Book Group: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (New York: Harper Perennial, 2005; originally published in 1971. 288 pp) To Recap The Bell Jar details Esther Greenwood, a college student who travels to New York to work as an editorial intern for a popular magazine. While she should be thoroughly enjoying herself, Esther feels dead inside, largely disconnected from the world. As she lives in New York, she begins to question her abilities as a writer and her future in general, which only causes her to sink into extreme depression. Esther wonders if she should be a typical woman and marry, or pursue a career instead. Esther returns to the Boston suburbs, where she grew up, in the hopes to reawaken herself from… Read More →

Album Review: Beware and Be Grateful

Beware & Be Grateful by Maps & Atlases (Barsuk Records, 2012. 43 minutes) Maps & Atlases is Shiraz Dada, David Davison, Erin Elders, and Chris Hainey. The Chicago-based band blends pop and technical musicianship into a unique flavor of indie rock. In Praise of Songwriting  A good song requires an interesting rhythm and melodically rich instrumentation. Even more, a song requires a catchy melody, which soars over the well-crafted music. Perhaps most importantly, the song needs to say something. “Doo be doo be doo” lyrics might have a catchy melody but they do not provide a modicum of lasting depth. If, by chance, an artist succeeds in all three categories, an impeccable song is born. Good luck writing 9 more… Read More →

Book Review: Bossypants

Bossypants by Tina Fey (New York: Reagan Arthur, 2011. 288 pp) Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Tina Fey graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in drama. After moving to Chicago, she started her comedic career with The Second City, an improvisational group. Later, she joined Saturday Night Live, eventually becoming head writer and co-host of Weekend Update. Fey currently writes and produces 30 Rock, a sketch comedy series on NBC. She has also adapted the screenplays for Mean Girls and Baby Mama for the big screen. Fey has won seven Emmy, three Golden Globe, four Screen Actors Guild, and four Writers Guild of America awards. Female Comedians “There are no funny female comedians.” Too often someone… Read More →

Film Review: The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement directed by Nicholas Stoller (Apatow Productions, R, 124 minutes) Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, and Alison Brie. What Makes Something Good? Is a hot wing tasty if it is sufficiently spicy? Is a murder mystery novel good so long as the murder is mysterious? Is a comedy good if it’s funny? My inability to answer this last question perfectly summarizes my thoughts on The Five-Year Engagement. Billed as a comedy, the movie executes; it is extremely funny. But is it good? I wish I knew. Another Romantic Comedy As a story, The Five-Year Engagementarises from the romantic comedy cookie-cutter-plotline: Couple meets. Couple experiences good times. Couple hits a rough patch. Couple works everything out. In… Read More →

Book Review: Cain

Cain: A Novel by José Saramago; translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 176 pp) José Saramago was a Nobel Prize-winning author from Portugal. He passed away at the age of 87 on June 18, 2010. Although Saramago did not receive widespread recognition until he was 60 years old, he has been highly prolific in the years since. Blindness, one of Saramago’s most highly regarded books was made into a major motion picture in 2008. He is survived by his wife Pilar Del Rio and a daughter from a previous marriage. Margaret Jull Costa translates Portuguese and Spanish fiction and poetry. For her work she has won the Portuguese Translation Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award,… Read More →

Album Review: The Lion’s Roar

The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit (Wichita Recordings, 2012. 43 minutes) Formed in 2007, First Aid Kit is Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Enskede, Sweden. A 2008 viral YouTube cover of the band, Fleet Foxes, gained the duo wide notoriety. First Aid Kit signed to Wichita Records in 2008 and released their debut record, The Big Black & the Blue, in 2010. A Starbucks on Every Corner of the Globe The world is shrinking. 100 years ago, an inter-continental trip was tedious and dangerous. Today, a jetliner connects us anywhere in the world within a day. This ease of travel, while presenting the modern world with the ability to engage in a myriad of culture, offers a melting pot… Read More →

Book Review: The Vanishers

The Vanishers: A Novel by Heidi Julavits (New York: Doubleday, 2012. 304 pp) Born and raised in Portland, Maine, Heidi Julavits attended Dartmouth College and earned an M.F.A from Columbia University. Julavits co-edits The Believer magazine. She has authored four novels: The Mineral Palace, The Effect of Living Backwards, The Uses of Enchantment, and The Vanishers. Julavits lives in Manhattan with her husband, writer Ben Marcus, and their children. Hell is Other People Jean-Paul Sartre famously said, “Hell is other people.” To him, a relationship with others creates, sustains, and empowers dissidence. To a certain extent, then, isolation emerges as a virtue. But do we actually enjoy existence in the prison of our thoughts? With The Vanishers, Heidi Julavits suggests… Read More →

Book Review: The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine: A Novel by Alina Bronsky; translated by Tim Mohr (New York: Europa Editions, 2011. 304 pp) Alina Bronsky was born in Yekaterinburg, an industrial town at the foot of the Ural Mountains in central Russia. She moved to Germany when she was thirteen. Her debut novel, Broken Glass Park, was nominated for one of Europe’s most important literary awards, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. Tim Mohr is a New York-based translator, author, and editor. His translation of Guantanamo by Dorothea Dieckmann earned him the Three Percent award for best translation. Mohr also collaborated with Duff McKagan on It’s So Easy (And Other Lies). Head in the Clouds I tend to be oblivious of my… Read More →

Album Review: Ashes & Fire

Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams (Capitol Records/Pax Americana Record Company, 2011. 43 minutes) Ryan Adams is a singer-songwriter renowned for his contributions to the alt-country genre. Originally a member of the band Whiskeytown, Adams began his solo career with Heartbreaker in 2000. A prolific songwriter with 13 albums released since 2000, Adams garnered the most commercial success with Gold. In addition to music, Adams has published Infinity Blues and Hello Sunshine, books of poetry. Adams married Mandy Moore in 2009 and took an extended hiatus—for him, at least—from music. In 2010, Adams founded a record label, PAX AM and has released has latest two releases on the label. The Rubric of Great Art There are times when music pauses… Read More →

Film Review: My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis (The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, and Lipsync Productions, R, 99 minutes) Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Zoё Wanamaker, Emma Watson, and Julia Ormond. I Wanted to Be Famous; Now I Want to Take It Back Have you ever had dreams of fame and fortune? As a kid, did you imagine walks on the red carpet with flashbulbs blinding your entrance? Did you desire constant adoration and the corresponding riches? While such glory seems intoxicating, My Week with Marilyn proposes a dark undercurrent to worldwide fame. My Week with Marilyn is a slow-burning, character-driven film adapted from a memoir by Colin Clark, on his relationship with Marilyn Monroe during the shooting… Read More →