Want to read a winner? Try one of the newly announced 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award recipients. Taking top prize for fiction is Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, a bold novel with overlapping stories about youth and life and what might be lost along the way. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson won Best Nonfiction for chronicling one of the great untold stories of American history. Best Biography honors were bestowed on the intriguingly titled How to Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. Last, but by no means least, is Darin Strauss’s heartbreaking autobiography Half a Life about coming to terms with an long-ago accident that cost a girl’s life.
Archive for March, 2011
Intoxicating voice, inescapable gaze. Whether Alan Rickman is directing his own screenplay, menacing a skyscraper, narrating Thomas Hardy, or singing with Johnny Depp, we can’t imagine anyone else owning the role the way he does.
To sample the talent of Alan Rickman in its thrilling and versatile forms, click here.
James Stark just got back from Hell. No, seriously. Stark spent eleven years as Lucifer’s pet human, cage-fighting hellions Downtown…and didn’t die. In fact, he’s a bit indestructible. Oh, he bleeds and scars, but after soaking in and suffering through the damage, Stark keeps on ticking. This is a bonus, being that Stark’s back in L.A. and ready to kill the two-faced, backstabbing friends that sent him to the underworld and killed his girlfriend. If you can’t decide if you’re more in the mood for The Crow or The Maltese Falcon, try the paranormal noir of Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey.
Take the energy of a ’60s girl group and mix it with a little modern funk, and you may well find yourself with Wild Young Hearts. The London trio known as the Noisettes plays with tone and style in an unpredictable set of exuberant vocals and dynamic rhythms.
Journalist Sebastian Junger describes the experiences of a platoon of American troops with whom he was imbedded in the remote Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. Junger describes the constant danger and discusses how soldiers cope with nonstop fear and being alert to respond at any time. Soldiers encounter an inhospitable environment, no privacy and the inability to maintain personal hygiene. Junger describes the bonds that form among the troops under these adverse conditions. Then there is how the physical and mental stress affects soldiers when they attempt to return to civilian life.
This is a story of survival, fortitude and maintaining a sense of purpose. War is a testament to personal strength and dedication, written in a fast-paced prose with all the emotion and imagery of the experience. As with his previous books, Junger has written an excellent work of nonfiction.
Will Eisner proved that comics are not just for kids or the Sunday funnies – they can be a striking, literary art form. Eisner so elevated the graphic novel field, with work such as A Contract with God and The Spirit, that his colleagues named an award after him, the Eisner Award.
To sample some of the best of the best in American comic books, click here.
Dr. Lily Penleric knows firsthand that it’s hard to be a woman in 1907. After she has, yet again, been passed up for a musicologist professorship, Lily quits the big city to visit her sister, who runs an Appalachian school. While there, Lily finds that early Scot and English ballads have survived in their truest forms in the isolated Appalachian Mountains. In Songcatcher, Lily Penleric tries to win over the local folk to record their musical legacy. While doing so she falls in love not only with the music and the Mountain, but also Tom Bledsoe, a wary man with a dark past, who’s both the most argumentative man she’s ever met and the most interesting.
In Breaking Bad, a high school teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer partners with a former student and turns his chemistry skills into a money-making meth enterprise to support his family. This intense series is surprisingly touching, brutal and revealing as he tries to keep his family afloat and navigate the unpredictable underworld of drugs.