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20 january 2017

Dan Ackerman's Tetris Effect has an intriguing premise, but ultimately reads like an interesting magazine article padded out to book length.     read more

18 january 2017

I did one of my periodic life-list inventories recently and discovered that the most famous 19th-century novel I'd never read was I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Nowadays we have iBooks to bring any public-domain text before our eyes in the time it takes the %&^#ing WiFi to connect, so I started reading it right away.     read more

17 january 2017

The Persian invasion of Greece in the early 5th century BCE is very much a part of popular culture today, thanks to comics and film. It's a powerfully persistent event that continues to resonate in the ways people think about East/West conflict, Euro-America vs. the Middle East, civilization vs. barbarity. Of course, as Robert Garland makes clear in an excellent new book about Greece vs. Persia, the realities of that long-ago war are anything but neatly dichotomous.     read more

15 january 2017

The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea is an immediate sequel to Amara Lakhous' Dispute over a Very Italian Piglet. Where Piglet was told by essentially just one narrator, imaginative journalist Enzo Laganà, Prank has two: Enzo and an Italian woman, Patrizia, who has dropped out of the corporate world to live as a Roma under the name Drabarimos. (Enzo is one of the few characters in all of Lakhous' fiction who has just one name.)     read more