Articles by Janet Potter

September 27, 2011

Play It Again: Neal Stephenson’s Reamde 4

Every video game has a guiding story. “PLUMBER’S GIRLFRIEND CAPTURED BY APE!” was the original game story, and they have evolved from that into worlds of moral quandary.

September 19, 2011

Loving a Monster: Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine 2

Imagine Sophia from The Golden Girls in Soviet Russia – spewing insults, exaggerating her own worth, bemoaning the state of things. Instead of being surround by three salty dames who deflect her barbs with their own, she’s surrounded by a husband, daughter, and granddaughter whose will to live she has methodically trampled.

August 31, 2011

Conversations with Cocktails: Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility 4

It’s reminiscent of Fitzgerald or Waugh, in that “what gay parties we all had in those days, until our inner demons simply couldn’t be repressed any longer” vein.

August 30, 2011

A Visit to Gettysburg 1

The Gettysburg gaze is a particular brand of narration that pervades the town, describing every skirmish as good vs. good. Good wins.

July 29, 2011

A Thousand and One Knights: George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons 12

Seabiscuit wasn’t about a horse. You don’t have to like football to love Friday Night Lights. A great narrative is great in any genre, and A Song of Ice and Fire is perhaps the most compelling, fully realized narrative in modern literature.

June 22, 2011

The Three Worlds of Jesse Ball’s The Curfew 3

Much of Ball’s writing takes place in worlds that are slightly off, where the rules of society have been changed, and both the characters in these worlds and we, the readers, aren’t entirely clear what the new rules are. I’ve never felt oriented in one of Ball’s novels, but I’m quite sure I’m not meant to.

May 27, 2011

Staff Picks: Richard P. Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces 4

This is not really physics for beginners, then, but extremely advanced physics explained conversationally, so that students with a working knowledge of the sciences will be intrigued and inspired by the majestic complexity of the discipline, even if they can’t grasp it yet.

May 12, 2011

Mad, Mad World: Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test 7

With 40 being the highest score, the psychopath range starts in the mid-20s, but really, I don’t want you feeding my cat if you get more than 10 (although, to be frank, I just gave my cat a 22).

April 30, 2011

A Scarred World: George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones 6

While his world looks like fantasy (bastards! dwarves! whores! knights!), and the action revolves around the question of the seven kingdoms’ throne, the focus is on the clashing relationships and motivations of the people involved in the struggle.

April 26, 2011

A Tiny Inheritance: Edmund de Waal’s The Hare With the Amber Eyes 2

We can never know the people who came before us, but we can own their dining tables, walk the streets they walked, put the Japanese knick-knacks they bought in our pockets, and infuse them with meaning.