Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories by Katha Pollitt
The In-Between Woman
A review by Cathleen Schine
Katha Pollitt is known as a good old-fashioned feminist and leftist columnist for the Nation, as well as a prize-winning poet. Her most recent collection of essays, Learning to Drive, establishes her as an affecting memoirist as well. A collection of witty reportage on the vicissitudes of a post–World War II child of left-wing parents, the book is also a reminder of a lost New York, a vanished generation, and the gentle persuasive power of memory itself. The essays, which start with Pollitt's difficulty in learning to drive and end with a meditation on plastic surgery, describe the...
The Highest Tide: A Novel by Jim Lynch
A review by Jill Owens
Recently, the first photographs of a living giant squid made headlines around the world. In a nice coincidence, Jim Lynch's fictional debut explores what's so remarkable about the squid and its unusual ocean brethren, as well as what it's like growing up by the edge of sea. The Highest Tide has much to recommend it, including the narrator himself, thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley, who is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield if, say, he'd been much geekier, and a bit less confident. Miles is tiny for his age (he looks closer to nine), his parents treat him with, for the most part, benign neglect,...
Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness by Daniel Maier-Katkin
Between Two Minds
A review by William T. Walker
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) were considered two of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. Heidegger, author of Being and Time (1928), was the dominant philosopher of the era until his identification with Nazism and support of Hitler during the 1930s. While he retained his position at the University of Frieburg until his death, his reputation never fully recovered from his support of fascism and the Third Reich -- in spite of his subsequent explanations. Arendt was a German political theorist who was interested in all aspects of power, and, in...
Articles of War by Nick Arvin
Farm Boy Goes to Omaha
A review by Anna Godbersen
Heck (so called because of the lack of cuss words in his vocabulary) is an eighteen-year-old Iowan farm boy when he is drafted into the army and sent off to fight in World War II. He is also a bit of a sad sack, with his thinning hair, his virginity, and his loneliness. He is not transformed upon his arrival at Omaha Beach, and he remains perhaps too vague and dreamy a person to be confident of his abilities as a soldier. On a solitary walk one day, Heck encounters a hurt boy in a field, and his lack of courage there foreshadows his lack of courage on the battlefield. As Heck realizes later...
Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang by John Ayto
Pixies, Sheilas, Dirtbags and Cougar Bait
A review by Caleb Crain
Like poetry and pornography, slang is easier to recognize than to define. Most of it is disapproved of by someone, but obscenity alone doesn't qualify. It isn't slang, for example, to refer to manure with a four-letter word. But if you put the article "the" in front of that four-letter word and equate the president-elect of the United States to it, then slang it is, and very complimentary. Further complicating matters, a great deal of slang is completely inoffensive. Journalists call the first sentence of an article the lede, the last the kicker, the motive for reading it the hook and the...
A Sun Within a Sun: The Power and Elegance of Poetry by Claire Chi-ah Lyu
Poetry to Inspire
A review by Wade Edwards
If Baudelaire had the popular reach of Dr. Phil, this book would be an instant bestseller, so inspirational is its message, so articulate its conclusions. In evocative prose and far-reaching scholarship, Lyu attempts to distill the astounding, impulsive power of poetry -- its spiritual value, its serious frivolity -- and succeeds beautifully. Poetry, Lyu writes in her powerful prologue, "insists that we abandon and awaken from the deceptive comforts of habit and addiction. Risk is the willingness to open up the limited and limiting circle of the familiar and the easy..." Her learned study is...