Category Archives: Reviews

An Offering to Mind and Body: A Review of Lois P. Jones’s Night Ladder

By Kate Kingston

Federico García Lorca may be standing over her shoulder, but he is not the only creative force on which Lois P. Jones draws in her new prize-winning collection, Night Ladder. Other influences include Picasso, Borges, Rumi, Sappho, Rilke, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as other historical figures from Moses to Anne Frank. These figures contribute epigraphs to the poems, or appear through ekphrasis, making up the ladder of the book’s title. But Jones’s voice is singular, engaging both the intellect and passion while appealing strongly to the ear, to the sense of music related to duende, which Lorca defines in part as “a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all that is truly alive […]. It manifests itself among musicians and poets of the spoken word […] for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence.” Continue reading

You Can Relax Into Chiara Barzini’s Things that Happened Before the Earthquake

By Art Edwards

In Things that Happened Before the Earthquake, you won’t find pages-long excursions about the texture of the carpet under the main character Eugenia’s feet, or details on the exact grain of the wood paneling in a Topanga Canyon cabin, or whatever thread a lesser writer might get stuck on her tongue and drag the reader along in her attempts to spit it out. Chiara Barzini’s prose feels like conversation. You also shouldn’t assume from this that the author is one of those social networking denizens who managed to turn her penchant for frank online talk into a book-length manuscript, because that’s even further from the truth. The effect of Barzini’s prose hearkens back to a more open era — maybe the 1990s, the novel’s setting — when books felt more like long exchanges between friends (magically, since the exchange was one-sided), and the reader’s only job was to sit back and empathize. I won’t bludgeon you with my approach or waste your time, the prose implies. You can relax. Continue reading

Rebuilding the Ark: Alex Epstein and The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

By Eric Gade

In the 17th century, new facts about the world presented a problem for natural philosophers. They had learned of droves of new animals from the New World, previously unknown in Europe, that must have survived the Great Flood. This begged the question: how did Noah’s Ark fit all of them? Several thinkers made honest attempts to resolve the issue, including sketching increasingly preposterous schematics of the ship itself, in addition to devising clever, logic-twisting tricks of taxonomy — based on no evidence whatsoever — that “explained” the ability of the Ark to do as was written. Even in their own time, it was easy to see the cracks forming in the story. But it should not be at all surprising that learned men clung so desperately to their frame of knowledge and history, wanting everything they knew as true to remain so. Continue reading

Witnessing Miracles in Teju Cole’s Blind Spot

By Austin Adams

“There is more in the world,” Teju Cole writes in his latest book Blind Spot, gesturing to Hamlet’s famous lament. The heaven and earth of Cole’s philosophy is local and seasonal. Structured as a book-length series of pairings of photographs coupled with text, we are given to consider several hundred images of day-to-day life from across the globe — happenstance corners, detritus and, occasionally, people and things that inhabit the world without spectacle or choreographed meaning. At this moment, in the first text-image pairing, we are with Cole in Tivoli, where spring has doubled the earth: “Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it. There is more in the world, all of it proliferating like neural patterns.” Continue reading

The Bygone Beau Monde of Beer Money

By Jennifer Kaplan

Frances Stroh’s memoir Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss details the hijinks of the indulgent and entitled cast of characters who are heirs to their family’s eponymous beer fortune. Stroh depicts her family with care, but like other memoirs and biographies of privilege — Sean Wilsey’s Oh the Glory of it All, Rich Cohen’s Sweet and Low, Jerry Oppenheimer’s Crazy Rich come to mind — the enjoyment of basking in voyeuristic splendor is overshadowed slightly by the incredulity of reading about rich people who are oblivious to other people’s problems. Beer Money portrays the stereotypical dysfunctional rich kid lifestyle: the characters are the children of narcissists and addicts; they are raised by loving or malevolent nannies; they watch their siblings be favored or scorned; they are sent to tony boarding schools (sometimes only to be expelled); they spend their quickly acquired cash on copious amounts of drugs and travel to luxurious locations (someone always seems to be traveling on the Concorde between New York and Paris); they suffer at the hands of cartoon-like evil step-parents; they see wealth slip from their reach, either plundered or withheld; they squander their prospects through idleness or ineptitude and redeem themselves by not being as idle and inept as they were raised to believe they were; they live through tragedies that will be seen by the 99% as not all that tragic. Beer Money made me laugh, cry, and cringe in equal measure. Continue reading

How to Fall in Love with a Love Story

By Katy Hershberger 

My husband and I met at work, and for two years we kept our relationship a secret in the office. When we tell people that, they imagine it as exciting and sexy: sneaking around for in-office trysts. But in truth, hiding our relationship was stressful and annoying. We lied to our colleagues, stood in awkward silence in the elevator, locked down our Facebook privacy settings, and entreated friends and family to never post a photo of us together. But when people listen to the story, our lives become most interesting as a Secret Office Romance, less so as just our lives. The reality isn’t always the best story. Continue reading