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 →

Book Review: The Shipping News

The Shipping News: A Novel by Annie Proulx (New York: Scribner, 1993. 352 pp) Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Annie Proulx earned her B.A. at the University of Vermont and her M.A. from Concordia University. While working as a journalist, Proulx published works of fiction in various magazines before publishing her first novel, Postcards, in 1992, winning her the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Of her many awards, she notably won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for The Shipping News and she adapted her short-story, Brokeback Mountain, into an award-winning feature film. She currently resides in Wyoming. The Dinner Table  There’s something pristine about a populated dinner table. The scent of freshly prepared food. The peace of… Read More →

Book Review: The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet: A Novel by Ben Marcus (New York: Knopf, 2012. 304 pp) Ben Marcus is the author of The Age of Wire and String and Notable American Women. His stories have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, and Conjunctions. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and awards from the Creative Capital Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York, where he is on the faculty at Columbia University. The Curious Case of Parenthood They say life transforms once you become a parent. The transition is instant. One day you care about music and video games; the next, you… Read More →

Film Review: The Descendants

The Descendants directed by Alexander Payne (Ad Hominem Enterprises, R, 115 minutes) Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, and Amara Miller. In Remembrance of Those Lost Tragedy does silly things to a human being. It can either bring family together, or ruin what little semblance of family remaining. It causes people to find religion, or causes others to dive headfirst into addiction. When a loved one passes, we speak of them glowingly as if our words create a halo around the deceased. Through tragedy we resolve to live better as if life changes could honor the memory of a loved one passed. Yet in death, just as in life, people carry their demons alongside their virtues. In Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, Matt… Read More →

Television Show Review: Breaking Bad: Seasons 1-3

Breaking Bad: Seasons 1-3 created by Vince Gilligan (High Bridge Productions, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television) Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Paul. Dexter Morgan vs. Walter White As I watched the first three seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix, I couldn’t help but compare the series to Dexter, television’s other critically acclaimed series featuring a protagonist with dark secrets. Where Dexter Morgan is a serial killer vigilante, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher who utilizes his scientific expertise to cook methamphetamines. Although it may sound astonishing, I argue that Dexter functions as a more likeable character than Walt. In spite of its dark content, Dexter carries an air of levity. In between murders,… Read More →

Film Review: Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Olympus Pictures, Blossom Films, and Odd Lot Entertainment, PG-13, 91 minutes) Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Wiest. The Past Events of a Suffering Family Although I rarely discuss it, I lost my older sister when I was nine years old. Due to complications at her birth and negligent medical practice, she ended up brain damaged and bed ridden for her short life. Such a loss changes you at the core. Honestly, I think I was young enough to not fully understand the ramifications, but I see how the event has changed me. In many ways, I’m the oldest child and have assumed all the stereotypes involved with that title. Yet, biologically,… Read More →

Film Review: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine directed by Derek Cianfrance (Hunting Lane Films and Silverwood Films, rated R. 112 minutes) Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The Anti-Reality of the Hollywood Divorce What kills a relationship? Hollywood typically answers this question in extremes. Too often, a marriage falls apart as a husband is unfaithful or a wife completely changes her personality. In real life, many relationships end with the passing of time. When people jump into commitments early, the warts and ugly spots of each person creep out and many marriages lose during the test of time. Sure, some relationships end over the big things so often depicted in Hollywood, but sometimes a marriage dissolves after many small-yet-irksome qualities emerge. With the film, Blue… Read More →

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender (New York: Doubleday, 2010. 304 pp.) Author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a New York Times Notable Book; An Invisible Sign of My Own, an L.A. Times pick of the year; and Willful Creatures, Aimee Bender lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at the University of Southern California. Her most recent book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, won the SCIBA award for best fiction and an Alex Award. Her short fiction has been printed in many publications allowing her to receive two Puschart prizes. A Case for Food and Family Food is one of the most basic needs for human beings, the symbol of… Read More →