Love in the Ivy League

Jeffrey Eugenides explores real depression, not just preppy romance. Michael Agger For a certain class of readers along the Eastern seaboard, the new Jeffrey Eugenides novel, The Marriage Plot, will offer the same pleasures and discomforts as looking into the mirror. The three main characters—Madeleine, Mitchell, and Leonard—are white liberal arts majors at Brown in … Continue reading

Checking out library books with Kindle

Nate Anderson Public libraries have long lived by the "Blockbuster model": require people to drive to a physical location, pick up a physical book, then drive home, only to repeat the driving a few weeks later when the book is due. And how well did that approach work out for Blockbuster as iTunes and Netflix … Continue reading

Dissolve My Nobel Prize!

Robert Krulwich It’s 1940. The Nazis have taken Copenhagen. They are literally marching through the streets, and physicist Niels Bohr has just hours, maybe minutes, to make two Nobel Prize medals disappear. These medals are made of 23-karat gold. They are heavy to handle, and being shiny and inscribed, they are noticeable. The Nazis have … Continue reading

The Devil’s Dictionary

Stefany Anne Golberg CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision. One hundred and five years ago, in 1906, a book written by the infamous curmudgeon Ambrose Bierce was … Continue reading

The art of the essay

Philip Hensher Despite moments of self-indulgence, four new collections demonstrate that the essay still deserves a place in the modern literary landscape, says Philip Hensher In 2008 Christopher Hitchens underwent waterboarding by US special forces: the subject of an essay in his latest collection, Arguably Essays come in all shapes and sizes. Professional essayists have, … Continue reading

Kindle Touch 3G can’t touch most of Internet without WiFi

Casey Johnston Amazon has clarified that the next generation of its 3G Kindle, the Kindle Touch 3G, will not be able to browse the Internet without a WiFi connection. Users will still be able to use 3G to sync book and document purchases, but anything beyond Wikipedia will be off-limits. Browsing was (and still is) … Continue reading

Farmer’s Almanac ‘weed-dating’

Robert Fulford In a world that changes too fast and allows grand old institutions to die like flies, please welcome The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2012, the 220th annual appearance of the U.S. edition and the 30th of the Canadian edition. A pillar of continuity, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has already lasted an eon and doesn’t … Continue reading

Is China More Powerful Than America?

A fascinating new book argues that the United States has already been eclipsed as the world’s dominant economic power. Simon Johnson Has the U.S. been eclipsed by China as the world’s dominant economic power? According to Voltaire, the Roman Empire fell "because all things fall." It is hard to argue with this as a general … Continue reading

Better than the iPad?

Our first impression: It’s better than the iPad. Erica Naone The Kindle Fire is the tablet you need at the price you’ll be willing to pay. The $199 device comes packed with content and features that are arguably better than what’s available on the iPad, and at a fraction of the price. Wow. Crucially, Amazon’s … Continue reading

Amazon’s Android Tablet May Be the Best

Christina Bonnington Amazon Kindle Director Jay Marine uses the Amazon Fire in New York. Photo: Victor J. Blue/ The Kindle Fire could be the first truly successful Android tablet. It touts a very reasonable $200 price tag, a well-curated app store, easy access to Amazon’s cloud-based services, brand trust and recognition. It’s Amazon’s most … Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe

The Metamorphosis In My Week with Marilyn, Michelle Williams captures Marilyn Monroe’s struggle to reconcile her two identities: Norma Jean, the apple-cheeked girl next door, and Marilyn Monroe, the droopy-eyed Aphrodite. Norma Jean didn’t stand a chance. Marilyn: Intimate Exposures, by Susan Bernard, is a stunning collection of images that track Norma Jean’s transformation into … Continue reading

Havana Unbound

Cuba—once referred to as “that unhappy island” by President John F. Kennedy—is often portrayed in a negative, faded frame, with destitute streets and abandoned American automobiles. From March 2009 to July 2010, photographer Michael Dweck aimed to capture the secret side of Castro’s Communist capital, with all of its combustible energy, from the often overlooked … Continue reading

Amazon Opens Fire

The new Kindle is a tablet for the masses. Will Oremus Jeff Bezos introduces the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s entry into the tablet marketTo just about any criticism of its new Kindle Fire tablet, Amazon has a two-word answer. It doesn’t come with 3G Internet access? It’s $199. It doesn’t take pictures? It’s $199. It won’t … Continue reading

Reinhard Heydrich Biography

The First In-depth Look at a Nazi ‘God of Death’ By Georg Bönisch As the chair of the Wannsee Conference and head of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich was the personification of the cruelest aspects of Nazi Germany. But the first scholarly biography of him finds that a combination of shame, love and … Continue reading

Amazon launches $79 Kindle

In addition to the news today that Amazon will be launching its Kindle Fire tablet and a $99 touchscreen e-reader called the Kindle Touch, Bloomberg reveals that the company plans to introduce an ultra low price version of the traditional, E-Ink Kindle (just called Kindle) at just $79. As confirmed by Jeff Bezos on stage, … Continue reading

Confessions of a Literary Barbarian

Benjamin Reiss Mark Twain I recently learned that I had "killed American lit." In a lengthy diatribe in the Wall Street Journal against the Cambridge History of the American Novel (which I edited with Leonard Cassuto and Clare Eby), Joseph Epstein identifies the usual academic murder weapons: multiculturalism, literary theory, and hatred of America. English … Continue reading

Asterix the Gaul co-creator draws an end to France’s comic hero

Albert Uderzo gets pragmatix, hanging up his pen at 84 for younger illustrators to carry on the legacy Reuters in Paris Asterix and Obelix, the comic book stars who have sold 350m books worldwide, will no longer be drawn by co-creator Albert Uderzo. Photograph: Allstar/UA/Sportsphoto Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix the Gaul, is hanging up … Continue reading

The Opium War

Julia Lovell gives a mythbusting account of a shameful episode in British-Chinese relations Rana Mitter An unfolding tragedy … gouache showing two wealthy Chinese opium smokers Photograph: Wellcome Images/Wellcome Library, London The newly refurbished National Museum of China opened in March 2011 in Tiananmen Square, adorned with groundbreaking technology and architecture. But the story it … Continue reading

Changing Reading Forever, Again

lizabeth Minkel “Cultural decline is not inevitable,” said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, upon the announcement that more Americans were reading books than in previous years. It was a small victory—“literary” reading rose seven per cent from 2002 to 2008, in part, Gioia suggested, because of programs like the … Continue reading

Talking About China

A new book argues that it’s time to have an open conversation about the security challenges posed by the Middle Kingdom’s rise, even if Beijing gets offended.  ROBERT HADDICK A Contest for Supremacy calls on America’s China-watchers to get real In the preface to A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery … Continue reading

Shovel-Ready Shibboleths

We will use revenues to create millions of ‘green jobs’—like the ones eliminated earlier this month at Solyndra. ANDREW FERGUSON ‘That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" is a landmark in American popular literature: It is the first book by Thomas L. … Continue reading

A Man of Parts

Michael Dirda HG. Wells’s life (1866-1946) has always read like a novel. And now it is one. Or is it? David Lodge’s “A Man of Parts” hews closely to all the known facts about Wells, derives much of its dialogue from his letters and memoirs and includes no made-up characters. ( LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / … Continue reading

Paradise lost

MICHAEL ONDAATJE, a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist, has spent his career depicting the lives of misfits and migrants; people often absent from official histories. With poetic language, he has inhabited the world of Toronto’s eastern European bridge-builders in the 1920s—in his early masterpiece “In the Skin of a Lion”—and of a Sikh bomb-disposal expert during … Continue reading

Vasily Grossman

The Russian writer’s novel "Life and Fate"—often compared with "War and Peace"—was first published in English in the mid-1980s. But only now is interest taking off among a wider public Robert Chandler It is easy for a translator to exaggerate the importance of what he is working on. In the early 1980s, while I was … Continue reading

Dr. Seuss New Compilation

Rachel Zurer Illustration: Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. 2011 Nobody owns childhood quite like Dr. Seuss. For more than 70 years, his 44 books have colonized young minds with chaotic tales, strange creatures, moral messages, and nonsensical rhymes. Now his dominion is about to expand, thanks to The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, a compilation … Continue reading

New Men and Old

Ivan Turgenev, from Fathers and Sons “The motive force behind our actions is that which we recognize to be useful,” pronounced Dr. Bazarov. “At the present time the most useful thing is negation—so we deny—” “Everything?” “Everything.” “How can that be? Not only art, poetry—but also—terrible to say—” “Everything,” repeated Bazarov with indescribable composure. The … Continue reading

Quack Prophet

Colin Dickey Soothsayers have been around as long as recorded history, probably longer—after all, knowing what’s to come has always been accorded more value than knowing what’s already happened. Whether Isaiah shouting from the mountaintop or Jim Cramer shouting from the television screen, there has always been power and notoriety to be gained from prognostication. … Continue reading

An Infinite Walk

Alfred Kazin’s amazing 65-year journal. William Deresiewicz Alfred Kazin "I have a dream of an infinite walk," Alfred Kazin told himself in 1947, "of going on and on, forever unimpeded by weariness or duties … until I in my body and the world in its skin of earth are somehow blended in a single motion." … Continue reading

Love and Capital

Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution MARY GABRIEL Reviewed by Troy Jollimore Karl Marx did not know what we know: he did not know that he was Karl Marx. Had this knowledge been available to him, it would have consoled him during the many moments when he wondered whether his life’s … Continue reading

My Lost Library

Ariel Dorfman In the ninth year of my exile, one sullen day in the winter of 1982, the phone rang in our house in Bethesda, Maryland. When I heard the voice on the other end of the line, I tried to control my panic. I had learned by then that whenever anyone called me or … Continue reading

Enduring England

Academics have dismissed the field of national histories as parochial. But, argues Dominic Sandbrook, three new accounts of England show that myths of national identity remain strong Dominic Sandbrook Is there such a thing as an enduring national character? Most academic historians would probably scoff at the idea of a nation having a distinct personality, … Continue reading

How To Help Your Child’s Brain Grow Up Strong

Babies may look helpless, but as soon as they come into the world, they’re able to do a number of important things. They can recognize faces and moving objects. They’re attracted to language. And from very early on, they can differentiate their mother from other humans. "They really come equipped to learn about the world … Continue reading

The Skeletons in Deng’s Closet

The new biography of the man who really transformed China is the most complete and ambitious ever. But does it leave out some black spots? CHRISTIAN CARYL Deng Xiaoping is the most important 20th-century leader you know almost nothing about — unless you’re Chinese. While most people in the People’s Republic are perfectly aware that … Continue reading

Novelty Acts

The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution. Ariel Levy Vanguardists in the Victorian era thought they were sexual revolutionaries. Wilhelm Reich, the father of the sexual revolution, started out as a star pupil of Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology. Reich was admitted to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association in 1920, while he was still … Continue reading

Hemingway’s Boat

Paul Di Filippo I can easily picture, with my own share of his glee, the enormous smile that must have brightened the face of Paul Hendrickson when he first crystallized his brilliant conceit for organizing his new account of the last thirty years of Ernest Hemingway’s life: to use Hemingway’s beloved and intimately essential cabin … Continue reading

The Other Socrates

Adam Kirsch This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the Loeb Classical Library, one of the most remarkable publishing projects in modern history. Yet as with everything book-related in the year 2011, the Loeb centenary carries with it a touch of wistfulness, and an uncertainty about the future. For the Loeb classics are the monument … Continue reading

Book Publishers Wary of Amazon’s Subscription Plans

By Tim Carmody What if a $79/year subscription to Amazon Prime didn’t just buy you faster shipping for hardcovers and small appliances, and free streaming for old movies and TV shows? What if it also let you read entire books from a similarly curated back catalog? Several executives speaking anonymously to the Wall Street Journal … Continue reading

Books at bedtime

Alice Ozma’s father read her a story every night from the age of nine to 18. But why? Emine Saner At the age of nine, Alice Ozma and her father, Jim, set themselves a challenge: he would read to her every day for 100 days. They started with The Tin Woodman of Oz and ended … Continue reading

Philosopher of B.S.

British academic Stephen Law is intent on warning people about the perils of bullshit. William Underhill First, a credulity test. Do you believe the Bible foretold the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Or that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy? Or that, despite the fossil record, the world is less than 10,000 years old? If so, … Continue reading

African stories

A timely anthology of short stories reveals the strength of contemporary African fiction—and, writes Ruth Franklin, the growth of globalised, “post-national” literature Ruth Franklin Africa in the 21st century, carved into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of countries (the latest being South Sudan), is no longer the empty space that once served to represent it on European … Continue reading

Visions and Revisions

On T.S. Eliot James Longenbach By the time T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis on September 26, 1888, he had been preceded in this world by a brother and four sisters, the eldest of whom was nineteen years his senior. Inevitably, great care was lavished on the youngest Eliot; he had five mothers. Or … Continue reading

Was There an Alternative?

Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his American legacy lives on fiercely in Washington policy when it comes to surveillance, secrecy, war, and the national security state (as well as economic meltdown at home). By Noam Chomsky By arrangement with TomDispatch.Com. We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, … Continue reading

The Battle Over Zomia

Scholars are enchanted by the notion of this anarchic region in Asia. But how real is it? By Ruth Hammond The region of Zomia had not been mapped for very long when people started quarreling over it. Political scientists, historians, geographers, anthropologists, and especially Southeast Asianists. Even a few anarchists weighed in. Much of the … Continue reading

Just like a woman

AUDREY BILGER on Jane Austen’s brand of sentimental education. When V.S. Naipaul picked a fight with women writers in an interview earlier this year, citing a “narrow view of the world” as the source of female inferiority, he scorned Jane Austen for “her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world,” declaring that no woman, … Continue reading

The Sugary Secret of Self-Control

STEVEN PINKER Ever since Adam and Eve ate the apple, Ulysses had himself tied to the mast, the grasshopper sang while the ant stored food and St. Augustine prayed “Lord make me chaste — but not yet,” individuals have struggled with self-control. In today’s world this virtue is all the more vital, because now that … Continue reading

Weighing the Evidence

By Mark Nugent The Western world is in the midst of an obesity epidemic that has been worsening since the 1980s. Rates of related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are also rising, with type 2 diabetes affecting children at ever younger ages. Understandably, weight loss has become a national obsession. We’ve turned to … Continue reading

Adolf & Eva

Richard J. Evans IN THE small hours of the morning of April 29, 1945, as the Red Army’s guns and tanks could be heard bombarding the center of Berlin, a curious event took place in Hitler’s bunker deep under the garden of the old Reich Chancellery. Witnessed by Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and the … Continue reading

What We Do to Books

By GEOFF DYER There has always been a lot of discussion about the effect that reading books has on us. Far less attention has been paid to the effect that we (the readers) have on them (the books). I don’t mean on the reputations or royalties of the authors who wrote the books but on … Continue reading


Chinua Achebe, excerpted from Chike and the River After the incident of the leopard skin Chike lost some of his eagerness for crossing the Niger. He did not see how he could obtain one shilling without stealing or begging. His only hope now was that some kind benefactor might give him a present of one … Continue reading

Murakami off reading lists in New Jersey

Complaints from parents led to Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood being dropped from summer reading lists in Williamstown, New Jersey Alison Flood Haruki Murakami‘s venerated novel of love and mental illness, Norwegian Wood, has been pulled off a reading list for New Jersey teenagers after a rash of complaints from parents. The novel, which has inspired … Continue reading