Non-Fiction Reviews

387 posts

American Sucker – by David Denby


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The emotional trauma exposed a vulnerability that lay beneath all outward signs of success: a career as film critic for New Yorker magazine, a resident of New York’s upper west side, and the father of two children.

The Story of AC/DC by Susan Masino


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Rock biographies, particularly of bands, are an odd subgenre. With an individual singer or instrumentalist, the narrative may take any of the traditional “hero” arcs (rags to riches, unappreciated innovator’s ultimate triumph, temptation/fall and — usually — redemption, etc.), but the story of a hydra-headed rock band must adopt a more amorphous approach.

A Chance Meeting: by Rachel Cohen


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In this, her debut book, Harvard graduate Rachel Cohen weaves a literary tapestry encompassing the lives of 30 of America’s great writers, photographers and artists, into 36 distinct chapters. Part biography, part flight-of-fancy speculation, Cohen’s final product, complete with references, source material, and footnotes was 10 years in the making.

Who Killed JFK? – An Interview With Lamar Waldron


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“…we discovered that JFK and his brother had a never-before-revealed plan to stage a coup against Castro on December 1, 1963…The Mafia dons used parts of the secret coup plan to try and assassinate JFK first in Chicago, then in Tampa, and finally in Dallas. By planting evidence implicating Castro, the mob bosses prevented Robert Kennedy and other key officials from conducting a thorough investigation…”

An Interview With Biographer Ann Seaman


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“The three were kidnapped at gunpoint at the American Atheist headquarters in Austin, Texas on a Sunday afternoon…They all thought they were going to live once the ransom money was delivered. It didn’t turn out that way.”

An Interview with Michael Ruse


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“I do not think it appropriate to teach non-science in a biology class – especially non-science that is really a form of literalist Christianity in disguise. Even if it were appropriate, I would not want the kind of conservative evangelical religion taught, that I think ID represents. But it is not appropriate and in the US is illegal.”

An Interview With Author Mary Roach


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“Helen Duncan is my favorite. Huge, chain-smoking woman who used to swoon and occasionally pee herself in the frenzy of spirit possession. Helen had the scientists stumped. She’d produce ectoplasm … even though the researchers had frisked her and done a cavity search prior to her entering the séance chamber. Turned out she was a talented regurgitator.”

An Interview With Richard Reeves


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“I found out, greatly to my surprise, that almost all of the conventional wisdom that I had read and heard about Ronald Reagan was not true at all. Beginning with the fact that he was always talked of as being passive. The man ran for president three times. Won on his third try. And in 1976 he committed the most aggressive act that an American politician can make, and that is that he ran against a sitting president of his own party. He ran against Gerald Ford and damn near beat him.”

An Interview With Fred Pearce


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“But water also defines quite well our problems in moving from a world of apparently plentiful resources – a world in which if we screw up we can move on – to a world of finite resources, where we have to manage carefully to get by. We still often see water as an essentially free and unlimited resource. But it isn’t. The public policy response to water shortages is still to build a new dam or sink a new well, with little regard for the thought that there may be no more water in the river to be captured, or underground to be pumped. Apart from the air we breathe, water is the most basic, most urgent, need that we all have. We can survive for a while without food, but not without water. We can survive forever without oil – but not without water. Water has no substitute.”

An Interview With Linguist Nicholas Ostler


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“…This is clearly boosting English learning at the moment, but there are already signs that something similar will soon begin to reinforce Chinese too…If English-speakers cease to lead technically and economically, they will soon be caught up with militarily, and indeed culturally and linguistically.”

Mullahs, Mini Skirts and Carson Daly


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“Part of the richness of the home culture I come from and what makes it fascinating to work in Iran as a journalist is that I wasn’t an observer. I am culturally of Iran. At the end of the day I’m not going back to a hotel room. I’m going to my aunt’s house or best friend’s house. I’m waking up in the morning to my aunt cooking pancakes.”

Richard Lanham Discusses the “Attention Economy”


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“All around us we see signs of this confusion. Americans are often called a “materialistic” people and we certainly are surrounded by material possessions and revel in them. But at the same time, the “real world” of physical location seems to be evaporating before our eyes.”

An Interview With Freud Biographer Peter D. Kramer


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“In a brief biography, a writer needs to set himself a limited question. I chose this one: given Freud’s shortcomings as a scientist, many of them evident in his day, how did he achieve his enormous cultural impact?”