Articles by Janet Potter

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.

March 22, 2011

Aloha, Imperialism: Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes 7

This double-sided approach – a keen insight into the forces of history combined with an appreciative delight in the coincidental – is so unmistakably her own it might as well be called Vowelling.

March 17, 2011

A helping hand 0

This week, Melville House is donating all profits from books purchased on their website to Japan disaster relief.

February 28, 2011

Getting to Know the Presidents: The Presidential Biography Project 28

Much as I love Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, I have a much more personal affection for the likes of Madison and Fillmore.

February 14, 2011

Nerd 1.0: Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland 3

If he’d been in a club getting sweat on by Fugazi, he never would have spent all those nights listening to R.E.M. and reading William Gibson, which gave him the sense of pride that comes from finding something you love and keeping it to yourself.