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"I did a book tour in London and Paris for my last novel, Heir to the Glimmering World. American reviewers all mistook its closing chapters for a happy ending, which in some ways it is: a marriage and a baby and a fortune, all the trappings of traditional comedy. And all intended ironically. In France, in particular, where I had many interviews with critics, they got it. They saw that the book ended in 1937 and that it could not possibly foretell happiness in the years leading up to the slaughters of World War II. In Europe, where history has left its deepest wrinkles, they could see the irony and they could catch Bertram’s manipulative cynicism. They saw and they understood."
The eye has many beautifully-named parts that reflect the long history of optics: aqueous humor, vitreous body. Different creatures have different sorts of eye. Shrimp have eyes composed of many reflective boxes that, in aggregate, resemble disco balls. A cat’s eye appears to glow at night, but the reality is in fact much weirder and has to do with small mirror-like layer of tissue (the tapetum lucidum) behind the retina. We still don’t entirely understand how the human eye evolved, and its mystery remains part of the limited arsenal employed by those who argue for intelligent design.
"So all this underlies State by State, and has meant for Sean and me a kind of reminder of the many things we have to be confident about. I think chiefly what comes out of the stove is that the immigrant pieces are the most buoyant, I think some of the most exciting and funniest among the pieces. This is a book where you read about Bosnians in Missouri, and a Bangladeshi family in Rhode Island, and Koreans in Indiana, and Chinese in Georgia, and even a Ghanaian in Michigan. And that was very much by design -- we wanted to get those stories. But what surprised us was just how buoyant they are, how robust, how dynamic. And that’s us. That’s what I’m left with. Despite many reasons not to feel optimistic, chiefly during the last eight years of the Bush administration -- deep down, I think we’re all right."
"[The freelance lifestyle] Michelle Goodman is describing sounds identical to a cubicle job, only done in your bathrobe, potentially surrounded by children and pets. For people everywhere on the food chain, our tangle with the problems of figuring out how to get by is usually either ignoble or torturous, or both. Why does she have to bring “nobility” into it, or insult artists who need to make their real work their only priority?"
Cathi Unsworth: "When our rulers, our Establishment, have nothing but contempt and hatred for people and can’t even bother to disguise it any more, what is the "trickle down" effect of that going to be? Noir fiction provides the opportunity to reflect on all that through the dissection of a crime and its impact, the ripples of which never stop being felt. These are the same dilemmas that Shakespeare wrote about, that Dickens wrote about, it goes all the way back to The Bible."
I often discuss, in this space, popular science books devoted to animals -- to our closest living relatives the great apes; to Alex the parrot; to the farm animals that Temple Grandin saves from needless pain; or to wild-living African elephants. The best of these books offers hard evidence to show that animals (animals other than ourselves, that is) think out solutions to problems and feel joy’s heights and grief’s depths.
Barbara J. King
"I starting writing later in life, though, around when I turned 30, and George Saunders was a real inspiration for a few reasons -- one is that he was writing these amazing, surreal, funny stories that take place in some kind of alternate universe. The other is that he wrote the first book, or most of it at least, while he was working full time at a "real" job, with a wife and children and responsibilities. For somebody like me, who was very much on the outside looking in, or not really even knowing where to look, no MFA or contacts or anything, that one piece of information -- Saunders writing on a work computer, hitting shift-something when some boss walked into his office -- was really inspiring."
With the holidays coming and the most popular book for teens in America about a vampire and the most passive female character since Joanie blindly loved Chachi, I’d like to point prospective book buyers in the direction of numerous nonfiction titles that children and teenagers will enjoy. They may not carry the sense of impending doom that young love with the undead can suggest, but they will open any number of intellectual doors.
"I’m not sure if nostalgia for youth is a driving theme in my work, but youth and the perspective of youth certainly is. What I mean is, I’m not sure if it’s nostalgia for youth itself, but the way of seeing that we have as young people, when everything is for the first time. The world is a more mysterious place. It is always mysterious, but it feels even more so, I think, when we’re encountering it as children and young adults for the first time, before we grow used to certain aspects of it and the structures we’ve made for ourselves to live in."
Geoffrey H. Goodwin