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Literary Kicks


Sympathizers and Innocents: New Novels by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Dana Spiotta

Sunday, July 17, 2016 07:52 pm

(image) I recently enjoyed two new novels, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta, that left me thinking about the shimmering surfaces of everyday life, and the interwoven meshes of secrecy and guilt that ripple beneath. One novel is about a clever and bookish Vietnamese refugee college student in California who is really a Communist spy. The other is about a lifelong friendship between two filmmakers, one of them more commercial than the other. I recommend both for anyone in search of existential summer...

Phases of Change

Monday, May 9, 2016 08:46 pm

(image) A few weeks ago I showed up for a cool poetry reading at a dive called Gunther's in Northport, Long Island, a bar famous for being Jack Kerouac's favorite drinking spot when he'd lived nearby. This reading was significant to me because something was happening for the first time. When I was called to the mic, I was introduced as Marc Eliot Stein. Marc Eliot Stein? Who the hell is that? It still jars me, three months after announcing my decision to dispose of the pseudonym I had used for over 20 years, to remember what name I'm going by...

Revolt on Mount Parnassus: An Allegory in Copy/Paste

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 08:31 am

(image) Introduction PARIS - AUGUST, 1870 - An incorrigible, horrible genius. A fifteen year-old! disembarks at Rue de Maubeuge. A concussion of uncombed hair infested with a plague of lice. Soiled clothing. A homicidal cupid with the enormous hands of a strangler. A smarmy smirk, perfect skin, a beautiful terror with cherub lips and a pernicious grin. Paris is about to fall and the air is crisp with revolt like the pit of the stomach before a first sexual encounter. Crackling on the skin is the charged abstraction of rebirth that floods the...

Beverly, Clearly

Monday, April 11, 2016 09:39 pm

(image) For a long time I thought her name was Beverly Clearly. That's because she wrote so clearly. For real: as a kid I would look at the covers of these wonderfully readable books, and "Beverly Clearly" was the author name I saw. It's rare that I have a chance to celebrate a favorite author who is turning 100 years old. A couple of months ago I wrote an R.I.P. for David Bowie, who died way too young, in which I named his five most genius songs. Today, I'm going to going to list seven Beverly Cleary genius moments to celebrate her 100th...

Phife Dawg, Represent ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 08:01 am

(image) Phife Dawg aka Malik Taylor, the raspy half of the seminal hiphop band A Tribe Called Quest, has died at the age of 45. The brilliant, funny, wise, immensely talented and lovable rapper from Queens had suffered from diabetes and other ailments for years. Despite his renown as one of the best and most beloved hiphop artists of all time, Phife (like his equally admirable Quest-mate Q-Tip) always respected the music by keeping a low profile, his ego (mostly) in check and his dignity intact. Linden Boulevard represent represent Tribe Called...