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Staff Picks: From Calcutta to Cairo

February 4, 2011 | by

Teddy Weatherford, right. Photograph courtesy of The Atavist.

Read this fascinating story on The Atavist about Teddy Weatherford—the Count Basie of the East—who would perform on both sides of the Pacific in a white sharkskin suit. He died not long before the end of World War II, and at his funeral, forty thousand Calcuttans mourned his death. These days, he’s often not much more than a footnote in most jazz histories. —Thessaly La Force

Jason Epstein has always been the most forward-looking of publishers. He invented the trade paperback, cofounded The New York Review of Books and the Library of America, and hit on the Amazon model—alas, before there was a Web. At eighty-three, he still explains the business better than anyone. If you want to know how publishing works—and why, increasingly, it doesn’t—read his latest in the Review. —Lorin Stein

Straining to inject some topicality into my reading, I ferreted out a copy of Amitav Ghosh’s beguiling blend of travelogue, memoir, and anthropological study, In an Antique Land. Calcutta-born Ghosh moves to the Egyptian village of Lataifa where he researches the correspondence of a twelfth-century Jewish Tunisian merchant, while observing the daily lives of his contemporary Muslim neighbors. Although he recognizes the incongruity of his own presence, Ghosh crafts an elegant meditation on the wayward tracks left by history that emphasizes the long, whispered conversation between cultures over those noisier moments of confrontation. Next on the list: Border Passage by Leila Ahmed. —Jonathan Gharraie

In general, I don’t particularly like short stories told from the point of view of inanimate objects; I find tales with overt manipulations and twists to be patronizing, and I think there are way, way too many stories about writers. But clearly, it’s the exceptions that prove the rule: John Cheever’s excellent collection The World of Apples includes one story told from the perspective of stomach flab; another where two supposed strangers turn out to be married; and the best, and title story, about a poet protagonist. —Janet Thielke

“To see the love between Law and me / turn into two animals gnawing and craving through one another / towards some other hunger was terrible.” This crushing morsel from Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay,” a thirty-eight-page poetic montage and mediation on the loss of love, reminded me of a music video I had once seen: Atlas Sound’s “Wild Love” set to scenes from “Dimensions Of Dialogue” by Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer. —Angela Melamud

I (almost) haven't stopped watching Al-Jazeera’s incredible live-video stream of the protests in Cairo. —Natalie Jacoby

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