Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review: The Submission by Amy Waldman

Oct 30 2011

The Submission has been compared to Richard Price’s richly evocative novels of New York life. It’s an apt comparison, though Amy Waldman brings a new cast of characters to bear, members of the Bangladeshi community.

The Submission by Amy Waldman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $26.

Mohammed Khan, aka Mo, the main character of Amy Waldman’s compelling novel, shares a trait with Herman Melville’s infuriatingly opaque creation, Bartleby the scrivener. Like Bartleby, Mohammed, at key times, prefers not to. But unlike Bartleby, a becalmed functionary in a bygone trade (a copyist), Mo, an up and coming Manhattan architect, is at the epicenter of a roiling conflict over the memorial to be placed at Ground Zero. His preference not to explain, placate, or assuage — combined with inherent inability to do so — exacerbates a city-wide conflict with global repercussions.

Khan has submitted what turns out to be the winning design for the Ground Zero memorial. He proposes a garden with real trees planted alongside inverted steel trees fashioned out of metal salvaged from the demolished towers. Canals crisscross the site. A raised platform for meditation is positioned at its center. The walls surrounding this six acre complex are inscribed with the names of those who died in the 9/11 attack.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Remembrance: Theodore Roszak (1933–2011)


Fuse Remembrance: Theodore Roszak (1933–2011)

Theodore Roszak died this July 5 at age 77. His book "The Making of a Counter Culture; Reflections on the Technocratic Society and its Youthful Opposition" appeared in 1969, just after the Woodstock Festival, which he attended, and while opposition to the War in Vietnam was spreading on campuses and off. "The Making of a Counter Culture" captured boomer energy and idealism at their height.

His later book, "America the Wise: the Longevity Revolution and the True Wealth of Nations" (1998), maintained that boomers would transform the culture of aging no less than they had youth culture. When I interviewed him (for the Boston Book Review) he said, "The baby boom has had two great historical opportunities. One was being young in the '60s. The other is aging. It's a generation that's had the opportunity to redefine our national identity twice."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall—from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady


A Social Problem

I feel like such a nag but someone ought to be able to point out a 300 lb gorilla in the room when it knuckle walks, glowers and pounds the walls. I will be that very nag and shortly name the ape accordingly.


Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall—from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady. Crown, 416 pages, $25.99.

It was already obvious when he was a very young boy that he suffered from a "social problem". He "couldn’t relate to other children" — to the tune, for example, of getting kicked out of kindergarten. His biographer, as is his wont, puts the matter more softly, writing that Regina, the boy's mother, "was compelled to withdraw him". He adds that the kid "invariably separated himself from other children [and that] by the time he reached the fourth grade, he'd been in and out of six schools—almost two a year—leaving each time because he couldn't abide his teachers, classmates, or even the school's location."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: "Bloodlust" by Russell Jacoby


Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present by Russell Jacoby. Free Press, 256 pages, $24.

The subtitle of Russell Jacoby's new book — "On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present" — announces an ambition at once vast and  oddly delimited. Did human violence begin when Cain slew Abel, as per a Hebrew text composed no more than three thousand years ago? Does this imply that there was no violence among our kind in the hundreds of thousands of years prior to the redaction of tales that come down to us in Biblical scripture? Or does Jacoby mean to say that pre-Biblical violence is beyond the scope of his book because its root system somehow differs from that which underlies the violence he will examine?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film Review: Miral

Fuse Film Review: Julian Schnabel’s “Miral” — Emotion, Beauty, Power and 'Huh'

I saw "Miral" today, the Julian Schnabel film that's caused a ruckus. It's powerful and good-looking. Schnabel brings a painter's eye to the Mideast, a love of scenery and light, and fine, maturing, cinematic instincts. He also brings flaws that seem almost intrinsic to film when it brushes up against historical complexity. Later, just a bit removed from the emotions "Miral" aroused, I found myself bubbling up with reservations.

The film mutters a bit much. I mean that literally. You can barely hear what the Palestinian characters are saying as they argue about politics. These arguments, insofar as they are audible, are of import. Should Palestinians, in the late 1980s, during the first intifada, consider negotiating with Israel? Should they entertain the prospect of accepting a state of their own on the West Bank and in Gaza? Or should they go on fighting for the very abolition of the Jewish State?