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Monday, April 7, 2008

When comic books scared America

One way of looking at the history of U.S. popular culture is to see it as periodic eruptions of condemnation of what young people—or others of “limited sophistication”—like to see, hear, read and do. Such an episode is described in The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), David Hajdu’s splendid account of America’s “comic-book scare” of the early 1950s. It is weird—to use one of comic books’ favorite words—to read about events that one has experienced. I grew up on 10-cent comic books . . .
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spreading the virtual virus

In a market saturated with vampire stories, it’s refreshing to hear a new and unique voice in the genre. John Marks, whose prior novels have garnered critical acclaim, has crafted a clever adaptation of Bram Stoker’s immortal Dracula with his latest book, Fangland (Penguin). The story takes place partly in post-9/11 New York City, where we meet the eclectic crew of “The Hour,” a weekly news broadcast modeled after “60 Minutes.” Here we are introduced to the heroine, Evangeline Harker, an up-and-coming associate producer from Texas who worked her way up the ladder by using her allure and practical nature. Harker is offered an opportunity to travel to Romania to meet an Eastern European crime lord named Ion Torgu. Despite resistance from her new fianc, Robert, and several co-workers, as well as her own fears, Harker sees this as a career-enhancing assignment that she must take.
Friday, March 28, 2008

edited by Chris Woodstra, John Bush and Stephen Thomas Erlewine

As a late boomer, I strained to read the tiny type of the 1,000 album reviews crammed into the Classic Rock guide. An early boomer might go blind. But with magnifying glass in hand, the effort of reading this handbook on the recent past is worthwhile.
Monday, March 24, 2008

Interview with Tod Wodicka

The munificent title of Tod Wodicka’s debut novel, All Shall Be Well and All Shall Be Well, and All manner of Things Shall Be Well hints at the desperate optimism of it’s wretched protagonist: Burt Hecker, a mead-swilling, tunic-sporting 20th century idler stuck in a medieval past. From his home in Berlin, Germany, Wodicka talks about his new book.
Monday, March 24, 2008

Interview With Kevin Brockmeier

There’s an indelible quality to Kevin Brockmeier’s writing that has earned him such accolades as the O. Henry Award and the Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award. In his new collection of stories, View From the Seventh Layer, he further cements his reputation for creating slender and solemn prose that blends the fantastical with the everyday. He talks to us about this, his second collection of short stories for adults:
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Art Review

Judging by their handmade covers, the 95 pieces of book art presented at Mount Mary College read with artistic variety. Displayed in the Marian Art Gallery located in Caroline Hall, the exhibition “Books, Books, Books: Awl in a Bind” features an ensemble of 14 women, all members of The Book Art Salon.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Preview

When Marie Antoinette was reputed (however erroneously) to have waived off the plight of France’s starving masses with the words “Let them eat cake” she was clearly unaware of the dire repercussions. The same might be said of the characters in Joanne Fluke’s best-selling Hannah Swensen mysteries. Dead bodies keep turning up in a small Minnesotan town, bearing evidence of having indulged in Swensen’s sweet delights prior to their demise.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Preview

School shootings, date rape, kidnapping, modern-day witch hunts for alleged sexual predators: These are just a few of the thorny issues Jodi Picoult has dealt with in the numerous novels she’s written to date. And in each of them she offers readers a vantage point from which hasty moral judgments are impossible. In her new book, Change of Heart, she tackles capital punishment, using it as a vehicle to examine religious dogma and the crippling loss of a loved one, as well as the fallacy of sentencing a man to death without fully understanding his crime.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How FDR continues to outrage the right

By and large, historians have credited President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal for getting the United States out of the Great Depression. From time to time salvos are lobbed from conservative bunkers, such as Amity Shlaes’ anti-New Deal tome of last year, The Forgotten Man. But like so many other books of its kind, it failed to land a lethal hit, and meanwhile the ranks of New Deal defenders continue to be replenished.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

(University of Wisconsin), edited by Marcus C. Levitt and Tatyan

Violence has been inseparable from the human condition, so why pick on Russia? The editors of this collection of scholarly essays fail to make their case, but that doesn’t mean that many of the book’s articles aren’t worth reading. Violence is a broad theme and the contributors to Times of Trouble explore the subject along many avenues. Among the most interesting topics are women writers who survived the Gulag, psychological violence in Dostoyevsky, the curmudgeonly and skeptical late-Soviet novelist Viktor Astaf’ev and an astute psychological examination of Stalinism whose conclusion is that Stalin and his henchmen feared the Russian people as much as the people feared them.