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Sunday, April 29 2012

Enjoy Orientalism-Lite with ‘Stranger Magic’

Stranger Magic is an exhaustive compendium of the various tales in the Arabian Nights collection, as well as a robust and energetic investigation into how these stories of “Oriental” myth and folklore have seeped into the European imagination from the 18th century onward.


Wednesday, April 25 2012

‘Lord of the Flies’ Still Reigns

Fear and brutality inherent in the human condition and the drive to survive are themes that have never gone out of fashion. The stakes get even higher when those involved are children, and that's obviously a big seller.


Thursday, April 19 2012

Where Angels Fear to Tread: Steven Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’

Is it worst to be killed by a crazed mob wielding machetes or to die via conveyor belt and filing system? The Better Angels of Our Nature keeps falling victim to the halo effect, creating an aura around reason itself.


Wednesday, April 18 2012

That Thing That Makes Funk Funky: ‘The One: The Life and Music of James Brown’

James Brown – an untrained musician, mind you, operating on not much more than feel, instinct and desire – revolutionized black pop music, setting off depth charges that would still be exploding a decade hence.


Tuesday, April 10 2012

A Third Spain, Neither Left Nor Right, United by Sex?

"Spanish majas wearing traditional peinetas made-in-Spain enhance their legs with imported French stockings; dark Spanish beauties leave Andalusia to sit in front of American typewriters in an office in Barcelona or Madrid; sexy middle-class señoritas speed away on German bicycles."


Monday, April 9 2012

Grunge: Straining to Challenge the Status Quo

Grunge: Music and Memory casts grunge as the unsure middle weight stepping into the ring against one pop music brawler after another. Down goes Michael Jackson, down goes Guns 'n' Roses, and while Springsteen is putting the finishing touches onHuman Touch/Lucky Town, Nirvana and Pearl Jam release the most influential albums of the decade.


Thursday, April 5 2012

Not Gonna Lie: ‘The Hunger Games’, Twitter, and Reverse Victimization

Would it matter at all if Katniss Everdeen, a white teenager in the book The Hunger Games, had been portrayed in the film by a suitably teenage and female, black actor? For the young racists who have gone berserk on Twitter about the supporting character Rue being portrayed by an African-American actor, apparently the answer is yes.


Thursday, March 29 2012

We Need This Map: Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder’s ‘Thinking the Twentieth Century’

This is a three-dimensional map of intellectual terrain, marked hastily but with enormous detail and vividness in the course of a conversation between two well-regarded historians. They have spread the map out on the hood of your car—or perhaps, in honor of Tony Judt, the map has been handed to you in a train station.


Monday, March 26 2012

In Defense Of… Adapting Books, Such as ‘The Hunger Games’, to Film

As The Hunger Games phenomenon fills movie theaters, we are reminded of the age-old idea that the book will forever be better than the movie. Or will it?


Thursday, March 1 2012

Exceptional Claims: Principle, Personality and Christopher Hitchens

The late Christopher Hitchens helped define the character and popular perception of Atheism for this generation. But for the self-styled contrarian, where did principle end and personality begin?


Tuesday, February 28 2012

Dead Stars Tell No Tales: Whitney Houston’s Death Casts New Light Onto Memoirs by Two ‘70s Pop Stars

Just as the winners of the war tend to write the history books, only survivors write memoirs. Nile Rodgers' Le Freak and Gil Scott-Heron's The Last Holiday.


Monday, February 27 2012

‘A Moveable Feast’ in ‘Midnight in Paris’

Ernest Hemingway compared Paris to a moveable feast because no matter what time it is, Paris is always the magnificent city of lights. Woody Allen expands upon Hemingway's testimony in the magical Midnight in Paris.


Monday, February 20 2012

Celebrating the Possibilities of Fiction: A Conversation with Jennifer Egan

Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan discusses her unique combination of influences, the role of genre and satire in her work, and the importance of distance in her creative process.


Sunday, February 19 2012

Black Music, White People / White Music, Black People

These two books show how knotty the connections between culture, race and music have become, even though the only thing the worlds they explore share in common is that in both cases, the audiences are almost all white.


Thursday, February 16 2012

What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and the Power of Music?

Denise Sullivan represents the insider intellectual stamina of rock 'n' roll journalism without the pomp and pretense. She is the past and future of the form, rolled into one uncanny style.


Monday, February 13 2012

Some People Have a City Instead of a Life: The Work of Tim Hall

Tim Hall possesses the uncanny gift to compress startling insight into short phrases with such care and concision that he could likely turn a Twitter feed into a system of philosophy.


Sunday, February 12 2012

Hip Hop Es Mi Cultura

This travelogue takes us four locales: Havana, Chicago, Sydney and Caracas. Each locale translates into distinctive interactions with hip-hop and its pillars of deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti.


Sunday, February 5 2012

‘Nebraska’: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

In 1982, with the charts ruled by “Physical”, “Don’t You Want Me” and “Eye of the Tiger”, along came a low-tech record about killers, small-time thieves and other forgotten souls -- and it's still one of the best albums in American music.


Wednesday, February 1 2012

Tower Songs: Townes Van Zandt

I'll Be There in the Morning offers an affectionate but hardly rose-colored view of Townes Van Zandt and his influence on other songwriters.


Thursday, January 26 2012

‘Library After Air Raid’: On the Survival of Culture Amid the Barbarity of War

War is a science, science is an art and art, as Library After Air Raid attests, is everything.


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