Books

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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Beth Macy’s ‘Factory Man’ Puts a Human Face on the Costs of Globalization

It’s a topic that could be as dry as dust — the story of one furniture maker, the Bassett Furniture Company, in one town, Bassett, Virginia, and how it’s dealt with the slings and arrows of the globalization, with factory closings and competition from Asia. But in the able hands of writer Beth Macy, Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — And Helped Save an American Town, the story of Bassett furniture is an epic that gives a human face to the consequences of globalization, the kind that could be the fuel for a terrific prestige TV show. … Read More

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An Israeli–Palestinian Conflict Reading List

We’re up to over 200 dead in the latest round of Israeli–Palestinian fighting, the most recent installment in a conflict that seems like it will never end. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has a long and complex history, one that involves more than the two places and people of Israel and Palestine, and has layers and layers to peel away to even begin to start to understand, whether you live there or not. It’s certainly more complicated than the formula provided by the media: one country provokes the other, the other attacks, innocent people die, then some other country brokers peace. There is always an endless supply of new books and articles on the subject, but if you’re looking for a little more information, different angles and points of view, these books might be helpful places to start. … Read More

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Pablo Picasso Never Got Called an Asshole, But Norman Mailer Sure Did

Novelist, essayist, journalist, filmmaker, Pulitzer Prize winner, mayoral candidate, wife stabber: Norman Mailer crammed a lot into his lifetime. With all of those titles, it’s a little understandable that Mailer’s hobby of drawing Picasso-influenced illustrations might not be as well-known as some of the other things he did in life. Now, thanks to POBA, the first-ever “virtual cultural arts center,” a handful of Mailer’s illustrations are up on the web, courtesy of Mailer’s family, and available to view along with the work of many other artists. … Read More

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50 Excellent Fabulist Books Everyone Should Read

Fabulism, it seems, is having a moment — although whether it’s truly a trend is up for debate. Some might say it’s been right there, purring along, all this time, while others might blink and wonder what you’re talking about. Such is always the case with magic. But whether you’re a newbie or an old hat, there are always new corners of the fantastic to discover. So, here you’ll find 50 excellent novels and short story collections by fabulists, fantasists, and fairy-tale-tellers, literary books that incorporate the irreal, the surreal, and the… Read More

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Escape From New York? Catherine Lacey on Her Debut Novel, ‘Nobody Is Ever Missing’

In Catherine Lacey’s debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing, we meet Elyria, who runs away from a pretty normal life in New York to New Zealand, into the great unknown. Reading this bold debut, I couldn’t help but think of Lacey’s New York Times essay, “A Way for Artists to Live.” The piece dealt with the experience of living in and helping to operate a small, cooperatively owned bed and breakfast in Brooklyn, as a way to alleviate some of the financial pressure that squeezes just about every artist trying to make a living in New York. It’s a contrast to her novel, and it’s interesting that Lacey would write about what it has taken for her to survive in NYC while writing a book about a woman who just gives it up and leaves. … Read More

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