Transported in Time: Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney

So I'm in Sydney, and it's amazing. Beautiful weather (and what I'm gonna call sublime weather, the day we went out to Botany Bay and watched the swells breaking on the sandstone in front of a stormy sky), lovely people, majestic cockatoos which sound like fishwives, magpies, aggressive little mynahs harassing giant ravens, ibises rooting around everywhere the way we have Canada geese at home, shaggy gum trees, palm trees, hibiscus.And also, there's the Hyde Park Barracks, which was designed … [Read more...]

“Muppets Take Siberia”: I’m in AmSpec

reviewing an actual movie which exists: The new Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, is basically 1981's Great Muppet Caper if you make Kermit self-pitying, Piggy helpless, and Russia the villain. Also, there are several gulag dance scenes. more (plus my advice for enjoying the movie!) … [Read more...]

“No, Where Are You Really From?”: Dinaw Mengestu’s Novel of Ethiopians in America

Dinaw Mengestu's 2010 How to Read the Air tells two parallel stories: In alternating chapters, Jonas Woldemariam retells the story of his Ethiopian immigrant parents' ill-fated road trip through the Midwest, and his own equally ill-starred career as a teacher and husband. But the book is more tangled than most parallel-lines-meet narratives. Jonas is not only retelling the road trip but retracing it; the chapters about his teaching include the many stories he tells his students about his … [Read more...]

From “How to Read the Air”

Those who came seeking help often did so with a faint trace of shame hovering over them--the sense that they were once again pleading to someone to grant them a right that everyone else they passed on the street, on the subway, and in traffic took for granted trailed them in almost all of their dealings and most likely made them more deferential than they had ever been. … [Read more...]

From Dinaw Mengestu, “How to Read the Air”

While it was common even among the most disciplined teachers to allow for small fabrications, from the beginning the stories I told my students existed on a more ambitious plane. Now when asked for details about my life, I indulged myself. When one of my students wanted to know what I did before I began teaching at the academy, I told him that I had spent years working in a coal mine and had the blackened lungs to prove it. To another I was the captain of a Japanese trawler, and then a few days … [Read more...]

“10 Most Essential ’70s Conspiracy Thrillers”: Jesse Walker

with a list. I'm actually posting this mainly for the commenters who added Alien and Rosemary's Baby as sf/horror cousins of the '70s conspiracy genre (and I admit that I was surprised to read that Rosemary is actually from the late '60s--doesn't it feel '70s to you?). … [Read more...]

“Identity Theft”: I review (and LOVE) “The Goldfinch”

in the Weekly Standard: When we speak of “the permanent things,” we should mean the enduring, inescapable, and unfulfilled longings of the contradictory human heart: the helpless yearnings found across radically different times and cultures. And among these permanent desires, the need for home and the need for ecstasy stand preeminent.Donna Tartt made her name with 1992’s bestselling murder-by-paganism tale The Secret History, which explored our longing for ecstatic release from the self. Th … [Read more...]


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