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 →

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye: A Novel by J.D. Salinger (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. 214 pp) Born in New York City in 1919, J.D. Salinger is famously known for his novel The Catcher in the Rye written in 1951. Although Salinger published a few works before and after this novel, the success of it led him to a reclusive lifestyle. His last public interview was granted in 1980. Salinger is also noteworthy for the legal battles he encountered around unauthorized biographies written about him. Salinger died of natural causes in January 2010. Sometimes I Feel Like Holden Caulfield The Catcher in the Rye marks the beginning of my pursuit to read books of the 20th century canon… Read More →

Film Review: The Last Station

The Last Station directed by Michael Hoffman (Egoli Tossell Film and Zephyr Films, R for strong sexual content, 112 minutes) Starring Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, and Christopher Plummer. The Last Station documents the final years of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife, Sofya Tolstoy (Helen Mirren). The plot centers on Tolstoy’s later-life philosophies such as nonviolent resistance and social justice. Most of Tolstoy’s closest advisors are pressuring the old author to redraft his will in order to give his publications to public domain. Sofya, however, becomes paranoid concerning these idealistic philosophies and worries that losing copyrights to her husband’s work would equal a return to poverty. Tolstoy’s closest confidant, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) hires a Tolstoyan – one who… Read More →

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. 304 pp) Born in London to Bengali immigrants, Jhumpa Lahiri moved to the United States at the young age of 3. Her first published work, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. In 2007, Hollywood adapted The Namesake into a feature film.  A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Lahiri is a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. Home for the Holidays? Thanksgiving introduces an exciting portion of the year. I love sleeping in, wearing pajamas into the living room, and seeing a football game on the television. The turkey is already cooking… Read More →

Book Review: Flickering Pixels

Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith By Shane Hipps (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. 208 pp) Before committing to professional vocational ministry, Shane Hipps held a position with Porsche Cars North America working on communications strategy. After a stint in the corporate world, he received a master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. Hipps pastored Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona, before he became teaching pastor of Mars Hill Grand Rapids in 2010. Little Dots Comprise the Image Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a pixel as any of the small discrete elements that together constitute an image. The pixel is a building block, a portion of the larger whole. Without pixels, no image exists. Similarly, people are the building blocks of culture… Read More →

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. Updated Edition 312 pp) Anthony Bourdain, born in 1956, attended Vassar College and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He has worked as a cook and chef in many institutions strewn across the New York City map. Bourdain contributes articles to the Times, New York Times, Observer, the Face, Scotland on Sunday, and Food Arts Magazine. An addition to Kitchen Confidential, he has written two crime novels – Gone Bamboo and Bone in the Throat. Bourdain was the executive chef at Brassiere Les Halles and is currently the host of the Travel Channel program: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Bourdain resides in New York City…. Read More →

Television Show Review: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead produced by Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Robert Kirkman, and Charles H. Eglee (Circle of Confusion and Valhalla Motion Pictures, airs Sunday nights on AMC) Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, and Chandler Riggs. In an effort to proclaim full disclosure, I must admit that I am not much of a zombie fan. This sub-genre of horror has always seemed low budget, poorly written, and weakly acted. Zombie films typically depict the survival instinct at a basic level. Although this theme is entertaining on a “what if” level, the zombie theme is incapable of constructing the dramatic subtleties that differentiate fantastic movies from standard run-of-the-mill productions. Where… Read More →

Thoughts on Women and Literature

A couple weeks ago, I happened upon this article at the Huffington Post. In summary, the author of the article interviewed two popular novelists – Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner­ – about literary fiction and the critically praised novel, Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. Both Picoult and Weiner criticize publishers and reviewers alike for exalting a novel about a broken family while avoiding similarly-themed novels by female authors. Simply put, when men write about family, their books are considered literary fiction; when women write about family, their books are labeled romance. Looking at my library, it is extremely male dominant. My library coupled with Picoult and Weiner’s revelation makes me particularly troubled. I want to read well-written books no matter the… Read More →

Book Review: Salvation City

Salvation City: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez (New York: Riverhead Books, 2010. 288 pp) Living in New York City, Sigrid Nunez has published six novels in her career. She is the winner of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a residency from the Lannan Foundation. She has also received the Rome Prize Fellow in Literature in the American Academy in Rome, a Literature Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Previously, Nunez taught at Amherst College, Smith College, Columbia University, as well as… Read More →

Film Review: The Town

The Town directed by Ben Affleck (Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, R, 125 minutes) Starring Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, John Hamm, and Jeremy Renner. Based in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston, the Town tells the story of a washed-up hockey player turned bank robber caught in the vicious cycle of crime. After a successful robbery, the main character – Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) – volunteers to intimidate a hostage (Claire played by Rebecca Hall) after discovering that she lives four blocks away from the thieves’ home base. While being observed in a Laundromat, the hostage approaches Doug asking for some change. After some basic dialogue, Doug asks Claire out on a date, setting in motion a story of love, crime,… Read More →