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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Miller’

What We’re Loving: Pop Stars, Rock Stars, The Fault in Our Stars

June 13, 2014 | by

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The Fault in Our Stars—now a major motion picture.

Last week I read a dazzling novel about a starcrossed young couple and a reclusive, grouchy, alcoholic novelist who changes their lives. That was Mao II, by Don DeLillo. But in the middle of reading Mao II—on the very same plane ride—I dipped into a friend’s copy of The Fault in Our Stars. Somehow I had missed all the hype, and didn’t know what to expect. (Said my traveling companion: “You’re already crying? You’re what, two pages in?") I finished the book one sitting later. More accurately, I was lying down, in a hammock, to obviate the need for a hanky. Among its many tear-jerking qualities, the book powerfully evokes the work of David Foster Wallace, the only real-life novelist who could fill the shoes of the fictional Van Houten. As Laura Miller writes in Salon, The Fault in Our Stars is full of Wallace allusions; scenes like the one where a teenager sobs over his girlfriend, while playing a first-person shooter game, read like Wallace come back to life—if he came back and wrote for kids. In a week that saw the passing of the great children’s-book publisher Frances Foster, The Fault in Our Stars filled me with hope for young readers, even as it made me mourn, all over again, for friends we’ve lost. —Lorin Stein

Britney Spears must be some kind of a journalistic muse. In 2008, David Samuels wrote about her in “Shooting Britney,” a perceptive look at the paparazzi and the surrogate intimacy of celebrity culture. Now, in “Miss American Dream,” Taffy Brodesser-Akner—what a name!—pulls back the curtain on Britney’s new residency in Las Vegas. The piece gets inside the lurid pageantry that’s become a prerequisite of “Britneyplex, which is the enormous machine built around Britney Spears.” It’s also an acutely observed study of the longueurs of fame; moments of synapse-frying overstimulation are followed by episodes of surreal blandness. E.g.:She was sitting in a room in the semi-dark, slightly hunched over, a little bored, at the tail end of a daylong junket in which TV journalists asked her questions like ‘What do people not know about you?’ (‘Really that I’m pretty boring.’) and ‘What was the craziest rumor you ever heard about yourself?’ (‘That I died.’)” —Dan Piepenbring

One of these days, U2 is going to release a new album—in the meantime, there’s U Talkin’ U2 to Me?, a bizarrely wonderful podcast I’ve laughed out loud to on the subway. Described by its hosts (Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang! Bang! and Between Two Ferns, and Adam Scott from Parks & Recreation) as “the comprehensive and encyclopedic compendium of all things U2,” the show talks about U2 pretty sporadically, but it’s worth checking out for the improvisations from the two Scotts, including a hysterical Harold-like game in which they make up fake podcasts within the world of the show, each with its own fictional history and quirks. This week’s episode takes the form of an audio commentary on the podcast itself. It’s even weirder than that sounds. —Chantal McStay

A recent article in the Huffington Post suggests reading Rumi for a more meaningful life—advice I found both unsurprising and unnerving. I come from a Persian household where Rumi’s poetry was always at the literary forefront, but in more recent years, the poet’s words have been reduced to captioning photos of perfectly timed sunsets and vast ocean views. I prefer the darker Rumi, even if a line like “Either give me more wine or leave me alone” isn’t likely to inspire enthusiasm. Rumi’s work is much too varied to be reduced. “Two there are who are never satisfied—the lover of the world and the lover of knowledge,” he wrote. That a poet from the thirteenth century is still so widely read testifies to his intuition and candor. —Yasmin Roshanian

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Happy Birthday, Isaac Asimov (Maybe), and Other News

January 2, 2014 | by

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  • Happy birthday, Isaac Asimov! Maybe. Probably.
  • Newbery winner Kate DiCamillo has been named Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, a position which has been around since 2008.
  • Sure you can find plenty of lists of best of 2013, but what books were unfinishable? (Well, for Laura Miller?)
  • Ruth Rendell: “Reading is becoming a kind of specialist activity and that strikes terror into the heart of people who love reading.”
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    Halloween Reads; Seducing a Writer

    October 22, 2010 | by

    I recently found myself craving some terrifying literature—the idea of reading something frightening feels so seasonally appropriate. That said, I’d like to avoid fiction that panders to generic tropes and also isn’t by Irving or Poe. Could you recommend a work of genuine literary merit that’s also disturbing and Halloween-ish? —Ryan Sheldon

    Two spooky writers spring immediately to mind: Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. Jackson is the more Hallowe’eny of the two. You might begin with her last novel, first published in 1962 (and reissued last year), We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’m not sure what you mean about generic tropes: This is absolutely pure New England Gothic, but there is no pandering in it. I think the literature of the uncanny depends on genre conventions—and, at its most uncanny, plays with them, so the spooky and the banal get mixed up together.

    Readers of The Daily have seen me recommend Angela Carter’s stories, collected in Burning Your Boats. They are favorites of mine. (Burning Your Boats came to me, originally, as a present from kid-lit expert Laura Miller. It is one of those favorite books that I lent out years ago and never got back.) When Carter rewrites a fairytale, she doesn’t make light of it, she finds what is really and truly disturbing in the original and burnishes that until it shines. If you like Bruno Bettelheim, you’ll love Angela Carter.

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