literature

Celebrating 60 Years of City Lights, a Cultural and Historical Landmark

Benjamin Wright

While other independent bookstores have closed their doors in recent years, and even as big chain stores have gone under (i.e., Borders) and continue to downsize (i.e., Barnes & Noble), City Lights has remained (not without some difficulties – at times the bookstore has borrowed from the publishing company, and vice versa, to ensure sustainability and the company bounced back from near financial ruin in 1984) and has even expanded several times over the years. 

Literary Flashback: Reading ‘Super Sad True Love Story’

Kimberly Tolleson

Proving that a dystopia can still be a fun read, Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story is set in the not-too-distant future of New York City, providing many parallels that hit disturbingly close to home. Our hero Lenny Abramov, a nerdy and overzealous 39-year-old, is a relic of the recent past: He loves reading bound books; his body, nose and hairline are not perfect; but most of all, he is striving for some authentic human connection in a world of self-absorption. 

How Electronic Publishing Democratized Authorship and Paved the Way for New Reading Habits

Gerry LaFemina

For Pietsch, and many others, the book is not going the way of the record. Shoppers could rarely listen to records before they bought them in a record store, but they can thumb through a book.  Still today book purchases are often impulse buys; therefore, people still buy traditional books. Some evidence seems to support this position.  A recent Publishers Weekly article notes that Diamond Book Distributors reported double digit gains in 2012.  Simon & Schuster reported a bump in sales in 2012.

Ian McEwan’s ‘Sweet Tooth’ Delves into the World of Spies and Anti-Communism

Lee Polevoi

As a storyteller, McEwan has few equals. From the novel’s opening lines—“My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service”—he draws us into the dreary world of Cold War England, circa 1974,  time of internal social and political upheaval. The story purrs along like a well-oiled machine, as Serena falls in love with Tony Canning, a married professor and much older man. The affair ends badly, though not before Canning has set her on an eventful career path with MI5. 

A Toast to Cocktails in Literature

Benjamin Wright

Throughout the works of Russian writers, like Tolstoy and Chekhov, the characters drink vodka like there is no tomorrow, and also wine, as in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Mead, the delicious honey wine first created by the ancients, played a significant role in Beowulf, with Beowulf, the hero, defending the king’s mead hall against the terrifying beast, Grendel. In works like Steinbeck’s classic moral tale, The Pearl, the featured drink of choice is pulque, a beverage made from the maguey plant’s fermented sap. 

Zadie Smith Lays Claim to a Patch of London in ‘NW’

Lee Polevoi

Throughout NW, Smith demonstrates a deep understanding of the constant ebb and flow of human relationships—between mothers and daughters, between best friends, between a reformed addict determined to stay clean and his flamboyant, drug-using ex-girlfriend.  Even forewarned of an impending tragedy, the reader becomes so absorbed in these characters’ lives that when  calamity does strike, it comes as a breathtaking surprise and with a penetrating sense of loss.

Martin Amis Amongst the Thugs: The World of ‘Lionel Asbo’

Lee Polevoi

What living novelist brings more baggage to the publication of a new book than Martin Amis? Each occasion triggers a recounting of wildly irrelevant details from his past (no need to repeat them here), generating a media frenzy to which Amis often contributes with outspoken views on culture, politics and history. 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 we have.

The Life and Death of David Foster Wallace

Lee Polevoi

In Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, a sympathetic and engrossing biography of David Foster Wallace, literary journalist D.T. Max deftly outlines the early years of the writer’s life, from his birth in Ithaca, New York, growing up in Champaign, Illinois, where he became a promising junior tennis player, to his education (with a double major in English and philosophy) at Amherst College. The novel he wrote for his senior thesis, The Broom of the System, was published when Wallace was 25 years old, launching a career that went on to see creation of a range of exceptional works of fiction and nonfiction.

All About Me: How Memoirs Became the Literature of Choice

Veronica Giannotta

Memoirs are the great equalizer of writing. In a genre utterly non-denominational, there is room for any story in any pattern of prose. The Christian Science Monitor reports that memoirs have seen sales increase from $170 million to $270 million since 1999. Most nonfiction MFA writing programs are geared substantially towards the genre; Hunter College even requires prospective students to submit a memoir proposal as part of their application. 

John Lanchester Explores Money, Character and Destiny in ‘Capital’

Lee Polevoi

British author John Lanchester displays an impressive range of skills in his books—from a gourmand/serial killer’s disturbing confessions in his first novel, The Debt to Pleasure, to a beguiling memoir Family Romance and an incisive examination of the global economic crisis in IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One can Pay! Lanchester’s interest in the global economy bears full fruit in Capital, the finest novel yet from this hugely talented writer.

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