I read The End of Absence with interest, because I am a member of what author Michael Harris calls the “Straddle Generation,” the generation born before 1985, the last one to remember adult life before the Internet. Harris compares this moment in history to the advent of the Gutenberg press in the 15th century, when the written word became universally available. “Young and old,” he writes, “we’re all straddling two realities to a certain degree. In our rush toward the promise of Google and Facebook—toward the promise of reduced ignorance and reduced loneliness—we feel certain we are rushing toward a better life.
Listen up! With finance, mystery and historical fiction titles, this month's audio column has something for everyone.
In his heyday, E. Forbes Smiley III was larger than life, a man who excelled at virtually everything he set his hand to. Although his name smacked of sitcom pretentiousness, he was never the rich buffoon. Raised in a middle-class, well-educated family in New Hampshire, Smiley became a superb college student, an engaging conversationalist, a gifted woodworker and a generous and loyal friend.
From the Duke boys’ car named the General Lee on the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show to his appearance on a U.S. postage stamp, Robert E. Lee has come to “embody and glorify a defeated cause,” Michael Korda asserts in a monumental new biography, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee.
This month's best cookbooks explore the incredible egg, the flavors of the grill and innovative bistro cooking.
Lantern Sam is a rare male calico cat who lives aboard a train called the Lake Erie Shoreliner (New York to Chicago in under 20 hours!) in the 1940s. Ostensibly in the care of conductor Clarence Nockwood, Sam is an intelligent and independent cat who has the ability to share his thoughts with some humans. Clarence is one of them, but when 10-year-old Henry Shipley comes aboard, Sam finds he can “talk” to him, too.
The automobile is one of the inanimate objects most subject to the practice of personification. How many besotted car owners have referred to their shiny vehicle as “she” and stroked the hood as one would perhaps stroke a woman? In All I Have in This World, novelist Michael Parker’s eighth novel, a sky blue Buick Electra is as much a character as any other. Readers follow the car, in nonlinear fashion, from its birth to death; what comes in between is compelling, although the story takes a bit of time to rev up.
Finally, a book on New Orleans restaurants that feels like summer in the city: gusty, alluring, oppressive, extravagant and intentionally over the top. Eat Dat New Orleans is a love letter from ex-pat and food junkie Michael Murphy to one of the most complex and addictive cities in the world.
For mythological heroes “the call” comes as they are just entering manhood. I was rushing toward my 60s and trying to re-direct my life after 30 years in book publishing had hit a dry patch, a dry patch the size of the Sahara Desert . . . “The call” usually comes in the form of a burning bush, or at least in the middle of the night. Mine was an email. On a Tuesday.
Wild, irregular and free, Henry Thoreau cut a distinctive figure in 19th-century Concord, Massachusetts, whether carving “dithyrambic dances” on ice skates with Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne or impressing Ralph Waldo Emerson with his “comic simplicity.” More at home in the woods than in society, Thoreau began the first volume of his celebrated journals with a simple word that also functioned as his motto: solitude.