Rebel Souls & More

rebSays Justin Martin (Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians): “My subjects were a group of wild, decadent, and very talented artists, properly considered America’s first Bohemians. During the 1850s, they hung out at Pfaff’s saloon in New York City.” Here.

“Our culture has always been fascinated with (white) teenage girls, usually depicted through the male gaze, but I’m not sure that they’ve ever been the Machiavellian anti-heroines they are almost always depicted as today. [Tana French's] The Secret Place is an absorbing take on a hot subgenre by one of our most skillful suspense novelists.” Here.

“I’ve created a narrative of the world,” says James Ellroy (Perfidia). “I live in the world—tenuously, most times.” Here.

Says Margaret Atwood (Stone Mattress): “It does seem to be a human characteristic, that in fact those things, although you may forget about them in your 20s, they are the sub-layer upon which your life is based. And they come back.” Here.

Soldier Girls & More

soldier-girls-9781451668100_lg“A heartbreaking portrait of an America whose wars are increasingly fought by moms and grandmothers.” Here‘s a review of Helen Thorpe’s Soldier Girls.

Grapes of Wrath at 75. Here.

H.P. Lovecroft died 75 years ago. Here.

“Why . . . have so many children fallen in love with the book over the years? What has kept it in print for so long?” Here‘s The Pushcart War.

n+1 at 10. Here.

Judith Viorst at 83. Here.


Suspicious Minds & More

sus“I would bet that there are many people whose delusions now include the electromagnetic radiation associated with cellphones. The fact that the jury is still out on the long-term safety of cellphones increases the likelihood that both psychotic and non-psychotic people will worry more about their use. However, I am confident that even if cellphone use is found to be completely safe — I’m not sure if this ever can be incontrovertibly the case — people who have cellphone use incorporated in their delusion will not give it up, and still more people will incorporate them going forward.” Here‘s an interview with Dr. Joel Gold (Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness).

“Lonnie Wheeler is a ghost, in book world parlance. That is, he’s a ghostwriter, an invisible spirit who takes the thoughts and words of a chosen subject—usually a famous person—and turns that raw material into a book that is a sublime paradox. If it’s a success, the book will capture the subject’s voice, yet it will be a book the subject could not possibly have written by himself.” Here.

“Elvis died on 16 August 1977, aged 42. He was overweight, over-medicated and had been poring over a paperback called The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus. When success first hit in 1956 he was 21, and had seen nothing of the world outside Tupelo and Memphis. That kind of outsize success for this kind of backwoods child was a wholly new phenomenon, and anyone might have struggled with the psychological backwash.” Here.

“Of the qualities that set [Donald] Antrim apart from the group of writers he’s often casually lumped in with or excluded from — the Eugenides-­Franzen-Lethem-Means-Saunders-Wallace cluster of cerebral, white-male, Northern fiction makers born around 1960 — it may be this predilection for characters ‘not necessarily redeemed’ that offers the neatest distinction.” Here.


How to Be Idle & More

howtoHow to Be Idle — as compelling as it is humorous — is a celebration of idleness, a lesson in the importance of stepping back, slowing down, and taking a deep breath. By the end it becomes clear, [Tom] Hodgkinson’s book should be kept on everyone’s nightstand and reread at least once a year.” Here.

“What we now recognize as Fitzgerald’s greatest work was met with critical indifference and commercial failure when published in 1925; at the time of Fitzgerald’s death in 1940, most of the second printing of the novel was gathering dust in the Scribner warehouse.” Here‘s a review of Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures.

“Part memoir, part manifesto, and part survey of death practices around the world, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a distillation of [Caitlin] Doughty’s experiences in the mortuary world, starting with a job she got as a twentysomething at a scrappy San Francisco cremation and burial service run by a few thick-skinned old-timers.” Here.

“Here is a book devoted to a character—Florence Gordon, after whom the book is titled in the grand old nineteenth-century style—who is unlikable as a point of pride, as a matter of self-definition. Indeed, the very first page of the novel is a kind of joking warning, as [Brian] Morton describes Florence’s plans to write her memoirs: Being old, an intellectual, and a feminist, she muses, she has three strikes against her. If she ever managed to finish this book, reviewers would inevitably dismiss it as ‘strident’ and ‘shrill,’  she thinks. ‘If you’re an old feminist, anything you say, by definition, is strident and shrill.’” Here.

The Art of Lying Down

In some regions of Africa and Asia, more than two or three people who are neither related nor intimate sleep together without unleashing a scandal or even requiring an explanation.  These days in Botswana or the Congo, for example, it’s not uncommon for people to sleep in groups. Pets may even join the mix. Communal sleeping is believed to protect against attacks by wild animals. Some cultures also believe, rather poetically, that your soul can get lost if you sleep alone.

-Bernd Brunner, The Art of Lying Down: A Guide to Horizontal Living



In Control’s dreams, it is early morning, the sky deep blue with just a twinge of light.

-Jeff Vandermeer, Authority: Book 2 of the Southern Reach Trilogy


If Not For This

We get married at dawn, outdoors of course, the Tetons all rosy, the knob of hill we stand on rising just above the thick white mist clotting the paths of the Buffalo and Snake, all exactly as perfect as we thought it would be, but, still, it’s a time more rightfully reserved for executions.

-Pete Fromm, If Not For This: A Novel


Godforsaken Idaho

This starts in the hot pool, around my fourth vodka cran, when she comes in slapping the poolside with her flip-flops, looking like someone you see getting out of a car on TV.

-Shawn Vestal, “Pocket Dog,” in Godforsaken Idaho: Stories


In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist

A month after his mother died, Isaac Markowitz, forty, plagued with eczema and living on the Lower East Side, sold his haberdashery at a decent profit and took an El Al flight to Israel.

-Ruchama King Feuerman, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist: A Novel


Last Stories and Other Stories

In the dimming living room they were drinking slivovitz and water out of fine crystal glasses, and everyone was laughing and smoking American cigarettes until a shell fell twenty-five meters away.

-William T. Vollmann, “Listening to the Shells,” in Last Stories and Other Stories