The year was 1911 and Sam Zemurray, a penniless Russian immigrant, was on his way to becoming an American business mogul. Zemurray had gained a modest foothold in the fruit business by selling "ripes"—bananas that arrived in the US too bruised and brown for the United Fruit Company to sell. Investing
Clyde Snow, a cigar-sucking Texan anthropologist, once remarked that "bones make good witnesses . . . they never lie and they never forget." Snow rose to something like prominence in the mid-1980s when two South American exhumations linked the morbid skills of forensic anthropology to the increasing
Why do Los Angeles's storytellers keep dreaming of the apocalypse? Whether in fiction or film, from The Day of the Locust to Crash to last year's Barbarian Nurseries, narratives seeking to capture the spirit of that sprawling city always seem to fall into the same pattern. Like an LAPD surveillance
It's no coincidence that the title of Killer on the Road, Ginger Strand's analysis of the interstate system and the violence intertwined within it, sounds familiar. That phrase echoes throughout the past sixty years of American pop culture, from Jim Morrison's breathy warnings in "Riders on the Storm"
The body is absurd. The sounds, smells, textures, impulses, tics, blemishes, engorgements, excretions of our organs—these make up the outrageous conditions of our animal existence, from infancy to old age. We suffer the daily indignities, surprises, and wonders of the flesh because we are stuck
At its most romanticized, fin-de-siècle Vienna was defined by nihilistic revelry, fueled by an excess of booze, pastry, and existential angst. Yet by the time Austria was absorbed into Nazi Germany in 1938, this world had undergone a collapse more thorough than any in modern history. As if overnight,
Boarded Windows must be appreciated as one of those debut novels that strike their own dizzy balance. It's a rock'n'roll story couched in Proustian delicacy, a Beat reconfiguring of the family that moves towards pomo deconstruction of any reliable relationship—and withal, a hybrid of highly pleasing
Someone really should write a compelling history of the diary. Those books we often associate with childhood have been, after all, vehicles for some of the most illuminating accounts of history: Samuel Pepys had his famed journals of seventeenth-century life, John de Crèvecoeur his observations of
It begins on a moonlit night. A carriage traverses the cold German countryside. The lights of a nearby (or is it far-off?) city shimmer and shift. A turn is taken and suddenly a traveler finds himself before the city's walls, and then within them. Uncertain figures move through the mist. The carriage
This July will mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish intellectual who committed suicide in 1940. Since the publication of his collected writings fifteen years after his death, Benjamin's enigmatic essays like "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"