Friday, August 22, 2008

More Lit Spam

More reviews and essays from the NYT:

Rachel Donadio explains how those blurbs at the back of books come to be.
Mary Roach reviews a book called Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt, who explains why we drive the way we do.
Another review on a book by journalist Jane Mayer detailing the Bush administration's information retracting methods.

And to prove I do read things other than the NYT:
Here's TWoP's Fall movie review. It's not got a lot of the movies I'm excited about, like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button but my guess is that's because they're leaving out Oscar stuff.
ETA: It says Fall movie BLOCKBUSTERS. Stupid.
TWoP also look at some new fall pilots and find most... lacking, shall we say. I'm still wondering about Fringe and whether it's going to be worth it. But really, Nothing on that list sounds particularly exciting, except True Blood and that Sean Bean show, whatever it is.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Day of the NYT

One of the only e-mail newsletters that I subscribe to (such as it is) and actually read is the NYT book review. It's full of such interesting essays on such a wide variety of subjects (see, for example: R U really reading? and Designing Dictators) , it makes me sad that there is no equivalent in the Indian English language press. I suppose the Hindu's monthly literary supplement comes close, but it's monthly and not very exhaustive. It also suffers from the same problem that the rest of that newspaper does: it looks boring. Deathly dull in fact. Plus, you find the same old people regurgitating the same old things. (The one exception is Pradeep Sebastian's column, which is a delight). What I love about reviews, and NYT in particular (it's my favourite, I don't really have a better reason than that) is how they can add a whole new dimension to a subject or text without one even having read/watched that particular work. It enhances my understanding in very particular, and invaluable ways and goes far beyond the it's-good-read-it type of review.

Here's a very interesting article in Slate by Ron Rosenbaum, author of The Shakespeare Wars. He takes off on an editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review, cautioning journalists against the suppression of dissent in the mass media. He commends the Review for the editorial, but then goes on to pick apart an article on climate change in the same issue, which appears to suppress the dissenting view that global warming is a consequence of natural factors, and has nothing to do with human activity. The centre is of course the nature of dissent, and the nature of truth. In the debate over climate change, and indeed over contradictory science, it becomes very difficult to tell what the Truth is, and if there even is a Truth. In the absence of an established, verifiable fact (which the science of climate change - as far as I can understand it - is not, at least not yet) one is left with no other option but to believe the scientific consensus. Rosenbaum does make an important point on the distinction between the scientific truth and scientific consensus, but surely he can forgive bypassing this distinction sometimes. Particularly if that is not the focus of the article, anyway. CJR has responded to his criticism here. There's a lot more I want to say about this, but I need to gather my thoughts.

NYT also asks, Is Jon Stewart the most trusted man in America?I don't know about that, but I sure as hell trust him over Anderson Cooper. Long live The Daily Show.

And now for a bit of tab clearing:

Nicholas Baker (he of the Human Smoke) reviews Ammon Shea's experience reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary.
Yet another article from the NYT, this time asking Why We Read.
Vulture has a couple of great articles on the August movie: why they suck and a historical analysis. They also look at upcoming fall movies -- some great stuff in there, but I don't think it's going to be more depressing than last year. I mean, how could it?