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GrossmanIn this edition, comedy and tragedy, Padma Lakshmi, Dracula, and more.

Chris Schluep: This weekend I will be reading a book that I didn't have a chance to read last month. It's called A Horse Walks into a Bar, and the author is David Grossman. In this Sunday's New York Times book review, Gary Shteyngart calls the book a "magnificently comic and sucker-punch-tragic excursion into brilliance." And I noticed yesterday that NPR had this to say: "a novel as beautiful as it is unusual, and it's nearly impossible to put down." The book is about a stand-up comic in Israel talking to an audience during open mic time. But of course it's about much more than that.

Erin Kodicek: I've recently started binge-watching Top Chef (I know, I'm way behind. Next, I'll start watching The Sopranos). The first season's host threw me a little bit--her robotic delivery...and worse, why does she never seem to taste the food?! Thankfully Padma Lakshmi entered the scene in season two, with her questionable yet beguiling wardrobe, and super taste buds. I didn't know much about her, other than she used to be married to the "Hemingway of India," Salman Rushdie--a brilliant writer, but evidently no peach. She touches on that relationship in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate, but delves deeper into more fascinating (and sometimes timely) topics--the challenges of being an immigrant, dealing with endometriosis, and--of course--food and family. If you're looking for a dishy memoir, this one delivers. But Lakshmi displays some serious writing chops, too. I doubt that will make her ex proud, but she should be.

Adrian Liang: Inspired by the announcement of the Bram Stoker Award finalists, I’m going to finally explore Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula. Only a few years ago a scholar discovered that the Icelandic translation of Dracula—published in 1900 and the second translation made of Stoker’s Dracula—is not a faithful translation. The Makt Myrkranna adds plot lines not in the original English edition (Harker’s expedition in Transylvania is greatly expanded) and cuts away other scenes entirely. Powers of Darkness includes callouts that mark where the text deviates, and its introduction posits that Stoker not only was aware of the differences in translation but even orchestrated them. For Dracula fans looking for something a little lighter, I wholeheartedly recommend Dracula vs. Hitler, a fun and playfully told novel that pits the undead count against the Führer during World War II, as Dracula battles to save Romania from the Nazis.

Jon Foro: In the 40 years between the end of World War II and the fall of communism, the German Democratic Republic (don’t be fooled by the name) perfected the surveillance state through the Ministry for State Security and its secret police arm, the Stasi. For her award-winning Stasiland - a book I’ve been meaning to read since it was published over a decade ago - Anna Funder collected stories from behind the Berlin Wall, from the Stasi’s victims, those who resisted, and even former officers, drawing a surprisingly complex portrait of the East Germans’ relationship with their oppressors.

Sarah Harrison Smith: Well, if ever there was proof that a title was true, it’s the fact that I have let so much time slip by before reading Alan Burdick’s Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, published by Simon & Schuster a month ago. Burdick is a brainy and thoughtful writer with an elegant turn of phrase: his first book, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, won the Overseas Press Club Award for environmental reporting, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. You may be familiar with his writing for The New Yorker. In this latest book, he strives to understand time, intellectually and emotionally: he began the book just after his twin sons were born, a threshold, which, as all parents know, changes our relationship with the present – as well as the future and the past -- irrevocably. I’m especially enjoying the elements of memoir here: there’s a delightful irony in Burdick’s confession his wife has diagnosed him with a “willful denial of the passage of time.” But time with his book is time well spent. Try it!

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Comments (2)

"German Democratic Republic (don’t be fooled by the name)": what did you imply by that? As we all know, at least those educated before 1990, countries with the word "democratic" in their name are socialist, communist totalitarian states. It is the Orwellian way.

Posted by: Karl | Friday February 24, 2017 at 5:43 PM

Hi, Karl. Yes, I remember it well. (And, of course, you only have to look to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to see it in action today, though they're a bit anachronistic.) But I did want to acknowledge the Orwellian irony of it while being circumspect about adding to the pile of Orwell references. It's a good, heavy word, also in wide use lately.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by: Jon | Friday February 24, 2017 at 7:20 PM

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