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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The Best Indie Literature of 2014 So Far

“The indie lit stars of today are the bestsellers of tomorrow.” This is how lists like this tend to start out, and it’s a proclamation that may well prove correct in one or two cases. But what’s even more important is that in the last few years, which have found them publishing more stellar books than ever, independent presses have breathed new life into literature. The authors these small presses publish might be classified as “up-and-coming,” but their individual futures are less crucial to publishing that the movement they’re all a part of: indie literature is changing the landscape radically by allowing writers room to… Read More

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Should It Matter Whether ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Is Young Adult Fiction?

In Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, the reclusive author of American essential To Kill a Mockingbird opens up about her life through her friendship with Mills, a journalist from The Chicago Tribune. It is a book chock full of details regarding Lee’s extraordinary life, and how the success of Mockingbird allowed its author to live on her own terms, away from the glare of fame. While it has been pitched as the only book we’re getting that has the blessing of Harper Lee, according to the reclusive author herself, who released a statement on the work, it is unauthorized: “As long as I am alive, any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” … Read More

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Nadine Gordimer’s Activist Legacy

With the passing of Nadine Gordimer, the world not only loses a great novelist, a Nobel and Booker Prize winner, and an author of numerous classic works; we’ve also lost a person who spoke up against apartheid and was active in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We’ve lost a writer who, at the height of her career, was totally unafraid to take on injustice and evil, no matter what the cost. … Read More

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‘Snowpiercer’ Is Real: There Is a Luxury Cruise Ship Circling the Globe Forever

Alastair Bonnett is a professor of social geography at Newcastle University and the former editor of the “avant-garde psychogeographical magazine” Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration. Those kinds of bona fides make him the perfect writer to bring us Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies. From the “gutterspaces” (the spaces in between buildings) of New York City to the floating islands of the Maldives, the book is a tour of some of the strangest locations on earth. … Read More

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