Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 2:47 pm
By Benjamin Percy
The war in Bosnia left Sarajevo ruined by siege scars. Aleksandar Hemon describes in his new memoir how "the streets were fractured by mortar-shell marks — lines radiating from a little crater at the point of impact." But he notes that those holes were later "filled out with red paint" and that "the people of Sarajevo now, incredibly, called [them] 'roses.' "
The same could be said about the essays that make up The Book of My Lives, Hemon's first book of nonfiction, a collection of thorned, blood-red roses that make beauty out of his broken past.
In Chinua Achebe's novel The Anthills of the Savannah, one of the characters says, "Poets don't give prescriptions. They give headaches."
The same is true of novelists, and none more so than Philip Roth. If any writer has ever enjoyed rattling people's skulls, it's this son of Newark, N.J., who's currently enjoying something of a victory lap in the media on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The celebration reaches its peak with a new documentary — Philip Roth Unmasked — that will screen on PBS next week as part of the American Masters series.
Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 12:46 pm
By Claire O'Neill
Another South by Southwest festival has come and gone. And, as usual, there's been no shortage of media coverage for the events. But here's a slightly different perspective from Tamir Kalifa. By day, he's a photojournalist based in Austin, Texas. But he's also a member of the band Mother Falcon, a "17-piece rock orchestra of sorts," NPR's Stephen Thomspon says.
James Salter is often called a writer's writer. His novels – including his first, The Hunters (1957), and the erotic A Sport and a Pastime (1967) — are much admired but have won only modest audiences. Salter has written screenplays (Downhill Racer) memoirs and stories; All That Is, which comes out April 2nd, will be his first novel in 30 years (or 13 years if you count Cassada, which was a rewrite of an earlier book).
Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 9:05 am
When Emily Rapp first discovers that her 9-month-old son, Ronan, has Tay-Sachs, an incurable and fatal disease that gradually robs a child of his nervous system, she wets herself; the floor and walls of the doctor's office seem to melt and liquefy; and she thinks, "weirdly," about her son's namesake, a boy she once knew whose name she would write in longhand "like a lovesick teenager." She recalls Emily Dickinson's poem in which a mind has been cleaved beyond repair, and calls out for her mother.
The next time you're sipping on a glass of something boozy, consider the plants behind your beverage. Some of them might spring immediately to mind: grapes in your wineglass, rye in your whiskey bottle, juniper in your gin and tonic. But what about sorghum and coriander? Cinchona and bitter orange?
The subject of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's relationship with the Jewish community is complicated, multidimensional and contentious. On the one hand, the former New York governor won Jewish votes by landslide margins and led the Allies to victory in World War II, defeating Nazi Germany. Some of his closest advisers and strongest supporters were Jews, including Felix Frankfurter, whom he named to the Supreme Court, speechwriter Samuel Rosenman and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau.
Top of the Lake, a new seven-part miniseries premiering tonight on the Sundance Channel, was co-created and co-directed by Jane Campion, who teamed with Holly Hunter 20 years ago on the movie The Piano. Hunter is back for this new project, playing a mysterious New Agey guru of sorts. She's started a small commune for emotionally damaged women, on a remote strip of land in New Zealand.
In January 2011, writer Emily Rapp was a happy new mother when she and her husband found themselves in a pediatric ophthalmologist's office with their 9-month-old son, Ronan. They were worried about Ronan's development and had gone to the eye doctor to rule out vision problems as the culprit. Checking Ronan's retinas, the doctor saw "cherry-red spots on the backs of his retinas," Rapp writes in her new memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World. Ronan's diagnosis that day was Tay-Sachs disease, a genetic and degenerative condition that is always fatal. There is no cure.