April 6, 2011

A Review! A Review! Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric 5


What might have been (and in many texts on rhetoric is) a dry analysis full of rebarbative Greco-Latin terminology (epizeuxis!) becomes an enchanted garden of lively English prose.

April 5, 2011

The Price of the Dream: David Bezmozgis’s The Free World 0


Emigration is not unlike love: its true course never did run smooth. You envision the free world filled with beauty and wonder, and then you see it, the West, and it is lovely, yes, tantalizing, but also cruel, withholding, a stern, ingrate mistress, possessed of a stony heart, an unyielding temperament.

April 5, 2011

Paint It Back: The History of American Graffiti 3


Exactly who was the first kid to spread a name or moniker across a cityscape is up for debate, but this book is as close as one will ever get to a definitive answer.

March 29, 2011

Putting It Together: Geoff Dyer’s Otherwise Known as the Human Condition 5


Like a dragonfly hovering above the surface of a pond, Dyer’s criticism skims across a subject rather than diving in. Yet not every critic can incite so many ripples with such a light touch, and not every critic can show such tremendous intelligence while leaving things slighted.

March 28, 2011

Heartland of Darkness: Timothy Schaffert’s Midwestern Trilogy 6


It seems to me that we could be almost anywhere, in any place far off the beaten track. Schaffert’s Bonnevilla is so sketchily rendered that it’s easy to project the places you’ve known over it.

March 22, 2011

Aloha, Imperialism: Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes 6


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 18, 2011

Laugh Lines: Mike Sacks’s Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason 1


Do you perform yoga in parks? Do you carry an NPR Fresh Air tote bag? If you don’t mind getting made fun of, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason is for you.

March 16, 2011

Unlikely Connections: Chris Kraus’s Where Art Belongs 1


Chris Kraus’s nuanced approach is akin to a cultural anthropologist who considers creativity in its natural habitats, the spaces where art comes into being

March 11, 2011

Cultic with a Chance of Rain: The Novel and Cults and Novels about Cults 3


While The Gospel of Anarchy and Big Machine portray cult largely as madness – albeit a seductive sort of madness – The Instructions and The Book of Dave render cult as that other thing it can be: the basis of a new religion.  All four invite reading, tongue-in-cheek, of sections of their text as scripture.  The Instructions, naturally, is entirely scripture.

March 10, 2011

Why Isn’t Our Children Learning? 11


Reading the “campus in crisis” study Academically Adrift is like being harangued over Thanksgiving dinner by your grumpy Uncle Fred. But just because he’s a long-winded old fogey doesn’t mean Uncle Fred is wrong.