Books

Indie Bookshop of Horrors: Book Culture Employees’ Grievances Go Far Beyond Union-Busting

As the owner of a post-Barnes & Noble, post-Amazon independent bookstore, Chris Doeblin once had his customers’ sympathies by default. His shop, Book Culture, located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, is known mostly as a source of textbooks and leisure reading alike for students at nearby Columbia University — the kind of store one makes a point of patronizing because its ownership, unlike a massive corporation’s, presumably cares about things other than the business’s bottom line: books, customers, and the workers who connect them. But the fallout from Book Culture’s vote to unionize at the end of June has called those assumptions into question, revealing a history of worker mistreatment and prejudice where many least expected to find it. … Read More

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Ernest Hemingway and Other Novelists on Their World War I Experiences

This year marks both the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway eschewed college to drive an ambulance for the Red Cross on the Italian Front, and his experiences would go on to influence his work, most notably his 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms. Seeing as today is Hemingway’s birthday, and we’re a week away from the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, here’s a look at how he and other authors involved in the fighting saw The Great War and its aftermath. … Read More

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Is an Ironic Review of James Franco’s Poetry the Best ‘The New York Times Book Review’ Can Do?

In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, the poetry columnist David Orr writes an excellent piece on James Franco’s poetry. Orr reviews Franco’s newest collection, Directing Herbert White, released by Graywolf Press in March — and instead of judging Franco’s work through the scrim of the cult of celebrity, he takes it, generally, at its worth: “Directing Herbert White is the sort of collection written by reasonably talented M.F.A. students in hundreds of M.F.A. programs stretching from sea to shining sea.” He compliments the good wordplay: “‘This despair is nice': The tone is neatly judged,” and he goes in on the bad lines: “He’s prone to phrases that sound good at first but collapse under scrutiny (‘Webbed by a nexus of stone walkways’).” … Read More

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Ranking Cormac McCarthy’s Greatest Books

Trailing Philip Roth by a few months and Toni Morrison by two years, Cormac McCarthy (who turns 81 this weekend) is one of America’s greatest and most decorated writers. His cultural stock has risen immeasurably in the last decade — whether it’s the Coen brothers adapting No Country for Old Men and winning Best Picture at the Oscars for it, or his recent (disappointing) original screenplay for the Ridley Scott-directed film The Counselor, McCarthy has made the transition from great novelist to phenomenon. He’s continuously successful, but he’s never changed, and doesn’t show any signs of letting his advanced age soften him. His entire body of work includes screenplays, plays, and short fiction — but it’s his novels that remain his greatest achievement, so to celebrate his birthday, we rank the five McCarthy novels you must read (and if it helps, the order in which you should do it.) … Read More

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‘Mood Indigo’s’ Limp Romance Isn’t Entirely Michel Gondry’s Fault

Michel Gondry is getting too much credit for the impotence of Mood Indigo. Like many critics, I watched the film before I read the book from which it was adapted. Assuming, despite my prior knowledge of author Boris Vian’s wordplay and surrealist imagery, that the over-the-top whimsy was Gondry’s contribution, I couldn’t suppress frequent “that’s so Gondry” eye-rolls. Oh look, our twee protagonists are floating in a plastic cloud above Paris: “Now, now, Gondry.” Oh look, our twee protagonists won’t stop acting like members of Alvin and the Chipmunks: “Cool it, Gondry.” Oh, look, our twee protagonists are jumping on the bed instead of fucking in it: “Gondry, that’s simply enough.” But when I opened the book, I was surprised to find that Gondry, alongside co-writer Luc Bossy, had merely been faithfully adapting the novel. … Read More

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A Nonfiction Tour of America: 50 Books for 50 States

Whether you’re staying at home this summer or traveling around to different parts of America, the easiest way to discover what makes this country tick, in ways both maddening and beautiful, is to read some books. To aid you on this virtual journey, Flavorwire has dug up some of the best nonfiction about specific American locations — in this case, our 50 states — and found 50 books that will shed light on every corner of the… Read More

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The Strange and Fruitful Relationship Between Literature and Metal

Judging by the 4.7 rating it got from PitchforkCelestite — the latest album by the Olympia band Wolves in the Throne Room — is something of a disappointment, especially considering that Pitchfork’s own Brandon Stosuy considered the band’s last album one of the best of 2011. The band has been critically lauded for a few years now, even going beyond the music blogosphere, getting attention from Sasha Frere-Jones in the pages of The New Yorker… Read More

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Book of the Week: Tiphanie Yanique’s ‘Land of Love and Drowning’

You wouldn’t find Tiphanie Yanique’s sublime novel Land of Love and Drowning in the historical fiction section of your local bookstore, but it does transport you to the island of St. Thomas at the turn of the century, just as the Danes are handing over control of the Virgin Islands to the United States. Yanique presents us with a story set on her home island, a family saga that spans some 60 years. Her prose combines a touch of Gabriel García Márquez, William Faulkner transported to the Caribbean, and Zadie Smith’s grasp on a place’s dialect and ability. … Read More

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