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Review-a-Day

Thursday, March 11th


 

Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing by Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling

Your Money or Your Life

A review by Cass R. Sunstein

In protecting the environment, how do America and Europe differ? The standard account is this: Europe follows the precautionary principle; America follows cost-benefit analysis.

According to the precautionary principle, it is better to be safe than sorry. Aggressive regulation is justified even in the face of scientific uncertainty -- even if it is not yet clear that environmental risks are serious. According to cost-benefit analysis, regulation should be undertaken not on the basis of speculation, but only if it is justified by a careful quantitative assessment of both the costs and the benefits of regulatory action. The two approaches lead in radically different directions. What should national governments do about the genetic modification of food? Many Europeans argue that the consequences of genetic modification are uncertain and that real harm is possible -- and hence that stringent regulation is readily justified. Many Americans respond that the likely benefits of genetic ...



Songs of Love, Moon, and Wind: Poems from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth's Translations

A review by Chris Faatz

One of the great loves of my reading life has been Kenneth Rexroth's translations from the Chinese and Japanese. Published by New Directions, these slim volumes bear an enormous weight of literary and philosophical prestige. Elegant, searching, and, above all, timeless, Rexroth's Chinese and Japanese translations capture the very essence of what it means to be fully alive, fully engaged. Many of these poems are over one thousand years old, yet they not only stand up to the questions and predicaments and experiences of our time, but they bear eloquent witness to the very meat of what it means...



Winslow in Love by Kevin Canty

Twisted Mettle

A review by Noah Oppenheim

Kevin Canty writes about battered souls on the stick's short end. His latest novel, Winslow in Love, is a sad and sodden romance, shorn of any gloss. It's what Leaving Las Vegas might have been if Elisabeth Shue weren't still kind of hot and Nicolas Cage still kind of charming.

Richard Winslow is a broke, lonely poet stranded in a frigid wasteland. When he meets Erika, half his age and bent on starving herself to death, he finds a kindred spirit. Little in this novel is idealized. Nobody joins AA, gets a decent job, or buys a condo. There's no cathartic romp in the sheets, only the most...



Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser

A review by Gary Kamiya

America is a monumentally two-faced country. We love to smoke reefer, but our laws treat marijuana as if it's the same as heroin, and we sometimes hand dope dealers longer sentences than murderers. We love to ogle pictures of people having sex, but our national line is still that we're shocked, shocked by the unspeakable vileness of pornography. And to save $50 a year off our grocery bills, we close our eyes to the fact that our choicest fruits and vegetables are picked by illegal immigrants who are among the poorest workers in the country.

Hypocrisy is one of the indictments Eric...



The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

Have You Read About the Lonesome Loser?

A review by Adrienne Miller

Hugo Whittier, the antihero of Kate Christensen's tremendously entertaining third novel, is every bit as tormented, irascible, self-hating, and funny as any other classic loser of contemporary literature. Think Martin Amis's John Self, then add dashes of Montaigne and M.F.K. Fisher. Poor Hugo once fancied himself a writer of sorts, but now, at forty, he finds himself decaying decorously at his family's faded estate on the Hudson (name: Waverly). He's dying -- or so he claims (Hugo isn't what you'd call a reliable narrator) -- of too many cigarettes, which means Hugo, being the loser he is, is ...



My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox

A review by Adrienne Miller

NUTSHELL: A wobbly but nonetheless charming debut novel that's almost as fun to read as it must have been to write. The conceit: the supposed memoir of a one-hundred-year-old English woman, from her Queen of May days ("I had a snub little nose, piercing blue eyes, a slim, athletic build, and a cloud of golden ringlets that bounced behind me as I walked") to advanced old age. But we know that this memoir is a fake, almost from the get-go the bold-faced authorial notes-to-self ("Jesus fucking Christ what the fuck are OMINOUS VIBRATIONS?") being a good tip-off. The author, a character named...



Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A Vigorous, Quiet Revolt

A review by Howard W. French

When it was published fifty years ago, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart caused a stir for its revelation of something hitherto strange and unfamiliar in the world of literature: genuine African voices. Achebe was not the first African novelist, as he has sometimes wrongly been called, but his use of standard English to produce believable characters who inhabited a complex and authentic world marked two existing traditions of writing about Africa as evolutionary dead ends.

Before Achebe's breakthrough, there had been folklore-based African narratives, more entertainments than novels...



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