Album Review: The King Is Dead

The King Is Dead by the Decemberists (Capitol Records, 2011. 41 minutes) The Decemberists are a folk band located in Portland, Oregon. Led by Colin Meloy and backed by Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen, the band writes songs with a foundation in storytelling. Previous releases The Crane Wife and The Hazards of Love, are classified as concept albums and display many progressive rock elements. The Decemberists originally signed to Olympia-based record label, Kill Rock Stars in 2003. In 2005, Capitol Records signed the band and distributed the band’s last three records. In Green Pastures Fresh off of two concept albums, the Decemberists return with a straight-up, Americana-influenced folk record. The King Is Dead neglects the idea… Read More →

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X: A Novel by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander (New York: Minotaur Books, 2011. 304 pp) Born in Osaka and currently living in Tokyo, Keigo Higashino is a bestselling Japanese author. He is the winner of the Edogawa Rampo Prize and the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. Prize. Alexander O. Smith translates novels, manga, and video games. He has been nominated for the Eisner Award and won the ALA’s Batchelder Award for his translation of Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story. He lives with his family in Vermont. Telegraphed Influences I enjoy Mumford and Sons but they bother me. Mumford and Sons is a Grammy nominated music group from London, England. Their… Read More →

Book Review: Room

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 336 pp) Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland to Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended University College Dublin earning first-class honors in English and French. Later, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. In addition to Room, she has written the Sealed Letter, Landing, Touchy Subjects, Life Mask, the Woman who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Slammerkin, Kissing the Witch, Hood, and Stirfry. Donoghue lives in Ontario, Canada with her family. All the Pretty Colors Consider infrared and ultraviolet light. We know it exists, yet the human eye is unable to perceive it. If we could view these portions of the spectrum, what would it… Read More →

Book Review: The Blasphemer

The Blasphemer: A Novel by Nigel Farndale (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. 384 pp) Best known for his interviews in the Sunday Telegraph, Nigel Farndale is a British author and journalist. Farndale went to Barnard Castle School before receiving a master’s degree in philosophy from Durham University. On top of his work for the Sunday Telegraph, Farndale contributes articles to theSunday Times, Country Life, and Spectator. Of his five published books, Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce was shortlisted for both the 2005 Whitbread Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Additionally, The Blasphemer was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Novel Award. Farndale lives between Hampshire and Sussex with his wife and three sons. The Lifeboat The lifeboat… Read More →

Book Review: Easter Island

Easter Island: A Novel by Jennifer Vanderbes (New York: The Dial Press, 2003. 320 pp) Jennifer Vanderbes graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in English Literature and received her M.F.A in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has obtained both the Guggenheim and Cullman Fellowship and has taught at both the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Columbia University. Easter Island, her first novel, obtained the honor of “best book of 2003” by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. Her most recent novel, Strangers at the Feast was published in August 2010. The Locals Call It Rapa Nui A solitary land mass with its closest neighbor over 1,200 miles away, Easter Island is famously known for its moai… Read More →

Top 40 Albums of 2010

Before I begin, I need to make some clarifications. First, my top 40 album list obviously only includes records I have   heard. I am positive there are albums from 2010  that would make my list but I have yet to listen to them. For example, I have heard much positive press about Kanye West’s new album but I have yet to give it a full listen. Therefore, it is not on my list although its presence graces most of the lists I have seen so far. Second, this list in a way projects how I believe my musical taste ought to look. In other words, while I enjoyed blasting Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” in the car as a joke, both… Read More →

Book Review: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (New York: Vintage International, 2005. 320 pp) Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933. One of six children, Cormac’s family moved multiple times in his childhood as his father accepted different occupations. In 1951, McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee majoring in Liberal Arts. Midway through his studies, McCarthy served in the Air Force for four years. After his service, McCarthy returned to college writing his first short stories. In 1959 and 1960, he won the Ingram-Merrill Award for Creative Writing. Mccarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965. Several years, grants, and fellowships later, McCarthy published Suttree, Blood Meridian, and All the Pretty Horses marking his rise… Read More →

Film Review: Black Swan

Black Swan directed by Darren Aronofsky (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Protozoa Pictures, and Phoenix Pictures, R, 108 minutes.) Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel. Screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz. More Beethoven, Less Danielle Steel When one labels something romantic, the modern mind conceives its definition as love, relationships, and happy endings. On the other hand, the 19th century conception of Romanticism espoused in symphonies, ballets, and stories exhibits deep-felt emotion such as love, suffering, anxiety, and death. The conception of romanticism illustrated in Black Swan resembles the classical sense of the word pointing the viewer to deeply rooted emotions and actions. Similar to previous psychological thrillers directed by Aronofsky such as Pi and Requiem for a Dream,… Read More →

Book Review: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2006. 350 pp) A Canadian-born dual citizen, Sara Gruen lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. With a background in technical writing, Gruen is a devoted animal lover who has written numerous books dedicated to the relationship between animals and humans. While Water for Elephants tops the best-seller list, Gruen’s books also include Riding Lessons, Flying Changes, and The Ape House. Step Right Up Water for Elephants follows the life of Jacob Jankowski, an almost Ivy League educated veterinarian working in the Depression era circus industry. Although Jacob intended to follow in his father’s footsteps as a small-town veterinarian, an unfortunate accident left him orphaned… Read More →