Julie Hale

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Provence, 1970, Luke Barr’s irresistible new slice of food-culture history, couldn’t have appeared at a more promising moment. Cooking is something of a craze these days, and food is very much in fashion. Perfectly aligned with the times, Provence, 1970 features a cast of cooks, writers and critics with personalities as volatile and opinions as ironclad as those of the slightly unhinged chefs we see on TV today.

The book’s central character is acclaimed food writer M.F.K. Fisher, Barr’s great-aunt. Drawing on Fisher’s journals and letters, Barr has written a skillfully crafted narrative about the remarkable trip Fisher made to southern France at the age of 62 and the great convergence of culinary minds that occurred there.

In December of 1970, Fisher embarked on a holiday tour of Provence and its environs, where she had long before experienced the “first epiphany of taste” that inspired her writing career. As it happened, a few of her fellow foodies were passing the holiday there, too—a group that included the always-genial Julia Child; Simone Beck, Child’s demanding, French-to-the-max cookbook co-author; and beloved chef James Beard. Also on the scene: Richard Olney, a French-cuisine genius and relative newcomer to the food world, who was contemptuous of his colleagues—Child especially—and whose snarky, behind-the-back remarks show just how combative the culinary world, at its upper echelons, could be.

La Pitchoune, Child’s majestic vacation house, served as HQ for the gourmands. There, they cooked, dined, shared gossip and debated America’s evolving culinary culture. Barr’s fluid, elegant recreations of the intimate meals and earnest discussions deliver a sense of each character’s temperament. (Over dinner one night, Fisher, tired of high-toned food talk, raised the topic of American politics. Olney’s response was a yawn.) Barr seamlessly shifts points of view, and the result is a marvelously detailed mosaic of clashing ideas, personalities and attitudes regarding food. He finds a point of focus for the story in Fisher. An eminently likable character whose modesty and introspective nature set her apart from her colleagues, she is the calm, still center of the book.

Provence, 1970 is a narrative that bons vivants will tuck into with relish, but it wasn’t written for epicures alone. You needn’t be a foodie to enjoy Barr’s beautifully written book.

Provence, 1970, Luke Barr’s irresistible new slice of food-culture history, couldn’t have appeared at a more promising moment. Cooking is something of a craze these days, and food is very much in fashion. Perfectly aligned with the times, Provence, 1970 features a cast of cooks, writers and critics with personalities as volatile and opinions as […]
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In 1974, at the age of 10, Anya von Bremzen immigrated to Philadelphia with her mother, leaving behind a nation forever underfed: the USSR. Her first trip to an American supermarket should’ve been like stepping into heaven. Young Anya, however, hates the place. Back home in Moscow, obtaining food meant standing in a queue for hours, but it was often an adventure. In contrast, the supermarket—devoid of drama—offers a homogeneity and mindless ease that Anya finds unsettling. She’s further disturbed by the merchandise: “charcoal-black cookies filled with something white and synthetic” shock the future foodie. “Would anyone eat such a thing?” Anya wonders.

It’s a deliciously ironic anecdote—one of many in von Bremzen’s splendid new memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. In this multifaceted narrative, von Bremzen—the award-winning author of five cookbooks—presents an overview of Soviet cuisine and the ways in which it was shaped by history and politics. She writes with warmth, humor and expertise about the culinary traditions of her native country, shrewdly demonstrating that the tastes of the nation often reflected the agenda of the Communist Party, and that—for better and all too often for worse—cuisine equals culture.

On this cook’s tour of Communism, von Bremzen traces the Party’s arc, revisits the deprivations of World War Two, and offers a behind-the-Iron-Curtain look at the Cold War and gradual crackup of the Soviet federation. She moves fluidly from era to era, seasoning the narrative with food-related tidbits (no joke: Stalin-era kids ate a candy called Happy Childhood). Mixed into this intriguing culinary account is the author’s own history—the dramatic story of her family’s survival under an oppressive regime. Parts of the narrative are presented through the eyes of her headstrong mother, Larisa. A child during WWII, Larisa matures into a ferociously anti-Soviet adult with the courage required to singlehandedly raise her daughter in the West.

It’s Larisa who suggests to her daughter, now an adult, that they honor their past by preparing old Soviet recipes, one for each decade of the Party’s rule. In the kitchen of her small Queens apartment, they cook up kotleti, Russia’s answer to the hamburger, and chanakhi, a spicy lamb stew, and the process proves powerfully cathartic, eliciting bittersweet memories—“fragments of horror and happiness.” The recipes comprise the final chapter of this fascinating memoir.

Von Bremzen is a gifted storyteller who writes with an easy elegance. In Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, she achieves a perfect balance between her narrative’s varied ingredients. The result: a feast for readers.

In 1974, at the age of 10, Anya von Bremzen immigrated to Philadelphia with her mother, leaving behind a nation forever underfed: the USSR. Her first trip to an American supermarket should’ve been like stepping into heaven. Young Anya, however, hates the place. Back home in Moscow, obtaining food meant standing in a queue for […]
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A word of warning to parents: Before you and your young one peruse the pages of My Blue Is Happy, equip yourself with crayons and paper. You’ll be besieged by requests for both well before the story’s end. In this delightfully original picture book, author Jessica Young takes a fresh look at familiar colors, using them as the foundation for a story that celebrates individuality and the pleasures of living in a world informed by multiple perspectives.

Beginning with blue, the astute little brown-haired girl who serves as the story’s narrator reflects on a rainbow’s worth of hues, only to find that her impressions of them differ sharply from those of her pals, parents and siblings. Her mom’s orthodox interpretation of the color yellow, for instance—“cheery . . . like the summer sun”—just doesn’t ring true. “My yellow is worried like a wilting flower and a butterfly caught in a net,” the girl says.

Although her ideas go against the grain, she has grit enough to stick by them. Pink, according to her best friend, is pretty, like the tutus they wear in ballet class. But the hue has unhappy connotations for our heroine, bringing to mind bug bites and stepped-on gum. Black, for her brother, takes the form of fanged shadows on a wall. Yet the girl doesn’t find the color scary—on the contrary! “My black,” she insists, “is peaceful like the still surface of a lake and the spaces between the stars.”

One by one, the spunky narrator upends the conventional views of colors (this is a girl who knows her own mind!), overturning tired clichés and offering untraditional takes on each shade. The upshot of this smart little story: We all have singular perspectives. It’s okay to be unique—to have ideas and opinions that deviate from the norm.

Young brings a poetic sensibility to this imaginative tale. She has a knack for coming up with inventive metaphors. Her brief, verse-like sentences are enlivened by Catia Chien’s expressive acrylic illustrations. Together, they’ve created a book that encourages kids to think independently and creatively. Remember: Keep those crayons handy!

A word of warning to parents: Before you and your young one peruse the pages of My Blue Is Happy, equip yourself with crayons and paper. You’ll be besieged by requests for both well before the story’s end. In this delightfully original picture book, author Jessica Young takes a fresh look at familiar colors, using […]
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Observant child versus oblivious adult: It’s a classic contrast. In Kathy Stinson’s delightful new picture book, The Man with the Violin, the opposition serves as the basis for the story of a mom-in-a-hurry who hears but doesn’t listen and her curious, receptive son—a little boy named Dylan, who’s wise beyond his years and in tune with the world, as sensitive to his surroundings as, well, a violin.

On a winter day, as mother and son make their way through a crowded metro station, Dylan’s attention is arrested by the sound of music. Its source: a nondescript man with a violin who plays with his eyes closed, clearly transported by the tune that issues from his instrument. The sound “makes Dylan’s skin hu-u-mmm,” and he, too, is transported. In one picture, he floats in mid-air, lifted by the song’s power—and surrounded by puzzled onlookers. Dylan wants to linger and listen. He begs his mother to stop, but she refuses. She sweeps Dylan onto an escalator and away.

Later, at home, the unimaginable occurs: Dylan hears the same tune on the radio. When he learns the truth about the man responsible for it, he’s ecstatic. His mother soon realizes that she should’ve taken Dylan’s advice and opened her ears. Together, they share a musical moment in the kitchen—a sweet note for the story’s end.

Stinson’s lovely book was inspired by an anonymous performance given by renowned violinist Joshua Bell in a Washington, D.C., subway station in 2007. Almost all of the busy rush-hour passengers ignored the violinist’s beautiful music—except for the children. As the Washington Post reported, “Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

Bell himself contributes a postscript to The Man with the Violin, bringing the story full circle.

Dušan Petri?i?’s fanciful illustrations play up the contrast between kid and adult. He portrays the metro as a gray point of transit teeming with intent, focused grown-ups and filled with white noise—a symphony of meaningless sound that takes the shape of jagged, zig-zag lines and spiky lightning bolts. This cacophony literally hangs in the air and competes with the violinist, whose music Petri?i? depicts as a cascading ribbon of color. 

There’s plenty to ponder in this melodious tale. It’s a story that’s bound to get kids thinking—about the importance of listening. And, of course, the power of music.

Observant child versus oblivious adult: It’s a classic contrast. In Kathy Stinson’s delightful new picture book, The Man with the Violin, the opposition serves as the basis for the story of a mom-in-a-hurry who hears but doesn’t listen and her curious, receptive son—a little boy named Dylan, who’s wise beyond his years and in tune […]
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It’s positively postmodern: Jeff Mack’s inventive new offering, The Things I Can Do, is a book about a book that takes a close look at the nature of creation, kid-style. Jeff, the story’s narrator, is a spunky little boy who’s taking giant steps, and who’s pleased as punch at his own progress. So pleased, in fact, that he fashions a wrinkled, crinkled, taped-together book to catalogue his accomplishments.

Using crafty odds and ends like stickers, crayons, duct tape and construction paper, Jeff assembles a series of a delightfully rag-tag pages that depict his points of pride—the milestones of little-boy life: He makes his own lunch (almost certainly without parental consent, since the meal consists, suspiciously, of pizza, fries and ice cream)—a colorful jumble of junk food rendered in collage atop a soiled napkin. He takes a bath, the bubbles of which appear to be paper circles salvaged from a hole-punch, and ties his shoe—a construction-paper sneaker, with a chaos of real laces, that’s stuck in a blue wad of gum.

Mack does a brilliant job of channeling a child’s imaginative mentality. Instead of a formal font, he uses clumsy kid handwriting to tell Jeff’s story, and practically all of the drawings are done stick-figure style. The book brims with ingenious details—visual minutiae that bring the story to life. There’s a set of improvised shelves constructed from Popsicle sticks (yes, Jeff puts away his books!), and a toothpaste mustache fashioned from cotton (and he brushes his teeth!). Scraps of newspaper, cardboard and cut-out shapes result in pages that call attention to the creative genius that all children possess.

Through this delightful mash-up of materials, Mack, who wrote and illustrated Hush Little Polar Bear and Clueless McGee, tells the story of an independent and resourceful little boy who savors his newfound responsibilities. As an inspiration for little ones who are learning to set and achieve small goals, Jeff cuts an exemplary figure (lunch selections excepted, of course). Readers of all ages will admire his oomph.

It’s positively postmodern: Jeff Mack’s inventive new offering, The Things I Can Do, is a book about a book that takes a close look at the nature of creation, kid-style. Jeff, the story’s narrator, is a spunky little boy who’s taking giant steps, and who’s pleased as punch at his own progress. So pleased, in […]
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Now that the 4th of July, the most patriotic of holidays, is upon us, the time is right for reconsidering a national classic: “Yankee Doodle,” a quintessentially American tune—a song so well established that its absurdity slips right past us. What, after all, does it mean to stick a feather in your hat and call it macaroni?

Looked at closely, “Yankee Doodle” is less ditty than oddity. So what’s the deal with the song? Who wrote it? And when? Tom Angleberger addresses these mysteries and more in Crankee Doodle, a brilliant new picture book in which his twisted wit is on full display.

Dressed in Revolutionary-era duds of red, white and blue—including a cuffed coat loaded with buttons—Mr. Doodle is snoozing in a grassy pasture when the story opens. The reason for this repose? Ennui. “I’m bored,” Doodle complains to his pony, who is chewing grass nearby. “We could go to town,” his companion suggests. And so begins a series of hilarious exchanges, as the pony proposes various activities for their trip to town (foremost among them: purchasing the proverbial feather). Every one of the horse’s suggestions is humbugged by his grump of a master, who meets each with an extensive volley of complaints (Doodle is a long-winded dandy). After much comical give and take, the pony prevails. Doodle caves, and the two take off for town, but not in the way readers might expect. Capping off their adventure is a historical note explaining the origins of “Yankee Doodle,” which, in truth, seem rather murky.

This is the first picture book from Angleberger, the brain behind the best-selling Origami Yoda titles. His wife, Cece Bell, author and illustrator of the Sock Monkey series, provides the story’s wonderfully loopy line drawings. Together, this creative dream team has taken the tarnish off an American antiquity and created a classic of their own. Crankee Doodle is a charmer.

Now that the 4th of July, the most patriotic of holidays, is upon us, the time is right for reconsidering a national classic: “Yankee Doodle,” a quintessentially American tune—a song so well established that its absurdity slips right past us. What, after all, does it mean to stick a feather in your hat and call […]
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There’s more wildness in store for fans of Maurice Sendak. Before his death in May 2012, the master storyteller completed one last book, a magical tribute to his late brother, Jack, and his longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, that, with its questing hero, surreal plotline and fluid imagery, neatly encapsulates the work of his 60-year career.

At once bold and tender, cosmic and intimate, My Brother’s Book is a mind-blower of a poem—a tale of brotherly love that unfolds on a mythical scale and bears traces of Shakespeare and Blake.

The book opens with a catastrophe. When a star slams into the Earth, siblings Jack and Guy are instantly lost to each other. Jack is cast into a frozen landscape, where he’s encased in ice, “a snow image stuck fast,” while Guy is hurled into the sky, “a crescent . . . passing worlds at every plunge.” Guy makes an unfortunate landing—in the paws of a giant polar bear, who is uninterested in the riddle Guy puts to him concerning Jack’s unhappy fate. With little ado, the bear devours his catch, and thus begins Guy’s final journey, “diving through time so vast—sweeping past paradise,” to a lush underworld where he reunites with Jack.

At least, that’s one interpretation of My Brother’s Book. Open-ended and ethereal, it’s an odd little narrative, even by Sendakian standards. Its illustrations, so beautifully fluid and yet precise, teem with the effects of nature—the details of a metamorphic landscape taken over by trees and vines, boulders and roots, icicles and cinders. The sky is an extra, palpable presence in many of the pictures. Thanks to the galactic details Sendak added—drifting stars, smoky clouds, oversized moons—you can practically feel the pull of the planets.

As scholar Stephen Greenblatt writes in the book’s foreword, Sendak found themes for his final work in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a play about separation and reunion.

Sendak, who won the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for Where the Wild Things Are and wrote and illustrated dozens of other children’s books, credited Jack,also a children’s author, for inspiring his passion for writing and art. My Brother’s Book is also regarded as an elegy for Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst and Sendak’s partner for 50 years before Glynn’s death in 2007.

This elusive coda, inspired by cycles of love and loss, serves as the ultimate salutation to the ties that bind.

There’s more wildness in store for fans of Maurice Sendak. Before his death in May 2012, the master storyteller completed one last book, a magical tribute to his late brother, Jack, and his longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, that, with its questing hero, surreal plotline and fluid imagery, neatly encapsulates the work of his 60-year career. […]
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Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for this wonderfully original novel, which recounts the remarkable life of Pi Patel. The son of a zookeeper, Pi is raised in Pondicherry, India, with a deep understanding of the natural world and a curiosity about religion that leads him from Hinduism to Christianity to Islam and beyond. When his father decides to move the family to Canada, they set off on a freighter, animals in tow. But a shipwreck leaves Pi drifting in the Pacific on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger for company. Floating in the shark-filled water for 227 days, Pi somehow survives, battling starvation, the elements and his own worst fears—and befriending the tiger. Martel skillfully blends Pi’s adventures of the mind and spirit with an unforgettable physical journey, making this a magical coming-of-age narrative.

A reading group guide is included in the book.

 

Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for this wonderfully original novel, which recounts the remarkable life of Pi Patel. The son of a zookeeper, Pi is raised in Pondicherry, India, with a deep understanding of the natural world and a curiosity about religion that leads him from Hinduism to Christianity to Islam and […]
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That Little Something, the 18th collection from U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic, is a volume of brief, informal poems that feel effortlessly composed and poignantly chronicle the loneliness of the human condition. Simic's poems are populated by observers and outsiders – solitary figures who are ill at ease in the world. In melancholy portraits of isolation like "Walking" and "Dramatic Evenings," a sense of disconnection is coldly palpable. The narrator of "Summer Dawn" is rootless and alone, prepared "To slip away on foot . . . to look for another refuge." Simic is a master of the mental picture – in a couple of words, he can complete a portrait. The noir-ish "Night Clerk in a Roach Motel" is full of suggestive images that are simple yet unsettling. The narrator, "the furtive inspector of dimly lit corridors," wonders to himself, "Is that the sound of a maid making a bed at midnight? / The rustling of counterfeit bills being counted in the wedding suite? / A fine-tooth comb passing through a head of gray hair?" Clean, uncluttered, almost conversational, Simic's poems examine solitude from every angle, yet they don't leave the reader feeling cold. Simic has his own brand of pleasant pessimism. It's a bleakness leavened with ironic humor, and it gives his work an extra edge, as evidenced in "Madmen Are Running the World": "Watch it spin like a wheel," Simic writes, "and get stuck in the mud."

Lost moments

With Old War, award-winning poet Alan Shapiro offers a beautifully crafted collection dealing with the passage of time, the threat of mortality and the fragility of joy. The narrator of many of these poems is the jealous guard of a precarious peace, all too aware of the fleeting nature of contentment, desperate to hold on to the here and now. In poems like "Last Wedding Attended by the Gods" and "Bower" – both filled with lush imagery yet tinged with bittersweet sadness – happiness exists outside of reality and is all too easily shattered. "Old War," another homage to the lost moment, is a wistful, questioning work in which the poet tries to regain what's gone: "Where is the bower? / And where is it now? / And how do I get back?" Shapiro writes from a variety of perspectives in this formally diverse collection. Persona-based poems like "Skateboarder" and "Runner" showcase his ability to transform commonplace occurrences into remarkable experiences. The perfectly controlled "Country-Western Singer" couples lowbrow subject matter with a traditional rhyme scheme, but the results are unexpectedly profound. After years of drink, the singer has reached the end of the line: "And the blood I taste, the blood I swallow / Is as far away from wine / As 5:10 is for the one who dies / At 5:09." Perfectly shaped, written without excess, Shapiro's poems are first-class.

A simpler past

Showcasing her breadth of vision and mastery of form, Mary Jo Salter's A Phone Call to the Future features new work, as well as excerpts from previous volumes. The book spans nearly a quarter of a century and provides a rich sampling of Salter's eloquent, elegantly composed poems. In the visionary title work, Salter contrasts our technologically advanced era with the less complicated decades that came before, revealing a past that appears unreal: "Who says science fiction / is only set in the future? / After a while, the story that looks least / believable is the past. / The console television with three channels. / Black-and-white picture. Manual controls." Marked by a very conscious sense of craft, Salter's work is precise and artful, composed with a decided sensitivity toward formal poetic tradition. Injecting routine moments of existence with a special luminescence, she writes about the mother-daughter bond ("Dead Letters"), the habits of marriage ("Aubade for Brad") and the process of aging ("Somebody Else's Baby"). There are no extraordinary events here, just the business of day-to-day living, with its little highs and lows, recounted in poems that are deeply human, brilliantly realized and refreshingly perceptive.

That Little Something, the 18th collection from U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic, is a volume of brief, informal poems that feel effortlessly composed and poignantly chronicle the loneliness of the human condition. Simic's poems are populated by observers and outsiders – solitary figures who are ill at ease in the world. In melancholy portraits of […]
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It's the ultimate pairing: Cormac McCarthy plus the apocalypse. As an author who has delivered some of the darkest moments in modern fiction via books like Blood Meridian and Child of God, McCarthy seems uniquely suited to an exploration of what the world might be like at its end. With The Road, he has developed this nightmarish scenario into an affecting and compassionate novel, as an unnamed father and son wander without hope through a blasted, barren landscape. The exact nature of the catastrophe that has reduced the world to a wasteland is never precisely specified, but there are hints that the event was nuclear-related. In an eerie flashback, the father recalls a long shear of light, and then a series of low concussions . . . a dull rose glow in the windowglass. The results charred corpses in melted cars, a constant rain of ash, the wiping-out of all wildlife are there for father and son to witness as they make their way on the road of the book's title, pushing a shopping cart filled with their few possessions. To stay in one place is to invite attack from other survivors, who have formed primitive communes and engage in cannibalism, and so the pair are, for all intents and purposes, doomed to eternal travel.

But as father and son pick through the remnants of civilization in search of edible food and serviceable clothing, encounters with other people are inevitable, and when the boy shows concern for his fellow survivors, his father unsympathetic and protective forbids him to make contact. These moments of opposition between boy and man, despite the book's tense, menacing atmosphere, come across as classic instances of father-son sparring. The earth may be in an arrested state, but the pair's relationship continues to evolve, its course progressing naturally. McCarthy's depiction of their bond is remarkably delicate and sympathetic. The fact that their fate could be our own adds a layer of dark fascination to the novel, a perverse allure. Indeed, a speculative account of this kind is bound to arouse a sort of obscene curiosity in its audience, and to that end, reading The Road is a bit like observing the aftermath of a car accident you want to look away, you should look away, but you can't.

Coming from McCarthy, The Road feels inevitable. It's an absolute expression of his rather nihilistic worldview, the farthest possible extension of his aesthetic. Last year's No Country for Old Men introduced a more accessible style from the author, and with The Road, the trend continues. The novel doesn't strive for epic status, nor is it weighted with the broad metaphors and sweeping rhetorical passages that characterize McCarthy's previous work. The writing in The Road is his most direct to date, the prose less elliptical and easier to process than ever before. Yet, there's no mistaking where you are when you read The Road: in McCarthy country–terrible, beautiful, and like no other place in contemporary literature.

Julie Hale writes from Asheville, North Carolina.

It's the ultimate pairing: Cormac McCarthy plus the apocalypse. As an author who has delivered some of the darkest moments in modern fiction via books like Blood Meridian and Child of God, McCarthy seems uniquely suited to an exploration of what the world might be like at its end. With The Road, he has developed […]
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Edward Hirsch began contributing his Poet's Choice column to The Washington Post Book World not long after 9/11, and the weekly feature immediately struck a chord with readers. His new book, Poet's Choice, is a collection of those columns that covers the work of more than 130 poets from different eras and countries. Writing with a gentle touch about a formidable genre, Hirsch invites readers to further explore the work of Vietnam War poets, Asian-American women poets, contemporary Mexican poets and Scottish poets. He also dissects individual works, taking them apart so readers can see how they function. Reviewing new poetry collections from modern authors like Stuart Dischell, Deborah Digges and Bill Knott, he provides ample historical context for their work. A wonderfully accessible book, Poet's Choice is divided into two parts: the first focuses on international writers, while the second looks at American authors. There's plenty of new material in the volume, as Hirsch has revisited and expanded many of his original columns. An acclaimed poet in his own right, Hirsch is the author of six verse collections, as well as the best-selling book How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry. With Poet's Choice, he offers a delightful tutorial in both classic and contemporary verse.

 

 

Edward Hirsch began contributing his Poet's Choice column to The Washington Post Book World not long after 9/11, and the weekly feature immediately struck a chord with readers. His new book, Poet's Choice, is a collection of those columns that covers the work of more than 130 poets from different eras and countries. Writing with […]
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Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, by Julia Briggs, focuses on the intellectual struggles and triumphs of a literary genius. Illustrated with original dust jackets, pages from Woolf's manuscripts and a copy of the suicide note she wrote to her husband Leonard in 1941: I feel certain that I am going mad again.

Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, by Julia Briggs, focuses on the intellectual struggles and triumphs of a literary genius. Illustrated with original dust jackets, pages from Woolf's manuscripts and a copy of the suicide note she wrote to her husband Leonard in 1941: I feel certain that I am going mad again.
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Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 is a response by O'Brian's own stepson, Nikolai Tolstoy, to an earlier biography by Dean King which depicted the master of seafaring fiction as a contemptible person and a cruel parent who had abandoned his first family and invented a new persona. Not surprisingly, Tolstoy takes a different view, using O'Brian's personal papers to bolster his arguments.

Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 is a response by O'Brian's own stepson, Nikolai Tolstoy, to an earlier biography by Dean King which depicted the master of seafaring fiction as a contemptible person and a cruel parent who had abandoned his first family and invented a new persona. Not surprisingly, Tolstoy takes a […]

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