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Book Reviews

A synthesis of various media, concepts, and styles, the movement’s visual art and poetry deconstructed the elements of sound, language, form, color, and movement and stitched them back together in new ways to create objects and texts that followed the laws of child’s play—that is, laws by which any meaning is possible and none is required.

Carefully groomed for diplomatic service – certainly talented at it, with an elegant, engaging manner, shrewd powers of observation and negotiation, and command of many languages – and favored by Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XI, Pacelli’s star rose until it outshone nearly all others. He became the most important Roman Catholic prelate in Germany, prior to his appointment as Vatican Secretary of State in 1930. Why, then, problems with the cause for his sainthood?

Sascha Naimann has a lot on her plate.  The big thing is her mother’s death at the hands of her stepfather, Vadim, a murder witnessed not only by Sascha herself but also by her little brother, Anton, and her little sister, Alissa.   Anton, now a broken boy, quiet and weak and delicate, is also prone to alarming behavior:  once Sascha discovered him dissecting the bloody carcass of a guinea pig.

So what I look for first in such books is accurate philosophy. It is not easy to teach philosophy in the bite sizes necessitated by these short essays, and brevity can distort. Connecting philosophy up to popular culture also requires knowledge of and sensitivity towards the material. In reading this series, if I get something really insightful about the pop culture object of reflection — something that could be developed and published in a peer reviewed popular culture studies journal – I am delighted.

But—and this is a question that The Thieves of Manhattan repeatedly, tantalizingly brandishes—what is the truth, at least when it comes to writing? The answers implied by the narrative’s twists and turns are mostly disingenuous. Lies can be truths of sorts, Ian would have us belief; patent falsehoods can collapse into profundity, conceal something immensely significant.

There is undeniable pleasure in reading Mahmoud Darwish in that it feels like we are looking back on our present day from several thousand years in the future. But this effect also produces a kind of cultural-historical vertigo in which today’s world (which many in the West like to think of as belonging to an ever newer, better, improved era of history, an era blessed and, no doubt, sanitized by the perfect scientific godlessness of Progress (the non-ideological ideology par excellence)) is really no different than any other point in our deeply intertwined world history.

Edward Lucie-Smith’s The Glory of Angels is a sumptuous feast for the eye and spirit, a volume carefully researched, knowingly written, and elegantly illustrated, no illuminated. It’s an oversized (11” x 14”) production, a coffee-table book so beautiful that care must be taken that neither coffee nor any other beverage be spilled upon it.

Reading Alix Cleo Roubaud’s journal is like standing in a pitch-dark room and flicking on the light for a split second. The flash of illumination reveals only an impression of the furniture but forbids a thorough appreciation. The photographer recorded her thoughts, aspirations, and, most especially, her fears (she attempted suicide multiple times…)

What do I want of summer books? In general, I want affirmative books: books that affirm genre conventions, books that affirm common sense, books that affirm my instincts about how to live. There are also practical considerations to keep in mind. I want books that I won’t feel guilty about dripping ice cream on or dirtying with sand and saltwater (or grimy subway hands).

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