Panic in a Suitcase

The morning was ideal, a crime to waste it cooped up.

-Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Panic in a Suitcase: A Novel


Faces in the Crowd

The boy wakes me up: Do you know where mosquitos come from, Mama?

-Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd




The Silent History & More


“In this engaging history of one of the most divisive periods in American politics, the buildup to the Civil War, Lincoln historian Holzer (The Civil War in 50 Objects, 2013, etc.) tracks how the great political clashes played out in the lively press of the day, creating not-so-delicate marriages between politicians and the journalists writing the ‘news’ (which was more opinion than actual news).” Here‘s a review of Lincoln and the Power of the Press.

“You have to wonder, if nobody is a racist, how is it that we still have these very different outcomes for blacks and whites?” Here‘s a review of Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It.

“The Silent History makes a single and unsettling provocation. Those around the silents—family, teachers, doctors, inventors—try to cure what they see as a medical malady. But the silents seem serene, happy even, and as they find each other in special schools, eventually separate themselves from talking society, in rural retreats and dingy squats.” Here.

“Warren Adler is somewhat of an enigma, as a writer and a person. He is eighty-six years old — born in Brooklyn, in 1927 — but working more than ever.” Here.

The Last Days of Dorothy Parker & So Much more


Says Marion Meade (The Last Days of Dorothy Parker): “Normally, newspaper columnist Franklin Pierce Adams was no slouch when it came to reporting what’s what and why. But even he seemed at a loss to analyze the special appeal of [Dorothy] Parker, with whom he had a long history. (He’d published her verse before World War I.) F.P.A. could only call her an original, a ‘limited edition.’ ‘More lasting than brass is the monument she has built,’ he wrote almost seventy-five years ago. Nothing has changed since then.”

“I might have shied away from the phrase ‘Joseph Smith made it up as he went along’ but that is certainly my sense. And I have used that phrase in discussions with Mormons. And the ones that really know his life well don’t disagree at all.” Here‘s Alex Beam (American Crucifixion The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church).

“The kids are all wrong—especially the superachievers at the nation’s top universities—according to this stinging indictment of American higher education.” Here‘s a review of William Deresiewicz ‘s Excellent Sheep.

Here‘s Charles Bukowski: “You can do without a woman but not a typewriter.”

“An astonishing story, one that journalist Hampton Sides tells comprehensively and skillfully in his wrenching new work, In The Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette.” Here.

Says Steve Almond (Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto): “On any given Sunday, football functions more like a national religion than a sport. Millions of fans gather every weekend in autumn to take in the grace, drama, and pageantry of the game. In fact, we love football so much we’ve become blind to its dangers. . .Simply put: the game isn’t good for us.” Here.

Says Yelena Akhtiorskaya  (Panic in a Suitcase): “There are a lot of characters that need to be institutionalized. We don’t have a doorman, but we have a Georgian man who smokes nonstop and mutters to himself, sometimes screams obscenities at the top of his lungs, and stands outside of the building at all hours of the day and night and lets you in if he likes you, which is good for our family because he likes us and we always forget our keys.” Here.

“Dystopian fiction is passé now,” says Lois Lowry (The Giver). Here.

“Who knew, for example, that between 80,000 and 200,000 Franco-German babies were born in France during the Occupation, or that 80 percent of the resistance in France was the work of men under age 30?” Here‘s a review of Ronald C. Rosbottom’s When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation 1940-1944.




A New York City summer evening and Loretto Jones looked sharp in a dark blue and white pinstriped double breasted suit as he waited on the corner of East 107th Street, between 2nd and 3rd: Loretto, the house where the Blessed Virgin was born and where she ascended into heaven, a name pinned on him by the nuns at Mount Loretto Orphanage on Staten Island where he had been abandoned sometime before dawn twenty-one years earlier to the day, July 28, 1910.

-Ed Falco, Toughs


Paris at the End of the World

The first blow fell on Paris at 7:18 a.m. on March 21, 1918, interrupting the calm of a spring morning.

-John Baxter, Paris at the End of the World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918


Fat Gay Men & More


“The fat gay men described in Fat Gay Men are tired of being ostracized by their communities—so they decide to ostracize themselves instead. In an attempt to escape the stigma of corpulence, fat gay men wear it as a badge of honor. These efforts lead to some great parties and, apparently, some great sex. But reading about them also leaves you with a sharp sense of melancholy.” Here.

“Like people, [Laurel] Braitman writes, individual animals can be more or less prone to mental illness. But animals living in captivity—even pets—are more often pushed to the edge of sanity, frequently by factors wholly outside of their control.” Here‘s a review of Animal Madness.

“Our lives are like a complex musical score. Filled with all sorts of cryptic writing, sixteenth and thirty-second notes and other strange signs. It’s next to impossible to correctly interpret these, and even if you could, and then could transpose them into the correct sounds, there’s no guarantee that people would correctly understand, or appreciate, the meaning therein.” Here.

Writes Brando Skyhorse (Take This Man): “I stumbled into surviving because everything else failed.” Here.

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore

I was reclining on my backside, thighs spread wide open.

-Walter Mosley, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore: A Novel


Addiction by Design

It was not uncommon, in my interviews with casino slot floor managers, to hear of machine gamblers so absorbed in play that they were oblivious to rising flood waters at their feet or smoke and fire alarms that blared at deafening levels.

-Natasha Dow Schull, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas



At the heart of many western land use controversies is the General Mining Act of 1872, signed by President Ulysses Grant as an incentive to settlement on the moving frontier.  It may have made sense in the era of mule trains and pickaxes “six generations ago, but today it’s so obsolete it actually requires taxpayers to underwrite the pillaging of some of the finest lands in America,” writes William Least-Heat Moon.  Establishing virtual private property rights on federal land, this antiquated ordinance requires no royalties from hardrock miners (including gravel), while gas and oil industries have paid royalties for decades–balanced out, of course, by gigantic tax breaks handed over to them by an enabling Congress.  To this day, mining claims are still leased for the absurd price of $2.50 to $5 per acre.

-Lucy R. Lippard, Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West