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by Chris Barsanti

22 Jan 2016


H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

A spare and slashing accounting of the writer’s grief over the death of her father, H is for Hawk is the unlikely story of her coming to grips with the ineffability of life and death via her training of a goshawk to do the thing they do best: Hunt and kill. If it sounds suspiciously like the kind of therapy nonfiction we’ve seen too much of—here’s a simple story about how busy-busy me traveled to Borneo / volunteered with Habitat for Humanity / learned origami and what it taught me about my heart—MacDonald’s bleached-bone prose and unsentimental introspection stands in a class by itself. The merging of her bleak and grieving viewpoint with the hawk’s predatory fixations is seamless, as is her weaving together of a naturalist’s background on the goshawk itself with a sympathetic biographical essay thread on T.H. White’s doomed attempt to reconnect with life by doing the same as her. Uncompromising and beautifully styled, this is the year’s most unlikely masterpiece of a memoir.

 

by Gabrielle Malcolm

14 Feb 2012


James Patterson's investigative genius Dr Alex Cross

For the second year in a row, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is the most borrowed book in UK libraries, and James Patterson is still the most borrowed author overall, a place he has occupied for the last five years.

The Public Lending Right (PLR) is the organistion that tracks the frequency of loans for any particular author’s work and enables the royalty payments to reach them. Their figures, released 3 February 2012, represent the shifting trends in popular tastes, consistently moving towards crime and thrillers in the last ten years; and American (or US-based) writers are favourite.

by Michael Barrett

1 Dec 2011


Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a daily newspaper strip that ran from 1948 to 1975, is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the “funny animal” genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire. As such, it bears some affinity to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Tove Jansson’s Moomin, but with more of an edge. It was Kelly, through Pogo, who coined the famous parody phrase “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Pogo is a possum who lives in Okefenokee Swamp and plays straight man to a wacky gallery of varmints, including the vain, delusional, quick-tempered, unscrupulous yet blessedly naive Albert Alligator (combining the worst qualities of both Abbott & Costello); the good-natured turtle Churchy LaFemme, who loves singing songs like the immortal Christmas carol “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie”; the gruff and backwards Porkypine, who pines (as it were) for love of the svelte French skunk Miz Hepzibah; the bespectacled pseudo-intellectual Howland Owl; and a dizzying array of others. Although Kelly was a Yankee, his characters pursued their delicate misunderstandings and pratfalling nonsense while babbling in demented mock-Southern Li’l Abner-ese, sometimes in heavily decorated dialogue balloons (especially for bear-empresario P.T. Bridgeport and buzzard-mortician Sarcophagus Macabre).

by Michael Barrett

15 Nov 2011


“Barks was perhaps the most widely-read but least-known author in the world. Like other comic-book artists at the time, he was anonymous during the years he was producing his comics. At the same time, because his work was so exceptional, he developed a huge number of fans, who only knew him as ‘the good artist.’ His best work is ‘pure Disney’...and yet his work was so distinctive that it actually displaced the Disney vision in the direction of his own individual talent. His success thus depended on his anonymity as well as his autonomy.”

This insightful remark comes from Donald Ault’s introduction (more like a love letter) to this first in a series devoted to collecting Carl Barks’ Disney comics, over 6,000 pages from 1942 to 1966, reprinted in glorious color. This volume reprints tales from December 1948 through August 1949, when Barks was in high feather as a creator of breathless adventures and light comedies for his Ducks: Donald (handled by Barks as a resourceful Every-duck hero removed from his irascible screen persona), the billionaire Uncle Scrooge McDuck (a great creation of equal parts fantasy and frustration), the nephews Huey, Louis and Dewey, and supporting characters like the cursedly lucky Gladstone Gander.

by Kerrie Mills

22 Jul 2011


Ah, the ‘70s and ‘80s. Or, strictly speaking, the mid-‘70s through approximately 1992.

But then, this was no time to be pedantic. This was the time when the survivors of the hard-nosed ‘50s and taboo-shattering ‘60s settled down to consolidate their gains – and proceeded to blow it all on the biggest, loudest, most over-the-top party Western civilization had ever seen. Yes, even greater than the Roaring Twenties. Did they have Atari back then? Did they? Huh?

They settled down, had some offspring, and bought minivans – that being the only vehicle that would hold all the offspring’s stuff. This (the offspring that is, not the minivan) is the origin story of Generation X. And thus this is their unique dilemma today, some 40 years later, as they begin to settle back and think about consolidation in their turn… and find themselves contemplating the shortcomings of “Greed is good!” as a noble contribution to societal advancement, never mind source of cool stories to tell the grandkids.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

The Vast Loneliness of 'No Man's Sky'

// Moving Pixels

"You cannot escape yourself in No Man's Sky. There is little to do but analyze the self.

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