Jan 31, 2010

TV News Irrelevant?


"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw

h/t to Bob Lane

Jan 29, 2010

THE ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.... A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.

Jan 28, 2010

J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91

By CHARLES McGRATH Published January 28, 2010 in The New York Times

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.
Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”
Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”  READ MORE...

Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History

originally posted by Dave Zirin, 01/27/2010 on  The Nation

Howard Zinn, my hero, teacher, and friend died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 87. With his death, we lose a man who did nothing less than rewrite the narrative of the United States. We lose a historian who also made history.

Anyone who believes that the United States is immune to radical politics never attended a lecture by Howard Zinn. The rooms would be packed to the rafters, as entire families, black, white and brown, would arrive to hear their own history made humorous as well as heroic. "What matters is not who's sitting in the White House. What matters is who's sitting in!" he would say with a mischievous grin. After this casual suggestion of civil disobedience, the crowd would burst into laughter and applause.

Only Howard could pull that off because he was entirely authentic. When he spoke against poverty it was from the perspective of someone who had to work in the shipyards during the Great Depression. When he spoke against war, it was from the perspective of someone who flew as a bombardier during World War II, and was forever changed by the experience. When he spoke against racism it was from the perspective of someone who taught at Spelman College during the civil rights movement and was arrested sitting in with his students.

And of course, when he spoke about history, it was from the perspective of having written A People's History of the United States, a book that has sold more than two million copies and changed the lives of countless people. Count me among them. When I was 17 and picked up a dog-eared copy of Zinn's book, I thought history was about learning that the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. I couldn't tell you what the Magna Carta was, but I knew it was signed in 1215. Howard took this history of great men in powdered wigs and turned it on its pompous head.  READ MORE....


Jan 26, 2010


Once I had learned to read my letters, I read everything: books, but also notices, advertisements, the small type on the back of tramway tickets, letters tossed into the garbage, weathered newspapers caught under my bench in the park, graffiti, the back covers of magazines held by other readers on the bus, When I found that Cervantes, in his fondness for reading, read "even the bits of paper in the street," I knew exactly what urge drove him to this scavenging. - Alberto Manguel

Jan 20, 2010

Robert B. Parker: Farewell to a tough-guy writer

originally published in salon.com

How the crime novelist taught me to stand up for myself and taught my son about the carnal pleasures of reading 

 By Steven Axelrod 

OK, that's a slight exaggeration. He didn't sit with Nick and sound out the vowels and work on the phonics textbooks. But he made Nick want to read and that's more important than all the vocabulary tests and grammar lessons put together. I gave Nick "Mortal Stakes," "Looking for Rachel Wallace" and "Early Autumn" when he was in eighth grade. Up until that moment he had never read a book for fun. Schools aren't too big on fun, and don't seem to understand the carnal pleasures and quiet consolations of a good book, whether you're waiting on line for a movie (I read "Schindler's List" waiting to see "Jurassic Park" -- thanks, Steve), or waiting for your father's funeral, which is when I burned through the Harry Potter books available at the time.

It was my dad who gave me my first Robert B. Parker Spenser novel, "Taming a Seahorse." I had just landed at LAX after a long plane flight from New York. He handed me the novel and said, "This will take care of your jet lag."

Dad loved Spenser's tough, unsentimental style and his dry wit.

I remember Spenser correcting an unamused thug who had just remarked that "Everybody's a comedian," noting, "You haven't said anything funny." Threats like "I'm going to kill you" were always met with a precise and ironic "You're going to try." When Spenser goes back to the crippled billionaire whose family's murder he avenged in "The Judas Goat" to ask for money so he can rescue Hawk in "A Catskill Eagle," the old crank is amused by Spenser's casual admission that his only interest is money and Spenser's complete failure to suck up to him during the intervening years. Spenser never schmoozed and he never faked it. Some friend of Hawk's once asked him, "What do you see in that big white guy?" And Hawk replied, "He does what he says he's going to do." For Spenser that constitutes a whole philosophy of life, but I remember thinking at the time -- "That's it? What's the big deal?"

That was before a thousand missed appointments and a dozen fizzled partnerships, before a hundred letdowns, big and small -- many of them with me at fault. Gradually, I learned the depressing, repetitive fact of life: Almost no one actually does what they say they're going to do.  READ MORE....

Jan 15, 2010

Fair Trade African Market Baskets from Ghana

The Baba Tree Basket Company Ltd. is an authentic gateway to the finest Bolgatanga market baskets of their kind. We aspire to a new model of ethical business that sees all of us as partners in an unfolding global transformation.

Jan 12, 2010


Publisher Comments:

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann's stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author's most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.

Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the artistic crime of the century. A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as "a fiercely original talent" (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal.

"One of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years.... It is a mark of the novel's soaring and largely fulfilled ambition that McCann just keeps rolling out new people, deftly linking each to the next, as his story moves toward its surprising and deeply affecting conclusion." Jonathan Mahler, The New York Times Book Review


"This is a gorgeous book, multilayered and deeply felt, and it's a damned lot of fun to read, too. Leave it to an Irishman to write one of the greatest-ever novels about New York. There's so much passion and humor and pure lifeforce on every page of Let the Great World Spin that you'll find yourself giddy, dizzy, overwhelmed." Dave Eggers, editor of McSweeney's and author of What Is the What

Be Kind To Books Club

h/t to Ali Riley for the image

Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on a full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae. - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Jan 3, 2010

MAN ON WIRE by Philippe Petit

excerpt of book description by Reg Seeton at The Deadbolt

After reading Petit’s story of how he planned and executed the unbelievable high wire walk in Man on Wire, the event still seems impossible. What’s even more astonishing is that Peitit made eight trips across the wire, at times lying down on his back, bending to one knee, and balancing on one leg. Still, it doesn’t seem possible. But it really happened and Philippe Petit lived to not only tell his story but to write about it for posterity as well.

To put the event into context, Man on Wire is the story of an artist, an expressionist, a magician, a daredevil, an actor, a rebel, and, by legal standards given New York City law, a criminal. From front to back, Man on Wire chronicles the high wire walk from the initial idea after reading about the construction of the Twin Towers in a French newspaper, Philippe’s quest to become a high wire artist, his travels and training in Australia, his move to New York City to become a street performer, his obsession with the Twin Towers, setting the high wire plan in motion, assembling his trusted team of friends, plotting a coup on the towers, going undercover to get access to the top of the world, the meticulous six-year mission, the actual walk itself, and the aftermath of being at “Death’s Door” with the New York City Police Department (N.Y.P.D.). As Petit explains, it was more dangerous to be ushered down the WTC steps by the police at breakneck speed than to perform the walk.

... Man on Wire beams with Philippe’s passion and determination, but it also reveals how the death defying walk was also a result of a tight and trusted collaboration with Petit’s closest friends Jean-Louis and Annie, and several others. Strewn throughout the book are images of the actual blueprints of the Twin Towers, security sketches, original conceptual sketches, equipment, photos of the walk itself, and more. Petit leaves no stone unturned in revealing every aspect of how he pulled off his high wire coup.