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Media Monday - A Valentine to Books


Hello, and welcome to Media Monday. Judging by the time at which I'm posting this, there's a good chance you're reading it on Tuesday, so let me be the first to wish you Happy Valentine's Day. On second thought, I hope I wasn't the first. And hopefully I won't be the last today either. Happy Valentine's Day.

Here's some book news...

The New York Times

  • The Sunday Book Review has a long review of Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which was the spotlight pick for our February Best Books of the Month list. The Times states that it is an "extraordinary first book, which describes a few months in the life of a young garbage trader, Abdul, and his friends and family." Boo, who won a Pulitzer for social service when she was at the Washington Post, spent year researching, and often living among, denizens of a slum called Annawadi, near Mumbai’s airport, and she writes about them with rare intimate knowledge. Suffice it to say, this is not "Slumdog Millionaires," for as we know, reality is generally much harsher than the movies. As the review draws to a close, reviewer Pankaj Mishra begins to sum up the ultimate value behind Boo's book: "'The poor,' she explains further, 'blame one another for the choices of governments and markets, and we who are not poor are ready to blame the poor just as harshly.' Meanwhile, only 'the faintest ripple' is created 'in the fabric of the society at large,' for in places like Mumbai, 'the gates of the rich . . . remained un­breached, . . . the poor took down one another, and the world’s great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace.' In its own quiet way, Behind the Beautiful For­evers disturbs this peace more effectively than many works of polemic and theory."

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    Why do we need introverts? According to Judith Warner's review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, "Unchecked extroversion— a personality trait Cain ties to ebullience, excitability, dominance, risk-taking, thick skin, boldness and a tendency toward quick thinking and thoughtless action — has actually, she argues, come to pose a real menace of late. The outsize reward-seeking tendencies of the hopelessly ­outer-directed helped bring us the bank meltdown of 2008 as well as disasters like Enron, she claims. With our economy now in ruins, Cain writes, it’s time to establish 'a greater balance of power' between those who rush to speak and do and those who sit back and think."

  • Norumbega Park: A Novel gets a strong review. "Anthony Giardina’s new novel begins on a country road in Massachusetts in 1969, with 39-year-old Richie Palumbo and his family — his son, daughter and wife — out for a drive near their home in Waltham. At twilight, they happen upon the seemingly idyllic WASPy town of Norumbega. Slowing down, Richie spots a house that he’s instantly drawn to, one he decides is meant to be his home." Which raises a natural question: "Can the Italian-American Palumbos rise above their social station?" Palumbo gets his home at great cost, but as you can imagine, that alone will not raise him above his social station. "As Giardina’s novel sorts this out, it delves into what is hidden — the dreams, the shame, the faith — in the complex folds of one family’s life."


The Washington Post


  • In case you still need some convincing on Catherine Boo's new book, here's how The Post reported on Behind the Beautiful Forevers... "This is an astonishing book. It is astonishing on several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all."

  • David B. Agus's book The End of Illness is described as "part vision statement and part instruction manual, a sometimes idiosyncratic mix of scientifically minded polemic, imperative self-help book and erudite guide to hot-button health issues." The author views the body as a complex system, but he offers simple solutions (rest, exercise, good eating), describing the scientific details behind why he makes his arguments. "Agus tries to make both health and illness very personal, arguing the importance of knowing yourself — your habits, your family history, your genetic risks, even your proteins."


  • For those who've enjoyed John Burdett's books, Jonathan Yardley has a review of Burdett's latest, Vulture Peak (Sonchai Jitpleecheep). "Here we have the fifth of John Burdett’s “Bangkok novels,” all of them featuring the philosophical Buddhist police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep and all of them redolent — in the most enjoyable way — of crime, violence, corruption and sex, not necessarily in that order."


The Los Angeles Times

  • Anne-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is the story of an Austrian national treasure, one of the world's most recognized paintings. It describes Gustav Klimt (another Austrian treasure), Adele Block-Bauer, beautiful wife of a Czech sugar baron, Austrian pride, and Nazis. In her review, Suzanne Muchnic summarizes the book: "Rich in historical context, it's gripping in details and drama of Jewish families destroyed and art collections ransacked during Hitler's reign. The author's account of legal proceedings and dissension over the painting's rightful home — among family members as well as Austrians — also goes well beyond newspaper reports." Author Anne-Marie O'Connor chases the painting over time and international lines to tell the story of a work of art, a struggle between great powers, and an almost-tragedy with a golden lining.


  • Reviewing William Gibson's Distrust That Particular Flavor, Margaret Wappler writes, "Canadian cyberpunk soothsayer William Gibson has been much celebrated for his prediction of some nascent form of the Internet in his 1984 debut Neuromancer, but his new collection of nonfiction shows that his secret strong suit is with the here and the now." The collection is composed of essays that Gibson wrote for Wired and Rolling Stone, among other publications, as well as intros and speeches that he's delivered through the years. Wappler points to his fascinating descriptions of places. Singapore is "'relentlessly G-rated,' the product that would have resulted 'if IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country.'" Japan is "the global imagination's default setting for the future." She also calls out the author's grasp of the value of copies v. their originals: "the first is simply the start of an idea and not necessarily the best iteration, at that. Instead, Gibson knows that each copy adds more nuance to the object of our cultural fascination, imparted in its own weird, sometimes trashy but wholly individual code."


The Guardian

The Millions

The Paris Review

  • I'm not completely sure why yet, but this really drew me in. I've been thinking about it all day.


The New Yorker

Media Bistro



  • Wired interviews William Gibson, where we learn, in part... “Futurists get to a certain age and, as one does, they suddenly recognize their own mortality,” Gibson says in the Wired premier of The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And they often decide that what’s going on is that everything is just totally screwed and shabby now, whereas when they were younger everything was better. It’s an ancient, somewhat universal human attitude, and often they give it full voice.”


Html Giant

  • Ever have someone recommend a book and then, after reading it, wonder what the heck they thought they were talking about? So has Html Giant.


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