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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The ‘people’ behind People’s Books Cooperative

There’s no denying it: We live in a world ruled by huge multinational corporations increasingly estranged from their places of origin. Perhaps the best any of us can hope for is that they outpace even themselves and eventually run out of steam. Luckily, Milwaukee is home to a growing number of enterprises taking a more active stance, seeking egalitarian alternatives to the corporate model in a bid to give community building more important role than investment seeking. Among them is People’s Books Cooperative, an independent bookstore that marks its first anniversary as a cooperative enterprise on Sept. 1 . . .
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Preview

The stage is almost set for the world’s greatest sporting event, the Olympic Games. As China fends off attacks against its human rights record while battling the unsightly algae on its beaches, it might be heartened by the thought that a Pulitzer prize-winning author could one day invest the 2008 Beijing Olympics . . .
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

(Abrams), by David A. Beronš

Graphic novels have been all the rage for the past 20 years, but Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking Maus, depicting the Holocaust in drawings of Jewish mice and their feline Nazi predators, wasn’t the first original novel told primarily in pictures. Wordless Books examines several little-known artists from the early 20th century who composed “woodcut novels.” The author, who teaches at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies . . .
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Designing for the urban age

Cities are like organized religion: richly layered, often paradoxical and uniquely qualified to bring out the best and worst in humankind. A new book edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, titled The Endless City (Phaidon), conveys the oft-contradictory nature of cities, including their innate ability to both quell and incite social and political conflict. At least, that’s the salutary subtext of the book. Its more arrant objective is to lend fire-and-brimstone urgency to the sharp rise in the world’s urban population within the past century. Even the book’s blazing orange cover, inscribed with eye-popping statistics (75% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050!) is used to convey the apocalyptic immediacy of its appeal . . .
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

(Little, Brown) by Joe Nick Patoski

Joe Nick Patoski draws a portrait of Willie Nelson based on 35 years of covering his subject. He does an especially good job with Nelson’s early years, describing the difficulty of breaking into the music scene. Unfortunately, as the book continues, it often reads as if the journalist has stitched together his various
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forsaken Americans swallowed by cruel Soviet system

To fall into the clutches of the Soviet Union’s system of arrest, imprisonment and torture was infamously easy for Americans who entered the nation from the 1930s to the 1950s. To get out was well-nigh impossible—short of death—and little help was to be found from U.S. authorities. In The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia (Penguin Press), Tim Tzouliadis, a documentary filmmaker born in Greece but educated and living in Britain, has written a book to raise the ire of decent people everywhere. The outrages and horrors recounted in the book, buttressed by bristling documentation, overcome any shortcomings of its workmanlike writing style . . .
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

(Random House), by Salman Rushdie

The clash and convergence of cultures has always been a theme in the life and writing of Salman Rushdie. In his latest novel, a fair-haired Italian, claiming to be the ambassador of Elizabeth I, arrives in Mughal India and presents his dubious credentials at the court of Akbar the Great. The Italian is a trickster and a conjurer; Akbar is a monarch who lives in dreams and wonders if a better world is possible. The novel...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Roxy Music’s serious fun

Roxy Music was too slippery and evasive to comfortably fit into any of the usual niches of their time or ours. They flirted with glam and skirted art rock without fully committing themselves to the conventions of either. They were avant-garde and pop. The voice of Bryan Ferry was at once ironic and romantic. American audiences were baffled, at least until a touch of Roxy seeped into the mainstream through their influence on The Cars and other new wave acts...
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Preview

We’re all familiar with the agonizing scenario: the family dining table that serves as a battleground; the television set (and, increasingly, the Internet) that serves as a palliative and the drugs, alcohol or infidelity that serve as emotional props. American popular culture and literature is resplendent with memorably dysfunctional families, whether it’s through the writings of Eugene O’Neill and Raymond Carver or animated TV hits like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” The success of shows like “The Osbournes” reveals the delight that viewers take in seeing other people’s dirty laundry aired in public.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

(Broadway), by Suze Rotolo

It could be worse. At least Suze Rotolo is a likable writer. Near the end of her memoir we finally get the story behind the famous album cover of Rotolo walking alongside Bob Dylan for the folk singer’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. A Freewheelin’ Time could have revealed something about the folk-blues revival of the early 1960s and its most enduring artist, but instead spends most of its pages on Rotolo’s artwork (including baubles that hang from ladies’ boots, rejected by Bloomingdale’s at the time) and politics (hanging out in Cuba back in the day and treating Dylan as a fan treats Dylan). We have a charming but boring person on a record jacket writing a book as though she was part of the album’s music. Credit Rotolo for her voice . . .

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