Posted inArts & Culture

Marisha Pessl

Believe the hype: Marisha Pessl’s debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking), is a lot of fun. Teenage narrator Blue van Meer, overfond of the literary reference and parenthetical remark, is Pessl’s preternaturally studious protagonist. She’s the daughter of Gareth van Meer, himself a model of the philosophically idiosyncratic, sexually prodigious, often drunk professor […]

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Dan Berger

With his new history, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (AK Press), Dan Berger, a 25-year-old PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and coeditor of last year’s Letters From Young Activists, attempts to fill in the blanks left by Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s 2003 documentary The Weather Underground. […]

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Studs Terkel

Studs is still going strong. The beloved nonagenarian mined his long-running WFMT radio show, The Wax Museum (1945-’90), for material for his latest volume, And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey (The New Press), and though it doesn’t have the cultural weight of Working or his other, sturdier oral histories, it effectively […]

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Darren O’Donnell

When Toronto-based writer and performer Darren O’Donnell hit Quimby’s in October, he delivered a monologue from his ever-evolving one-man show A Suicide-Site Guide to the City, a theater piece that dramatizes one of his pet concerns: the breakdown of the boundary between audience and performer. He wasn’t on a stage in the tiny bookstore, and […]

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Stephen Elliott

In his raucous book-length dispatch from the 2004 campaign trail, Looking Forward to It, Stephen Elliott makes brief mention of his latest novel, Happy Baby, as a “dark, hopeless book”–but it’s a characterization to be taken with a grain of salt. Though Happy Baby (just out in paperback from Picador) is at times relentlessly grim, […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Brief Reviews

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir Nick Flynn | Norton | It’s a conundrum: what is a child’s responsibility to a parent when that parent has long since abandoned him? In his new memoir Nick Flynn takes his sweet time getting to the heart of this question, rifling through his past to make […]

Posted inNews & Politics

What the –?

A bunch of Topless Humans Organized for Natural Genetics crashed a reception for the NanoCommerce 2004 conference at McCormick Place last week. The five guys and four gals from THONG lined up in front of the podium facing the assembled scientists and businesspeople, stripped down to their thongs, and turned around to reveal the slogan […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Todd Taylor

Of the 17 interviews with punk bands and counterculture figures in Todd Taylor’s Born to Rock: Heavy Drinkers and Thinkers (Gorsky Press), none quite strikes Taylor’s characteristic balance of whimsy and gravitas as finely as the first, with Minnesota’s the Dillinger Four, in which Taylor leads the band through a philosophical comparison of monkeys and […]