January 11, 2012 |
Hope is easier to embrace than reality. That is one of the themes of Jodi Kantor's new book, "The Obamas," which tells the story of the first couple's arrival in the White House and their subsequent struggles to adapt to Washington and its ways while facing expectations that may have been equaled only in the early days of John F. Kennedy's Camelot. Kantor's account of the Obamas' first weeks in the capital is a reminder of a euphoria that seems very far away today, as the president continues to grapple with a tepid economy and the lock step Republican opposition to almost every facet of his agenda.
September 16, 2010 |
During the all-too-brief life of their physically disabled son, Jesse, who died in his sleep five years ago at the age of 17, the actors Marianne Leone (who played the mother of actor Michael Imperioli on HBO's "The Sopranos") and Chris Cooper (an Academy Award winner for his work in "Adaptation"), often sought relief in black humor. They would joke that if they were booked onto an afternoon talk show, their screen ID would read: "Tragic parents of severely handicapped child. " What made the line funny was not just that it was politically incorrect but that it captured their dilemma.
October 31, 2010 |
Storyteller The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl Donald Sturrock Simon & Schuster: 658 pp., $30 I was sitting on an airplane with a copy of "Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl" when an elegant woman in the seat next to me murmured, almost to herself, "I live just down the lane from his old cottage in Oxfordshire. " Turning to her with excitement I asked if she'd ever run into him. "Oh, no, no," she said with obvious amusement, as if the very suggestion was completely absurd.
January 27, 2011 |
It's the way that we talk that fascinates Ralph Keyes. The words we choose to express the hurtful, the bawdy and what we perceive as shameful are of particular interest ? because those are the subjects society feels the need to cover up. We switch from "sex" to "sleeping together;" from "dead" to "pushing up daisies;" even "chicken breast" became "white meat" after Winston Churchill was once scolded for using it at a dinner party. The follow-up to Keyes' first effort on linguistics ?
June 26, 2011 |
Good Neighbors A Novel Ryan David Jahn Penguin: 280 pp., $15 paper How fair is it to hold a novel to actual events? It's a question I kept asking as I read Ryan David Jahn's first book, "Good Neighbors" (published in England as "Acts of Violence" in 2009), based on the notorious murder of Kitty Genovese, the Queens, N.Y., bar manager stabbed to death early on the morning of March 13, 1964, outside her Kew Gardens building. Although the attack continued, with a break, for 30 minutes, only one of the people who witnessed it from their apartments — 38 of them, according to an iconic New York Times story that ran two weeks after the killing — did anything to help.
June 29, 2011 |
Henry Bright endures. His mother raised him in a tiny cabin in West Virginia, eking out a marginal survival; when she died, he was left to bury her. He must do the same for his wife, who dies in childbirth, even as he's mourning her and trying to care for their newborn son. These are just a few of the hardships the 20-year-old Bright has faced: He's not long back from the Great War, as he would call World War I, where he was a foot soldier engaged in...