Emily Dickinson

Every transcription of handwriting into print misses something. With Dickinson's manuscripts, transcriptions miss a whole lot.

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These photos bring Dickinson to life better than any biography.

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Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What It appears that Paul Simon has been thinking about going somewhere unlike all of the many lands around the globe that he has visited over the years in search of musical inspiration. He is giving thought to the final expedition, the big trip across the divide to the only place that even he cannot plunder. Simon will turn seventy in the same year as both Art Garfunkel, the creamy-voiced journeyman who stood placidly at Simon’s right side for years, and Bob Dylan, the peer of Simon’s whose towering specter has always hovered near Simon’s other side.

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The Bars of Atlantis: Selected Essays by Durs Grünbein Reviewing this collection of essays by Germany's pre-eminent contemporary poet, Helen Vendler wrote that "If Yeats’s aim was to hold in a single thought reality and justice, then Grünbein’s is to hold in a single thought poetry and philosophy." This book contains my favorite quote of the year.

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Imagine a new Library of Alexandria. Imagine an archive that contains all the natural and social sciences of the West—our source-critical, referenced, peer-reviewed data—as well as the cultural and literary heritage of the world's civilizations, and many of the world’s most significant archives and specialist collections. Imagine that this library is electronic and in the public domain: sustainable, stable, linked, and searchable through universal semantic catalogue standards.

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Kindled

The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future By Robert Darnton (Public Affairs, 218 pp., $23.95)   On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books & Bookstores By Jean-Luc Nancy Translated by David Wills (Fordham University Press, 59 pp., $16)   I. The airplane rises from the runway. Bent, folded, and spindled into the last seat in coach class--the one that doesn’t really recline--I pull my Kindle out of the seat pocket in front of me, slide the little switch, and lose myself in Matthew Crawford’s story of his passage from policy wonk to motorcycle mechanic.

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The Lonely Workman

Descartes' Loneliness By Allen Grossman (New Directions, 70 pp., $16.95) At the start of Descartes' Loneliness, the tenth collection of poetry by Allen Grossman, the speaker has posed a question to the world that we, the readers, have arrived too late to hear. The book begins, in the title poem, with the world's response: Toward evening, the natural light becomes intelligent and answers, without demur: "Be assured! You are not alone..." Perhaps the question expressed solitude, even the fundamental solitude of the uncertain and inconsolable human mind.

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Oblivion City

Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems By Durs Gr ünbein Translated by Michael Hofmann (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 298 pp., $16) Although some poems by Durs Gr ünbein had been published in journals here and in England, it was not until the appearance of this volume, crisply and colloquially translated by Michael Hofmann, that an English-speaking reader could approach Gr ünbein's coruscating writing. Gr ünbein was born in Dresden, in East Germany, in 1962, and moved to East Berlin as a young adult.

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Half Tame

The time has come to take a fresh look at the achievement of Roger Shattuck, who died in 2005 at the age of eighty-two. From his first book, The Banquet Years, published exactly half a century ago, to his last major work, Forbidden Knowledge, Shattuck was one of America's most adventuresome students of modernity, at once a celebrant of some of the wildest reaches of artistic experiment and a critic of the twentieth century's dream of unlimited, ever- expanding horizons.

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A Close Shave

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street(DreamWorks) ForeignersBy Caryl Phillips (Knopf, 235 pp., $24.95)  Records of Shelley, Byron, and the AuthorBy Edward John Trelawny (New York Review Books, 308 pp., $12.95)   I. As Sweeney Todd croons to his razor, “My friend, my faithful friend,” more in love with its sharp blade than with Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, you may find yourself wondering what it is about opera and its ubiquitous vengeful barbers.

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