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by Chris Barsanti

23 Jun 2011

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© Sylvia Plachy

For an author who has arguably made much of his career out of answering queries that you didn’t know you wanted answers to (how important was salt to the development of human civilization?), Mark Kurlansky has some nerve positing an entire book as one long inquiry. Granted, What? isn’t exactly a tome, at 96 pages it’s the nonfiction equivalent of a novella – the tomette. As macro in focus as his earlier works of nonfiction were monuments of specificity, What? is pleasurable and gamelike, toying with the reader right from the subtitle: Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History – Or Is This a Game of 20 Questions? It doesn’t give anything away to say that question’s not answered.

In 20 short chapters, each focused around a specific interrogative, Kurlansky goes from the obvious journalistic big ones (“How?” “Why?” “What?”) to formulations that appear dashed off at first blush (“What Do We Hate About Children?” “Brooklyn?”) but on further reflection seem more thoughtful, if only slightly – and the answers to those last two, by the way, are: they ask endless questions, and Walt Whitman’s fundamental curiousity.

by Sally Fink

21 Jun 2011


The Mall is the debut novel of S.L. Grey, the pseudonym of established South African writers Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. It’s not so much a horror story, as the cover image might suggest, as it is a reflection of the darker side of humanity.

Rhoda needs to get to Highgate Mall as soon as possible to score cocaine from her dealer. She’s supposed to be looking after someone else’s child, but decides to take the kid with her, thinking she won’t be more than five minutes and what’s the worst that could happen? The worst in this case, is that she loses the child, beats up a mall security guard, and has to stay hidden until the mall closes or risk being arrested.

by Kerrie Mills

14 Jun 2011


Every now and again I get sucked into participating in one of those blogger memes where you have to pick out your favourite book. The thing is, I maintain a LiveJournal, and frankly get just a little bored with trying to ensure my picks show me off as deep and sensitive to a community that includes feminist rants about Firefly.

Thus, charter member of the Junior Iconoclasts that I am, I recently decided to get cute and pluck out something like the most obscure or weirdest book I own.

by Paula Cerni

5 May 2011


Numbers lie. How so? Because they always act more innocent than they really are.

As professor of journalism Charles Seife explains in Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, numbers as used in everyday life are accessories to objects, people, money, votes, and everything else that is endlessly shady and complex. This is perhaps better grasped with humor than with respect, and so Seife introduces us to ‘proofiness’, the easily manipulated, fake authority of figures, and its associate ‘randumbness’, the tendency to identify patterns in data where none really exist.

by Michael Barrett

4 May 2011


Over the decades, much has been lost from the world of newspaper comics. With the reduction in size came a reduction in scope, grandeur, and ambition.

In the ‘30s, the comic pages were littered with gag strips, adventures, and a wonderful screwball hybrid of the two. The most popular was Sidney Smith’s The Gumps, now shamefully forgotten. Others were Wash Tubbs (later Captain Easy) and Thimble Theater (later Popeye).

And then there was Mickey. Walt Disney started the daily strip in 1930 and turned it over to one Floyd Gottfredson as a two-week replacement. He stayed with the strip 45 years.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

A Chat with José González at Newport Folk Festival

// Notes from the Road

"José González's sets during Newport Folk Festival weren't on his birthday (that is today) but each looked to be a special intimate performance.

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