I'm not sure why, but a few weeks back, I got the Canadian national anthem stuck in my head, and it got me thinking. I never thought about it before, but Canada's a country. It's not just a punchline to a joke about friendly neighbors or a place where some celebrities come from. It's got […]

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That’s Swell, Orwell

Whenever people don't like the powers-that-be, which seems to be always, they start reading 1984 again, or maybe Animal Farm for fun, but for my money, George Orwell's best work is his nonfiction, where he offers cutting, observant remarks on authors, politics, his personal life and whatever strikes his fancy. My personal favorite is Homage to […]

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Let’s Go Crazy

Have you ever wanted to turn your back on everything and take off in such absurd directions that your actions become dangerous and offensive? No? Really? I guess I'm sorry, then. Everyone keeps telling me to stop talking like that, but there are just so many ways to ruin your life in fiction and reality, I'm amazed more […]

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John Lennon told us to give peace a chance. He was shot. Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted nonviolent protest. He was shot, too. So was Gandhi, and I'd rather not get into what they did to Jesus. What I'm saying is that peace is hard. If, like I did, you try to find books about […]

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Oh No, It’s Arno Schmidt

Did you know that Germany had its own James Joyce? He was a lunatic of a writer who <royally> manipulated punctuation and lived in  a wor[l]d of punnified prolexecution. In honor of all things confusing, welcome to the works of Arno Schmidt. It's hard to tell where to start with this guy, but give Nobodaddy's Children a shot. […]

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Time Has Come Today

In a world of work schedules, TV schedules, phone reminders, personalized alarms and all the clocks harassing you every time you look at a wall, it's easy to forget how accustomed we are to time. We barely know what it is, but it means so much. Every now and then, it's nice to take the time to […]

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Where Are Your Gods Now?

Nothing makes for drama like tales of old, mad gods. We can reread our mythology books as much as we want, but then again, it's much more fun to think up what these gods would do if they were around today. Bacchus is a graphic novel collection by Eddie Campbell, who worked on From Hell with Alan Moore. […]

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The Play’s the Thing

It's easy to pretend you like the theater. All you have to do is complain about what's popular. But if you don't have the time or money to appreciate the theater in person, the library has plenty of ways to marvel at the stage. L.A. Theatre Works shrinks popular and classic plays into a radio-friendly […]

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Around the Worlds

There's a neat subgenre of history that wants to tell the entire story of human civilization. A lot of the older ones are very much focused on Europe, with a chapter or two devoted to those vague people somewhere else who were doing whatever. For some reason, I find this combination of bias and ambition strangely charming, and […]

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All In the Family

What would it take to build a dynasty? To gather together ambitious relatives, pump out ambitious children and use your collective skill to own a good chunk of the world? You'd figure these people would just wind up killing each other in the end, but some can make it work. I don't quite have the same drive […]

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