a gargantuan hurricane, racing resolutely towards the eastern coastal arc of the US, extending from Florida all the way up to the Carolinas. The footage shows fierce winds roiling the waters of the Atlantic; wave after wave, crashing against the shore, slopping out over the edge of the sea wall. It could have been an event such as this that prompted J.G. Ballard to write The Drowned World—a forerunner of a genre, dubbed in the 21st century as “climate-fiction”—in which he paints a nightmare landscape, where the seas have swelled and swallowed up the land.
Comic book anthologies never went away. They just became harder to spot since the ‘60s. One reason is because Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent prompted the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954. The CCA’s censoring made it hard for EC Comics to continue publishing its anthologies, which printed the work of Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, and many other legends in the field.
Another reason is that many anthologies turned into single character books. Dark Horse Presents, Papercutters, Negative Burn, Kramers Ergot, 2000 AD, and dozens of others kept anthologies alive while single-story comics and graphic novels grew to become the big draw to comics readers. They come and go, get canceled without notice, sometimes only get released once a year, and move to digital. This is the way of the serial anthology. Now that the juggernaut of serial anthologies, Heavy Metal (published since 1977), has Grant Morrison as Editor-In-Chief, it joins Amazing Forest and Islands to make up three serial anthologies on stands today that are offering some of the best variety between two covers.