Readers are not created equal. Frances Ferguson observed, rather dolorously, that the “reader can only read the texts that say what he already knows,” but let’s be frank: There are gifted—or maybe just thirstier—readers among us who, by dint of stamina or plain need, won’t be stymied by boredom,
“Originally I intended to write a book about Harpo’s relation to history and literature,” remarks Wayne Koestenbaum on the first page of his fittingly zany, aphoristic, and meandering study of the great mime of Marx Brothers fame. “A tiny chapter on Harpo and Hegel. A tiny chapter on Harpo and
Hali Felt’s quite wonderful new book disqualifies itself as a true biography for a reason that will jar any reader who feels protective of the traditional rules of nonfiction writing. Simply put, parts of it are fictional. There are several key moments in this absorbing account of the life and
While abstract ideas of “power” and “politics” are catnip to contemporary literary figures, the actual exercise of political power in the American electoral process tends to be their analytic kryptonite. But things were not ever thus. Michael Szalay’s fascinating new book, Hip Figures, reminds us of
Blaine Harden’s chronicle of Shin Dong-hyuk’s life in a North Korean prison camp and his eventual escape is a slim, searing, humble book—as close to perfect as these volumes of anguished testimony can be. Shin is a child of the camp system in the most literal sense—he was born in 1982 in Camp 14,
When a French feminist informs us that the toils and snares of naturalist mothering are not only unnecessary but contribute to women’s marginalization in the workplace and in society at large, it’s tough not to have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s absolutely true that the boot camp of modern motherhood can feel beyond oppressive. On the other hand, do we really require a privileged French academic to tell us all this?
Along with global warming and the environment, food has become one of the foremost political issues in America, especially among educated, well-heeled liberals. The emerging sensitive-foodie ethos hinges on a heightened awareness of those “starving children in Africa” whom our mothers invoked in
Americans who have lived abroad know that the rest of the world is mildly obsessed with the CIA. I live in Istanbul, and early on I learned that many Turks believe CIA agents can pull off everything from September 11 to the election of Islamists; what’s more, they suspect I might be a spy, too. In
When the young Samuel Coleridge discovered The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment in 1798, the book so impressed him that he became, he wrote, “haunted by spectres.” His father, aghast at the effect the Nights was having, torched the child’s copy of the tales. But they’d already worked their spell.
You may remember the case: On a Saturday in July 2000, Lucie Blackman, a twenty-one-year-old British woman who had been working as a bar hostess in Tokyo, disappeared. Her remains were found seven months later, by which time her killer had been arrested. His trial did not end until nearly six years