On the Edge & More

edgeEdward St. Aubyn”s On the Edge: “The novel focuses on a handful of self-proclaimed spiritual evolvers: Adam, the gay guru who frequently changes credos but consistently champions what he thinks is globally significant; Brooke, the embarrassingly rich, needy guru-subsidizer; Kenneth, the shaman of ‘Streamism,’ who is embarrassingly dependent on Brooke; Peter, the English banker who chucks married life to chase after Sabine, the gender-bending sex goddess, only to fall for restless, slightly guilt-ridden, totally available Crystal; an older couple hoping to rejuvenate their love life; plus other assorted fulfillment seekers and would-be providers.” Here.

“The air in Silver Lake was as fresh as a drunkard’s breath on Sunday morning.” Here.

Are you Elena Ferrante? Here.

The Literary United States. Here.


Tinseltown & Much More

tin“With a gift for evocative phrasing (one figure is described as having a face like a “living mug shot”), [William] Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic.” Here‘s a review of Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood.

“Because survival is insufficient.” Here.

“Follow me around. I don’t care. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored.” Here.

“Some of the most iconic images in rock and roll history.” Here.

“Given $100,000 in securities on his 21st birthday—with the advice that he ‘use it to help people,’—[James]Laughlin, still a Harvard undergraduate, decided to devote the dividends to publishing, a venture that became the estimable New Directions. In late 1936, the anthology New Directions in Poetry and Prose featured work by Elizabeth Bishop, Jean Cocteau, e.e. cummings, Henry Miller, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Laughlin’s mentor, Ezra Pound.” Here‘s a review of Literchoor Is My Beat: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions.



Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies & More

“During World War I, invisible ink flowed from more pens than ever before as rival war machines cooked up increasingly complicated formulas. One French recipe required the application of four distinct reagents in sequence. Despite such advances, many spies continued to rely on low-tech ink, like lemon juice.” Here‘s a review of historian Kristie Macrakis’ Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink From Herodotus to al-Qaeda.

“I’ve had weeping fellow Russian immigrants my age or younger ask me to sign copies of the book for ‘a failed paralegal,’ ‘a worse failure than even you,’ and ‘Shit-for-brains.’” Here‘s Gary Shteyngart (Little Failure: A Memoir).

“The startings and arrivals of the cars are now the epochs in the village day. They go and come with such regularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well conducted institution regulates a whole country. Have not men improved somewhat in punctuality since the railroad was invented? Do they not talk and think faster in the depot than they did in the stage office” Here.

“No matter how many heavy-metal album covers you’ve seen, how many Hieronymus Bosch prints of the tortures of Hell, or even the scene in ‘Indiana Jones’ where the Nazi’s face melts off, you cannot be prepared to view a body being cremated.” Here‘s a review of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.


So Much a Part of You

In the midst of the Depression, in a small New Jersey town overshadowed by the exhaust of Camden’s industry and that city’s legendarily virulent crimes, John Riley is a smart twelve-year-old boy with a dog named Jerry and a paper route, but he is not a happy child.

-Polly Dugan, “The Third Rail,” in So Much a Part of You: Stories


Last Exit to Brooklyn & More

Last Exit to Brooklyn at 50. Here.

Says Mark C. Taylor (Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left): “Speed has become the measure of success—faster chips, faster computers, faster networks, faster connectivity, faster news, faster communications, faster transactions, faster deals, faster delivery, faster product cycles, faster brains, faster kids. Why are we so obsessed with speed, and why can’t we break its spell?” Here.

“San Francisco remains a photographer’s delight, but in the optimistic years following World War II, it had a special aura,” says Fred Lyon (San Francisco, Portrait of a City: 1940-1960). Here.

“Where Wonder Woman came from, and what that means for her feminism, or lack thereof.” Here.

“I do want to rise to say a word or two for the semicolon. It does exist as a tool of punctuation in written English prose, and is just as respectable as any other piece of punctuation you can think of; goes to church on Sundays and all the rest of it.” Here‘s Donald Westlake (The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany).

“I’m an Emersonian by nature, but I’m also a sort of Groucho Marxist by nature — which is to say if nothing’s funny, nothing’s serious to me. There’s a line of Henry James who says that the great theme in the world is the connection between bliss and bale, between things that help and things that hurt.” Here‘s Richard Ford (Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book).



The Mad and the Bad

The man whom Thompson was supposed to kill–a pederast guilty of seducing the son of a businessman–entered his bedroom.

-Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Mad and the Bad


American Jukebox

Much of the ’60s had to do with what to do about the American flag, emblematic of Jack Kerouac folding up a flag thrown across a couch at a swanky New York apartment in the fall of 1964.

-Ed Sanders, “The Founding of the Fugs,” in American Jukebox: A Photographic Journey by Christopher Felver


Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag began college when she was sixteen, got married at seventeen, and became a mother at nineteen.  She entered adulthood with such furious determination that her main goal seemed to be to put adolescence behind her as quickly as possible. She appeared so sure of the standards she would use to frame the project of her life that she did not need to waste time asking questions or experimenting as most teenagers do. . . .

-Daniel Schreiber, Susan Sontag: A Biography


Being Mortal & Much More

Says Atul Gawande (Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End): “Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of ageing and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people . . . we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology and strangers.” Here.

Meet “the ‘WASP ascendancy’: well-off, well-educated journalists, politicians, and socialites who lived in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.” Here.

“He was a great and canny entertainer with a puncturing wit, matchless style, and an instinct for the telling detail, tiny and terrific.” Here‘s a review of H.L. Mencken’s The Days Trilogy Expanded Edition.

“Three recent books on Victorian crime and daily life stare across the uncanny valley between us and those strange folk tromping the British Isles 150 years ago in their crinoline and whalebone. To varying degrees of success, they both indulge our own detective-fever, and seek to desensationalize the people who originally experienced itsometimes a tricky juggling act.” Here.

When I first met him, 10 years ago, I told him he was going to be the voice of a generation. He was going to do great things. And here we are, and he’s just getting started.” Here‘s Jamaican novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings).



Your Face in Mine

It doesn’t seem possible, even now, that it could begin the way it begins, in the blank light of a Sunday afternoon in February, crossing the parking lot at the Mondawmin Mall on the way to Lee’s Asian Grocery, my jacket in my hand, because it’s warm, the sudden, bleary, half-withheld breath of spring one gets in late winter in Baltimore, and a black man comes from the opposite direction, alone, my age or younger, still bundled in a black lambswool coat with the hood up, and as he draws nearer I feel an unmistakable shock of recognition.

-Jess Row, Your Face in Mine: A Novel