books

Remembering the Genius of Kurt Vonnegut and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’

Adam Gravano

As a young man, few books exerted anything like the formative power held by Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Despite the grim acceptance of a world with conflict and war, Vonnegut still fell into writing an anti-war book, perhaps an anti-war book highly ranked among the best. This year marks the 50th anniversary of its publication, and, accordingly, Modern Library has released a new edition with a foreword by Kevin Powers. And, as the foreword shows in splendid detail, the lessons of Slaughterhouse-Five are just as relevant today as they were in 1969. 

Haymarket Books Caters to the Literary Tastes of Radicals

Rebecca Stoner

"The holy grail of radical publishing," says Fain, now the press's managing editor, is a book that sparks "conversations . . . in existing movements." Many of Haymarket's books—especially those with a connection to Chicago—focus on the achievements of social justice struggles and on offering a counternarrative to dominant accounts of contentious political issues. 

A Look Back at Walter Mitty

Adam Gravano

While Thurber is generally considered a humorist, he has a bountiful capacity to write fiction of a darker mien. Stories like “The Lady on 142” and “The Catbird Seat” prove there's an edge to Thurber's mind. Walter Mitty is easily described as a henpecked husband who drifts into reveries to escape his wife. At first, it's easy to mistake the daydreams for flashbacks, but, on closer examination, they fall apart. 

Literary Flashback: ‘20,000 Years in Sing Sing’ by Lewis Lawes

Adam Gravano

While many Americas can tell you the name of a famous criminal, and some may even mention a famous law officer or prosecutor of some renown, conspicuous by their absence from the public imagination in any positive light are the men and women whom we've charged with reforming the felon, the social workers and all too often the corrections officers. Due to this state of affairs, it seems unlikely the average American would be able to name more than the most local institution in America's penal archipelago. 

Circling the ‘Small Death’ of Alcoholism in A.A. Gill’s ‘Pour Me, a Life’

Lee Polevoi

In England, A.A. Gill has achieved a fair degree of notoriety as an outspoken restaurant and television critic. This notoriety apparently stems in part from his caustic and outspoken point of view, some of which bleeds into his memoir about life as a disappointed art student, habitué of down-at-the-heel environments like Soho at its seediest best in the late 1970s and as a far-from-ideal husband and lover. All of this is rendered with impressive honesty and in vivid language. 

My Real Education at Berkeley

Andrew Lam

Yet if I didn’t learn how to write at Cal, it was certainly here that my literary life really began. A refugee boy from Vietnam at age 11, I barely spoke a word of English. I lived in a crowded apartment full of refugees where Mission Street ended and the working class of Daly City began. It wasn’t until I was a junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, when a few of my Vietnamese friends were applying to Cal, that I first heard of the school. And I thought that maybe I, too, should apply. 

Viet Thanh Nguyen Wins Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

John Freeman

Nguyen spent his first three years in the US in a refugee camp in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsyvlania and then with a host family in Harrisburg, where he was separated from his mother and father and sister. “Not everyone would take a whole family,” he says, speaking by phone from Boston. “This period had a big impact on me, I didn’t realize how deep until much later.”

Meet the Staff at Highbrow Magazine: Chief Features Writer Angelo Franco

Angelo Franco

I once wrote a letter to Junot Diaz and asked him if he could adopt me. He didn’t reply plus, it turns out, I am legally someone’s son already so that plan was meant to fail from the start. If I’m crying while riding the subway, it’s likely because I lost my MetroCard or I am rereading a Gabriel García Márquez novel. I often tell people they should learn Spanish just so they could read his works in his native tongue. 

On the Water With a Surfing Memoir and History of the North Sea

Lee Polevoi

Water is the element through which two new books flow, though everything else about them is different. In his surfing memoir Barbarian Days, William Finnegan chronicles a life of more than half a century spent in pursuit of waves in Hawaii, California, Australia, Fiji and elsewhere. A staff writer for The New Yorker, Finnegan has supplemented his reporting from global hot spots—apartheid-era South Africa, Central America, and Sudan—with whatever opportunities he could find for surfing in (oftentimes) uncharted waters. 

The Disappointment of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Melinda Parks

The reception of this controversial second book, Go Set a Watchman, released in July of 2015, has met with equally mixed reviews. However varied their opinions of the story, critics seem to agree on one aspect of the work: one can’t read Watchman without comparing it to, or at least mentioning, To Kill a Mockingbird. For one, Mockingbird so strongly impacted society at the time of its release, winning Lee a Pulitzer Prize and the movie adaptation of her novel three Oscars, and it has remained a staple of high school curricula and American culture ever since.

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