What We Can Learn From Mozart’s Pet

Book review: Mozart’s Starling, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt When I set out to follow the story of Mozart and his starling, I saw at its center a shining, irresistible paradox: one of the greatest and most loved composers in all of history was inspired by a common, despised starling. Now I muse upon the many facets of this tale, and it is wonderful, yes, even more wonderful than I had imagined. But … Continue reading What We Can Learn From Mozart’s Pet

Defending Hillary

Book review: The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, by Susan Bordo Professor, scholar, and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Susan Bordo is, like many others, astounded at the events of the past year that culminated in Donald Trump assuming power in Washington instead of Hillary Clinton. And like many, she’s struggled to make sense of it all: of the complex, obfuscated political and media machinery that contributed so heavily … Continue reading Defending Hillary

Murders in Indian Country and the FBI’s Beginnings

Book review: Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann It’s a deeply unfortunate, painful characteristic of American history that crimes against Native Americans are often lost to history. If you read a book like Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, you’re hit with wave after wave of frustration with each successive incident of their treatment at the hands and laws of white Americans. Killers of the … Continue reading Murders in Indian Country and the FBI’s Beginnings

Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

Book review: Sunshine State, by Sarah Gerard Sunshine State, up and coming literary darling Sarah Gerard’s essay collection rooted in her childhood home state of Florida, hits some high highs and low lows. The opening essay, “BFF”, starts the book out as strongly as it could possibly be started; I was hooked. Gerard dreamily, wistfully details the twists and turns of a toxic young female … Continue reading Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

A Demagogue With Eerie Resonance Today

Book review: The Road to Jonestown, by Jeff Guinn Bestselling investigative journalist Jeff Guinn writes a comprehensive biography of Jim Jones and his infamous Peoples Temple cult, drawing heavily on interviews with former members and a wealth of Temple and FBI documents. Beginning with Jones’ parents and childhood in small-town Lynn, Indiana, and progressing via sections divided by the Temple’s successive locations in the United States and Guyana, the narrative … Continue reading A Demagogue With Eerie Resonance Today

Food As Love in Any Language

Book review: The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber I’m falling in love with “foodoirs” lately. Those are food-themed memoirs, in case you’re late to the genre, like I was. This one moved me more than I unexpected. Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber was born in America to a Jordanian immigrant father and an American mother. Her family, including two younger sisters, lived in upstate Syracuse, New York, … Continue reading Food As Love in Any Language

Rest in peace. You are not forgotten.

Book review: History of a Disappearance, by Filip Springer “‘Our memories of the town keep getting more beautiful as the years go by,’ they laugh, because that’s how human memory is – it sifts out the bad and only holds on to beautiful images.” It’s a strange but true facet of history that for several periods of many years, Poland didn’t exist. Situated between Germany and Russia, … Continue reading Rest in peace. You are not forgotten.

From Idaho to St. Petersburg, Across Eons, Resurrecting a Saw Tooth

Book review: Resurrecting the Shark, by Lisa Ewing Think of what a shark looks like. Think of the teeth, that unmistakable sign from nature: here is a predator. Now imagine those sharp, self-replacing teeth arranged not in rows but on a buzz-saw whorl, jutting from the shark’s open mouth. The extinct shark Helicoprion had just that, and yes, it was scary as hell. “But was it just jammed … Continue reading From Idaho to St. Petersburg, Across Eons, Resurrecting a Saw Tooth

Tales of a Teen Rehab From Hell

Book review: The Dead Inside, by Cyndy Etler In the late 80s, Cyndy Etler seemed to be a fairly typical Connecticut teenager. Her real problem was abuse at the hands of her creepy French stepfather, which her mother noticed and ignored, leaving her daughter instead to struggle to defend herself. With that kind of frustration in her home life, it’s not surprising that she focussed on friendships that got … Continue reading Tales of a Teen Rehab From Hell

Simpler Times: When Bill Met Monica

Book review: A Vast Conspiracy, by Jeffrey Toobin I was too young to understand much about, or grasp the gravity of what an impeachment was when it happened. What I remember most vividly of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky saga was the edition of the newspaper where the lurid details appeared (maybe it was excerpts of the Starr report, I’m not sure). It carried a parental advisory warning … Continue reading Simpler Times: When Bill Met Monica

A Surrealist Writes Her Madness

Book review: Down Below, by Leonora Carrington A strange, surreal account of painter, sculptor and writer Leonora Carrington’s 1943 stay in a Spanish mental institution after descending into mental illness. An English transplant to France where the Surrealist movement had found fertile ground, Carrington wrote this short book, actually more like an extended essay, as a stream-of-consciousness style explanation of what she saw and felt, both … Continue reading A Surrealist Writes Her Madness

An Australian in the Dark Heart of Mississippi

Book review: God’ll Cut You Down, by John Safran In this tornado of a book, Australian TV and radio personality John Safran chronicles his obsession with a Southern American murder case involving the death of a white supremacist at the hands of a young black man in Mississippi. That’s the basic premise, but the paths that the story takes from there are pretty extraordinary. Safran had a comedy … Continue reading An Australian in the Dark Heart of Mississippi