Monthly Archives: October 2009

15 posts

Empire of Liberty A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood

The “Era of Good Feeling” that followed 1815, however, was of short duration. The issue of slavery could not be banished, as the crisis that erupted in 1819 over admitting Missouri as a slave state showed. Even Jefferson, the “Sage of Monticello,” began to have doubts about the future, fearing that the “Empire of Liberty” that he and the other “Founding Fathers” had created might not survive “the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons.”

The Child Thief by Brom

There are moments of genuine mystery and magic, scenes where we are bedazzled and terrified simultaneously. The walk through the mist, crunching on the bones of those who strayed from the path has a Tolkienian resonance. The bloody battles that Peter leads in the real world echo those in the enchanted world. And the myth of the Horned One, who is Peter’s father, overshadows everything. For Peter is an immortal wild child who may look mostly human but who is decidedly something … other.

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

The film falls short by arranging a regrettably thin layer of spooky occurrences beneath a thicker deposit of badly acted exposition and obnoxious characters. The couple and all secondary characters are total unknowns, which fits with the idea that audiences are privy to the lives of everyday citizens. The problem lies in the movie’s inability to create believable tension.

Movie Review: Amelia

Furthermore, Nair chooses to play it safe by directing an uninspiring paint-by-numbers biopic complete with voice-overs from the now dead Amelia (“We all have ocean’s to fly…”), montages to speed up time, black-white newsreel footage to add authenticity, and the flashing of newspaper headlines to show historical significance. One would think that Nair’s beautiful Bollywood films would have brought some magic touch to this very American story.

Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers

As a cultural, literary, and historical icon, Virginia Woolf was celebrated by contemporaries and has continued to fascinate audiences long after her death. And why not? Her strong individualistic streak, perhaps anachronistic during her lifetime, fits in well with our post-feminist culture, and her ability to render life in intimate, almost cinematic detail has inspired writers for ages.

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

The unit of measure is a “Darwin,” so named by famed geneticist J. B. S. Haldane. One of the architects of modern Darwinism, he served with great courage in the Scottish Blackwatch Regiment during World War I, then continued his research. At that time, there were some 350,000 known species of beetles. When Haldane was asked by a theologian what he learned of the nature of God from his study of science, he replied, “That He has an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Although studios balked at the film’s maturity, believing it might be too scary for children, it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Inside all of us there’s a child who yearns to break free, and the film’s beauty lies in its ability to portray unrefined human emotion and the vastness of the imagination. Expect Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are to ignite the minds of generations to come; spending 90 minutes inside a child’s mind has never felt so cathartic and enchanting.

Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Never perhaps has there been such a masterful account of the man’s failures—and successes—in this country’s most taxing job. Look what Burlingame says he did in just his first hundred days in office: “…he raised and supplied an army, sent it into battle, held the Border States in the Union, helped thwart Confederate attempts to win European diplomatic recognition, declared a blockade, asserted leadership over his cabinet, dealt effectively with Congress, averted a potential crisis with Great Britain, and eloquently articulated the nature and purpose of the war.”

The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund

The Bigness of the World, Ostlund’s first collection of short stories, was good enough for the judges of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She won the prize in 2008. Deservedly so, for Ostlund has an ear, an appendage often ignored by writers in favor of the flashier eye. Alive to the subtext of the everyday, she uses flat conversations as a front for complicated back-stories…

The Barnes Foundation: Beauty Surrounded by Controversy

And what a treasure trove! By the time of his death in 1951, Barnes had purchased 181 works by Renoir, 69 by Cezanne, 7 Van Gogh paintings, 59 works by Matisse, 11 by Degas, 16 by Modigliani, 46 Picasso’s, with 4 apiece by Manet and Monet. He also collected modern American works by William Glackens, Charles Demuth and Maurice and Charles Prendergast. His eclectic tastes extended to African sculptures, European decorative art, American folk art and quirky curiosities like an American Civil War surgeon’s saw.

Movie Review: Zombieland

Zombieland elicits comparison to both the Brit “romzomcom” (romantic zombie comedy) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). But though it’s alternately a comedy, a romance, a gorefest, and a buddy road-trip movie, Zombieland unravels many of the threads that make up the zombie genre. A good ensemble cast (three up-and-comers and the always-humorous Harrelson), great makeup effects, and fantastic writing create a lighthearted, fun homage to the classic undead movies of yore.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Mawer’s The Glass Room is a genuine intellectual achievement—a breath-taking story of love and its loss, of art and lost art, of wars lost and then won and lost again, of rich gentleman Jews and Jews lost to Nazi madness. His broad canvas covers the decades of Mittel-European horrors that began in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. The themes are familiar, but treated in a fresh and stimulating, not to say disturbing, way.