Thursday, April 29, 2010 2:42 PM
There are multiple levels of parody at work in Village Voice cartoonist Ward Sutton’s “The Band Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb,” an inspired takeoff on last fall’s unlikely comic opus The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. I’m not sure if it’s the “Stoned Agin” T-shirt worn by God, the patchy stubble on Phil Collins’ head, or merely the appearance of the word “Sussudio,” but I found the strip hilarious.
“This piece was a fun chance to parody both Crumb, the underground comix legend, and Genesis, the ’70s-’80s band recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Sutton wrote in a note to us.
Sutton is also still plying the extremely niche trade of illustrated book reviewer. Check out his Drawn to Read site, or the Barnes & Noble Review where his strips appear, if you don’t think comic art and literature are perpetually estranged cousins.
Source: Village Voice, Drawn to Read
Image courtesy of Ward Sutton.
Monday, July 20, 2009 11:57 AM
Review of Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India
by Rory MacLean (Ig Publishing)
Before Allen Ginsberg wrote about his year-and-a-half stay in India in the early ’60s, the subcontinent didn’t take up much space in the Western mind. But like so much in those days, the Western mind was changing, and soon thousands of young seekers were setting off along the road where Ginsberg had posted his existential arrow sign: “Find Thyself, This Way.”
Before long, the old Silk Road had become the “Hippie Trail,” and it changed the world in ways that haven’t been fully appreciated until the publication of Rory MacLean’s wistfully merry Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India.
Nearly 30 years after the trail was cut off by the Iranian revolution, MacLean set out to see what was left of the route, starting at the Pudding Shop restaurant in Istanbul, where travelers piled into smoke-filled buses before rolling east through Iran, Pakistan, India, and finally to Kathmandu, where they stayed while they searched for something like nirvana.
MacLean finds that many traces of the old trail still exist, and he even runs into old travelers looking for the places where they once found themselves, including “Penny,” a woman who claims to be the original flower child. MacLean’s vivid writing shows how much the Hippie Trail changed not only the way we travel (giving us Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, and the budget travel industry), but also the places it passed through and the people who traveled on it.
This review is from the July-August 2009 issue of Utne Reader.
Monday, June 22, 2009 5:25 PM
Of all the “curious undertakings” of performance artists, none have been as striking as Tehching Hsieh’s lifeworks, observes the Chronicle Review, in a review of Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh, newly available from MIT Press. In 1986, the artist dropped out of the public eye to begin his final performance piece, “Thirteen Year Plan,” a period during which he would make art but not show it publicly. He emerged in 1999 with a ransom note bearing a simple message: “I kept myself alive.”
In addition to “Thirteen Year Plan,” the dedicated Hsieh did a series of one-year pieces, which included spending a year in communication blackout (no reading or writing, either), a year spent in a room punching a worker’s clock on the hour, repeatedly, and a year of total artistic abstention. “Although [Hsieh’s works] attracted a cult following in New York and Taiwanese performance-art circles, they took place out of view of the art world, which barely mentioned them,” reports the Chronicle. But the mainstream art world has “finally clocked in,” with Hsieh’s works earning exhibits at the Guggenheim and MoMA.
Source: Chronicle Review (article not available online).
Friday, May 08, 2009 12:57 PM
If you’re looking to beef up—and green up—your summer reading list, the new issue of Alternatives Journal is a good place to start. It’s the Canadian environmental magazine’s second annual books issue, and it reads like a compendium of important contemporary eco-writing: There’s an excerpt from Vandana Shiva’s new book, Soil Not Oil; another from FUEL, a project of Alphabet City Media and the MIT Press in which writers and artists investigate the future of energy; and a reprint of Brian Doyle’s beautiful piece “The Greatest Nature Essay Ever,” which originally appeared in Orion.
Reviews abound, of course, with pretty solid representation from indie publishers like Island Press, South End Press, and New Society Publishers (to name just a few). There’s also a scary but fascinating review essay on four books that address the manipulation of science, particularly in the realms of mercury (Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison, by Jane M. Hightower) and cancer research (The Secret History of the War on Cancer, by Devra Davis).
I also love the editors’ picks (unfortunately not available online), which single out “environmental classics” like George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability (1993), and Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989).
(And, for additional fodder for your summer eco-reading list, check out the eight publications recognized for ourstanding environmental coverage in the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards.)
Source: Alternatives Journal
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 2:45 PM
In 1985, simply putting out an album titled Rum, Sodomy & the Lash and produced by Elvis Costello was enough to guarantee a certain cachet with the punk set. Luckily for every spiky-haired kid who picked it up for its rich promise of degradation, the Pogues’ breakthrough album was a mind-blowing trip through time and across borders, drawing unexpected connections between Celtic folk, punk rock, and American roots music. In this book by the same sordid name, Jeffrey T. Roesgen tells the story behind the album, interwoven with a tale of his own creation, a seafaring narrative starring the band and several of their lyrics’ characters.
If this all sounds like something by and for serious fans, you’re right. The book is one of the latest in the 33 1⁄3 series, a collection of smartly dissective tomes about notable rock albums, from Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica to the Smiths’ Meat Is Murder and beyond. (See the full list at www.33third.blogspot.com.) The idea is to hitch up talented music writers with the object of their audio obsession and let them parse and probe it at length—an enterprise that, as you might guess, is as fraught with peril as being adrift at sea with the Pogues. There is the ever-present danger of wrecking on the shoals of metaphor, then flailing about in search of adjectives.
Roesgen, for his part, steers clear of such hazards and delivers a spirited novella along with vivid snippets of rowdy, romantic rock ’n’ roll history.
This review is from the March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader.
Friday, January 30, 2009 9:54 AM
For the Winter 2009 issue of The Hudson Review, the quarterly's editors have assembled a primer on non-English works from around the world. This "Translation Issue" is a heady collection, featuring excerpts from seemingly every genre and time period: classics like Antigone and Le Cid up through A Doll's House; 19th century Japanese and Russian poetry; elegant contemporary reviews on books about language; and much, much more. Such a phenomenal swath of literary history in a single volume can't help but whet the appetite for more translated works (works that Utne, incidentally, has been championing for some time).
Friday, September 12, 2008 11:13 AM
After a trip to Delhi, Salon’s Hillary Frey had an idea: “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a travel guide devoted not to restaurants, hotels and museums, but to the literature of a place?” And so Salon’s Literary Guide to the World was born. The result is a collection of destination-specific book reviews, written by accomplished writers who know each location well, and built around the idea that literature can show you a place in an instructive, entertaining, and enriching way. The next time you’re looking for a literary travel companion to Gypsy Europe, West Texas, Armenia, or Togo, be sure to stop by Salon for advice.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 5:35 PM
As other book review forums throw in the towel, the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) is planning a contest to nurture young book critics. Two cheers! The competition is open to writers under 30, who are invited to submit their reviews this September via the VQR website. Essays should be between 2,000 and 3,500 words long, and the book must have been published in 2008. Final judging will rest in the hands of Rebecca Skloot, Oscar Villalon, and VQR editor Ted Genoways.
The victor will receive $1000, but even more covet-worthy: The winning review will be published in VQR, a perennial Utne Independent Press Award nominee in the category of best writing. The winner also will be contracted to write three more reviews.
Monday, March 03, 2008 6:04 PM
Publicly ranking one’s favorite books, films, and albums seems to pass for critical blessing these days. Truth be told, I’m not so sure that making recommendations in list form is a new phenomenon—the Ten Commandments have a whiff of recommendation, don’t they? Still, most contemporary publications love to offer top-ten lists or best-of-the-year lists. (Hell, read any issue of Mental Floss.)
And then there’s Time Enough At Last, A.J. Michel’s “reading log 2007,” a zine she assembled simply to share—in just a few sentences—whether she loved, liked, didn’t mind, or couldn’t finish a particular book, comic, or zine. Michel’s month-by-month breakdown of what she’s read offers no snarky rankings, but it’s sassy enough to be pretty entertaining. She sensibly sticks to the basic premise of a few sentences’ worth of evaluation. After all, she can’t waste time reviewing when she ought to be out trying to satisfy her insatiable need for reading material:
Plane trips and vacations are a nightmare because not only do I have to pick and choose what books to take, I have to decide if to stow them in checked luggage, or carry them on. What happens if the plane is stuck on the runway for six hours and I finish not only the books I have with me, but also the airline magazine, and SkyMall catalog? Do I start hitting up other passengers for books? Best to be prepared.
If you have a similar need, perhaps Time Enough At Last can be your guide.
Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:00 AM
A big white sticker clings to the Fall 2007 issue of the Common Review. It's positioned diagonally in the center of the cover, in the same fashion you might imagine a president stamping "veto" on an ill-fated bill. "Stop worrying about the decline of book culture," it says. "Read the Common Review. All books, all the time."
Bookworms across the nation have taken note of waning book coverage, and they've gotten especially loud about it during the past year. In the September/ October issue of Columbia Journalism Review, Steve Wasserman likens book review culture to species extinction in the Amazonian rain forest. Wasserman, who worked for nine years (1996-2005) as the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, has spent considerable time honing the art of book writing. "I wanted to deliver a section aimed squarely and unabashedly at the word-addicted and the book-besotted," he writes. In his article for CJR, he reflects on the decline of literary coverage in nearly every major newspaper, offering his own anecdotes and lessons from the Los Angeles Times.
Enter: the Common Review. The magazine, which is published quarterly by the Great Books Foundation, is wholeheartedly dedicated to all things book-related, mixing literary analysis and traditional book reviews with original fiction and poetry. To sit down with the Common Review is to get the book-writing fix that you can no longer find in the daily newspapers.
Wasserman claims that most people want book writers to be "faster, shorter, dumber," while he yearned to be "slower, longer, smarter." The Common Review is just the place to find writers like Wasserman, who take their time with intelligent pieces about literature. —Cara Binder
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