LARB Channels larb blog whats the matter sf

What’s the Matter with San Francisco?

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Below is a piece from Boom, one of our LARB Channels. We’ve reproduced it in full here; to read the original, and to check out more from Boom, visit their website

By Eve Bachrach and Jon Christensen

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

We’re not arguing about what really matters.

So many columns filled, so much hand wringing, but no one seems to be able to answer: What’s the matter with San Francisco? Continue reading


The China Blog THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT
By Amy Tan
589 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $29.99.

City of Reinvention: A Review of Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement

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By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

Shanghai is a city of reinvention. The metropolis has transformed over the past two centuries from a regional trading hub to a massive global financial center. Shanghai has become the site where China meets the world, a point of entry for alien goods and customs that transfigure the city into an environment that is neither entirely Chinese nor foreign, but rather a blend of the two. With this growth, millions of people have poured into the city: migrants from within China, hoping to find work that will put their families on firm economic footing, as well as arrivals from around the globe, each pushed or pulled to Shanghai by personal forces. Some seek money; some hope for adventure; others want to escape, to disappear into the crush of people and emerge with a new name and history — and in turn, a new future. Continue reading


LARB Channels Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science, Durham: Acumen, 2013, 213pp.

Can the Bible Survive Science?: A Review From Marginalia by John Walton

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Below is an excerpt from a review of Mark Harris’s The Nature of Creation, originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia earlier today. 

In 2003, an international research group successfully mapped the human genome, exposing for the first time the mass of genetic information encoded in human DNA. This event changed the ideological landscape of conversations on the Bible and science, in part because it produced genetic evidence for the evolutionary relationships between humans and many other species. This explosion of genetic data has prompted many questions about human origins and demands a renewed examination of the biblical text and of Christian theology.  Meanwhile, recent work in biblical studies has encouraged new readings of creation literature — particularly in the book of Genesis — thereby reconfiguring the Bible’s relationship to science. Yet, few scholars are competent in both the hard sciences and biblical studies. Even fewer approach the confluence of these two fields without a predetermined agenda to promote. Mark Harris, however, is competent — he is trained in both physics and theology — and even-handed in his new book, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science. Continue reading


Dear Television DearTVlogo

Dear Television Weekly Roundup: June 15–21

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By Jacob Surpin

It’s been a big week for television coverage here at LARB. Along with Dear TV, two other excellent pieces on television appeared as well. While not technically Dear TV, they are featured in this recap. Including those pieces, we saw essays on Game of ThronesOrange is the New Black, and Louie.

Dear Television, June 15–21

  • The Game of Thrones season finale was this past Sunday night, and Sarah Mesle has thoughts about it. Her piece, “Arya’s American Fantasy,” is concerned with the choices Thrones characters are confronted with, how they deal with them, and how this relates to American narratives of freedom (“the desire to go someplace else, where our choices will, maybe, be somehow different.”)
  • Maurice Chammah‘s extended piece on Orange is the New Black blends a real appreciation for the show’s aesthetic appeal with an examination of whether “we actually learn anything about criminal justice from staring at these women for 13 hours.”
  • Micah Hauser carefully considers the politics of laughter in Louie. From the essay: “As a show, Louie relishes the repeated trope — there are YouTube videos devoted to excavating the conceptual continuities throughout the series — and one of the most persistent is Louie’s own rigorous pursuit of women against their will.”

LARB Channels larb blog beck

Quiet Days in Malibu: Beck’s Recent Album

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Below is an excerpt from a review by Dave Coon of Beck’s most recent album, “Morning Phase,” originally published on Avidly, one of our LARB Channels. 

Artists have been trailed out of the box canyons north of Los Angeles by enemies, real or imagined, for decades. Jules Amthor, Chandler’s sociopathic psychic, cornered Phillip Marlow in one of these canyons. Joan Didion haunted the curves of the PCH in her white corvette and Neil Young was pursued by an army of mutant machine gun toting dune buggies down the dunes and onto the beach.

Other than the need for record sales and lunch, what is chasing Beck out of Malibu these days?

Beck is among us again, staring out at his listeners from the cover of “Morning Phase”, his recently released record, and his first for new label home, Capitol Records. His twelfth long-player dropped this spring and — other than the fact that it is a gorgeous sounding record — I’m not sure what to make of it. Continue reading


The China Blog Wang Zihao, photo credit Dou Yiping

Why Study Journalism in China?

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Photo: Wang Zihao. © Dou Yiping

By Lu-Hai Liang and Dou Yiping

China’s journalism schools, like those in many countries, are packed full of students preparing to join an industry where the supply of graduates far exceeds the number of positions available.

The press may be perceived as the fourth estate in the West, but some journalism students in China follow a “Marxist view” that includes supporting party principles, criticizing the “bourgeois concept of free speech,” and maintaining correct “guidance of public opinion,” according to an article on the China Media Project’s website. Continue reading


LARB Channels Sidney H. Griffith, The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the ‘People of the Book’ in the Language of Islam. Jews, Christians and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World, Princeton University Press, 2013, 247pp.

The Arabic Bible Before Islam: From Marginalia

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Clare Wilde on Sidney H. Griffith’s The Bible in Arabic, Excerpted From Marginalia

Non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, have spoken Arabic since before the revelation of the Qur’an. Was there an Arabic Bible before the rise of Islam? Or, did the appearance of the Arabic Qur’an shape the Arabic Bible? These are among the questions addressed in Sidney Griffith’s masterful book, The Bible in Arabic. Continue reading


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Dear Television Weekly Roundup: June 8–14

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By Jacob Surpin

It’s been an unusually quiet week for Dear Television. Mad Men is currently on a mid-season hiatus, and there is no essay on Louie this week. Still, a quick glance at the LARB Main Site leaves no doubt  the section is doing ok: Dear TV pieces currently hold the nos. 1, 4, and 7 spots on our “Most Viewed” list. Last week’s roundup is here; this week brought a singular essay on the new Game of Thrones.

Dear Television, June 8–14

  • Sarah Mesle on the latest Game of Thrones episode, “The Watchers on the Wall.” Mesle’s coverage this week is, loosely, about genre. Picking out the central tension in the episode, and connecting that tension to a topic of debate in the intellectual community, Mesle, as usual, is at her insightful best toying with the big ideas oft inspired by Thrones. As she notes in her discussion of genre: “Rules and formulas are not the rejection of subtle meaning but rather the condition of their possibility… Perhaps Game of Thrones can help us remember that the question is less ‘is there a formula?’ than ‘what is done with that formula?’”
LARB Channels larb blog ramona

Ramona at Forty: From Avidly

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(Editor’s Note: This piece was originally posted on Avidly, one of our LARB Channels, and was featured on USA Today this morning. What they said: “If you read Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books as a kid like I did, you’ll want to read this piece.” We’ve reproduced it in full below; read it here, or read it on Avidly.)

By Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

I always knew Beverly Cleary was a great writer. I read every single one of her books growing up — even the lesser-discussed ones like Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits with all the angst over something called “long underwear” that was mystifying to me as a kid in the 80s. I read most of them multiple times, and certain, VERY IMPORTANT aspects of those books have stuck with me for life. I still want to make Fong Quock’s rice “so that each grain was separate and fluffy and there was a crisp brown crust on the bottom of the kettle,” I still want to know how Emily’s crust rose through her custard pie for the church potluck, and I still really, really want to squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste into the bathroom sink.

So, yeah, Beverly Cleary: great writer, as certified by 10-year-old me. However, I didn’t realize just how great a writer she was until I reread her books as an adult. Or, more specifically, as a parent. Continue reading


The China Blog graffiti

Graffiti in Beijing

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By Cutler Dozier

A skinny 21-year-old Beijinger with shoulder length hair, wearing baggy jeans and a worn t-shirt, stares through his paint-speckled glasses, transfixed by the stack of multicolored graffiti cans arranged in front of him. He goes by the name WEK, and is deciding what colors he will use to paint his name on various walls and shop fronts around the city. He is part of a booming graffiti scene in Beijing and is possibly the most prolific graffiti writer in mainland China today. Continue reading