Article Archive for September 2012
It’s corny but true: Book people are always fussing with their shelves. Forget about the cliché of art books artfully arranged on the coffee table; forget about shoving that copy of Vogue underneath the London Review of Books when company’s coming. The tendency to be voyeuristic with one’s own home library and rearrange it now [...]
The son of a powerful crime family falls in love with a young woman in the Witness Protection Program – a young woman his family wants dead! Don’t you hate it when that happens?
It’s always exciting to watch a talented young performer get his or her start, then move on to defy earlier typecasting, and finally reach that coveted career tipping point where suddenly he or she is everywhere. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s been through the first two stages, and in the last couple years has continued what seems [...]
One of the year’s biggest small-cinema surprises is author Stephen Chbosky’s deftly affecting screen adaptation and direction of his own 1999 semi-autobiographical novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The film, like the novel, chronicles the coming of age of sensitive freshman Charlie (Percy Jackson & the Olympians‘ Logan Lerman) as he navigates the social [...]
I picked The Return of Captain John Emmett for my ‘light reading’ over the last couple of weeks because it seemed such a perfect fit: here I am reading and teaching both literature of the First World War and mystery fiction, and it’s a mystery set just after–and preoccupied with events during–WWI. In retrospect, maybe that [...]
A stark and powerful account of the killing regimes of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia – and of the blood-soaked stretch of middle Europe where those regimes did their work.
Just when you thought maybe, just maybe, the worst was over when it came to casually dismissive generalizations about blogging–you know, of the kind that used to get us all riled up way back in 2008, and that still irked us in 2010–we get this, from the editor of the TLS: The rise of blogging [...]
A slim, engaging new book tries to take an objective look at the popular question of Shakespearean authorship – if such objectivity is even possible.
The two Judge Dredds: For fans, Dredd is the hero of his own comic series; a futuristic lawbringer whose stories have been told in the weekly British comic anthology 2000 A.D. since 1977. In the …
Dog-torturer Michael Vick writes a triumphalist come-back memoir.
A Dickens-obsessed little Oregon town plays unwilling host to – what else? – a Dickens-themed murder in this captivating mystery debut
During World War Two, thousands of men left U.S. jobs in order to join the military – and thousands of women stepped in to fill those jobs … and in some cases join the military too. A fascinating new book looks at what magazine cartoons had to say about all this.
As a screen writer, David Ayer made a name for himself in the early ’00s with high-octane, macho guy action scripts for Training Day, S.W.A.T., and The Fast & the Furious. Almost all of Ayer’s films (including 2005′s Harsh Times, which he wrote and directed, and 2008′s Street Kings which he directed) take place on [...]
It Ain’t Oeuvre ’Til It’s Oeuvre: Elmore Leonard Wins National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Last month I commended the PEN American Center for awarding its Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction to E.L. Doctorow. Often it seems like that kind of recognition celebrates an author’s longevity, but not necessarily a consistent body of work. It’s not that writers don’t deserve props for sticking it out and keeping [...]
We’ve almost settled into a routine in my three classes, I think. The one I feel least certain about is my section of Intro. I think we’re doing OK, but I wonder if I made things a bit too intense at the very start of term as I focused on establishing expectations and framing our [...]
It’s understandable if some scratch and/or shake their heads over the need for (and wisdom of) a new Judge Dredd movie 17 years after Sylvester Stallone completely missed the point in 1995. But writer-producer and long-time Danny Boyle collaborator Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) has come up with a gritty, stylish new [...]
A careful and discerning new biography tackles that most daunting of all great Victorian novelists, George Eliot – with largely praiseworthy results.
Jon Lord, the founder of Deep Purple, brings out a concerto that fuses elements of classical music, rock, and ballad singing. Norman Lebrecht reviews the results.
Now in the U.S.: an epic, gore-spattered series about a roving band of Viking warriors!
Paul Anderson returns to the director’s chair for the new “Resident Evil” chapter – but does he still have that old zombie-fighting magic?
James Cameron’s ultimate twist on a shipboard-romance gets the luxury-liner treatment in a lavish new Blu-Ray set from Paramount
I’ve long maintained that my love of New York Review Books extended only as far as the realm of print—that aside from the wise choices in backlist matter it’s their graphic presence, their savory cover stock and tasteful graphics, their perfectly portable size, their handfeel—that makes an NYRB Classic such a harmonious physical object. I [...]
Young, vain, unfaithful Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, regularly draws writers intent on finding heroism in her brief life & times; Carolly Erickson is the latest aspirant.
The meek and dutiful Jane Seymour, mother of Henry VIII’s long-sought male heir, takes center stage in a new historical novel about her life and times.
Tragedy haunted the earliest years of the new Tudor dynasty, and in this atmospheric new novel, a candle-maker and a courier are tasked with finding out why.
The ancient Greek historian Thucydides is virtually synonymous with the Peloponnesian War, but a new history gives the master a much-needed makeover
The Man Booker Prize judges have announced their shortlist, narrowing down their original dozen by half. It’s an interesting selection, made up—as the Booker website is eager to point out— of “two debut novels, three small independent publishers, two former shortlisted authors and one previous winner. Of the six writers, three are men and three [...]
From the glory days of the late 1980s comes this new reprint-volume of the adventures of Marvel Comics’ imperious, headstrong super-merman, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner!
A CD of piano recitals dubbed “The French Album” stars an English pianist and includes pieces by Bach and Liszt. Norman Lebrecht sorts out the confusion.
Belknap Press produces a big, attractive, and lovingly annotated edition of Jane Austen’s peak-of-her-career novel “Emma” – perfect for newcomers and those who know every line by heart.
A visually surrealistic new movie about the evils of marketing and advertising run amok.
In a slim new volume, one of our greatest masters of vibrant exegesis gives is the collected poetry of “the invisible poet of the world” – Jesus Christ.
One of our best popular historians sheds light on the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, where learning and culture flourished at a time when the West was mired in filth and chaos.
The golden era of social satire is… yeah, OK, kind of over. In this age of irony, its time may have come and gone. But satire once had its uses, primarily to hold up a funhouse mirror to human foibles in an otherwise earnest world. Ideally, this was hoped to bring about social change through [...]
The melodramatic first novel in a series set in a vampire-ridden steampunk version of Victorian London
Now in paperback: the most comprehensive, opinionated, and even-handed biography poor unlucky oath-breaking King Stephen is ever likely to get – or deserve.
Norman Lebrecht reviews a new recording of the music of Handel’s contemporary Bononcini–but which Bononcini are we talking about? In addition are three notable CDs for John Cage’s centenary.
A fast-paced teen fiction re-imagining of Peter Pan and Wendy and the Lost Boys and Neverland, with a few side-helpings of goth, “Buffy,” and a certain boy wizard
Hollywood Next Big Things – past, present, and future? – share screen-time in a gritty tale of the Prohibition-era South.
A comprehensive – and visually stunning – overview of the mighty Roman legions and the world they helped to shape.
An ambitious historical novel about the dark days of the emperor Domitian by the popular mystery author Lindsey Davis.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Nobody moves to New York for the weather. The winters are harsh, the summers are harsh. So most of us have good reason to love spring and fall; by the time they roll around, we’re more than ready for a change. Hard to say [...]
A lavishly illustrated biography of the Roman emperor Hadrian – now in bookstores in paperback – takes readers inside the world of an empire (and its ruler) undergoing one long identity crisis
Now in a bright yellow paperback: a generous helping of essays, provocations, and tirades by the late Christopher Hitchens.
What does the soul-searching writer do when the concept of the soul–to say nothing of God–has lost its currency? Two new confessional novels try to navigate that uncharted territory.
The first biography of David Foster Wallace is out and it’s hardly the sort of book he himself would have written — or read. Might this be for the best?
It’s a bridge, a barrier, and a burden; it’s used in the bedroom, the kitchen, and the outhouse. Leah Price helps us think again about what we can, should, or want to do with that most fetishized of objects: the book.
The worlds of fine art, porno, hollywood, meth addiction, and quality lit cross and recombine in Bruce Wagner’s latest Dead Stars. We made this culture, now what do we make of it?
Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but a new biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?
Myth and fairy tale seem as far from true as can be, but Feng Sun Chen’s poetry uses them to explore the necessities and unavoidable transformations of life.
Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”
How is Hollywood like a clever boy who never tries? In every way imaginable. The story of two Total Recalls is a sad one indeed.
Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.
He started an artist on the path to glory, sold a million toys, and inspired a cult classic movie: He’s Flash Gordon, and his earliest Sunday adventures are getting a deluxe reprint series.
What would it mean if history were a joke, a shaggy dog story? J. G. Farrell’s bleakly funny Troubles reflects the struggle of post-war British literature to come to terms with the inheritance of modernism.
There are warring schools of fad and interpretation, there are critical readings of an hour or a season – and then there’s Wordsworth’s verse itself, annotating and amplifying the personal reading experience.
Byzantium rediscovered. An American in Venice and a forgotten Madonna (which breaks the rules) in Copley Square. Behold an American Hagia Sophia
William Shakespeare meets Halo 2 in Colby Somerville’s new chapbook Death TV (1-6): the drone of bees in ancient glades and the drone of Lockheed Martin. What’s the poet onto?
Who’s at fault for our disastrous politics — both parties? Not a chance, say Washington insiders Ornstein and Mann. Our resident politico fisks their analysis.
A rare film is the centerpiece of Syndrome E, a cutting-edge, mesmerizing thriller.
Can plants see and smell and hear? Can they think? Daniel Chamovitz’s “field guide” to the botanical senses poses those provocative questions, but how well does it answer them?
“Ellis, Leyner, Leavitt, Franzen, Powers…their fictions reduce to complaints and self-pity. Dostoevski has balls.” This and other gleanings from a trip to the David Foster Wallace archives.
“Prewar” by Kathleen Rooney