Book of the Week: Simon Wroe’s ‘Chop Chop’

It’s always interesting to go to a restaurant where they let you watch all the action in the kitchen. You see all the chopping, all the frying, and the whole process of your food being prepared. Yet I can only count a handful of times when I’ve been privy to such a thing, since most of the time the kitchen is hidden from the view of the diner, for more than a few good reasons. Anybody who has spent even a little bit of time in one can tell you that a restaurant kitchen can be a rough place where people yell and get burned and sliced while trying to do their work. And as we’ve seen on TV shows like Iron Chef and anything involving Gordon Ramsay, the kitchen sometimes resembles a war zone. … Read More

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5 Literary Award Decisions More Questionable Than Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer

Amid all the cheers that have greeted her win, there are those who think Donna Tartt didn’t deserve the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch. Some took to Twitter immediately after the award was announced to either talk about all the other books they thought were more deserving or hypothesize that the prize was an apology for past awards she should have won. Although naysayers aren’t anything new when it comes to major awards, there have been a few other writers whose awards (or lack thereof) rattled cages way more than this year’s winner, and probably for way better reasons. … Read More

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Brilliant Works of Architecture Made Easier to Understand (and Even Nicer to Look At)

As a former architecture student at UCLA, Michie Cao was fascinated by the simplicity and beauty of the great works of modern architecture, but always felt that it wasn’t easy for people who didn’t truly understand design and construction to appreciate what made them so perfect. To fix this, the School of Visual Arts grad student came up with Archigrams, a whimsical set of small prints showcasing some of her favorite architectural marvels, complete with facts to help people better understand the process and art behind the structures. … Read More

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5 Reasons Why Indie Bookstores Are Perfect Models for American Small Businesses

I don’t recall exactly which sky-is-falling installment of the 2008 economic meltdown was in the news on a day when I was working at a nonprofit job that entailed dealing with the children of really rich people in Lower Manhattan, but I remember every mother who came in was in a panic. And for good reason: it felt like we, as a nation, were going to lose everything. If the one percent freak out over a financial crisis, the rest of us can only worry we’re mere days away from living like characters in a Steinbeck novel. Fearing the market-inflicted doom, all I could do was go to a reading in a Brooklyn bookstore and drink the free wine there. The plan to get drunk and not think about my future worked until I was about three or four cups in, when I started wondering how the beloved indie bookstore I was standing in expected to survive when pretty much everything else looked like it was going to hell. … Read More

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The Creepy Victorian-Era Stuffed Rabbits and Squirrels of ‘Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy’

Great British eccentrics come in all different stripes and colors, and no era produced more interesting ones than during the reign of Queen Victoria. From 1837 to 1901, England produced some of its strangest and most interesting figures, including the master of Victorian whimsy in stuffed animal form, Walter Potter. … Read More

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Mona Simpson’s ‘Casebook’ Is the Latest Great Novel by One of America’s Masters of Character

I find it almost as interesting as I do disappointing when people aren’t familiar with Mona Simpson or her work. Maybe you know her as the younger sister of Steve Jobs, who she did not meet until she was 25, and for whom she wrote a moving and eloquent essay. And if that doesn’t jog your memory, maybe you’re familiar with The Simpsons character named after her: Homer’s long-lost mother, Mona Simpson. Certainly those are points of interest, but what’s most important to know is that there are few American fiction writers who write characters as unforgettable as Simpson’s, and there are even fewer who explore bizarre family dynamics like she does. … Read More

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The Skeptic’s Guide to John Updike

What’s yr take on Updike? Misogynist? Genius? King of the WASPs? Guy you only know about because your parents had a few of his books on the shelf? Writer’s writer whose style you envy? Or is he a writer whose reputation has been unfairly maligned? This is the double-sided coin you flip when discussing Updike: he wrote beautifully, often flawlessly — but he’s also the prime example of post-war American white dudes whose work treats women like either like helpless idiots or, well, witches. But if you’re willing to read him simply for the craft, and can deal with the awkwardness of his outdated way of thinking, then you might really enjoy Updike. And if you already like his work, Adam Begley’s excellent new biography, Updike, will give you more insight into a writer you might still be conflicted about reading. … Read More

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The Best Things We Read on the Internet This Week: Laura Palmer, Literary Video Games

Listicles, tweets, your ex’s Facebook status, picture of dogs wearing costumes — the internet offers no shortage of entertaining stuff to look at. But there’s plenty of substantial writing out there, too, the pieces you spend a few minutes reading and a long time thinking about after you’ve closed the tab. In this weekly feature, Flavorwire shares the best of that category. This edition features an essay on literature and video games, William Hazlitt as one of the truly great haters, soda pop, and more. … Read More

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Book of the Week: ‘The Marrying of Chani Kaufman’ by Eve Harris

Novelists, more often than not, are tourists in their own stories. They travel to unfamiliar places and commit minor transgressions, from comically butchering the local tongue to ignoring the customs and traditions of the place they’re visiting. The ugly tourist, the one with very little regard for the place they’re visiting, only impressed by the scenery and the exoticism of someplace unfamiliar, has a literary match in the ugly novelist: one who picks a place or culture for their own artistic gains and totally fails to write an adequate representation. … Read More

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Flavorwire Interview: Adrian Tomine on Drawing Everyday People and Fantasies of Writing a Novel

Although he’s originally from California, if you look at any of Adrian Tomine’s many illustrations for publications named after the city that he currently calls home, it’s difficult to think of Tomine as anything other than a New York artist. His work for The New Yorker and New York magazine capture the everyday look and feel of contemporary New York City, with single scenes begging you to fill in the blanks for the rest of the story: the New Yorker out of his element (in this particular case, a Yankees fan in a sea of Red Sox caps), two readers on passing subways making eye contact, and the bored teenage tourist reading great literature set in the city instead of looking at the tourist destinations. If you’ve spent any prolonged amount of time here, Tomine’s illustrations are scenes with which you’re familiar. … Read More

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