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In Conversation

Judith Donath with Colleen Asper

As editors, marketers, and writers look to the web for revised models of social interaction between readers and writers, how might this change the book market?

In Conversation

Rivka Galchen with David Varno

Rivka Galchen uses science in order to pursue the mysteries of love, mortality and spirituality found in literature. It’s an exciting project. In March of this year, the New Yorker published her short story, “The Region of Unlikeliness,” which takes its name from the writings of St. Augustine, draws on time travel theorems and tells of a young engineering student’s rapture with a pair of aging uptown coffee-shop-patronizing, Deleuze-quoting pseudo-philosphers. The story has been well-noted as a departure from the New Yorker’s usual stuffiness, and serves as a perfect introduction to Galchen’s debut novel, Atmospheric Disturbances (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). The book follows a middle-aged psychiatrist named Dr. Leo Leibenstein, who after becoming suddenly convinced that his wife is an imposter succumbs to the psychosis of one of his patients. But the book is about way more than a shrink who goes nuts. It’s about the elusiveness of love, and with Deleuze’s Proust and Signs as a guide, Galchen perfectly explicates the tragedy of time and the tendency to fall in love with those who are not from our world. The book is also about meteorology, a field in which the author’s late father, Tzvi Galchen, was eminent.

Fiction: Strange Fruit

Reading the opening lines of Leni Zumas’s Farewell Navigator, I was reminded of a cloyingly idyllic passage from a childhood favorite, On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the fourth book in her Little House series.

Nonfiction: You Can Never Be Too Paranoid

Jack Bratich’s Conspiracy Panics is a persuasive rehabilitation of conspiracy theories. Don’t get me wrong. Nowhere does Bratich take up the cudgels on behalf of any beyond-the-pale set of ideas; rather, his focus is on showing how defensively and often underhandedly those inside the pale assault these heterodox ideas.

Nonfiction: Willful Hedonism

Mike Edison opens his new memoir with a money shot of himself as publisher and editor of High Times magazine, ready to fire the next person who suggests putting Bob Marley on the cover, again. Anti-establishment even at the preternaturally unrestrained High Times, Edison put Ozzy Osbourne on the cover.

Poetry: New Verses from Long Ago

After the death in 2005 of poet Philip Lamantia, a book-length work presumed lost turned up among his papers. Written in the 1950s, during an artistic and spiritual crisis, Tau offers us a fresh glimpse of this legendary West Coast poet, and with any luck should begin the much-needed reevaluation of his life and career. In these poems we see not so much the maniacal Lamantia of Beat legend, but a thoughtful, meticulous craftsman committed to rendering visionary states of mind.

Anthology: Art is Politics is Life

During a layover in Zurich, I skimmed a free magazine offered at the gate and noticed a page devoted to hip and trendy Barack Obama t-shirts. As another election draws near, the international audience that came to detest us for our laughable president and his splintering war seems to be giving us the chance to do what we’re good at: produce celebrities.

NonFiction: Stalin Was Right?

Revolutionary leaders like Lenin and Mao, if they could return today, would find a political left transformed beyond their recognition. While they believed in the absolute truth of their ideas, or at least wrote as if they did, most modern leftists see truth as partly contingent on one’s point of view.

Poetry Roundup

Half of poetry is suspended silence… a white blank on the page. Frank Bidart cultivates that space as he collects the seeds of language and positions them. High tone and complex diction set the stage for fear, ghosts and tragedies.

Prose Roundup

“When it comes to wine and love, I get attached,” writes Alice Feiring, Brooklyn-born journalist and author of In Vino Veritas. The debut memoir chronicles the blogger’s international travels through famous vineyards in the hopes of discovering what fuels the uber-commercialization of the industry."


The Brooklyn Rail

JUN 2008

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