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April 2014 Issue

April 1, 2014
April 2014 Issue

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Love in a Cold Climate

April 1, 2014
Love in a Cold Climate

Isabel Greenberg’s graphic novel is set in the frozen land of Nord, but its lush storytelling influences come from such legendary places as Mount Olympus and Mount Sinai

The Art of the Con

March 1, 2014
The Art of the Con

Years ago, while on the hunt for writing material, Walter Kirn befriended an eccentric, dog-loving raconteur named Clark Rockefeller. Then Rockefeller was charged with murder, kidnapping and identity fraud, and Kirn had his book. G. Robert Ogilvy reviews Blood Will Out.

Come, O, Come to Raintree County

March 1, 2014
Come, O, Come to Raintree County

Raintree County may be the greatest American novel nobody has ever read. When Michael Johnson pulled it off his shelf, he was instantly hooked: maybe it’s time for a revival.

Pistols and Pearls

March 1, 2014
Pistols and Pearls

It’s Melbourne in the late 1920s and violence keeps intruding into the elegant world of jazz clubs, cocktails, and fabulous fashion. No matter: Phryne Fisher is on the case.

Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

March 1, 2014
Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

Art crimes aren’t really sexy: they are an offense against humanity. Leah Triplett offers up a catalog of recent studies that explain the criminal attraction to art.

Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

March 1, 2014
Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

The great and problematic poet Robert Browning drew some of his most powerful poetic inspirations from the lore and lure of Italy; Luciano Mangiafico traces the complicated relationship of the man to his “adopted homeland.”

From the Archives: Worth the Risk

March 1, 2014
From the Archives: Worth the Risk

Almost twenty-five years ago, thieves entered Boston’s venerable Gardner Museum by night and stole several priceless works of art; the crime remains unsolved, and the artwork has never re-surfaced. Theories, of course, abound.

Lost in Eliot

February 1, 2014
Lost in Eliot

The books we reread say a lot about who we are or who we hope to be. They also shape us, as Rebecca Mead discovers in exploring her own long relationship with George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

War, in Panorama

February 1, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

‘I Would Like to Write a Beautiful Prayer’

February 1, 2014
‘I Would Like to Write a Beautiful Prayer’

When in her twenties, Flannery O’Connor recorded her prayers in a private journal. Newly published, they shed light on her youthful theology, her literary ambitions, and the role of faith in the fiction she was soon to write.

A Disproportionate Response

February 1, 2014
Andrew_Sullivan

For years, pioneering blogger Andrew Sullivan was one of the most vocal supporters of the war in Iraq. Time and the war’s wretched progress gradually forced him to change his thinking, however, and a new collection of his writings on the subject charts the disillusioning step-by-step.

Bigger with More and More

February 1, 2014
Bigger with More and More

Spike Jonze is the most mainstream of indie directors — or the most indie of mainstream directors — and his newest film Her is a triumph of quirky charm and visionary depth. Matt Sadler reviews.

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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The Sovereign Survivor

February 1, 2014
The Sovereign Survivor

The player is alone in the game, both sole survivor and unquestioned sovereign, but what’s at the heart of such games? Phillip Lobo examines the loneliness of the long-distance gamer

And the Moon Be Still As Bright: Lord Byron in Italy (part 2 of 2)

February 1, 2014
And the Moon Be Still As Bright: Lord Byron in Italy (part 2 of 2)

In self-imposed exile from England, Lord Byron entered a tempestuous love affair with Italy, renting palaces, swimming the canals of Venice, treating his loved ones abominably, and writing great poetry the whole time. The two-part “Byron in Italy” concludes the epic tale.

From the Archives: First Person Singular

February 1, 2014
From the Archives: First Person Singular

Can a famously cold and impersonal writer like Paul Auster make a memoir of aging that works against his strengths? And are they strengths after all?

The Impossible Affliction

January 1, 2014
The Impossible Affliction

Having tried therapy and medication to treat his anxiety disorder, Scott Stossel turned to writing. His new book, part memoir, part cultural history, may be an essential document of our agitated age.

Atwood 4 Mayor: What Happens When Old Ladies Blog

January 1, 2014
Atwood 4 Mayor: What Happens When Old Ladies Blog

What — and who — is required to maintain a public persona of the magnitude of Margaret Atwood’s? A new book explores the phenomenon and implications of literary celebrity.

Strange Reckoning

January 1, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

January 1, 2014
A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

Byron was mad, bad, and dangerous to know — and eventually his amorous, adventurous spirit led him to Italy.

Marc Chagall: Between Paris and Vitebsk

December 1, 2013
Marc Chagall: Between Paris and Vitebsk

Perhaps the strangest things about the paintings of Marc Chagall is how frequently they feature Christian iconography. But the habit speaks less to a tension in Chagall’s Judaism, Ivan Kenneally suggests, than his attempt to universalize his people’s suffering.

Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

December 1, 2013
Second Glance: Wretched Creatures

John Ford’s story of star-crossed lovers is bloodier than Shakespeare’s and more heart-wrenching, too, for it’s a tragedy of childhood, of innocence lost.

ctrl+issues

December 1, 2013
ctrl+issues

“Do you see?” the Narrator says. “Don’t you know you were dead the minute you hit Start?” Phillip Lobo deciphers The Stanley Parable

Eternal Blazon

November 1, 2013
Eternal Blazon

Led on by a “shared obsession,” a philosopher and a psycyhoanalyst have teamed up to offer their interpretation of Hamlet. With the ghosts of countless critics looming before them, how has this pair fared?

Resisting the Modern

November 1, 2013
Resisting the Modern

John Singer Sargent is often simplistically dismissed as a picture-postcard portraitist. A new exhibition of his watercolors is a reminder of how strange and subversive–not to say beautiful–his work could be.

Feeding the Monster

November 1, 2013
Feeding the Monster

From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.

From the Archives: The Bard of Everybody

November 1, 2013
From the Archives: The Bard of Everybody

In a review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s restoration of the famous First Folio, Garrett Handley investigates the maddening vagaries that have always confronted the Bard’s editors.

From the Archives: One Encounter: El Jaleo

November 1, 2013
From the Archives: One Encounter: <i>El Jaleo</i>

What good are reproductions and what do we lose in keeping them? Our writer returns to a famous painting after a dozen years and finds more than he’d imagined

From the Archives: JFK in the Senate

November 1, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

In Search of Lost Tirades

October 1, 2013
In Search of Lost Tirades

Jonathan Franzen has translated and annotated a collection of essays by Karl Kraus, the Austrian polemicist known as the Great Hater and one of the signal curmudgeonly influences behind Franzen’s fiction.

A Chip off the Old Bwana

October 1, 2013
A Chip off the Old Bwana

How do you follow up on creating Tarzan of the Apes? You give the Ape-Man a son, stranding him in the jungle, and sending him out on hair-raising adventures of his own. And if you’re lucky, a legendary comic book artist will come along and draw it all.

Show Me the Body

October 1, 2013
Show Me the Body

Throughout its history, humankind has been both terrified by and obsessed with monsters – hence the booming ‘cryptid’ industry, traversing the globe in search of legendary beasts like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. A new book looks at the science and psychology behind our modern bogeymen.

Beyond Thought

October 1, 2013
Beyond Thought

The style of Clarice Lispector’s unconventional and uneasy fiction was driven by both social anxiety and physical pain. How did this transubstantiation take place?

The Modern Mechanism

October 1, 2013
pigmachine

Thick with atmosphere, lush with visual design, and sporting more than a few influences of steampunk, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” is a video game Karl Marx might have played – and even enjoyed.

Stalled on the Verge

September 1, 2013
Stalled on the Verge

The Modernist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker was Immortalized (and insulted) in Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend,” yet who today knows her art? A new monograph returns it to the public eye.

Homo Sovieticus

September 1, 2013
Homo Sovieticus

The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths

The Heavy Blanks: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart

September 1, 2013
The Heavy Blanks: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart

An aspiring young writer encounters the journals of legendary Canadian novelist Elizabeth Smart, whose virtuoso novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept gives no hint of her struggles with her own writing

God, the Janitor, and the Psychic Hermaphrodites

September 1, 2013
God, the Janitor, and the Psychic Hermaphrodites

Henry Darger, icon of Outsider Art, created unnerving scenes of naked, tortured children. A new biography sets out to clear his name from would-be charges of pedophilia–but is it a reputation that really needs saving?

Reading Eric Blair

September 1, 2013
Reading Eric Blair

Today George Orwell is a buzzword; what can his collected letters tell us about the man himself? G. Robert Ogilvy looks for the human being beneath the persona.

Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

September 1, 2013
Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

Many composers and musicians believe we are in a golden age of experimental creativity in composition. So why does the general concert-going public hate the results?

The Shape of Things to Come

September 1, 2013
EuropaUniversalisIV

All of European history – and beyond – plays out in new and fascinating variations of guns, germs, and steel in Paradox Interactive’s new version of its popular video game Europa Universalis

With Friends Like These …

September 1, 2013
With Friends Like These …

What you don’t know about bacteria can hurt you, and a new addition to the Oxford Very Short Introduction series aims to set that straight.

From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

September 1, 2013
From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

President, prime minister, or unnamed Tsar, Vladimir Putin is at once ubiquitous and unknowable; a new book examines the many facets of a new species of autocrat.

Behold the Man

August 1, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

Meanwhile, On the Top Shelf

August 1, 2013
Lee Ozymandias

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is widely regarded as the best graphic novel of them all, and Moore has been outspoken in his condemnation of sequels and spin-offs, refusing to sanction DC Comics’ recent “Before Watchmen” string of mini-series. Was Moore right? Or is there creative life after his masterpiece? Justin Hickey explores.

Vegetable Wonder

August 1, 2013
Vegetable Wonder

It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.

My Life as a Mannequin

August 1, 2013
My Life as a Mannequin

A young man on a tentative law school track encounters the fiction of Philip Roth, and suddenly, his lostness acquires a commanding sense of purpose. An essay by Barrett Hathcock.

Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

August 1, 2013
Second Glance: The Privy Mark of Irony

The Knight of the Burning Pestle began its theatrical run in1607—and concluded it almost immediately. But why? Colleen Shea explores the mysterious failure of this hilarious, satirical, meta-theatrical romp.

The Heartless World

August 1, 2013
The Heartless World

‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.

Already Dead

August 1, 2013
Already Dead

In the latest video game iteration of the current media zombie craze, a history teacher from Georgia confronts the undead hordes – and what those hordes may say about contemporary America

When One Lives Among Greyhounds

August 1, 2013
When One Lives Among Greyhounds

The stories of British writer H.H. Munro, known by his pen-name Saki, are devastating studies in torment and cruelty; they’re also exceptionally funny. A new collection offers a bracing reminder of that duality.

Never Take Off the Mask: The Films of Gore Verbinski

August 1, 2013
Never Take Off the Mask: The Films of Gore Verbinski

The man behind the trillion-dollar “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise (and, more recently, the high-profile “Lone Ranger” flop) has been characterized as a hack, a purveyor of standard-issue Hollywood dreck. But, asks Tucker Johnson, is there art buried in the films of Gore Verbinski?

Nothing Like Being Scared

July 1, 2013
Nothing Like Being Scared

Shirley Jackson is best known – infamous, even – for her chilling story “The Lottery.” But it’s her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, where battle rages between evil within and without, that’s her masterpiece.

Waiting for the Dough

July 1, 2013
Waiting for the Dough

Near the end of his life, Orson Welles tape-recorded his lunches with a faithful industry friend. By turns hilarious and self-pitying, they give a brilliant glimpse of the aging titan. As Steve Danziger discovers, it’s almost a shame Welles didn’t make his living as a conversationalist.

Arendt in New York City

July 1, 2013
Arendt in New York City

When Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1964, her moral authority was called into question. Now Margarethe von Trotta’s new film Hannah Arendt explores both who has the right and who has the responsibility to speak about the Holocaust.

Mesophile Planet

July 1, 2013
Mesophile Planet

They breathe poison gas and eat old bones and stones; they are sightless, deaf, and ageless; they flourish in temperatures that would melt iron or freeze concrete; and they live on the strangest planet in the known universe: Earth

Keeping Up with the Tudors: Him Again

July 1, 2013
Keeping Up with the Tudors: Him Again

In the famous jingle ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ Katherine Parr comes last – the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. But she was far more than that – scholar, regent, and passionate young woman – as a new Tudor historical novel attempts to portray

From the Archives: Kaor!

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Kaor!

Three new books trek the red rocks of Mars, and although they don’t exactly admit it, they’re in search of one thing: signs of life. Astrid Van Sarisgaard tells us what they discover, or don’t.

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

As the haze and heat of summer kick into full swing, the folk of Open Letters break out their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

June 2013 Issue

June 1, 2013
June 2013 Issue

Olivia Manning: A Woman at War
By Deirdre David
Oxford University Press, 2013
When is a woman writer not a “woman writer”? What does it mean to claim or resist that identity — for a woman who writes, …

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

June 1, 2013
Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.

The Wandering Page

June 1, 2013
The Wandering Page

Modernist poet P. K. Page may be the most important Canadian author you’ve never heard of. An impressive new biography, replete with examples of Page’s poetry and prose, seeks to remedy that.

All the Absolutely Fabulous Gatsbys

June 1, 2013
All the Absolutely Fabulous Gatsbys

Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster is merely the newest Great Gatsby for film or television–four adaptations before it attempted to capture the dazzle and pathos of the classic. Matt Sadler us on a tour of West Egg across the decades.

Rage and Regulation

June 1, 2013
Rage and Regulation

“I hope they pay you well for your obedience, dog” – two new video games explore the parameters of authority and the constraints of law. Doesn’t sound like a fun afternoon, but as Phillip Lobo discovers, there are darker pleasures lurking in the fine print of the social contract.

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

June 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.

Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

May 1, 2013
Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

He travelled the fledgling United States shooting birds, wiring them into poses, and then painting them for eternity – he was John James Audubon, and his epic “The Birds of America” has a beautiful, gargantuan new edition from Abbeville Press

Razing Hell

May 1, 2013
Razing Hell

In a new memoir packed with garbled madness, we get a funhouse-mirror autobiography of the legendary Richard Hell, who did more than anybody to invent punk rock and only haphazardly survived to tell the tale

No Kaddish For Old Men

May 1, 2013
No Kaddish For Old Men

Does love create an unbridgeable distance between two souls? Marco Roth’s searching memoir of his microbiologist father alternates between longing and numbness in its search for what, if anything, binds fathers and sons

Sleazy Inner Tubes

May 1, 2013
Sleazy Inner Tubes

Artist Laura Carton does not surf pornography for the usual reasons, By digitally removing the ‘actors’ from their backgrounds, she creates strangely suggestive landscapes. In this interview she addresses both her process and her plan.

The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

May 1, 2013
The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

In this latest installment of his Mix Tape series, our writer discovers a new world of digital lore for young music fans and contrasts it with his analogue lessons of yore

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

May 1, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

A startling triptych illuminates the crossroads of social, racial, and sexual identity in the Copley Square of a century ago, as “The Gods of Copley Square” continues

Ad Infinitum

May 1, 2013
Ad Infinitum

A radio voice crackles “Hallelujah,” and Booker DeWitt’s violent, surreal steampunk adventures in Columbia begin again in the latest BioShock chapter, BioShock Infinite

Comics: Superman – Secret Identity

April 12, 2013
-SUSI001

An ordinary boy in our real world has a funny name – Clark Kent. Funny, that is, until he starts to develop the exact same superpowers as you-know-who

Three AM, Outside the Pavilion

April 1, 2013
Three AM, Outside the Pavilion

If comic book artist P. Craig Russell didn’t exist, we’d have to dream him up. Under the covers with a flashlight, Justin Hickey illuminates a pair of his sublime literature adaptations

In the Shadow of a Hero: Anne Morrow Lindbergh

April 1, 2013
In the Shadow of a Hero: Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Traumatized by her baby’s kidnapping and murder, disappointed in her marriage to a fallen hero, Anne Morrow Lindbergh found hope in the beautiful, fragile shells she found on the beach. The result was her gentle masterpiece Gifts from the Sea.

Approaching Auschwitz

April 1, 2013
A MAN LOOKS AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HUNGARIAN JEWS HELD AT THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON

An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places

A Devil in the Details

April 1, 2013
A Devil in the Details

The ideal player for Capcom’s new version of “Devil May Cry” must be a ballerina of death-dealing, striking down an endless array of foes with an endless array of weapons. But how will all of this strike the other-than-ideal player?

The Earl of Gallipoli

April 1, 2013
The Earl of Gallipoli

The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.

The Night Train for Naples: Gorky in Italy

April 1, 2013
The Night Train for Naples: Gorky in Italy

The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s heart may always have been in Russia, but for years his intermittent stays in Italy stirred his creativity and fired his passion. “In love you discover everything right away,” he wrote – and he loved Italy.

I Groan In Silence

April 1, 2013
I Groan In Silence

The media just won’t leave old man Voltaire alone! We run a transcript of the latest interview.

From the Archives: The Lion Saves His Pride

April 1, 2013
From the Archives: The Lion Saves His Pride

Winston Churchill has become such an icon of wartime tenacity that many people tend to forget he had a postwar political career. Barbara Leaming’s 2010 biography examines the last act of a famous man’s career.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

Troppo Sottile

March 1, 2013
Loving Venice

Venice has traded flinty commercial acumen and world-weary merchant princes for an ennui worthy of M. John Harrison’s science fiction; her profession has now become the art of insubstantiality. For centuries authors have tried and failed to capture her. Steve Donoghue surveys the glorious wreckage.

The Flimsiness of Difference

March 1, 2013
The Flimsiness of Difference

After fictionalizing his experiences in his previous four books, Aleksandar Hemon revisits his memories in a new collection of essays.

How Pictures Comes to Life

March 1, 2013
7

Sviatoslav Richter called Pictures at an Exhibition the “best Russian work for piano, amen”; many know it best through Ravel’s lush orchestration, which Richter considered “an abomination.” This beloved piece becomes even more resonant when you know its genesis in Mussorgsky’s friendship with the architect-artist Viktor Hartmann.

“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

March 1, 2013
“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.

The Road Home: On Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Over the River

March 1, 2013
The Road Home: On Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s <em>Over the River</em>

New York artist Christo wants to drape 5.9 miles of silvery fabric over a 42 mile stretch of the Arkansas River. The sketches are lovely, but locals and environmentalists are horrified. Who’s in the right?

Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

February 28, 2013
Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

His repertoire was small, he was no barnstormer, and he gave up full-time concertizing in 1978. But Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at age 78, is to this day the most famous pianist America has …

Judaize This

February 1, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

Puce Needle Diggings

February 1, 2013
Puce Needle Diggings

When the Paris Review, long regarded as a literary standard-bearer, publishes a volume on the art of the short story, it flushes a flurry of conversations into the open: what is a short story? What constitutes an anthology-worthy example? What’s the audience for this kind of thing? And: can these stories answer such questions?

Flowers in the Pit

February 1, 2013
7

“The eye says ‘Here is Anna Karenina,’” wrote Virginia Woolf; “A voluptuous lady in black velvet wearing pearls comes before us. But the brain says ‘that is no more Anna Karenina than it is Queen Victoria.’” Joe Wright’s cinematic adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic avoids the pitfalls of such literalism.

Do You Feel Like a Hero Yet?

February 1, 2013
memorialcandles

Has there ever been a time in American history when the gun-and-violence-obsessed subtext of video games was more problematic? Special Ops: The Line puts you in the place of a grizzled, gun-wielding expert – but it doesn’t necessarily want you to feel good about that.

Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

February 1, 2013
Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.

Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

February 1, 2013
Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

Year after year, D. H.Lawrence found love, lust, and gainful employment in Italy – and through the strange alchemy of the place, he also found the inspirations for some of his most enduring works of art.

We’ve Been with Lizzie All Along

February 1, 2013
pride

A conversation about the enduring appeal of Pride & Prejudice.

Tea with the Pushkins in Brussels

January 1, 2013
Tea with the Pushkins in Brussels

Say “Evgeny Onegin” to any educated Russian and you will trigger the first stanza or two of Pushkin’s great novel in verse. Now Russia’s national poet is finally coming into his own in the West as well.

Thinking God Knows What: James Joyce and Trieste

January 1, 2013
Thinking God Knows What: James Joyce and Trieste

Unsettled and penniless, James Joyce’s exile was initially more imrpovised than cunning. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story of his early years on the continent.

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

The Creative Subject

January 1, 2013
The Creative Subject

A conversation with cover artist Aaron Angello

Being Jonathan Harker: recollections of The Dead English

January 1, 2013
Being Jonathan Harker: recollections of <em>The Dead English</em>

Not every actor gets the plum role of vampire hunter and romantic lead Jonathan Harker. Steve Brachmann reflects on his part in the Dracula-inspired rock musical The Dead English

Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

January 1, 2013
Second Glance: Jane Collier’s Burn Book

Long before Hairpin and Jezebel, Jane Collier, under the influence of Jonathan Swift, was savagely satirizing women’s ettiquette guides in her work An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting. Chris R. Morgan revisits the caustic classic.

How the Higgs Streams in the Firmament

January 1, 2013
How the Higgs Streams in the Firmament

What do Christopher Marlowe and the newly discovered Higgs boson particle have in common? Anthony Lock explores the connection, by way of unified fields.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

January 1, 2013
laurenceolivierhamlethh0

Neuroscience? In Elsinore? Lianne Habinek has Hamlet on the brain and goes at the question in book and volume. You may never think about Hamlet, or think about thinking, in the same way again.

Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

December 16, 2012
Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

Open Letters mourns the loss of Charles Rosen, pianist, scholar, teacher and critic.

A Great and Sustaining Mystery

December 1, 2012
A Great and Sustaining Mystery

Anthony Burgess the novelist had dreams of being a composer. He had little success, but along the way he delved deep into the nature and meaning of music.

Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

December 1, 2012
Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

A Clockwork Orange turned 50 this year and received the gift of an anniversary edition. Justin Hickey looks anew at the novel Anthony Burgess claimed to have knocked off in three weeks, and which made him famous.

Entitled to Extravagance: Some Historical Fictions of Anthony Burgess

December 1, 2012
Entitled to Extravagance: Some Historical Fictions of Anthony Burgess

Some of Anthony Burgess’ most accomplished inventions roam into the past, to Shakespeare and Marlowe’s England and Jesus’ Judea. How well has his historical fiction stood up across the years?

Traveler at his Desk

December 1, 2012
Traveler at his Desk

Burgess gave himself room to stretch his arms (and facts) in the two volumes of his Confessions. That space to digress, opine, sing songs, is what makes both books so memorable — even indispensable.

Sharing A Cab

December 1, 2012
Sharing A Cab

Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.

Fate’s Engine

December 1, 2012
Fate’s Engine

Commissioned to translate Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Anthony Burgess decided on a few changes to the text. What were they, and what do they teach us about fate?

Too Much Signal

December 1, 2012
Too Much Signal

Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?

Ou-Boum

December 1, 2012
Ou-Boum

“I knew my trip would mean an encounter with Adela Quested”: Victoria Olsen reflects on what she found, and what was lost in translation, when she travelled to India with E. M. Forster on her mind.

The Ghosts of Monmouth County

November 1, 2012
The Ghosts of Monmouth County

Bossophilia: The idolization of Bruce Springsteen that comes from midlife nostalgia and a fear of dying. Steve Danziger confronts the phenomenon, and a new biography.

The Power Season

November 1, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

Never-Neverland

November 1, 2012
Never-Neverland

The fairy tale has been through several metamorphoses; the next might result in its extinction. Max Ross reviews Jack Zipes’s cultural history of the genre.

Most Sovereign Master

November 1, 2012
Most Sovereign Master

“Although virtually all subjects were still religious, their humanity was brought to the fore, emphasizing that God, in the form of Jesus Christ, was made man and that He, and the Virgin Mary, and saints, like us, had human features”

Fright Unseen

November 1, 2012
Fright Unseen

Once upon a time, the hive-mind of the Internet set to work creating a modern-day bogey man who lurks in plain sight – and so “Slender Man,” the dark mirror image of “Where’s Waldo,” was born

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

CD of the Week – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed

October 31, 2012
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You may wonder if Vivaldi’s overexposed Four Seasons needs a new recording, but Max Richter’s inspired recomposition gives the hoary old favorite a shot in the arm

Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

October 1, 2012
Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

ESP-Disk’, the cult record label from Bernard Stollman, was known for two things: extraordinary, eclectic recordings and horrendous business practices. A new oral history sheds light on the glorious mess.

A Hope in the Undead

October 1, 2012
WD4 (1)

The Walking Dead, the hit TV series adapted from the zombie-apocalypse comics, offers fans a gripping and subversive take on the accidents of survival.

As Dark Locks In: Nightfall

October 1, 2012
As Dark Locks In: <em>Nightfall</em>

CBC’s landmark scare series is available online at last. Where did such a strange series come from and where has it been all this time?

Leviathan Grimoire

October 1, 2012
Leviathan <em>Grimoire</em>

Their brains – their digits – their eyes – their locomotion – their families – their staggeringly long reign over the planet Earth: it’s all here, and much, much more. The greatest dinosaur reference work just got even better.

Change-gamer

October 1, 2012
TPM2012

Election-weary Americans might wonder why anybody in their right minds would elect to play a video-game presidential contest – but the process can be oddly enlightening.

We Must Worship

September 1, 2012
IJANDFW

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?

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1, 2012
Castlereagh_death-1

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?

The Gods Themselves

September 1, 2012
GovMars

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.

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1, 2012
GZhukov

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.

Gordon’s Alive!

September 1, 2012
flash holds firm

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.

The Silence of the Yams

September 1, 2012
DChamovitz

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?

Those Feet

August 1, 2012
CoF

This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981′s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.

A Certain Kind of Loneliness: Thoughts on Bri Hurley’s Making a Scene

August 1, 2012
AFAu86CB

“I was seething with unchanneled anger, frustration, and a maddening inability to express myself. In other words, I was perfect for hardcore.” Steve Danziger on a misspent youth at CBGB.

The Adam of Your Labors

August 1, 2012
the-dark-knight-rises

Expensive new Batman movies have become a Hollywood ritual, but the character has been thrilling readers – and reflecting a constantly-shifting culture – for seventy years

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

Photographic Fictions

August 1, 2012
Oh_There_You_Are

“A few years ago I started sleepwalking, and (while inconvenient) this is kind of exciting to me, because it’s pretty much exactly the mood I’m going for in anything I create.” — a chat with cover artist Adrianne Mathiowetz

Aloof in Ceasar’s Empire

August 1, 2012
jbrodsky

In Soviet Russia, Joseph Brodsky was persecuted by the authorities, but memorized by ordinary people. In the capitalist West, he was feted by the authorities, but ignored by ordinary people. Perhaps it’s just as well he thought reality “nonsense or a nuisance.”

Appearing As Edgar’s Father

August 1, 2012
eliza_poe

Bostonians take pride in the fact that Edgar Allen Poe was born in their city, but there’s a good deal more to the story of that birth than literary tourists ever learn – indeed, there may be more to it than anybody’s ever known.

Tumblr Sphinx

July 1, 2012
10

Computers – search engines, interactive databases, digital archives – have the potential to change academic research in ways the previous twenty centuries couldn’t have imagined. But are those changes improvements – or the end of expertise as we know it? Or both?

The Twilight(ing) of the Superhero

July 1, 2012
spiderman 2 poster

Nerdy teenager Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider – and a super-franchise was born! As a new blockbuster Spider-Man movie hits the summer theaters, Justin Hickey takes us on a tour of the character’s colorful – and often tortured – past!

Fort-da Logic

July 1, 2012
braid

Why do we play video games? And why do we RE-play them? And what the heck has Sigmund Freud got to do with any of it? Gaming guru Phillip Lobo looks at some new iterations of familiar old games and attempts to connect the dots.

What the Duchess of Argyll’s Maid told Dicky Pigg-Wilcott’s Valet at Ascot in ’08!

July 1, 2012
LadyColinCampbell

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a cherished and beloved fixture of the British royal family for almost a century (and would certainly have stolen the show at her daughter’s Diamond Jubilee, had she lived to see it) – but a new book claims the Queen Mum was just an ordinary human being – and not always a very nice one

From the Archives: I Talk & Laugh & Listen

July 1, 2012
war_end_main

She oversaw an shepherded the House of Windsor for a century and did more to shape its present character than anyone. Three years ago William Shawcross wrote an official and none-too-gossipy biography.

Endless Forms Most Brutal

June 1, 2012
Prometheus

As Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” takes movie-goers back to the world of his “Alien” classics, we take a look at the long and lively history of modern cinema’s most famous monsters.

Breaking Up With Blizzard

June 1, 2012
Starcraft

His teenage years were blissfully misspent playing Diablo II from Blizzard, and now the company has come out with Diablo III – but can the relationship be saved?

American Aristocracy – Beethoven In Granite: The Boston Brahmin Aesthetic

June 1, 2012
dst – 2

Intertwining through Boston history: the rich, implacable music of Beethoven and the flinty austerity of the Boston Granite style of architecture – trace the connections, as American Aristocracy continues.

Choices at the Event Horizon

May 1, 2012
MEff3

In the latest version of the hugely popular video game – as in real life – you are the living culmination of all your past decisions, good and bad.

No Strange Quirk of Fate

May 1, 2012
Avengers

This month sees the arrival of the long-awaited $250 million dollar Hollywood movie adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Avengers. Lost in all the hype is the rich history of the comic itself; Justin Hickey explores the convergence of pulp and pixels.

An Interview with John Summers of The Baffler

April 2, 2012
anna and john photo

An interview with The Baffler‘s new Editor-in-Chief, John Summers.

The Baffler Returns

April 2, 2012
baffler 19 cover

The Baffler, an unapologetically radical journal that always punched above its weight, has had a troubled history. But a long-term publishing contract has rejuvenated it, and shown that an old formula is as relevant as ever.

Into the Breach: Battle Royale and Hunger Games

April 1, 2012
HungerGames

The box office record-setting movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is the latest incarnation of an unsettling children-as-prey plot that’s been with us in one form or another for a long time – and never more vividly than in Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale

The People’s Prisoner

April 1, 2012
TiananmenSquareJune289

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

Making the List

April 1, 2012
sutherland

Long-time critic John Sutherland’s latest book The Lives of the Novelists takes readers on a biographical tour of 294 creators’ lives. But does it work? Long-time critic Steve Donoghue and novelist John Cotter try to figure that out.

Designing Desire

April 1, 2012
Steve_Jobs_and_Bill_Gates

Steve Jobs, the visionary predator who founded Apple and forged a new way of thinking about technology, wasn’t a particularly nice man (as even his dutiful biographer must occasionally concede) – but was he a genius?

A Man Could Stand Up: On Downton Abbey’s Second Season

April 1, 2012
ethel-and-the-major

Unlike the soap operas with which it is often dismissively aligned, Downton Abbey is defined by change rather than stasis – by its beautifully produced attention to social evolution.

“highly contrived and stylized”

April 1, 2012
Open_Long_Beach_Island_01

“Spending a summer night alone in Hannibal, watching the Mississippi River, staying in a rundown motel, and getting drunk by yourself … that’s a solid way to spend a day.” — A conversation with poet and cover artist Joshua Ware

Dystopia Now

April 1, 2012
syndicate

A simpler, sleeker update of the dystopian 90′s classic Syndicate raises some uncomfortable questions about the here and now.

Bull Sessions: Journalism’s Bloodsport Love Affair

February 1, 2012
Bullfighter Jose Tomas

We live in an age of outrage, yet one of our most egregious ‘blood sports’ escapes censure from the press. Since long before Hemingway, writers have been calling bullfighting exotic instead of barbaric — what are they thinking?

‘I am Thy Man’

February 1, 2012
HundredYearsWar

He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.

Looking for Laura

February 1, 2012
LauraStephenEarlswoodAsylum

She’s a shadow, an absence, that haunts the letters, diaries, and novels of her famous half-sister Virginia Woolf. What can we really know about Laura Stephen?

Flexible and Ephemeral

February 1, 2012
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

” Paper is a ubiquitous material but it also can be alarmingly elegant. It has religious (holy books, Joss paper) and socio-political (money, contracts), and quotidienne (butcher paper, toilet paper) connotations.” — a conversation with cover artist Megan Heeres

On Reading a Five-Volume Biography of Prince Albert

January 1, 2012
princealbertqueenvictoriawedding

Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.

Sentimental Education

January 1, 2012
musicandsentiment

Though most people don’t understand musical notation or the theory underlying it, nearly all classical music writing relies on it. Today, the initiate has a better option: YouTube.

Graphomaniacal

January 1, 2012
Me with Patriot

“I’ve never been terribly attracted to pretty things in general. Pretty and bland seem synonymous to me, and there’s certainly a lot of that in the art world already.” — a conversation with Bill Amundson

Generalissimo

January 1, 2012
madison

James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.

Between the Devil and Aunt Edna

December 1, 2011
Rattigan

His own life was the great tragedy he was never quite able to write. Michael Adams assesses the career of playwright Terence Rattigan.

The Laureate of Everyday

December 1, 2011
horaceodes

As a young man, the Roman poet Horace ran from battle; when he was older, he turned down a job offer from Augustus Caesar. He refused to write epics, but he gave readers something even better, and it insured his immortality.

“Writing Against Time”: An Interview With Benjamin Markovits

December 1, 2011
384px-Lord_Byron_in_Albanian_dress

“I made no particular effort to keep the portrait of Byron consistent from one novel to another. I wanted to show him in different lights, from different angles.” Joshua Lustig interviews the author of the esteemed Byron Trilogy.

Controlled Chaos

December 1, 2011
Intruder_11x14_2010

A Conversation with Cover Artist Pattie Lee Becker

Survivor Testimony: The Case for Apocalypto

December 1, 2011
apocalyptoscene

Mel Gibson has made far more headlines for boorish public behavior than for the movies he’s directed, and yet one of those movies — the ambitious, problematic “Apocalypto,” seeks to transcend easy classification.

Lee Miller’s Eye

November 1, 2011
19_Ray_IndestructibleObject

Lee Miller, known for a hundred years as Man Ray’s muse, comes into her own in a new book and exhibit. What’s she like?

The Personal Was Always the Political

November 1, 2011
vgornick

Vivian Gornick’s new biography of Emma Goldman focuses more on the famous anarchist’s love life than her political ideologies–but might those tumultuous relationships offer new insights into her beliefs?

A Heartbeat Away

November 1, 2011
Dick Cheney

John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.

There Will Be No More Great Ideas

November 1, 2011
themanwithoutqualities

Robert Musil’s magnum opus The Man Without Qualities was groundbreaking not because it’s unfinished but because it’s unfinishable. A new study attempts to take scope of its deep and mesmerizing pointlessness.

The Restful “I”: Rumi, Psychology, and the Discovery of Love

November 1, 2011
penguinrumi

The 12th-century Sufi poet Rumi is said to have re-created himself as an avatar of love. Chase Nordengren explores the stations on the life cycle that lead to such a radical rebirth.

Real Illusions

November 1, 2011
John Cotter and John Bonath, October 2011

“You’ve got to learn the language of art to be able to appreciate it. And then, where you go with it, what you see with it, is only limited to your own imagination.”– A conversation with cover artist John Bonath

The Hero of His Own Life?

November 1, 2011
CatherineDickens

It’s easy to love the Dickens we think we know–the man whose warm compassion and boundless imagination gave us Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Pip and Magwitch, Oliver Twist and Nancy. But what about the man behind the novels? Claire Tomalin’s magisterial new biography brings us up close and personal.

Set Sail, Come Home

November 1, 2011
bastion

On the surface, the new RPG Bastion is a fairly straightforward hack-and-slash video game—but a complex narrative back-story reveals some hidden depths.

Last Month

November 1, 2011
Last Month

Alan Hollinghurst’s latest; an essay from Douglass Shand-Tucci; Sargent’s El Jaleo reconsidered; António Lobo Antunes’ thrillers; Ben Lerner’s latest; vintage scents; Akilah Oliver’s final volume and far more….

The OLM Quiz: From All Saints Day to Thanksgiving

November 1, 2011
thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

This month’s quiz has scoured the archives for November-based literary trivia. Do your worst!

American Aristocracy – Letter from Boston: Toward a New History

October 1, 2011
prendergast-west-church

Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.

On the Scent: A Certain Vintage

October 1, 2011
vega

Our resident nose racks up facts on the tinctures of yesteryear, many of which still prove possible to capture and some of which are well worth sniffing out

Rime Redux

October 1, 2011
marinerwhale

A new graphic novel reworks Coleridge’s classic confrontation between man and nature for our times, taking us on a grand tour of environmental degradation.

Pseudo-Binaristic Wiki-Okatu

October 1, 2011
interrnets

The key to storytelling is world-building, and a new book wonders if our new and all-encompassing Digital Era has given mankind world-building tools like it’s never had before. Is it the death of the imagination – or Story 2.0?

Book Review: Animal

September 15, 2011
triangle frog

A stunning – and miraculously hopeful – update to DK’s legendary guide to animals

Work in Progress

September 1, 2011
triumphofthecity

Could you actually be hurting the environment by going green and moving to the suburbs? A new book champions that oft-maligned human invention: the big city.

Walk, Swim, Grumble

September 1, 2011
OliviaLaing

Olivia Laing’s digressive natural history of the 42-mile-long River Ouse is filled with philosophical meditations, childhood memories, and of course the ghost of Virginia Woolf. Anne Fernald traces Laing’s meandering footsteps.

Do what the clouds do…

September 1, 2011
8_CharlesMatsonLume

A talk about touching light with cover artist Charles Matson Lume

Changeable Camelion

September 1, 2011
Painting Poet John Donne

Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.

Love at First Glans

September 1, 2011
Vox

Nicholson Baker’s provocative new book is an attempt at mainstream literary pornography, but does it suffer from the same performance anxiety as other novelistic efforts to depict sex?

Metaphor Machine, Manufacture and Maintenance

August 1, 2011
1335132921

Critics were often baffled by Ray Bradbury in his heyday, and biographers have been equally baffled ever since, but the quest goes on to understand the man who did as much as anybody to give science fiction the shape it has today.

‘Some fights are bigger than others’

August 1, 2011
LousiaThomas

Brothers take opposing sides in World War One, in a gripping biography that reveals the history and politics of America’s role in the conflict.

The Golden Touch

August 1, 2011
bankofnorthamericacurrency

A new biography explores the life of the erratic and headstrong ‘forgotten’ Founding Father who bankrolled a revolution and guided a new republic.

Immaterial Architecture

August 1, 2011
02_QV

a talk on architecture and art with cover artist Quynh Vantu

The Greenhouse in the Anvil

July 1, 2011
Tool Studies

A conversation with cover artist Elizabeth Alexander

The New Old Atheism

July 1, 2011
9781616143831

Religion is one of those subjects that are too important to be polite about. But can we at least agree to disagree respectfully about the meaning of life?

A Prison Spotlight

July 1, 2011
9780806533049

Former political radical Susan Rosenberg received the longest sentence ever given for the charge of possessing explosives. Her new memoir revisits her prison experience.

A Raging Appetite

June 1, 2011
prune

Food writing today requires guts – often quite literally. Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir transcends gross-out theatrics to portray a life in food, from abandonment to something like fulfillment.

A Question, an Answer, and a Death

June 1, 2011
KingLear87

Cinema lore has it that Jean-Luc Godard read only the first and last three pages of King Lear before making his film adaptation. Lianne Habinek suggests this may have helped him get at the play’s essence.

Sane and Insane

June 1, 2011
Bubble_Machine1_01

“In fact, many religions use the mandala type form to represent “Controlled Chaos.” Stained glass windows are an example I have a closer relationship to … they intrigued me for hours.”

Bohemia Rundown

May 1, 2011
tc

Semiotext(e) is famous for theory and provocation. So what happens when its co-founder takes on the art world in the latest installment of their manifesto series? To begin with, she doesn’t write a manifesto…

When the Sewing Needles Dropped

May 1, 2011
anneroiphe

Anne Roiphe was raised in privilege, educated at Smith, and joined in marriage to a successful playwright; her new memoir reveals how painfully constricting that life came to be.

Pros Take On the Cons

May 1, 2011
the-book-of-mormon-musical-flyer

A con man, an ambitious office boy, and two Mormons–it sounds like the set-up to a punch line. But is the joke on Broadway? Our theater critic examines the “why” of musicals, the limits of Harry Potter, and the perfidy of Canada.

Second Glance: Astonish Us

May 1, 2011
Film Critic Pauline Kael

Pauline Kael is out of print today and perhaps known best for the enemies she made. But any immersion into her passionate, intelligent writing shows her to have been one of the best movie critics–or critic of any kind–of the past century.

As Crazy Quentin Knows

May 1, 2011
dragon-age-2-cdkey-im1

Frame narratives, rags-to-riches angles, gender-swapping, the wages of grief, and …. love. Yes, we’re talking about a video game, specifically Dragon Age 2.

laying down record player

May 1, 2011
flytrap

A conversation with cover artist Julie Schustack about LA, worlds under glass, Frankenstein devices, and building a house just to take it apart.

Last Days of the Rough Rider

April 1, 2011
RooseveltOnSafari

Theodore Roosevelt left office younger than any American president before him, and renowned biographer Edmund Morris concludes his TR trilogy with a look at the Colonel’s post-power days.

Strange Silence

April 1, 2011
stanleyelkin

Stanley Elkin’s fiction is marked by verbal wizardry and a searing comic vision; does a new biography do justice to his underappreciated artistry?

tumultuous atmospheric spaces

April 1, 2011
1

“I learned about ‘letting go’, painting over areas in a piece that I might have loved at first (which often happens in my process, some of my first marks are my most adored), but which no longer worked.” A conversation with Carol Browning and Karen Roehl

Out of Sorts

March 1, 2011
metalmoveabletype

Books have been with us for thousands of years, and books about books for very nearly that long. The world of books teems with themes, and in the latest massive Oxford Companion, that world receives a bestiary with hopes of being definitive.

A Light on the Ground

March 1, 2011
aerialflyby

The myth of idyllic rural America dies hard, but the scourges of modern society have long since struck the heartland, including the scourge of drug addiction and drug trafficking. A recent book explores the darkness at the edge of town.

Open to Love

March 1, 2011
main_wall

“I find that you can get someone to do something outlandish that they would never normally do if you ask them in public as if it’s the most normal request ever.” — a talk with cover artist Rebecca Vaughan

Bodies in Space

March 1, 2011
deadspace2

Isaac Newton wrote about bodies at rest and bodies in motion – but he never got around to bodies that want to rip you apart with their tentacles and feast on your steaming entrails! A classic video game gets a macabre and highly detailed sequel.

Ijsbjorn

March 1, 2011
polarbearansgarwalk

For millions of years, polar bears have ruled the North, inspiring fear and reverence in all the human cultures ringing the Arctic. A new work of natural history studies the great white bear – and wonders if we’re watching the final act.

The Greatness that was Downton

February 1, 2011
castdowntonabbey

Julian Fellowes’ “Downton Abbey” was shot in a castle, but it may have a nearer relationship to “Mad Men” than “Brideshead Revisited.” Joanna Scutts tracks the evolution of the British costume drama.

Dross of a Passing Dream

February 1, 2011
Jaime Carrejo, Denver – Reconstruction Time Again

A conversation with Open Letters’ new curator, Katie Caron, and an exploration of her upcoming show, “Displaced”

The Light in Their Eyes

January 1, 2011
philadelphia hannah, 1st viscountess Cremorne

Thomas Lawrence was the rising young star painter of the politicians, soldiers, rakes, and mistresses of Regency London, but his work had a life and intelligence that transcended the trendy. A new book looks at a forgotten master.

The Lovable Abject

January 1, 2011
ledray–wheat

The tyranny of “supersized” sculpture is dealt a blow by Charles LeDray’s hand-crafted miniatures, on display now at the Whitney Museum

A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance

January 1, 2011
After Usuyuki 5

“I think about how the self might be simply a series of curatorial choices, that it’s fluid, that the poetic ‘voice’ is something to play with rather than solidify.” — a conversation with cover artist Anne Gorrick

Literature is Dead, Long Live Literature

January 1, 2011
dictionaryofreceivedieas

Is the death of literature finally dead? If not, it’s been dealt a healthy blow by Gregory Jusdanis’ Fiction Agonistes, even it art does have to “justify itself in a way not necessary before.”

Debo Speaks!

January 1, 2011
9780312610647

For most of the 20th century, the vivacious, controversial Mitford sisters captivated the imagination of the Western world. In a long-awaited memoir, Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the last living Mitford sister, tells her story at last.

The Prodigal Brothers

December 1, 2010
gustavmahler

Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.

See Hear!: Erroll Garner and Bill Evans – Two Views of a Trio

December 1, 2010
Bill Evans Live

Once they had established a repertoire and following, jazz pianists could tour as single artists, adding bassists and drummers from venue to venue. Brad Jones explores the styles of two of the greatest.

Simple Man

December 1, 2010
Simple Man

No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?

W.

December 1, 2010
george-washington_4964

For two centuries, he’s been the founding myth of his nation: first in war, first in peace, Washington the paragon. Ron Chernow’s new biography does nothing to tarnish that image — but should it?

The Tao of Steve

December 1, 2010
Nov2010VideoImage

For their wit and challenge, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics have virtually come to symbolize our modern musical theater. A new collection gathers the lyrics to all those maddening, memorable songs, and adds to them with Sondheim’s own comments.

There Are Heroes, and You Aren’t One of Them

December 1, 2010
HaloReach

A gutted world, a shattered helmet, a battle lost before you ever joined it … in “Halo: Reach,” the franchise delves into the mythology underpinning all heroic narrative, and still manages to deliver some fun.

“An Unerring Eye for the Charmless”

December 1, 2010
Skate park-9

“Ultimately I’m not trying to say much with most of my photography, or my writing either. I am just trying to capture things that interest me, often for very obscure reasons.”

The Platypus

December 1, 2010
AVoiceFromOldNewYork

For more than fifty years and more than fifty novels, Louis Auchincloss chronicled the lives of New York’s upper class. His last book is a memoir of his life among that upper class — but is truth stranger than fiction?

Fairytales in Fragments

November 1, 2010
study_eustace_03

“I want to escape within the work. Or maybe it’s just that that’s the world of the childhood fairy tales, carrying over into my adult creations?”

George Eliot for Dummies

November 1, 2010
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Free thinker, strong-minded woman, scholar, lover, novelist: George Eliot lived a courageous life that should be known and celebrated. But does Brenda Maddox’s new biography do it justice?

Rhyme and Rylance

November 1, 2010
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David Hirson’s ‘La Bête’ is a sophisticated comedy set in 17th century France and composed entirely of rhyming couplets – not exactly standard Broadway stuff when it premiered twenty years ago. Does the new Matthew Warchus/Mark Rylance revival fare any better today?

Art Beneath the Floorboards

November 1, 2010
Notes from the Underground

Dostoevsky’s moody, brilliant “Notes from the Underground” was recently given an edgy, provocative theater treatment. Can Russia’s most unfilmable writer be acted on the stage?

See Hear!: Quincy and the Count

November 1, 2010
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A bandleader must be a tireless multitasker who can unite a large group of musicians while satisfying the egos of soloists; two of the greatest are featured here

The Curious Disposition

October 1, 2010
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Some of the greatest works of English literature grapple with the dark, knotted roots of anti-Semitism, and the audience is always complicit. A new book studies the tangle of art and atrocity in writers Chaucer to Marlowe to Shakespeare

In Possession of the Place

October 1, 2010
sissinghurst

Adam Nicolson chronicles his work bringing Sissinghurst castle and its grounds up to date–the delusions of a “hippie-squire” or the worthy restoration of a storied estate?

An Authorless Chorus

October 1, 2010
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“I wanted to emphasize the creation of new space as something, rather than just an absence.” — a conversation with our cover artist Skye Gilkerson

The Annotated Mix-Tape, #7

September 1, 2010
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Black cars, night escapes, spinning vinyl, “Why should I care / Driving’s a gas / it ain’t gonna last…”

On the Scent: Difficult Pleasures

September 1, 2010
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Our regular scentstress extols the difficult: sharp notes, throwbacks, and sweaty musks over easy patchoulis and fruity bores.

Eggs Scrambled Differently: A Look at Wayne Shorter

September 1, 2010
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Saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s performances – improvisational, pointed, unpredictably brilliant – were the stuff of legend, and some pivotal examples were caught on film.

Tales of the Tales of Monkey Island

September 1, 2010
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Like paintings or fine wine, video games have a lifespan – a messy birth, a heyday of renown, and a decline. Retrace the epic life, death – and afterlife? – of Tales from Monkey Island.

“Your Princess is in Another Castle”

September 1, 2010
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In the gaming memoir “Unplugged,” one man grapples with the story of his own addiction to video games.

The Original Wasn’t Better

August 1, 2010
vanityfair

Amardeep Singh rebuts the oldest of film-goer complaints with a defense of adaptations of classic literature, the more inventive the better

When the Whole Story Isn’t Enough

August 1, 2010
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When Peter Stein adapted Dostoevsky’s The Demons for the stage, he found himself unable to cut a single scene of its 800 pages. The result: a marathon 12-hour production.

Late to the Movies

August 1, 2010
enigmaofkaspar

Movies notoriously fail when they try to depict interiority. So why not just restrict ourselves to books? For a million reasons and more.

Uneasy Witness

August 1, 2010
Cows – Slaughter House

Vegetarians choose to be vegetarians and meat-eaters choose to be “normal.” Melanie Joy cuts into the language we use to describe our food and the mindset behind it.

The Thin, Clear, Happy Call

August 1, 2010
edwardiansense

The sunlit aesthetics of the Edwardian era have been given a new look in this essay collection, and the consensus leans decidedly toward the darker meanings belying those lovely surfaces

The Ass Made Proud

August 1, 2010
TalentedMrRipleyF

As Mark Twain pointed out a century ago, there’s no evidence the man from Stratford ever read a book, much less owned one, and so the number of books alleging and ‘proving’ evidence of his grand fraud grows and grows …

Open Ears on Clark Terry

July 1, 2010
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In his regular column, Brad Jones offers a warm tribute to a Jazz legend who has delighted audiences for over sixty years, from Duke Ellington’s band to the Tonight Show

Looking at Betty Draper

July 1, 2010
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Mad Men’s Betty Draper is spoiled and uppity, but also tragically thwarted by the chauvinism of the era. As Season Four begins, her fate on the show is coming to a head.

Emotional Contagion

July 1, 2010
patsy_pride

A Conversation with Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff about his images for their short play “Patsy”

A Certain Perturbation

July 1, 2010
robinsonyale

In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson explores both the dynamics of faith and the complacency of recent anti-faith screeds. But is her own book something of a fall from grace?

Wedding Plans Are Postponed Due to Patricide

June 1, 2010
jake-gyllenhaal-prince-of-persia

The new Hollywood extravaganza “Prince of Persia” is based on a video game with long history. Fitting, then, that our gamer-expert Phillip A. Lobo should review them both.

Open Ear

June 1, 2010
ArtieShawLanaTurner

In his 94 years, Artie Shaw had eight wives and eight Gold Records–the man and his conquests are on display again in Tom Nolan’s new biography

Brain Vegans

June 1, 2010
zombies

George Romero, master of the zombie movie, returns to theaters with Survival of the Dead, and our resident zombie expert Deirdre Crimmins has a front row seat.

The Trickster of Hyacinth Grove

June 1, 2010
Coyotes

America’s ever-expanding suburbs have brought us right to the doorstep of the wild – and brought the wild to our doorstep – redefining both worlds in the process.

Cat’s Owls

May 1, 2010
cyclopse

“Owls are majestic creatures. Their stolid quality is exactly what attracts me to them. I purposefully chose those images based on the ability that this animal has to move with such grace and poise, as if always in perfect control.”

The Mines of Mania

May 1, 2010
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Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to game we go as Phillip Lobo delves into the subterranean pleasures of Dwarfortress

Stephanie Diamond’s Social Practice

April 1, 2010
JULEENE

“Images are entryways. Into memories, into someone’s world, into someone’s story.” And Diamond keeps every one of those images.

You Oughta Know that (Music) is a Battlefield

April 1, 2010
grace slick by allan tannebaum

“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves” … but the Spice Girls? Marisa Meltzer’s “Girl Power” picks some strange hall-of-famers, and gets Megan Kearns shaking her head, “with friends like these …”

PAX Ludorum

April 1, 2010
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Over the last weekend in Boston, thousands of video gamers gathered for PAX East, one of the largest East Coast gatherings of, er, their kind. Intrepid Phillip Lobo was on the scene.

The Napping Anthropologists

April 1, 2010
the grolier beagle

They have been with us for fourteen thousand years, and they’re sleeping on the couch right now; a new book takes a comprehensive yet personal look at dogs.

The Man of Steel Revealed?

March 1, 2010
Superman

The most famous fictional creation this side of Tarzan has undergone innumerable changes over the years, and author Tom DeHaven tries to chart them all in his new book on the Man of Steel.

Like Dust, and Memories

March 1, 2010
the rape of persephone by ‘steele savage’

In mythology, Alcestis is the model wife, willing to give up her own life for her husband’s. In Katharine Beutner’s lyrical retelling, the truth is more complex.

‘You Talk Too Much…’

March 1, 2010
me2

Unlike its predecessor, Mass Effect 2 makes being a jerk a rewarding experience–Phillip A. Lobo explores the paradoxes of the Enlightenment, and the complicated morality of being bad.

Twilight of the Giants

March 1, 2010
Southern Right Whale

The elephants of South Africa and the right whales of the North Atlantic are enormous, complex – and confronted with a growing human population. Two books estimate their chances.

Sunday in the Park with Dramaturgical Heueristics

March 1, 2010
the_banquet_of_cleopatra

Giambattista Tiepolo spent a lifetime fulfilling contracts and covering walls with glowing celebrations of light and life. In Tiepolo Pink, Roberto Calasso delves into those bright works.

Katie Caron on Dominium

February 1, 2010
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“It is so easy to create illusions with film, but how can you create an engrossing visual experience with an object? I am obsessed with human nature’s interest in being fooled.”

Dysentery and Other Childhood Memories

February 1, 2010
where-in-the-world-is-carmen-sandiego

If names like “Number Muncher,” “The Oregon Trail,” and of course “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” prompt nostalgic smiles for you, you’ll love this affectionate look at educational video games

Laughin’ Louis

February 1, 2010
SweetThunder

In the first half of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson both rose to greatness that reached across racial divides. Two new books look at the prices they had to pay.

The Why of the Beholder

January 1, 2010
progenitas – jaime jones – photoshop

Can Fantagraphics’ Spectrum series of contemporary fantasy art yield the same sort of enjoyment as a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Steve Donoghue looks into the newest collection.

Adventure.exe

January 1, 2010
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Phillip A. Lobo leaps from the classic 1970s game Zork to Andrew Hussie’s webcomic MS Paint Adventures in his nostalgia-inducing discussion of the allures of interactive fiction computer games

The Long and Winding Road

January 1, 2010
cowland

Jonathan Safran Foer is not the first, but is certainly the most famous, to investigate the ethics of eating animals. Megan Kearns studies both the style and the substance of his argument, with an eye to his less acknowledged allies in vegetarianism

The Wonder of Their Ways

January 1, 2010
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Two books by Jeff Mynott and Colin Tudge explore why it is that birds have such a hold on our hearts. Honoria St. Cyr adds her observations – on the books and on those little marvels around the feeder.

“This Spider — No More!”

December 1, 2009
newspaperstrips

In the 1970s, two giants of the Spider-Man comic book, writer Stan Lee and artist John Romita, reunited for a daily newspaper comic strip. Paradise? Ask Khalid Ponte.

The Pleasures of Paranoia

December 1, 2009
asII

In Assassin’s Creed II, the player plays a player playing a player, all hunting for buried memories and hidden clues to the nature of identity. Philip A. Lobo explains.

An Actor’s Journal – Fuddy Meers

December 1, 2009
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The smell of sawdust, misplaced props, shouts about lights: Steve Brachmann reports on a play going up and the ways in which several real people play their parts.

A Real Island

November 1, 2009
wildthinsg

For a season, Maurice Sendak’s iconic Wild Things have become specifically what Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze want them to be … but what is that? Janet Potter goes out to meet them.

Seger Unsettled

November 1, 2009
travelinman

Midwest Rock icon Bob Seger’s former tour manager gives us a behind the scenes look at old time rock & roll; John G. Rodwan, Jr. turns the page.

The Word Made Full-Figured

November 1, 2009
the-book-of-genesis-front-cover

Counter-culture icon R. Crumb has produced an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis—sincere tribute, or sacrilege? Brad Jones adjudicates.

Confessions of an Armchair Dictator

November 1, 2009
Tropico-3

Tropico 3 tempts its players to become petty, manipulative tyrants; Phillip A. Lobo will permit you (unworthy though you are) of reading his musings on the game.

Fun, with Zombies

November 1, 2009
zombieland

Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland straddles the divide between light family fare and flesh-eating mayhem; Deirdre Crimmins is naturally intrigued.

Speaking In Code

October 2, 2009
speaking-in-code

Speaking In Code
a film by Amy Grill
sQuare Productions, 2009
What drives, obsesses, and eventually breaks impresario David Day in the new documentary Speaking In Code is that most elusive of quarries: getting something started in Boston.
The something …

Thorns Too

October 1, 2009
avindicationoflove

In A Vindication of Love, Christina Nehring has set herself the task of reclaiming romantic love for the Twitter Age. Ingrid Norton rates the results.

Mailer’s Victory

October 1, 2009
Mailer

Norman Mailer fought about writers and wrote about fighters, and even after his death, the brawling continues. John G. Rodwan, Jr. enters the ring.

The Truth by Candlelight

October 1, 2009
why-evolution-is-true

Two new books, Life Ascending and Why Evolution Is True, explore the details of Darwin’s great theory, and Ben and Terry Soderquist wonder if the election’s been called before all the votes are in.

The Rookie’s Dream

October 1, 2009
halo3odst

Does the latest Halo game portend the fracturing of history and the death of narrative, or is it just a really cool game? Phillip A. Lobo explains, naturally.

Prince of a Lost Realm

September 1, 2009
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He ruled the world of Sunday comics with a singing sword and a grin. He was Prince Valiant, and Fantagraphics lets him fight again. Steve Donoghue goes blow-by-blow.

Photography Album and Q&A with Michael George

September 1, 2009
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Open Letters talks shop with cover photographer Michael George

Cosmic Gobbledygook

September 1, 2009
amiina-low1

Did it all start with Bjork, or was she riding an inevitable wave? The world of Icelandic pop is weird, wild, and disarmingly wonderful – let Marc Vincenz be your guide.

‘You Gotta Get the First Beat Right’

September 1, 2009
thejazzbook

If you don’t know The Jazz Book, then as Miles Davis would say, ‘you ain’t never gonna know.’ Brad Jones shows us the groove.

Jazz Festivals and What They Play There

September 1, 2009
wsq

Self-appointed jazz authorities like Wynton Warsalis weigh in on jazz festivals and the musicians who love them, and their listeners. John G. Rodwan, Jr., devoted listener, sorts the noise.

Carmen ex Machina

September 1, 2009
supermario

The blips and whistles of Mario’s soundtrack have evolved into grand strings and horns. Phillip A. Lobo assays how real music has come to video games, and vice versa.

Primordial Sounds of Lost Islands

September 1, 2009
techno

Music correspondent Marc Vincenz voyages to the end of the world – the windswept Faeroe Islands – and reports back on the entrancing music they make there. And the parties.

Cracking the Music Genome

September 1, 2009
pandora

Your father’s FM radio can close up shop, as far as Steve Brachman’s concerned; the music you want is at your fingertips, and you hear it the way you like it, on your computer.

A Fondness for Turtles

September 1, 2009
followingthewater

In Following the Water, David C. Carroll has written another paean of praise to the gentle world of pond turtles. But is he writing about a lost world? Tuc McFarland hopes not.

The French Food Connection

September 1, 2009
juliajulia

Julia Child is all the rage: a new movie (Julie & Julia) and a couple of related books (My Life in France and the gastronomically-inclined Gourmet’s Rhapsody), etc. Sharon Fulton samples the wares.