The British writer Geoff Nicholson turns 60 today. If you have never read Hunters and Gatherers, go right now and add it to your library. You will spend the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that you've got something terribly delightful waiting for you to read, which is so often not the case these days. It's Monday, so take what you can get.
Tom Stoppard has likened screenwriting to writing left-handed, and while by this standard we have plenty of ambidextrous playwrights, few have displayed such a versatile command as he has. Stoppard's screenwriting credits have ranged from prestige adaptations of Nabokov, Graham Greene, and Tolstoy to writing several drafts of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and much of the dialogue in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Tony Kushner hasn't done that.)
Stoppard's latest project is Parade's End, a BBC/HBO 5-hour miniseries airing this week (it began yesterday) starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall. The series is based on a quartet of novels by Ford Madox Ford set in the years surrounding the First [...]
35. "The Semplica Girl Diaries"
33. "My Amendment"
32. "I CAN SPEAK™"
31. "Al Roosten"
29. "The Barber's Unhappiness"
26. "Tenth of December"
24. "The Falls"
In the 1950s, a DJ named Jean Shepherd hosted a late-night radio show on New York's WOR that was unlike any before or since. On these broadcasts, he delivered dense, cerebral monologues, sprinkled with pop-culture tidbits and vivid stretches of expert storytelling. "There is no question that we are a tiny, tiny, tiny embattled minority here," he assured his audience in a typical diatribe. "Hardly anyone is listening to mankind in all of its silliness, all of its idiocy, all of its trivia, all of its wonder, all of its glory, all of its poor, sad, pitching us into the dark sea of oblivion." Shepherd's approach was summed up by [...]
For a long time I would start my sentences with "In a more perfect world," but as my inexorable march toward death has collected celerity I have found myself considerably more likely to accept the inevitable and do my part to glean the good in things, no matter how difficult they are to discover and ultimately unsatisfying they may be, which means I am making many more declarations front-loaded with resignation and grudging acceptance about how "I guess we should be happy that we live in a world where." Which is to say that while in a more perfect world the novelist Percival Everett would dominate the bestseller list to [...]
An excerpt from the opening of journalist Rebecca Dana's new memoir, Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story. The book tells about the year Dana spent living in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn, with a rabbi named Cosmo, while working as a fashion writer for Tina Brown.
It's ten o'clock on a Tuesday night, a light rain is falling on the wide streets of Brooklyn, and I'm in my living room, strangling a rabbi.
This is the first time I've ever physically assaulted a man of God, and I have to say, it feels excellent. My fingers, with their chipped red nail polish, are digging into [...]
Don't miss the startling first chapter of The Thetan Templar.
It was cold and drizzly outside—as cold as the trail leading to the Islamic glass dildo, currently nestled within the elegant antique Egyptian laptop desk in the office of NYU Professor Nate "Shirky" Stryker, the world's leading academic in the fields of new media, the occult and nanotechnology. But Stryker wasn't keeping office hours today, and neither was the mysterious dildo.
"Get the phallus," Nate Stryker said to his beautiful assistant professor, Tanalyne Foster Wallace.
"What's a phallus?"
Stryker glanced out the window with its unobstructed view of the Empire State Building
"You're a genius," she said, [...]
The always-brutal Morning News Tournament of Books has begun. Blood will be spilled.
If you enjoy reading Kindle-brand electronic books on your iPhone or iPad, you've surely had moments when the best idea seems to be just erasing all your ebooks. There's something about the shoddy copy-editing and optical-character-recognition errors and lame single jpeg of cover art and terribly rendered illustrations that really puts a spotlight on the bad corporate non-fiction titles you've somehow spent $13 a piece to accumulate "in the cloud." Wouldn't it just be better if Kindle developed a "killer app" that would erase all of this garbage?
"In shipping the latest version, apparently the company's QA testers somehow missed a bug that can delete your entire book collection from [...]
While interviewing author George Saunders last week on the release of the audiobook of his new story collection, Tenth of December, my Skype connection cut out maybe four times. Such a miserable and embarrassing development on so many levels—maybe the worst being that Saunders is one of the best talkers I've ever met, and in the middle of this incredible riff his voice would just float and burble off, culminating in that awful, plopping Skype disconnection sound. Indescribable, like getting a long letter from Oscar Wilde and someone sets fire to it as you're reading, or you've just been poured a delectable glass of Château d'Yquem and suddenly there [...]
The new book by music critic Marc Spitz, Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s, out this week from Da Capo Press, is a wistful, candid recounting of Spitz's struggles with career, love and drugs as he made his way into adulthood. The memoir's also enjoyable for its many anecdotes of downtown New York during the 90s, the time when Chloë Sevigny was coming off Kids, the actress Adrienne Shelly was the reigning indie queen, and Bennington graduates seemed to be everywhere. Spitz's anecdotes about the actors and musicians he meets have a wayward namedropping charm—they also, all together, form a fascinating portrait of the [...]
From this nice little profile of Karen Russell, the Pulitzer-shortlisted author of Swamplandia!, comes this nugget. Tom Wolfe's lastest, "Back to Blood," which went with him five years ago when he left FSG, for the cost of around $7 million, has sold 62,000 copies to date. (That's according to Nielsen BookScan, which does not record sales at WalMart, Sam's Club or BJ's. Not sure how well Tom Wolfe performs at WalMart anyway though!) That's at least a hundred bucks in advance per copy sold. These things happen.
"Maybe, as I’ve gone on, what I’ve learned as a writer is that you do as little as possible. And part of it is leaving a lot of it up to the reader. And a lot of it is realizing you don’t have to do that much if you do the right thing. [Makes clicking sound] That’s enough. So my writing has tended to be shorter and more allusive than it used to be. I was re-reading The Lathe of Heaven — which I’m still fond of, which I still think is funny — but, boy would I cut it if I could. They talk too much. They explain [...]
If you're the kind of lifelong dupe who bought a book by Lance Armstrong, there's really no helping you. But, still, the wheels of justice must turn, etc., and both law firms and the U.S. Postal Service depend upon those bulk-mailed class-action suit notices. So a couple of consumers in California have gone to federal court in hopes of making a big deal over the long-known truth about Lance Armstrong, the professional drug dealer and sports cheat.
Rob Stutzman and several others who bought Armstrong's "It's Not About The Bike" and "Every Second Counts" have filed a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court. It alleges Armstrong duped them into believing [...]
Have you ever gotten punched in the face? I have not. Nor have I ever punched anyone in the face, or seriously wanted to punch anyone in the face, or even been that close to many faces that were getting punched. The whole enterprise of face punching strikes me as both dumb and, if I'm honest, pretty terrifying. So I didn't expect to spend much time with Frank Bill's blood-sodden bone-crunch of a debut novel, Donnybrook (out March 5), one of the most unrepentantly, gleefully violent books I've ever come across. It's about a bunch of loathsome redneck thugs who, while feuding over a stolen batch of meth, rendezvous [...]
I have of late become a remarkably slow reader of books. I blame this on any number of things—the constant state of distraction with which we all now contend, an increasing lack of interest in devoting the disturbingly brief amount of time I have remaining on this earth to the act of consuming anything that requires sustained concentration, all the fucking periodicals that are piling up and mocking me from the magazine rack (Cabinet specializes in urbane yet cutting remarks about my intellectual vigor, the New Yorker raises a smug eyebrow while questioning my compassion for the poor people of Syria and the New York Review of Books berates my [...]
Many years ago, Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing went to high school together. They laughed, they cried, they wore regrettable outfits to underage dance clubs. They traded books, sweaters, and anxieties, and somewhere along the way they took AP US History together, and learned, all told, surprisingly little. Now, as they make their way through a different but equally ridiculous phase of their lives, they have set out to remedy this oversight by reading biographies of all the presidents, in order. It's going to get hairy around Harrison.
This time up, as an accompaniment to Presidents Day weekend, it's George Washington, and the books discussed are David McCullough's 1776 and [...]
Hey, I heard a bit of Rachel Kushner's new novel The Flamethrowers last night, and it is awesome. It comes out in April, which is exactly when one wants a book. Do you like books? You should pre-order this book then! The joy of pre-ordering books is that you forget you've ordered them and then they arrive and you're like "what is this??" and then you're like "OH HEY THIS IS SUPER DUPER GOOD." (Disclaimer: it's entirely possible that she read the sole lone only good part of the book and the rest is hot trash, but that seems unlikely.)
The novel The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, which is out today, is narrated by the 11-year-old pop star known for such bubblegum hits as "Guys vs. Girls" and "U R Kewt." The novel tracks Jonny, who speaks and thinks in a mash-up of tween grammar and music-industry lingo, on his "Valentine Days" tour across America. As he chafes under the control of his manager-mother, Jane, he attempts to reconnect clandestinely over the Internet with someone claiming to be his long-lost father. (In a review last week in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani had nice things to say about it.)
In this scene, Jonny has escaped [...]
What a great labor of love it is to discuss Stephen King's most magnificent octopus (okay, technically, I guess that would be The Stand, but I didn't read it until a year ago, so it didn't make as significant a dent in my psyche) in our august online publication. Let's stick to the novel, but you are free to go bananas about the Tim Curry television movie in the comments. For the record, you'll never watch him as "Rooster" in Annie the same way again (thank the Turtle she wound up with Daddy Warbucks instead). I guess when you have a mouth that looks like a yawning maw of terror, [...]