Books

Dumb
August 27, 2008

Fleabane again and I have another yearto take up its redness and what the wayside is likewith or without it and I have another yearto charge across the wooden bridge and shake itagain and take on the animals and fightthe stupid bikes and the bikers who ride acrosswith their legs spread out instead of walking their bikesso we didn't have to be pushed against the rails,they are so dumb and their bikes have so many dumband useless gears like a dumb idiot boxwith 2,000 stations, only dumb ancientboxing and ancient movies worth anything,Jack Johnson or Marciano, evenOrson Welles too much, give me t

The Arrow and the Poem
August 13, 2008

CLAY SANSKRIT LIBRARY New York University Press Toward the end of the Sakuntala, the most famous of the three surviving plays by Kalidasa--the poet usually considered the finest in ancient India--the hero Dushyanta offers this poignant self-analysis: Like someone staring at an elephantwho says, "There is no elephant here,"and who then, as it moves away,feels a certain doubtand later, seeing its footprints,is certain: "An elephanthas been here"--such are the subtleworkings of my mind. Or of any mind--the rueful king speaks for all of us. We almost always miss the elephant in front of us.

Malice
August 13, 2008

Oily, wily.Whip-tailed. Fairy-handed, reaching into skim the soul's fat. Rat in the mouth of the manwho calls you niggeras we exit the cab. Making its nest of shreds in my bellyas I scream back. Whiskered, feverish.Or maybe winged, maybe beaked--ravening over the suffering, glad for the shiny scraps, gleeful.Self-lovely thrill of the higher reaches of air-- then getting beyond even pleasure.Just doing the necessary work of creating(mite-riddled, death-mottled) the hell down there.  --Kim Addonizio Subscribe to The New Republic for only $29.97 a year--75% off cover price! By Kim Addonizio

Auto-Emancipation
August 13, 2008

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) By Tom Vanderbilt (Knopf, 403 pp., $24.95)   Few if any man-made contraptions have shaped America as much as the internal combustion engine. Eighty-seven percent of American workers drive to their jobs, either alone or in a carpool. Eighteen percent of the average American family's spending goes to transportation, mostly for cars and gasoline.

Midnight Feeding
August 13, 2008

The open shed on the lawn's far side stinks of gasfrom the hateful mower that pulls me where it wantswhen I mow, which is seldom. I rip up grass.Humid night's moon's nothing-halo; the lawn pretendsto candy floss. Black-white dud roses dead since June,alive enough to scratch my bare legs. I'm wearing nothingbut underpants, flipflops. Arms full, I stumble out,flashlight in my mouth, turn my head to choosewhat's lit. Inside the dirt-floor shed, I fill bowls:Dry bits, tuna slop.

Truth's Caper
August 13, 2008

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture By Alan Sokal (Oxford University Press, 465 pp. $34.95) Every reader of this magazine is likely to have heard of the "Sokal hoax," the most celebrated academic escapade of our time.

Frank Kermode
July 30, 2008

How Fiction Works By James Wood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 208 pp., $24)This admirable book is, among other things, a successful attempt to replace E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel as an accessible guide to the mechanics of fiction.

The Big Picture
July 30, 2008

Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800 By Chris Wickham (Oxford University Press, 990 pp., $50) Origins of the European Economy: Communications and Commerce AD 300-900 By Michael McCormick (Cambridge University Press, 1,130 pp., $72) I. A few years ago, I hitchhiked from the Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto, southeast of Siena, across rolling, forested, and sometimes craggy hills to the medieval hamlet of Amorosa, near the railway spur of Sinalunga. Waiting for the few passing cars left ample time to read the landscape all around me.

Low Truths
July 30, 2008

Gorky's Tolstoy and Other Reminiscences: Key Writings By and About Maxim Gorky Translated by Donald Fanger (Yale University Press, 320 pp., $30)   Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov, the future Maxim Gorky, was born in 1868 in Nizhni Novgorod on the Volga River, and grew up in what he later described in his melancholy, violent autobiography as "that close-knit, suffocating little world of pain and suffering where the ordinary Russian man in the street used to live, and where he lives to this day." It was the world of the provincial petty-bourgeois--neighbors cut the tails off each other's cats and so

Dead Left
July 30, 2008

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism By Naomi Klein (Metropolitan Books, 576 pp., $28) It seems like a very long time—though in truth only a few years have passed—since the most sinister force on the planet that the left could imagine was Nike. In 2001, Time proclaimed that the anti-globalization movement had become the “defining cause” of a new generation, and that the spokesperson for the cause was the Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein.

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