The Business of Naming Things & Much More


“Judith Flanders’s erudite and vivid look at 19th-century London is a reminder that what Charles Dickens —an unflinching observer of urban wretchedness, whom Ms. Flanders rightly hails as ‘the greatest recorder the London streets has ever known’—chronicled in his novels and journalism was merely life as most people then lived it.” Here‘s a review of The Victorian City.

Song of the Shank may well be a great book.” Here.

“You do not see beads at Jazz Fest, or flashing coeds, or Bourbon T-Shirts (‘I Got Bourbon Faced on Shit Street’).” Here.

“War is a practice that has brought human society ever closer to order, peace and the trade that brings affluence, and may even soon bring an end to war itself.” Here.

“The forces of chaos are always there and can manifest themselves at any moment, from out of the clouds, unannounced.” Here.

“We’ve subdued 75 percent of the land surface, preserving some pockets as ‘wilderness,’ denaturing vast tracts for our businesses and homes, and homogenizing a third of the world’s ice-free land through farming.” Here.

“The riveting prose in [Michael] Coffey’s first collection of stories leaves the reader feeling unsettled and unmoored. . . .vibrant and unsparing.” Here‘s a review of The Business of Naming Things.

Says William Vollman (Last Stories and Other Stories): “I’m trying to learn about the culture of mining and the whole debate over coal versus nuclear, as well as people’s opinions on climate change. I haven’t been able to get into a coal mine yet. The big guys have no incentive to let me in, since I might cause them trouble, and the little guys run these dangerous fly-by-night operations.” Here.


Kidding Ourselves

Self-deception may actually be an evolutionary gift that allows us to adapt and persevere even when–and perhaps especially when–the odds are against us.  It affords us a kind of psychological undercoating that provides essential but often elusive qualities–things like hope, confidence, and a sense of control–that allow us to persevere, create, and succeed.

-Joseph T. Hallinan, Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception


Silence Once Begun

A strange thing happened to me, to me and to the woman with whom I was living.

-Jesse Ball, Silence Once Begun: A Novel


My Two Italies & Much More


Says novelist Francisco Goldman (The Interior Circuit): “It was the fifth summer since Aura’s death, the fifth year of mourning, and it was like I was dragging this enormous weight everywhere. Am I going to be trapped in this forever? I wondered. How long is this sadness and loneliness going to last?” Here.

“When I was growing up, I wanted nothing to do with either the ‘Italian’ world of my parents and older siblings—all of whom were born in Calabria in the Italian south—or the ‘Italian-American’ world of spaghetti and meatballs, Godfather movies, and bocce tournaments that surrounded me. Like most kids, I just wanted to fit in, blend in with the other americani.” Here‘s an interview with Joseph Luzzi (My Two Italies).

“A commodity that has become one of Japan’s most proud soft power icons: Hello Kitty.” Here.

Says Kate Zambreno (Heroines): “I think we live in a very fast media world where reviewers review books they’ve read quickly and respond often to their violent feelings towards a book. And that really just says more about them, and how they feel towards a book, and whether they hate or love a character, which has nothing to do with whether the book is interesting. I would argue, if the book made them have such a violent reaction, there’s probably something inherently interesting, and perhaps the book also was trying to provoke the reader.” Here.

“Is it really possible that Tom Robbins, author of the counterculture classic ‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,’ is nearly 82 years old?” Here‘s a review of Tibetan Peach Pie.

“Things proceed, pulpo-experimentally.” Here‘s The Mad and the Bad.



The Remedy

In train after train, consumptives filled the passenger cars, their hacks and coughs competing with steam whistles and screaming brakes as the engines came to a halt in Potsdamer Platz.

-Thomas Goetz, The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis


The Restless Supermarket

A salesman buggering a pink elephant (excuse my Bulgarian).

-Ivan Vladislavic, The Restless Supermarket


The Galapagos

For the US forces stationed on Baltra during World War II, the Galapagos was about as far from paradise as they could imagine.

-Henry Nicholls, The Galapagos: A Natural History


Dreaming for Freud

He sits at his desk in his study, sucking on his cigar.

-Sheila Kohler, Dreaming for Freud: A Novel



I no longer know if I ever fall asleep.

-Cesar Aira, Conversations


Empire of Sin

Shortly after eleven o’clock on a bright November morning, a handsome middle-aged man dashed up to the front door of the brothel at 172 Customhouse Street in the French Quarter and let himself in with a key.

-Gary Krist, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans