Who was the first mystery novelist? Paul Collins solves the case.

Eric Alterman

John Nolan, an editor of the Rochester Times and author of the paper’s police log, has started inserting puns, humor, and poetry into the blotter’s formerly humdrum record of crimes and misdemeanors: “At Halloween, upon a street, where youngsters go for Trick-or-Treat, a worried parent calls the cops. His kid has been handed Hall's cough drops . . . Police check out this plot of terror, and find it was a simple error."

Sick of hearing about David Foster Wallace yet? A cottage industry of work on Wallace is beginning to bloom in academia, as the Chronicle Review notes, “David Foster Wallace studies is on its way to becoming a robust scholarly enterprise.” Wallace guru Stephen Burn says that while he appreciates the attention to his subject, it is a mixed blessing: “there's a real danger . . . that his name will begin to float free of his substantive literary context and become an index for larger cultural fantasies about the tortured artist.”

Tonight at the Broadway branch of Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, Eric Alterman discusses his new book, Kabuki Democracy, and posits why a progressive presidency is impossible today.

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