Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr |
The Georgia Review

Anthony Doerr is one of the most scientifically minded fiction writers working today. He’s a literary conservationist. In his vision, science is a matter of preservation and protection. Nature and technology, under science’s umbrella, are to be engaged with responsibly and in the interest of betterment, for they can be easily exploited by opposing forces. Science, in Doerr’s fiction, is a human ideal, matched only by art—which too can be safeguarded or destroyed via scientific means. His latest novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, presents Doerr’s most directly articulated paean to science, art, and the human spirit, here represented by the greatest of humanity’s achievements—the book—and some of the best in human conservation—librarians. Cloud Cuckoo Land is also Doerr’s most ambitious work to date, which demonstrates just how much he cares about his subject. Continue reading…

End of the World House by Adrienne Celt | LA Times

Harold Ramis’ 1993 comedy Groundhog Day didn’t invent the time-loop narrative, but it established the popular template for such stories: The cause is never identified; the protagonist must make different choices (usually to become a better person) to stop the loop; there is almost always a period in which the characters exploit their position to their advantage; frequently, there’s a love story. Although these parameters are rarely broken, any story taking on the Groundhog Day concept should add something to the formula. The most successful versions pair the concept with something fresh, as in the sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow or the horror flick Happy Death Day. One popular additive in recent iterations such as Netflix’s Russian Dolls or Hulu’s Palm Springs is the inclusion of a second victim. Continue reading…

In Praise of Good Bookstores by Jeff Deutsch | Star Tribune

The Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago is among the most venerated in the world, so it’s fitting that its director, Jeff Deutsch, has written a book attempting to define what makes a successful bookseller.

It’s a vital task, especially since, as Deutsch points out, “there is no good business model in the book industry” — at least, not the kind that aims to “support books whose publication is driven by cultural and literary value rather than media attention and rapid sales.” Books must exist, but their existence cannot be predicated on high profit margins. Continue reading…

The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman | Tasteful Rude

Chuck Klosterman’s tenure as pop culture’s critic par excellence began just as the 1990s came to a close; in fact, according to his newest book, The Nineties (Penguin Random House, 2022), it started four months before the decade officially concluded.

Klosterman’s debut, Fargo Rock City, a memoir of life as a heavy metal enthusiast in North Dakota, was released on May 22, 2001. By September 11, the ethos of the previous decade had come crashing down along with the Twin Towers. Nevertheless, Klosterman’s breakthrough book, the essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, was wholly mired in the 90s in both subject and approach. Topics included the television show Saved by the Bell, sex icon Pamela Anderson, the Left Behind novels, MTV’s The Real World, and other fin de siècle ephemera. With his second book, Klosterman encapsulated how 90s pop culture was interpreted while also expanding the list of once undeserving subjects now considered worthy of attention and scrutiny. Most significantly, though, was that Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs simultaneously heralded the critical approach of what followed: Klosterman’s brand of armchair pop philosophy prefigured the voices of the internet. Continue reading…

Something to Do with Paying Attention by David Foster Wallace | LA Times

In 1996, shortly after the publication of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace took courses at Harvard University on accounting and federal tax law. He had an idea for a new novel: an exploration of boredom set in an IRS office, which to his credit does seem like the most boring place imaginable. Ever the overeager researcher, Wallace became as fluent in the tax code as any agent. By the time the resulting work was published in 2011, unfinished, under the title The Pale King, Wallace had been dead for three years. Continue reading…