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Monday, Mar 4, 2013
A newly available syllabus from a 1994 class taught by David Foster Wallace shows a great willingness to engage with mass-market fiction on a critical level.

Over at the head-dizzying emporium of good things known as Open Culture, Josh Jones recently dug up a marvelous example of syllabussing (aka, the art of creating a class syllabus; spectacular word) from the late David Foster Wallace. From 1993 to 2002, while becoming the nation’s go-to literary wunderkind, Wallace also taught at Illinois State University.


His syllabus for the Fall 1994 intro class “English 102-Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction” eschews the books we’re all used to from college English lit classes (Zora Neale Hurston, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in favor of an eclectic mix of mass-market fiction, ranging from Stephen King’s Carrie to Jackie Collins’ Rock Star.


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Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013
The Oxford Dictionary of Reference and Allusion is a welcome addition to a dwindling reference book collection.

I was wondering recently if anyone still used actual, physical reference books when Oxford Press sent me the new paperback edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Reference & Allusion. I had no idea there was such a thing, but I love it! I’m always stumbling over some reference, either to some classical book I should have read in high school or some big deal movie character I never heard of. This dictionary totally answers that problem.


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Monday, Nov 12, 2012
This story takes the California dream and tears it apart, only to reassemble it into a dangerous patchwork totem, where the taboo and the sacred jostle for space.

I have a great respect for collectors. Hoarders even. There’s something reverential about taxonomies (boxes, toys, little glass dachshunds, paper clips)—a mesmeric quality to so much like with like. Like walking through a cemetery.


Memoirists are similar. Like collectors, they acknowledge that before something can be remembered it has to be dismembered, de-limbed, cut off or separated from—so as to remember—itself. It is in such a spirit of re-collection that Sea Monkeys, the new ‘memory book’ from cult novelist, Kris Saknussemm (Zanesville, Enigmatic Pilot), proceeds.


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Tuesday, Nov 6, 2012
by Claire Shefchik
Although it reads at times as a kind of existential travelogue, the book is firmly rooted in the Los Angeles port city of San Pedro, where bassist Mike Watt grew up and still lives.

The stereotype of the rock bassist is that he’s an underappreciated second banana. But Mike Watt, who burst onto the scene in the late ‘70s with LA punk pioneers the Minutemen and whose artistic energy hasn’t flagged since, has never been content to let his instrument do the talking. This is lucky for us, because as On and Off Bass demonstrates through its lush, contemplative photography, prose and verse, Watt has plenty more that deserves to be heard.


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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012
A boy who finds a big toe while digging in his backyard, morbid songs about the decomposition of human corpses, a dismembered head...

At first, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark doesn’t sound like a very scary book. The title is awfully benign, conjuring images of campfire ghost stories that end with an overexcited “Boo!”


Frankly, it sounds pretty lame.


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