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Review-a-Day

Saturday, October 11th


 

The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers by Bryan Christy

To Call These Guys Reptiles Is to Insult Reptiles

A review by Doug Brown

In the herp world, there are two broad groups: academics (people who study crawlies at universities) and herpetoculturists (people who keep crawlies as pets). These groups are largely what Stephen Jay Gould called "Non-overlapping Magesteria," as many of the academics think the pet folks don't know much about herps, and many of the pet folks think the academics are a bunch of stuffy snobs. The major cause of friction between the two groups is over-collecting. Academics commonly don't reveal the exact location of their study sites to keep the pet-trade people from descending and taking all the animals. This happened when Carl Kauffeld made the Okeetee Hunt Club in South Carolina famous in his classic Snakes: The Keeper and the Kept. The world flooded in, and now corn snakes and scarlet kingsnakes are sparse on the ground in that patch of Jasper County. Even worse is when endangered animals are taken from the wild and smuggled across borders for trade. The Lizard King is a good...



And So by Joel Brouwer

"And So", by Joel Brouwer

A review by Ron Slate

"The becoming of man is the history of the exhaustion of his possibilities," wrote Susan Sontag while thinking about E.M. Cioran. Thoroughly up-to-date -- meaning cut off from the future and removed from the past -- a poet is stranded in the present, just like everybody else. But since the poet cares most about making a poem ("an emotionally disturbing structure made of words" -- X.J. Kennedy), and since words are his medium, he feels the pinch, caught between the language of living a decent life ("please pass the salt" or "wanna go to the movies?") and the explanations of that life by news...



Chambers Concise Dictionary by Editors Of Chambers

Grimy times

A review by Jonathan Hope

Earlier this year, the American rap artist Kelis boasted from the top of the charts that, "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard". Even if you agree with Chambers Concise Dictionary that DNB stands for Dictionary of National Biography and not "Drum'n'Bass", you will probably guess that the "milkshake" Kelis had in mind was not "a drink consisting of a mixture of milk, flavouring and sometimes ice cream, whipped together until creamy". Just what was so attractive to all those boys has been hotly debated across the internet, on message boards devoted to song lyrics, as well as that...



Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Fights the Power

A review by Adrienne Miller

Well, I never could have anticipated I'd come around to thinking Arianna Huffington was cool, but there it is. I weirdly admire and respect this wonderfully incendiary and right-headed new book (I also weirdly admire and respect her anti-SUV campaign, but no time for that now), whose thrust is that the Enron-era is the result of governmental corruption. Huffington takes our elected representatives to task for their nauseating spinelessness: "In a bloodless coup, our government by, for, and of the people has been replaced by the dictatorship of the corporate dollar." While her prose can sound...



Unless by Carol Shields

A review by Laura Miller

At one point in Carol Shields' new novel, the narrator, Reta Winters, contemplates a recurring dream in which she stands in her kitchen, charged with preparing a meal for guests, and discovers only "a single egg, or maybe a tomato," in the refrigerator. She doesn't consider the dream particularly symbolic. "For more than twenty years I've been responsible for producing three meals a day for the several individuals I live with. I may not be conscious of this obligation, but surely I must always, at some level, be calculating and apportioning the amount of food in the house and the number of...



McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Misha Glenny

Crime with no boundaries

A review by Scott McLemee

Twenty years ago, as the Soviet Union began coming undone, a dissident intellectual named Boris Kargalitsky coined a useful expression, "kleptocrats," to describe those officials who were enriching themselves thanks to their power in what remained of the Communist state and economy. "Kleptocracy" means rule by thieves. The term was both useful and farsighted, and it's no accident that Misha Glenny uses it from time to time in McMafia, his guided tour of the world's black and gray markets.

The author, a British journalist who covered Eastern Europe for the BBC during the early 1990s...



I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults by Deborah Tannen

A review by Maria Russo

Deborah Tannen is the professor of linguistics who gave a scientific imprimatur to the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus idea in the bestselling You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Since then, she's tackled the world of business-speak in Talking From 9 to 5 and taken a shot at our overly confrontational public conversational style in The Argument Culture. In her new book, I Only Say This Because I Love You, Tannen returns to her bread and butter: how people talk to each other in their intimate relationships. This time, she's concerned with how families, especially...



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