Books & Fiction

How ‘Life of Pi’ Was Really Written: Paying Homage to Moacyr Scliar

Mary Jo McConahay

Martel ambiguously thanks Scliar in an author’s note for “the spark of life.” In an Internet essay, he said he got the idea for Pi from an “indifferent” review of Max and the Cats by John Updike in the New York Times. Updike never wrote a review of Max and the Cats, anywhere. Also, it is difficult to believe a reader could be “indifferent” to Max, whose multilayered story evokes a mix of emotions, where Pi might be characterized as a good one-note read.

Polar Explorers’ Glory and Ordeals Celebrated in Chris Turney’s ‘1912’

Lee Polevoi

1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica chronicles the polar expeditions that laid the groundwork for our present-day knowledge of this vast, ice-bound continent. In addition to reprising the famous “race to the pole” of explorers Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen, Turney describes lesser-known South Polar explorers who also braved mind-boggling conditions in pursuit of science and glory. 

New Fiction: Arnie Blank

Sam Chapin

Hayato wasn’t sure what he said but could tell that Ralph was frustrated so he rejoined the group. As he walked, Hayato looked at the city through his camera, tripping over the cracks and curbs in his path.  He spotted an old building with giant metal decals and a metal roof and lingered with his camera. He zoomed in and slowly panned down the building, noticing how it gradually got fatter as he made his way down. He got to the twentieth floor and stopped. There was a baby in the window. He watched as it crawled out on the ledge. 

Julian Barnes Embarks on Literary Analysis of Influential, International Writers

Lee Polevoi

Julian Barnes knows France—its culture, cuisine, topography—and its curious relationship to England. In an earlier book, Something to Declare, and in his new collection, Through the Window, France and the French are either in the forefront or background of many of these witty, piercing and erudite essays. Whether he’s tracing the influence of the French countryside on Ford Madox Ford, analyzing the complexities of translation or offering a fresh look at Rudyard Kipling, Barnes delivers valuable insights into a culture and people who have risen above the desperate inequities of the past century:

Literary Flashback: Reading ‘What Is the What’

Kimberly Tolleson

What is the What is a story of just one of the thousands of the Lost Boys, a group of refugees who escaped their hometowns on foot during the Second Sudanese Civil War starting in the 1980s. Almost every one of them young and orphaned, these boys walked from their destroyed homes in South Sudan through unbearable circumstances. Every day the group lost more children to hunger, disease, enemy fire, even lions and crocodiles, all while gaining more displaced boys along the way. Those who survived the 800-mile journey weren’t met with a much better situation once they reached their destination, a refugee camp in Ethiopia. 

An Exploration of Venice Through Photographs

Sam Chapin

The streets of Paris are lined with cafes and museums. In Rome, you’ll find roads that predate Julius Caesar. But only Venice has streets of water. In his new photography collection, Monumental Venice, Jacques Boulay aims to capture the essence of a city that’s unlike any other. Through huge, panoramic landscapes and intimate, contained portraits, Boulay seeks out (and finds) what makes Venice Venice.

London Calling: Celebrating the City’s Street Photography

Christopher Moraff

Suschitzky's photograph is one of 150 London street photos featured in the book London Street Photography 1860-2010 which was published in the U.K. last year to compliment a touring exhibit of the same name. The exhibit closed last month at the Museum of the City of New York, but the book is still available through Dewi Lewis Publishing. The collection features more than 70 photographers and spans three centuries – from the industrial revolution to the dawn of the information age – offering a glimpse of modern British history through the microcosm of life on its streets and avenues. 

Reading the Prophecies of the Late, Great Henry Miller

Steven J. Chandler

As America has grown economically, so has the relevance of Miller’s writing. He predicted that the proliferation of skyscrapers and warships would come at the expense of America’s poor. His novels remind us that, even if the Mayans do spare us on the 21st of December (the end of their long count calendar cycle and the date some theorists have predicted as the end of the world), America will not have made it through unscathed. By writing with absolute honesty, Miller’s prose read like prophecy, for he revealed to the world an unstoppable process of cold-blooded capitalism which could only have resulted in the America of today. 

The Best Books of 2012 (and Honorable Mentions)

Lee Polevoi

Each new book by Martin Amis seems to trigger a media frenzy involving sensational details from his past. By now (Lionel Asbo is his 13th novel), this frenzy serves not to enlighten but to distract from the work itself. In that respect, Amis remains one of the most consistently interesting and—on a purely sentence-by-sentence level—one of the best writers around. Language is his true dominion, a manic, bubbling and light-footed style that depends as much on the reader’s ability to keep up as on its own hard-earned effects. 

Neil Landau on the Art of Screenwriting

Christopher Karr

This is the kind of practical, well-articulated knowledge you can find in The Screenwriter's Roadmap. It's organized into 21 chapters that each focus on an essential aspect of the writing and re-writing process. Each chapter also includes a corresponding interview with a screenwriter currently in the business. The guidebook is clear, well-organized, and sometimes painfully academic and overly analytical. This is a common attribute of all screenwriting guidebooks, but Landau's prose is, at times, more readable than Field and McKee. 

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