Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 3:16 pm
One of my old pals used to come walking into a room at the end of a long day, sigh, look around, and say, "Tell me two things good." They could be big things, small things, anything — he had to hear two things, and they had to be good things, and you had to think of them right away.
Wednesday night, I asked Twitter this crucial question. Here are some of the responses.
Under apartheid, trying to make an artistic political statement was difficult — artists were subject to scrutiny and even arrest. On the other hand, making a political statement was easy: All one had to do was put black and white actors on a stage together.
That's exactly what South African playwright Athol Fugard did back in 1961 with his breakout play Blood Knot. His newest play, The Shadow of the Hummingbird, is now onstage at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn.
Getting much sleep lately? The citizens of Karen Russell's dystopian novella, Sleep Donation, haven't been getting any. It's the near future, and America has been suffering from an insomnia crisis where hundreds of thousands of cases are terminal. And so an agency called Slumber Corps has been established to battle the problem.
Have you ever had a sentence stop you in your tracks? Editors at The American Scholar magazinehave put out their list of the "Ten Best Sentences" in fiction and nonfiction. Associate editor Margaret Foster says the inspiration came from water cooler talk around the office.
"We're sometimes struck by a beautiful sentence or maybe a lousy sentence, and we'll just say, 'Hey, listen to this,' " she says.
Imagine an America that has been plagued for years by a mysterious epidemic of insomnia — an affliction so serious that many are dying from lack of sleep. That's the futuristic premise of Karen Russell's new novella, Sleep Donation.
Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 8:26 am
I grew up thinking of nuts as junk food: full of fat and calories, a guilty treat for holidays and special occasions. I remember bowls of salty cocktail mix, nut-covered cheese logs, sweet buttery honey-roasted peanuts and cashews, or Jordan almonds in their strangely addictive sugary coating. They were in the same category as potato chips and candy: irresistible, but not good for you at all.
A restaurant kitchen at the peak of the dinner rush can be a crazy place — hot, crowded and filled with a kind of intense energy that some people, like Michael Gibney, thrive on. Gibney's been working in restaurants since he was young. In his new book, Sous Chef, Gibney tries to capture the rhythm of the kitchen by taking his readers through one day in the life of a fast-paced New York restaurant.
Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Teju Cole's Every Day Is For The Thief is not much of a novel. Forget plot or character development: This is a piece of writing that's all about setting. If you take what Cole is offering here and value it on its own terms, you'll probably appreciate the curious magic at work in this slim not-quite-a-novel. In chapters that stand as separate, short vignettes, Every Day Is For The Thief describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria.
Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 9:44 am
I am a mortal reader; I have my flaws. I don't usually enjoy prose poems or novels written in lines of poetry, and when I see character types with names in capital letters like the ones that appear in Israeli writer David Grossman's new Falling Out of Time — The Walking Man, the Net Mender, the Midwife, the Town Chronicler — I tend to prepare to pack up, close the book, and turn to something less allegorical.
When it comes to his hometown of Akron, Ohio, writer and journalist David Giffels says, "I have spent my whole life watching people leave." Once known as the rubber capital of the world, Akron was a hub of tire manufacturing giants. Goodyear, Firestone and Goodrich provided thousands of high-paying jobs until the 1970s, when those jobs began migrating to places with cheaper labor.
"Like it or not, America has softened you" — such are the words of welcome to the unnamed narrator of Teju Cole's Every Day Is for the Thief. The young man is on a trip to his home country of Nigeria, and as he visits his family and friends in Lagos, what he finds isn't quite what he expected: He's pressed for bribes at every turn. He tries to reconcile Nigeria's history with the museums that appear to avoid it. He sees the "Yahoo boys" at an Internet cafe, tapping out scam email messages.
Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 12:50 pm
We got our hands on an MRE — a "Meal, Ready to Eat" from the Department of Defense. It's a real marvel of engineering. In one flat bag, there's an imitation McRib, clam chowder, a couple of drinks, and some trail mix, and some note about how by eating this you consent to joining the Marines. All in one flat bag!
Special Guest Mike Pesca: This meal disgusts me more before 8 a.m. than most meals disgust me all day.
Miles: I'm going to imitation eat this imitation pork rib.