September 3, 2010 |
Meg, the fortyish British writer worrying her life away in Scarlett Thomas' eighth novel, "Our Tragic Universe," has life crises to burn. Her shiftless whiner of a boyfriend, Christopher, hasn't earned a crust in the seven years since she ditched a more dependable lover to live with him in Devon. Her best friend, Libby, suffers loudly through a love life as eventful as Meg's is dull, while Meg weighs whether to pursue a simmering crush on Rowan, a much older, retired college professor who dithers between Meg and his live-in partner.
May 10, 2010 |
Anna Quindlen is a good caretaker. In her new novel, "Every Last One," she welcomes us into her fictional world with open arms. She is accomplished, sure-handed and sensitive to her reader's needs — even a bit compulsive in her urge to make sure no nuance gets overlooked. Quindlen conjures family life from a palette of finely observed details: the sound of the scraping of forks on Melmac plates, an angry teenager's footfalls. "The sound Ruby's feet make on the stairs is the window of her soul," she writes.
April 10, 2010 |
Peter Straub's "A Dark Matter" is constructed like a set of nesting dolls. Yet, each layer opens to reveal a doll in fact larger than the one that contained it, unfolding new details about an occult ritual that distorts the lives of the four high school students who participated in it -- and the one who did not, the story's narrator Lee Harwell. Built around Lee's midlife quest for the truth, the story describes his interviews with the ceremony's survivors, circling back to its consequences for his wife, Lee Truax, his high-school sweetheart.
March 9, 2010 |
Women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol don't gain as much weight in midlife as those who abstain, a study has found. However, drinking should not be heralded as a new diet, said the authors and alcohol abuse experts. The study, published Tuesday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to find that alcohol may curb weight gain in women. Typically, alcohol consumption is not advised for people trying to lose or avoid gaining weight. A 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 125 calories, and a regular 12-ounce beer has about 150. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston examined data from 19,220 women enrolled in the long-running Women's Health Study.
February 24, 2010 |
Oceans of ink, terabytes of blog space and an eternity of television time have been devoted to the latest object of media fascination, the "tea party" movement. Now (finally!), a poll conducted by CNN gives us some hard data on the Tea Party Nation. Neither "average Americans," as they like to portray themselves, nor trailer-park "Deliverance" throwbacks, as their lefty detractors would have us believe, tea partyers are more highly educated and wealthier than the rest of America.
January 8, 2010 |
Mavis Gallant is all about the back story. Look for the source of light in her work as you would in a painting. Gallant is now 88, and in the stories that make up "The Cost of Living," the light, the heat, come mainly from two sources: the sooty shadows of World War II and lost childhoods that fade, center stage, into bitter teenage years and slipshod midlife marriages. That's not a good start for a generation misplaced and affecting insouciance, la belle indifference . All the cafes, the cruises to Africa, the picnics in France cannot hide the desperate, querulous, lost identities.
October 27, 2009 |
Middle-aged men still have higher rates of heart attacks and heart disease than middle-aged women, but those gender differences appear to be narrowing, according to a study published Monday. The findings follow earlier research, published in a 2007 issue of the journal Neurology, establishing that stroke prevalence among women ages 45 to 54 was double that of men of the same age. Together, the findings suggest "an ominous trend in cardiovascular health among midlife women," said the lead author of both studies, Dr. Amytis Towfighi, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Southern California.
September 19, 2009 |
Pearl Jam "Backspacer" Monkeywrench Records A thousand rock 'n' roll clichÃ©s have been built around the idea that guts and glory belong to the young. Pearl Jam's ninth studio album, "Backspacer," due out Tuesday, makes the opposite argument. Its 11 breakneck rockers and candidly emotional ballads, adding up to barely more than a half hour of optimally toned catharsis, gain power from the band's calm but constant awareness of life's ticking clock. "I gotta say it now, better loud than too late," Eddie Vedder wails in "Amongst the Waves" -- the closest thing to an oceanic jam on "Backspacer," and at 3 1/2 minutes it's pretty much a shore dump.
August 4, 2009 |
The Cape Cod Canal, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1914, cut through the base of what had been a peninsula, effectively turning the Cape into an island -- a world apart -- accessible by car via two parallel bridges. In Richard Russo's seventh novel, the eastbound lanes of the Sagamore Bridge, built in 1933-35 by the Public Works Administration, lead to a finer, promised land. Heading west, however, his characters see the Sagamore as a bridge to nowhere.
March 8, 2009 |
My father had a good heart, but he had a bad heart, if you know what I mean. Musical and charming, he was something of a voluptuary. On sunny weekends he preferred to sit in our living room, listening to Chopin or Sarah Vaughan LPs instead of playing tennis or jogging. At 52, Dad began showing signs of heart disease. His doctor enrolled him in a modest exercise program and told him that, if he could manage it, he should try to walk around the block once a day. That was in 1983.