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Review-a-Day

Saturday, October 17th


 

Please Step Back by Ben Greenman

Please Step Back by Ben Greenman

A review by Brandon Von

There's a thumping, pulsating bass line suffusing the language of Ben Greenman's newest novel, Please Step Back, a snaky rhythm that traces Rock Foxx's rise to stardom and a slow dirge following his inevitable fall from grace. Glittery and disco-flashy, but never indulgent, Greenman's novel is so fluid that one probably won't pick up on the key changes -- he moves from major to minor as effortlessly as Foxx writes his band's socially-conscious rock anthems.

Robert Franklin -- stage name Rock Foxx -- is egotistical, maniacal, and undeniably talented. Yet, from the book's opening fade-in, there's an echo of tragedy: Robert, at age eleven, sees his cousin Dre hit and killed by a car, a pointless and childish mistake that sets the tone for the rest of the novel:

"Eyes red with wine, teeth white with milk," Foxx said. He stood and crossed the grass toward Lucas, thinking strangely of Dre. Where was he now, after years beneath the earth? Where was the man he would've...

Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited by Charles Taylor

God's Pragmatist

A review by Erin Leib

The recent blizzard of pragmatism has produced many discussions about William James, but there is one side of James that has been almost programmatically neglected. It is a side of James that James himself cherished, and it provides the great reason for so much of what he wrote, for so much of his philosophical pluralism, and for his campaign against idealism. I am referring to James the obsessively religious man, who was committed to devising a philosophy that would provide a foundation for spiritual experience, and to opening up room for faith in an increasingly secular world. Now at...



The Fabric of Night by Christoph Peters

Death in Istanbul

A review by Dennis Drabelle

This novel breaks rules and gets away with it. It looks like a thriller, acts like a character study and leaves the reader pondering its own narrative structure.

The Fabric of Night takes place in Istanbul, where a 28-year-old German sculptor named Albin Kranz is vacationing with his longtime girlfriend, Livia. Albin is also keeping company with alcohol, but that's nothing new: They've been tight, if you will, for years. As a rule, he tries to hide his habit -- or at least the extent of it -- from Livia, though she doesn't miss much.

Besides her lover's drunkenness, Livia has to put up...



Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism by Daniel Harris

A review by Adrienne Miller

NUTSHELL: Daniel Harris is the Camille Paglia (less insane, though equally brash) of consumer theory, and this is a superb examination of the ways in which advertising has created the look, the texture and the feel of the lives (or lies?) we live.

DETAILS: All of the mass-culture images and ideas we move through have historical precedents, of course, and Harris explains why and what they are. Why doesn't the phone "ring" anymore? ("This new computer-generated sound suggest that the telephone is more 'advanced' simply because its ring is different, a tonal adjustment that implies greater...



The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

On Eating Alone

A review by Charlotte Freeman

I spent the vast majority of my adult life living alone. During all that time, while I might not have cooked full meals every night, it never occurred to me not to cook for myself. My mother taught me to cook in middle school when she went back to work, and we grew up in the sort of household where the core set of assumptions were: You can make it cheaper than you can buy it, processed food is "junk," and eating out is a treat, not an everyday occurrence. When I was a starving editorial assistant in New York during my 20s, cooking was just about my only form of entertainment. I mean, a girl...



Adventures of Pinocchio (02 Edition) by Carlo Collodi

Sociopath on a String

A review by James Marcus

The Adventures of Pinocchio , which Carlo Collodi first published, in serialized form, in 1881, has spawned hundreds of translations — many of them in appropriately wooden prose — and countless versions for the theater and the screen. In America, at least, most of these have long since been eclipsed by Walt Disney's song-and-dance extravaganza. And indeed, with its hummable score and ominous underpinnings, that 1940 production does stand head and shoulders above much of the Disney canon, in comparison with which it resembles Crime and Punishment. Still, what about the original...



Just Kids by Patti Smith

Songs Of Innocence

A review by Gerry Donaghy

My first introduction to Patti Smith, as it probably was for most listeners, was through her remake of "Gloria," where she transformed Van Morrison's ode to teenage lust into a frenzied whiplash of ur-punk bliss. Hearing her croon "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine," like the forgotten love child of Howlin' Wolf, was the most transgressive thing this Catholic schoolboy had ever heard. Listening to her music and reading about the New York punk scene in magazines like Creem opened my mind to the fact that there was more to music than "Freebird" and Kiss.

In her memoir Just Kids...



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