June 21, 2006
This book of poetry is the twelfth from Nobel-prize-winner Seamus Heaney, and also marks the fourtieth anniversary of his first book, Death of a Naturalist. The title District and Circle refers on the surface to two lines of the London Underground, one of which runs from the suburbs into the city and one which circumnavigates the city itself. Heaney’s exploration of a trip on the Underground draws parallels to the classical underworld, and draws the poet as a kind of modern-day Orpheus or Dante. This contemplation of death operates as one of the loose theme throughout the volume, which contains elegies for the poets Ted Hughes, Czeslaw Milosz, George Seferis, and for his sister in the spectacular poem ‘The Lift.’ Another poem, ‘Anahorish 1944,’ recalls watching American soldiers stationed in Ireland marching through on their way to the battle of Normandy.
Much of the book is a celebration of Heaney’s past, illustrated with vivid recollections of specific things in his childhood: a host of farm implements are remembered fondly and lyrically, in addition to places like the butcher shop and barber shop and primary school friends. Perhaps most importantly, however, his poems return to earlier poetic accomplishments, revisiting his famous Bog People poems with a new one, ‘The Tollund Man in Springtime.’ His poems about Irish place names are returned to in ‘Moyulla.’ The superb ‘The Blackbird of Glanmore’ resonates with the earlier ‘Mid-Term Break.’ The title of the book also seems to suggest that though Heaney may have travelled in a wide circle, he is never far from his district.
You can read a review here.
You can also read a review and retrospective on Heaney here.
December 16, 2005
December 7, 2005
Society has become rude, Lynne Truss warns us in her latest book, Talk to the Hand where she wittily rants about the deplorable state of manners today. Quoting everyone from Y.B. Yeats to The Simpsons, Truss narrows down modern communication as the root of rude behavior. Mobile phones and iPods have left us operating in small, private bubbles where it’s easy to let rudeness rule, and the art of holding doors and saying “Thank you,” has been forgotten. “It used to be just CIA agents with earpieces,” Truss writes, “who regarded all the little people as irrelevant scum. Now it’s nearly everybody.” Though her chatty tone will leave readers chuckling, her arguments are serious regarding society’s decline.
December 6, 2005
Yossi Sheffi tells the extraordinary account of how some shewed companies, both large and small, weather the storm and keep themselves afloat during times of crisis. For instance, what do you do when a fire strikes the only manufacturing plant for brake pressure valves in every Toyota? How about when an earthquake in Taiwan shuts down chip manufacturers for Dell and Apple Computers? Sheffi shows readers how the fate of corporations such as General Motors, Nokia, the US Navy, and Southwest Airlines rests on decisions made before disaster occurs rather than the actions they take during it. Investments in resiliency and flexibility — balanced security, redundancy, and short-term profits — can reduce the risk of severe losses and gain competitive advantage in a tempestuous marketplace.
Check out the MIT Press’ website.
November 1, 2005
Billy Crystal’s one-man Broadway show smash that broke box office records now comes to you in the memorable book 700 Sundays, carrying an equal amount of humor and poignancy as its theatrical counterpart. Crystal discusses his amazing childhood and oftentimes hilarious Jewish family, including his uncle, Milt Gabler, who started up the Commodore music label and recorded Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” when no one else would, Holiday taking him to see his first movie, Louis Armstrong at the Crystal family seder, and most important of all, Crystal’s father, who supported his son’s dreams of wanting to be a comedian and died young. Crystal deftly weaves a strong narrative of an amazing cast of characters in an eventful time with his renown wit, yet at the center of it all is the heartfelt story of a father and his son.
October 14, 2005
When the Boston Red Sox rested the World Series Championship from the New York Yankees in early 2005, they ended 86 years of the so-called Bambino Curse, but Steve Goldman and the rest of the team from Baseball Prospectus are here to tell you the real reasons behind the Sox’s new strategy and sudden success. Goldman gives fans an insightfuly and deeply researched study into the real reasons behind how baseball games are won and lost, including what led the Sox to understand Johnny Damon’s true value and make Keith Foulke a closer as opposed to Mariano Rivera. Through carefully researched evidence that builds suspense in its rundowns and analyses of the historic seven-game AL playoff, Goldman and his team proved that the real reason behind the curse of the Red Sox wasn’t because of Babe, but decades of inept and bigoted ownership and management.
October 13, 2005
“The only force strong enough to take on religious extremism,” Bruce Feiler concludes at the end of his latest book, “is religious moderation.” It is this notion that gives Where God Was Born : A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion a dimension far above and beyond the usual fodder one reads with biblical commentary. Feiler explores the highly volatile areas of Iran, Iraq, and Israel using starting from the book of Joshua in the Bible, from the invasion of Canaan to David and Solomon’s successive reigns, to Babylonian capitvity and Diaspora. Feiler’s travel companion, archeologist Avner Goren, also feeds the reader with, perhaps, a more objective view of the region’s history in addition to its more recent troubles. But what makes this book so powerful is that Feiler’s moral vision transcends people, nationality, land, and even religion itself.
October 10, 2005
Kurt Vonnegut is now 82-years-old, but his steel sense of black humor and barbed critiques are just as sharp as ever in his latest book A Man Without a Country, which is a collection of short vignettes, essays, and articles, many of which have seen the light of day on the web and have become extremely popular already. Vonnegut fans will enjoy this piece’s usual infusion of cynicism and social awareness, in which Vonnegut spews bile at so-called “psychopathic personalities” or “smart, personable people who have no consciences,” many of whom can be found in the Bush’s administration. America’s invasion into Iraq was motivated by the need for oil and people, Vonnegut accuses, are just “chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power.”
Visit Kurt Vonnegut’s Official Website.
October 3, 2005
America’s favorite tear-jerker writer returns with the follow-up to 2005’s earlier novel True Believer with At First Sight, which picks up where we las left Jeremy Marsh and his decision between leaving the city that he loves or the girl that he’s in love with. In At First Sight, Jeremy has finally dealt with the wounds of his bitter first marriage, made the big move to Boone Creek, North Carolina, married his love Lexi Darnell, and is happily expecting his first child. Things seem to be perfect, when a disturbing and mysterious message threatens to shatter the life of bliss Jeremy has built for himself.
Visit Nicholas Sparks’ Official Website.
October 2, 2005
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Anne Rivers Siddons pens a sweet and sad coming-of-age story in her latest novel Sweetwater Creek. Emily Parmenter is a 12-year-old girl living on her family’s South Carolina plantation. Her mother has left the family, her favorite brother committed suicide, and her father keeps his distance. The only solace Emily finds is in the Boykin spaniels her father breeds in an amibtious attempt to join high society. When 20-year-old blueblood, troubled Lulu Foxworth comes to the plantation to stay for the summer, Emily’s lonely world is at first reluctantly interrupted, but soon the two emotionally-starved girls bond. Lulu has several dark secrets, including an alcohol addiction and a torrid affair with the smarmy Yancey Byrd. As the Parmenters gain entrance into South Carolina’s high society, Lulu sinks further and further into her own demons.