May 27, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 36 • By JON L. BREEN
Murder, Mystery, and Malone
by Craig Rice
Crippen & Landru, 196 pp., $27
IN 1946 CRAIG RICE, a female novelist with a masculine-sounding name, became the first writer of detective fiction to make the cover of Time magazine. Her hardcover sales figures matched those of her bestselling contemporaries Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Raymond Chandler.
Joseph Frank finishes his biographical masterpiece.May 20, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 35 • By RENE GIRARD
The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881
by Joseph Frank
Princeton University Press, 812 pp., $35
FOR MORE THAN twenty-five years, Joseph Frank has been writing the biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky. In 1976, he published "Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849," followed by "The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859," "The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865," and "The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871."
Now, at last, we have the fifth and final volume--"The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881"--and it is the richest of Frank's monumental work, its 812 pages covering the last decade of Dostoevsky's life.
The unmysterious future, according to Jules Verne.Apr 15, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 30 • By JOHN SUTHERLAND
The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Modern Library, 640 pp., $23.95
ASKED to name the first parents--the Adams and the Eves--of science fiction, most literary chroniclers come up with five names: Mary Shelley (for "Frankenstein"), Edward Bulwer-Lytton (for "The Coming Race"), Edgar Allan Poe (who can claim to have invented all genres), Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells.
Science fiction's record for prophecy of the shape of things to come is lamentable. But of the founding quintet, Verne was the most clairvoyant.
John Steinbeck at 100.Apr 15, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 30 • By BILL CROKE
WHAT IS John Steinbeck's place in American literary history? This year marks the centenary of his birth--the fortieth anniversary of his contentious 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature--and still we're not sure what to do with him. Certainly, his three great contemporaries overshadow him. Ernest Hemingway had the twentieth century's most distinctive voice, and Steinbeck could never compete with it. Neither could he match F. Scott Fitzgerald's gleaming prose or William Faulkner's insights into character.
"A Season on the Brink" comes to ESPN. Is Bobby Knight as bad as you think he is?11:01 PM, Mar 7, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THE DEFINITIVE Bobby Knight anecdote isn't the chair toss. It isn't the videotape of him man-handling one of his players. It isn't even the farewell speech at Indiana University where he said that his critics "could kiss my ass." If you want to see the real Bobby Knight, look back to the 1984 Summer Olympics.
When Knight was selected to coach the 1984 Olympic basketball team, he was furious that the Soviet Union had decided to boycott the games.
A Victorian Murder, Solved.Feb 11, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 21 • By SUSAN BALEE
Death at the Priory Sex, Love and Murder in Victorian England by James Ruddick Atlantic Monthly, 224 pp., $24 In Emily Eden's popular 1859 novel "The Semi-Detached House," old Mrs. Hopkinson observes, "I like a good murder that can't be found out; that is, of course, it is very shocking, but I like to hear about it." Mrs. Hopkinson was echoing the sentiments of her Victorian readers, who had an insatiable appetite for murder in novels, newspapers, plays, and street hawkers' broadsheets.
Trilling, Barzun, Fadiman--and Carolyn Heilbrun.Jan 28, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 19 • By MARTIN LEVIN
When Men Were The Only Models We Had
My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling
by Carolyn G. Heilbrun
University of Pennsylvania Press, 159 pp., $24.95
THE ARCHIVIST Otto Bettman once published a book entitled "The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible." You could call this a subtext in Carolyn Heilbrun's intellectual memoir. What was good about the old days at Columbia University was a collection of stars in the liberal arts division. What was bad, according to Heilbrun, was institutional anti-Semitism and male hegemony. No argument: I was at Columbia in the 1940s and can bear witness.
William Butler Yeats predicts Paula Zahn.Jan 21, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 18 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS believed in ESP, so I'd like to think he may have caught a mystical glimpse of future CNN newsbabe Paula Zahn in his tea leaves when he wrote these wise and cynical words in 1933: "Only God, my dear, could love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair."
There was a big dust-up last week when CNN briefly aired an advertisement for Zahn's new morning show that described her as "provocative, super-smart, oh yeah, and just a little sexy." The ad lied, because Paula Zahn is not just a little sexy. Paula Zahn is a lot sexy.
Ken Burns gives us a Mark Twain for our times--unfortunately.Jan 14, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 17 • By DANIEL WATTENBERG
"WE ARE LOOKING for subjects," Ken Burns recently said of his documentaries, "that hold up a mirror to who we are." Mark Twain is the subject of the director's latest film, a two-part special that PBS will air on January 14 and 15.
Rereading "The Lord of the Rings"Dec 31, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 16 • By
Tolkien, the Book
Rereading Lord of the Rings
by J. Bottum
THE ENDLESS TALK about "The Lord of the Rings" almost--almost--convinces me to see the movie. We live in the highest age of moviemaking, and J.R.R. Tolkien was unfilmable in any convincing way before computer-aided techniques came along.
But then, we also live in the lowest age of moviemaking, for current cinema lacks the capacity to convey the things Tolkien was aiming at in his--well, in his what? Novel? Saga? Fantasy? No literary word describes it, for it is less a book than a world, a place to crawl inside for a while.
From the December 24, 2001 issue: Charles Dickens's triumph.Dec 24, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 15 • By J. BOTTUM
This essay is reprinted in The Best Christian Writing 2002, edited by John Wilson (HarperSan Francisco).
IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE not to know how it opens. "Marley was dead: to begin with.
The surprisingly admirable life of Mary Shelley.Dec 17, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 14 • By MARGARET BOERNER
by Miranda Seymour
Grove Press, 655 pp., $35
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN SHELLEY clinched her name in history at the very beginning of her womanhood. She was born in 1797 and at the age of sixteen, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley. At the age of nineteen she wrote "Frankenstein." She never did anything else as memorable.
But she was always a thoroughly admirable individual, and she lived a hard life.
The art of speaking to yourself.Dec 17, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 14 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
The Assassin's Cloak
An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists
edited by Irene and Alan Taylor
Canongate, 684 pp., $35
AN ANTHOLOGY of diary entries may seem a silly idea, rather like an anthology of everything. But, in fact, diaries are not infinitely varied. Some are to-do lists in living color. Others are extended brags, storing up triumphs against future blue episodes. Still others are exercises in esprit de l'escalier, meant to guard the writer from repeating his most egregious social blunders and committing those of others.
The enduring appeal of group mystery novels.Dec 17, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 14 • By JON L. BREEN
Yeats Is Dead!
A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers
edited by Joseph O'Connor
Knopf, 256 pp., $23
Naked Came the Phoenix
edited by Marcia Talley
Minotaur, 320 pp., $24.95
devised by William Bernhardt
Ballantine, 192 pp., $23.95
A MULTIPLE-AUTHOR NOVEL is the equivalent of an old-time theatrical benefit: There's little or no money for the performers, but they are honored by being chosen to participate. Usually, it's in a good cause: a charity or a professional organization.
A book and a movie explore the Long Island cliche.11:01 PM, Dec 5, 2001 • By DAVID SKINNER
IT REACHED ITS PEAK in the early '90s, when Amy Fisher shot Mrs. Joey Buttafuoco: the decades-long transformation of Long Island into a laughingstock. The setting for "The Great Gatsby" became known as a cultural valley of the ashes, home to loud girls with big hair and the Guidos who married them. A recent novel and a newish movie, both of which garnered significant critical praise, do almost nothing to defend the honor of this unusual, punchy, and wonderful place.
Which would hardly matter if their stories simply took place on Long Island.