Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ten best marital arguments in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best marital rows in literature.

One heartbreaking fight on the list:
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan

The best thing about this novel is the final bitter argument between husband and wife on the disastrous first night of their honeymoon. McEwan lets you see how each had the chance to relent, but resentment keeps making the cruellest jibe the most tempting thing to say.
Read about all ten marital rows on Mullan's list.

On Chesil Beach also appears on Eli Gottlieb's top 10 scenes from the battle of the sexes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ten of the best vegetables

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best vegetables in literature.

One title on the list:
Ulysses by James Joyce

The most significant yet mysterious vegetable in literature is surely Leopold Bloom's potato. "Potato I have", he thinks as he checks his pockets on first leaving his house; he carries it everywhere. A prostitute takes it, but he retrieves it, explaining: "It is nothing, but still, a relic of poor mama". Later, we hear phantom voices chanting, "Potato Preservative Against Plague and Pestilence, pray for us".
Read about all ten vegetables on Mullan's list.

Ulysses also made John Mullan's lists of the ten of the best parodies and ten of the best visits to the lavatory, and Frank Delaney's top ten list of Irish novels.

Learn about John Reader's top 10 potato books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Five novels about life during the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire

Arthur Phillips is the internationally bestselling author of Angelica, The Egyptologist, and Prague, which was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His latest novel is The Song Is You.

In his Powells.com Q & A, Phillips named "Five Novels That Make You Feel Like You Might Know Something about Life During the Collapse of the Hapsburg Empire:"
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

The Man without Qualities by Robert Musil

The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

The Rebels by Sándor Márai (or Embers by him, if you prefer)

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Not the Hapsburgs, admittedly, but you get the idea.)
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Five best books on U.S. history

At the Wall Street Journal, Neal Bascomb, author of Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most ­Notorious Nazi, named a five best list of books on U.S. history.

One title on his list:
The Journals of Lewis and Clark

There are hundreds of books on the Lewis and Clark expedition— scholarly treatises, narratives, biographies, collections of maps. Engrossing reading, sure, but why choose them when the original journals by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark exist? Even if the prose is rough, the journals are an American treasure, a first-hand account of the discovery of a nation. There is a hypnotic, galvanizing power in the daily descriptions of rivers forged, buffaloes seen, Indians met, meals eaten, illnesses suffered, plants examined, rainstorms weathered and dangers overcome. No matter the hardship experienced over the more than two years they spent in the wilds, the two explorers always managed to update their journals, as Lewis did one winter day: “The ink f[r]iezes in my pen,” he complained, before continuing with his account. When Clark writes on Nov. 7, 1805, “Ocian in view! O! the joy,” your heart, too, will leap.
Read about all five books on Bascomb's list.

Also see, Gordon Wood's five best list of books on American history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2009

Notable books about China

Lisa See's most recent book is Shanghai Girls.

For Powell's, she named several books that "have made me think about China in new ways, pressed me to be more critical (and sometimes more forgiving) of the country, have captured a moment or a subject in a unique way, or have knocked my socks off with the audacity of the subject or the skill of the writer."

A few of the books to make the grade:
Women Writing in Modern China: An Anthology of Literature by Chinese Women from the Early 20th Century edited by Amy D. Dooling and Kristina M. Torgeson: Often in the West, we are told that in the past there were no women writers. But of course there were! Only so much of what they wrote has been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up. China has a different tradition. There were a lot of women writers who have remained in print not only in China but also in this country. There are several anthologies of Chinese women writers. The Red Brush is probably the most comprehensive, and covers over 2,000 years of women writing in China. (Try to beat that, Western canon!) I also like The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature, but my favorite is Women Writing in Modern China, which covers the early 20th century. These women write about the same things women write about today — love, children, family, heartbreak, war, the economy, and all the things that bind us together as human beings.
Read about more books on See's list.

Also see 2008's best China books and Five Good Short Books on China.

Check out Lisa See's interview with Kate Merkel-Hess at The China Beat.

The Page 99 Test: Lisa See's Peony in Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kim Stanley Robinson's 10 favorite Mars novels

Kim Stanley Robinson made his mark as a science-fiction writer with the 1990s Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. For the IEEE Spectrum, he named his "10 Favorite Mars Novels.”

One title on the list:
In the 1970s, everything Martian hovered on the brink of major change. The Mariner satellites had photographed the surface, Carl Sagan and others began talking about the possibility of terraforming Mars, and then the Viking missions changed our image of Mars forever. At this moment, Frederik Pohl used the Mariner findings to portray a very realistic Mars and ask the question, How far would we go to adapt ourselves to the place, rather than the place to us? The chilling answers found in Man Plus (1976) make it one of Pohl’s best novels.
Read about all ten books on Robinson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top ten literary ménages à trois

Ewan Morrison is the author of the novels Distance, Swung, and the soon-to-be-released Ménage as well as the collection of short stories The Last Book You Read. He writes a weekly column for Scotland on Sunday under the name Weegie Bored.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of literary ménages à trois.

One book on the list:
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham

A touching and honest depiction of an enduring love triangle between a gay man, a self-proclaimed fag-hag and their at times bisexual lover, set in New York during the Aids epidemic. A book filled with love, pain and compassionate humour from the author of The Hours, it was also made into a film starring Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn.
Read about all ten ménages à trois on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Twenty books of shattered childhoods

One title on AbeBooks' list of 20 books of shattered childhoods:
Lord of the Flies William Golding

Can there really be anyone who hasn’t read this novel? A group of schoolboys are marooned by a plane crash on a desert island and their attempts to remain civilised (and nice toward the fat kid) fail very badly. School teachers love this novel because it poses so many questions about morality, power and what holds together society. Consider checking out The Coral Island by RM Ballantyne from 1857, Lord of the Flies was written as a reposte to this novel.
Read about all 20 titles. [h/t to escapegrace]

William Golding died 19 years ago this month; read about his last night on earth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ten of the best births in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best births in literature.

One title on the list:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna is haunted by a prophecy that she will die in childbirth. We are in the waiting room with the men, as Anna's lover, Vronsky, and her husband are told of the birth of a baby daughter (Vronsky's). The mother, however, has puerperal fever and will certainly die. The men are reconciled – and Anna lives.
Read about all ten births on Mullan's list.

Anna Karenina also appears on James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Five best: books about criminals

Elliott Gorn, who teaches history and American Civilization at Brown ­University, is the author of Dillinger’s Wild Ride: The Year That Made America’s Public Enemy ­Number One. For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about criminals.

One book on the list:
Jesse James
by T.J. Stiles
Knopf, 2002

In “Jesse James,” T.J. Stiles dims the glow of the Old West, avoids the biographers’ fetish of piling fact upon useless fact, and gives us both the life and its rich historical context. Turns out the raging guerrilla warfare of the post-Civil War Missouri borderlands was crucial to understanding Jesse James. Stiles moves us away from ­thinking of James as a bandit and ­toward thinking of him as a terrorist—a fitting word to describe Confederate veterans who won by violence and ­subversion what they had lost on the battlefield. James’s ­legend became part of the larger Southern myth of the “lost cause,” a myth whose believers helped undermine Reconstruction, justify rigid racial segregation and introduce the rule of lynch law.
Read about all five books on Gorn's list.

See Theodore Dalrymple's list of favorite books on the criminal mind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ten best poetry books

For the (London) Independent, Judith Palmer, director of The Poetry Society, named her ten best poetry books.

One title on the list:
Goblin Market and Other Poems - Christina Rossetti

"Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices/Squeezed from goblin fruits for you". A new bite-sized selection, focussing on Rossetti's Victorian fairyland fruit fantasy, in all its barmy sensuous excess. Goblins proffering plump unpecked cherries tempt two blushing girls.
Read about all ten books on Palmer's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 19, 2009

The 10 best apocalypse novels of pre-golden age SF

Joshua Glenn, at io9, named the years 1904-33 SF's Pre-Golden Age, and came up with the era's "ten great novels of the apocalypse."

One book on the list:
William Hope Hodgson, The Night Land: A Love Tale (1912). Hodgson, a British sailor, strongman, and visionary, paints a macabre, fascinating portrait of a frozen future Earth whose few remaining human inhabitants live in a vast underground space created by earthquakes, lit by the glare of lava bubbling up from below, and inhabited by dinosaurs. Worse, at some point in the distant past, overreaching scientists breached "the Barrier of Life" that separated our dimension from one populated by "monstrosities and Forces" - Watching Things, Silent Ones, Hounds, Giants, "Ab-humans," Brutes, enormous slugs and spiders - collectively known as the Slayers. (At least one of them, as far as I can tell from the 1972 Ballantine paperback cover shown here, resembles Pac-Man.) The unnamed narrator, along with apparently every other surviving human, lives trapped in the Last Redoubt, a eight-mile-high metal pyramid-city constructed by their ancestors using now-forgotten technologies. The pyramid is protected from the Slayers, who surround and observe it constantly, by mysterious Powers of Goodness, and also by a massive force-field powered by the "Earth Current" - a Tesla-esque force drawn from the planet itself. Our hero is telepathic, and one day he receives a distress signal that appears to issue from a woman living in a long-forgotten community of humans sequestered in a distant Lesser Pyramid whose power supply is running out. Arming himself with a lightsaber-meets-brushcutter gizmo called a Diskos, and eating nothing but protein pills and powdered water, he sets forth on a mission impossible - into the Night Land.
Read about all ten books on Glenn's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top 10 environmental disaster stories

Liz Jensen's latest novel, The Rapture, is an ecological thriller about a psychotic teenage girl who warns of an earth-changing cataclysm. Available now in the U.K., The Rapture arrives in America in August.

Among the early praise for The Rapture:
“A first-class apocalyptic thriller of futuristic science, geophysics, and religion. It's clever, intelligent, and—most terrifying of all—plausible”
—Kate Mosse, author of Labryinth and Sepulchre
Jensen named her top 10 environmental disaster stories for the Guardian.

One novel on the list:
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Comedy and horror jostle for supremacy in this masterfully-conjured post-disaster novel. Genetically-modified animal species, defrosted tundras, and a new creation myth to explain it all to a new race of bio-engineered humans: wonderful. But Atwood has a deeper purpose, and while the narrative entertains, the big, dark ideas are whirring as furiously as a wind turbine in a hurricane.
Read about all ten stories on Jensen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top 5 faked memoirs

Benjamin Radford is a writer, investigator, and managing editor for Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. His Bad Science column appears regularly on LiveScience.

For LiveScience, he named his top five faked memoirs.

One book on the list:
"Satan's Underground," by Lauren Stratford

"Satan's Underground" was a 1991 book in which the author described her first-hand experience inside a Satanic cult. Stratford's book included horrific depictions of baby-killing rituals, pornography, torture, rape, and other abuse. Like Anthony Godby Johnson, Stratford claimed to have been continually physically and sexually abused by her parents and forced into prostitution. She also described being locked in a metal drum with the bodies of four babies who had been sacrificed to Satan. The book became a best-seller, helping fuel the "Satanic panic" hysteria that swept across America in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Yet skeptical investigation revealed that the story was a complete hoax. None of Stratford's claims were true; every gruesome, sensational detail was made up. Stratford later changed her name and began claiming to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor, still trying to wring sympathy from the public.
Read about all five titles on Radford's list.

Also see Iain Finlayson's critic's chart of the best faked memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monica Ali: best books

Monica Ali’s new novel, In the Kitchen, is set in a five-star London hotel. At The Week, the author of Brick Lane and Alentejo Blue named six favorite earlier works that made the most of similar settings.

One title on her list:
Chowringhee by Sankar (Penguin, $14).

A classic of Bengali literature, recently published for the first time in English. Set in a venerable Calcutta establishment, this sprawling saga examines in luminous detail the iniquities of society represented in microcosm at the hotel. Containing the action in a hotel where employees and guests are in physical proximity but a world away from each other heightens Sankar’s every observation.
Read about all six titles on Ali's list.

Learn about Monica Ali's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oprah's 11 unputdownable mysteries

Oprah's book club is touting "11 unputdownable mysteries." One title on the list:
The Grift
by Debra Ginsberg
352 pages, Shaye Areheart

I'm not psychic. There's no such thing; only luck, timing, and observation," Marina Marks, an attractive and highly intuitive "counselor" to the wealthy and influential tells herself. Um, wrong. Marina's second sight—and haunted loneliness—makes Debra Ginsberg's The Grift (Shaye Areheart) an unusually seductive thriller. Read it for the not-so-predictable deceptions and the ghostly elusiveness of love. — Cathleen Medwick
Read about all eleven Oprah picks.

Mystery maven Linda L. Richards shares a few reflections on the mysterious 11 at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Debra Ginsberg's The Grift.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Five best: spy books

Alan Furst is the author of Night Soldiers (1988), Dark Star (1991), The Polish Officer (1995), The World at Night (1996), Red Gold (1999), Kingdom of Shadows (2000), Blood of Victory (2002), Dark Voyage (2004), The Foreign Correspondent (2006), and The Spies of Warsaw (2008).

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of spy tales.

Number One on his list:
Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene
Viking, 1958

Graham Greene’s work must be included in any survey of top-rank spy novels, and “Our Man in Havana” may be his best. The problem here is Hollywood: Just as you can’t read Greene’s “The Third Man” without thinking of Orson Welles, “Our Man in Havana” instantly brings to mind Alec Guinness, followed closely by the sublime Ernie Kovacs. But the book itself is a marvel, making fun of the espionage business while still remaining a spy novel. It brings ample suspense and expertly wrought ambience to its tale of a British vacuum-cleaner salesman in Cuba who reluctantly agrees to become an MI6 agent. He begins filing fanciful reports—including sketches of a secret military installation based on a vacuum-cleaner design—that the home office takes all too seriously. “Our Man in Havana” is a honey of a beach read, best served with rum and Coke.
Read about the other books on Furst's list.

Visit Alan Furst's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.

Writers Read: Alan Furst.

Read former MI5 director-general Stella Rimington's five best list of books about spies in Britain and Ben Macintyre's list of top true-life spy stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ten of the best pieces of fruit in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best pieces of fruit in literature.

One title on the list:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

No accident that there are fruit in the very title of Steinbeck's chronicle of depression America. The Okies flee the dustbowl for California, where they hope for work picking fruit. There they can only survive by eating the fruit, and make themselves sick. The land of plenty gives you gut rot.
Read about the other nine pieces of fruit on Mullan's list.

Also see Adam Leith Gollner's top 10 fruit scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ten of the best fake deaths

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best fake deaths in fiction.

One title on the list:
Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

Even devotees of Hardy's fiction will find it hard to think of Sergeant Troy's supposed death from drowning without recalling the film version, with Terence Stamp leaving his clothes and his troubles behind him on a Dorset beach. Years later, as Bathsheba teeters on the brink of marriage to Boldwood, Troy, her "dead husband", returns to reclaim her. Boldwood shoots him.
Read about all ten fake deaths on Mullan's list.

The Page 99 Test: Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Top 10 books on the migrant experience

Elise Valmorbida is the author of the critically acclaimed books Matilde Waltzing, The Book of Happy Endings and The TV President.

Her latest novel is The Winding Stick (Two Ravens Press).

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of books on the migrant experience.

A little throat-clearing, and Number One on her list:
"If there's one common element in all my writing, it's an interest in migrants and migration. I guess it's natural given my own multicultural origins, but it's also at the heart of storytelling: the migrant brain is prone to metaphor – the perpetual balancing of here and there, different worlds in simultaneous play. And being translated. Being found in translation. Suitcases. Secrets. Invisible cities."

1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This slim book took many years to make. It's compelling, painful and exquisite. Here's the story of the Creole heiress who leaves the Caribbean for a life in England as the first wife of Mr Rochester. (Jane Eyre is the second.) Unpicking her like a hidden jewel from the weave, the author releases a minor character from a major text. She is a migrant bride, a misrepresented outsider, "the other woman", a mad thing in the attic …
Read about all ten books on Valmorbida's list.

A different Rhys book appears on Lynn Freed's list of "favorite books evoking the immigrant life."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The best gothic novels

At the Guardian, Patrick McGrath tagged the best gothic novels.

One book that made the grade:
Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)

What would become the staples of the genre were introduced in Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto with deliberate fanfare and much hilarity. The setting is medieval and the castle itself is riddled with dungeons, cloisters, secret passages and trapdoors, precisely the sort of architectural features that would later come to symbolise, in the gothic, the human mind in its deviousness and complexity. Incest, murder, ghosts, dreams, madness, supernatural events and other elements suggestive of transgression and decay abound. The story concerns the downfall of Manfred, a tyrannical despot consumed with greed and lust who is unable to control his passions or his servants.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Top 10 books on globalization

Moisés Naím is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine and author or editor of eight books including Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy.

He named his top ten books on globalization for Foreign Policy. A few books on his list:
For good overviews of the diverse facets of globalization read David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton's Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture as well as The Great Experiment by Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott who, like Fernandez Armesto, argues that the global integration of humanity has been an inexorable historical trend and explains why improving global governance is an urgent priority. Peter Berger and Samuel Huntington's Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) is also worth a read.
Read about all ten books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction.

One title on the list:
Possession by AS Byatt

Steeped in affairs Victorian, Possession naturally has a stormy climax in a country churchyard. By night, lashed by wind and rain, the novel's modern-day investigators dig in the grave of long-dead poet Randolph Henry Ash to find the final clue to his secret affair with fellow poet Christabel LaMotte. Lightning flashes and the past is exhumed.
Read about the other graveyard scenes on Mullan's list.

Possession also appears on Mullan's list of ten of the best locks of hair in fiction and Christina Koning's critic's chart of top six romances.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Five hot summer thrillers

At The Daily Beast, David J. Montgomery tagged five hot summer thrillers.

One title to make the list:
The Scarecrow
by Michael Connelly

One of the most anticipated books of the season is Michael Connelly’s The Scarecrow, a followup to 1997’s The Poet, the book that introduced reporter Jack McEvoy. In The Poet, McEvoy teamed up with the FBI to catch a killer preying on cops, making a name for himself as one of the best journalists around.

Now, 12 years later, McEvoy is being forced out of his job at the Los Angeles Times, yet another victim of budget cuts. Hoping to go out on a high note with one last story, he investigates the case of a young drug dealer accused of murder, a crime the teen’s family claims he didn’t commit. What McEvoy uncovers is not just a big story, but a life-or-death situation involving an especially devious serial killer.

There are few authors with both the journalistic background—Connelly was a crime reporter for the Times—and the writing chops to produce such a fascinating thriller. If The Scarecrow isn’t quite as fine as the best of Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, it’s still one of the best books of the summer.
Read about all five books on Montgomery's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Five best books on scientific fraud

Eugenie Samuel Reich is a former editor at New Scientist. She has written for Nature, New Scientist, and The Boston Globe, and is known for her hard hitting reports on irregular science. Several of her reports have resulted in institutional investigations.

Her new book is Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World.

She named a five best list of books about scientific fraud for the Wall Street Journal. One book on her list:
Voodoo Science
by Robert L. Park
Oxford, 2000

The thesis of “Voodoo Science” is that instances of science fraud arise from ignorance. Whether it’s the dream of free energy or the fear of cancer caused by overhead powerlines, the public’s ­uninformed obsessions often attract false scientific claims. A physicist at the University of Maryland and ­former director of the Washington Office of the American Physical ­Society, Robert L. Park is known for candor in the discussion of bad ­science. He is devastating, for ­instance, on the subject of the “cold fusion” debacle in 1989, when ­chemists Stanley Pons and Martin ­Fleischmann of the University of Utah falsely claimed to have replicated the reactions that power the sun by using a tabletop apparatus that applied electric voltage to heavy water. This eminently readable work leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of how pseudoscientists often tailor their fictions to the public ­imagination.
Read about all five books on Reich's list.

Writers Read: Eugenie Samuel Reich.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 5, 2009

Top 10 rascals in literature

Director Spike Jonze and the Where the Wild Things Are film team came up with their top 10 rascals in literature.

David Barnett does not approve of several of the rascals to make the list, but liked some of the choices:
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn rightly earns his place – on the run with a slave in 19th-century Mississippi, dressing as a girl, and faking his own death certainly earn him his rascal stripes. And Pippi Longstocking deserves to be included for her baiting and exposing of adult pomposity – oh, and for lifting that horse above her head. Similarly, one can't argue with Bre'r Rabbit's inclusion, thanks to his anti-authoritarian stance.
Read more about Barnett's take on the list.

Check out the list of the top 10 rascals in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Top 10 novels that predicted the future

At the Guardian, Andrew Crumey listed the top ten novels that predicted the future.

One book on the list:
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)

Real-life re-animation experiments were all the rage and gave Shelley the idea for her novel, but as creator of the original "Frankenstein science" she became unwitting godmother of everything from heart transplants to GM foods.
Read about all ten titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Critic's chart: books on art and artists

In 2006 Derwent May, a writer and reviewer for the London Times, named a "critic's chart" of top books of exchanges of letters.

One book on his list:
Robert Hughes

A persuasive critic on a roller-coaster ride through Modernism, linked to a memorable television series.
Read about the other books to make the chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Top 10 artworks in novels

Ian MacKenzie's debut novel, City of Strangers, is published in paperback this month by Penguin.

At the Guardian, he named his top 10 artworks in novels.

One book on the list:
The Use of Reason by Colm Tóibín (from Mothers and Sons)

Another Rembrandt in peril. Tóibín's protagonist, a calm and calculating thief of high-end goods, strays out of his depth when he purloins some works of art, including a Portrait of an Old Woman by the Dutch master. He is fluent in the handling of jewels or money, but fumbles a plan to fence the paintings to some enigmatic Dutch customers, and finds himself weighted down with a priceless but unsalable item. The brilliance of the story lies in the reader's agony as he tracks the fate of the painting, which nears an unimaginable point of no return. In the finale, Tóibín makes us shake at the dark future that awaits an irreplaceable artwork, and in the process forces us to consider what we value, and why.
Read about all ten items on MacKenzie's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ten best film adaptations

David Nicholls' TV credits include the third series of Cold Feet, Rescue Me, and I Saw You, as well as adapting works for the screen, including Simpatico, Starter for Ten (from his own novel) as well as Tess of the D’Urbervilles for the BBC. His latest novel is One Day.

For the (London) Independent, he named his favorite film adaptations.

One item on the list:
The Big Sleep/The Long Goodbye

Two examples of how similar source material can be given remarkably different adaptations. The Huston* movie (adapted by Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman) is classic Hollywood; witty, elegant, dark, sexy. Altman's is classic New Hollywood; cynical, rambling, mumbling, sunlit. Interestingly, the great Leigh Brackett worked on both movies.
Read about the other adaptations to make the grade.

[*Marshal Zeringue notes: The Big Sleep was directed by Howard Hawks, not John Huston.]

--Marshal Zeringue