Featured Author: Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs was a fascinating thinker, economist, urban studies and public policy theorist. Her work addresses the growth of cities and their economies.

Here are some interesting ideas she poses in her work The Economy of Cities.

Why adding new work to old work is crucial to growing an economy (instead of merely dividing existing work more)

Why loosely structured and inefficient economies are better suited to survive change.
Why cities predated agriculture as we know it.
How cities can replace imported goods with their own industries.
Why some villages grow into cities and some do not.
How the design of urban spacies can either promote order or hinder it.

If you are studying urban studies, public policy or economics you need to read her.

For some reason, she has two entries in the catalog. One here, the other here.

Discover Robert Aickman, Suspense Writer

All Robert Aickman books here.

Robert Aickman was a master of the “strange story.” His style is related to MR James and the ghost stories of Henry James, but Aickman has his own voice. Enigma, vibe and alienation are some of his hallmarks.

Literature Resource Center sums up one Aickman story:

In “The Inner Room,” collected in Sub Rosa (1968), a woman narrates the story of an incident from her early childhood in a struggling family that later splits apart. She receives as a birthday gift an enormous dollhouse that contains a mysteriously inaccessible inner room. Later in life, she visits what is apparently the actual house on which the dollhouse was modeled and comes close to discovering a nameless horror in the inner room, which signifies the hidden life of dream–or rather dream as reality, which creates emotional peril when repressed.

Author Picks: Deborah Eisenberg

All Deborah Eisenberg books here.

from the New York Times Magazine:

In spite of her desultory M.O., Eisenberg has somehow managed to produce one of the most original and accomplished bodies of work in contemporary literature. With the exception of a play, a book about the painter Jennifer Bartlett and a handful of critical essays, her output consists entirely of short stories, and yet as a portraitist and interpreter of the moral and political chaos of American life she is the equal of any novelist of the past 30 years. Her stories rove from the Midwest, where she was born, to the metropolitan centers and foreign outposts of American power and concern the fate of artists and intellectuals, bankers, movie stars and C.I.A. apparatchiks, as well as drifters, dropouts and dead-enders, the politically displaced and the existentially homeless. Like their creator, her dramatis personae are beings of an almost extraterrestrial sensitivity and confusion; they look at the world with a kind of radical naïveté, as though they had never before encountered cars, buildings, trees or clouds, let alone the ambiguous workings of human social life. Just how strange it is to be that lost and lonely creature, oneself, is a realization that Eisenberg’s world-dazed men and women arrive at time and again.

Featured Author: Novelist Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt (link to our books here) s a best selling author whose principal theme is the moral seduction of working class innocents who are drawn into the world of glamorous but dangerous wealthy people.

Here’s a review of her work (about her famous debut The Secret History) from Literature Resource Center.

“The Secret History is less a mystery–the killers are revealed on the first page–than “an exploration of evil, both banal and bizarre,” in the words of Martha Duffy in Time. The story is narrated by Richard Papen, a transfer student who disavows his own middle-class upbringing to gain entrance into an elitist circle of students. “The gradual moral seduction of Richard is all the more cleverly revealed by its depiction in his own voice,” commented Andrew Rosenheim in the New York Times Book Review. As Richard becomes accepted by the group, he learns that four out of the five other members had participated in the bloody murder of a farmer who interrupted their late-night “bacchanal.” When one among the small coterie threatens to betray this dark secret, that person, too, is killed. “Tartt shows a superior sense of pace, playing off her red herrings and foreshadowings like an old hand at the suspense game,” Duffy stated in Time. In the New York Times Book Review, Rosenheim praised Tartt’s “skillful investigation of the chasm between academe’s supposed ideals and the vagaries of its actual behavior” and further commented that her prose was “at once lush and precise.” Nancy Wood, reviewing The Secret History in Maclean’s, believed that Tartt “is strongest when she finds poetry in everyday events: the sights and smells of a campus, the familiarity of certain television shows.” The Secret History, Wood concluded, “stands out as well written and original.”

 

Literary Passings: VS Naipaul, Anglo-Indian Novelist

Our VS Naipaul books here

From this obituary:

Over the years, I have kept coming back to an image: a young writer, a twenty-six-year-old Indian man, sits at a desk in a small flat in Streatham Hill, a modest area of South London. It is 1958, and he is working on a long book that will become, in time, one of the great novels of the twentieth century. The young writer is unimaginably confident and unimaginably vulnerable: privileged in some respects (he went to Oxford, and he knows that he is more talented than his literary peers), utterly powerless in others (he is an Indian at work in the old, disdainful imperial metropolis, but he is not even from India—he grew up in Trinidad, where his grandfather was brought over as an indentured laborer to work on the sugarcane plantations).

This is the first extraordinary fact about “A House for Mr. Biswas,” the masterwork by V. S. Naipaul, who died on Saturday, at eighty-five. This book, so full of comedy and pathos, uncanny wisdom and painful compassion, containing a comprehension both of human motive and of a society’s dynamic that might take most writers a lifetime to achieve, was written by a man in his mid- to late twenties. (The only comparable achievement that comes to mind is “Buddenbrooks,” published when Thomas Mann was twenty-six; Cervantes was probably around fifty-five when the first part of “Don Quixote” appeared.) The young Vidia Naipaul’s compassion—a quality that apparently dried up as he aged—was brought to bear on the life of his father, Seepersad Naipaul, the model for Mohun Biswas. Seepersad, like Mr. Biswas, lived a short life (he died at the age of forty-six) that was both an astonishing achievement and a relative failure, and it is this stereoscopic vision that gives “A House for Mr. Biswas” such shattering power. The achievement was to have raised himself up, from very modest origins, in a tiny society of fiercely limited opportunity, to become a writer, or a kind of writer: Mr. Biswas, like Seepersad Naipaul, became a journalist for the Trinidad Guardian (renamed, in the novel, the Sentinel). But, in the larger scheme of things, Mr. Biswas’s life amounted to little: the Trinidad Guardian was just a local island paper (Seepersad Naipaul complained to his son about the tedious unimportance of most of his assignments); and, though Seepersad, like Mr. Biswas, would live vicariously through his clever children, who won scholarships and left the island to study in England, he himself never left. He ended his brief, circumscribed life in a small house in Port of Spain that, to many people, would resemble a shack—“a box,” writes Naipaul’s biographer, Patrick French. “A hot, rickety, partitioned building near the end of the street, around 7 square metres on two floors with an external wooden staircase and a corrugated iron roof.”

 

Featured Author: Barbara Ehrenreich, Social Journalist (Nickel and Dimed)

Barbara Ehrenreich Is a journalist and writer who is willing to tackle some very tough subjects.  You may have heard of her book Nickel And Dimed: On Not Getting By In America. The author took a series of low paying jobs to see if you could actually make ends meet.  It makes for some pretty interesting reading!

My other favorite book by this author is Bright-Sided.  This book has a very interesting idea: that Americans mistake critical analysis for pessimism and this inability to address our problems damages social discourse.

Recommended for anyone who wants a good read and people interested in current affairs.

Link to review of Nickel and Dimed in Dissent Magazine

Five jobs and three cities later, Ehrenreich concludes that many of today’s jobs don’t pay enough to support one person—much less a whole family. She works two jobs at a time andeats “chopped meat, beans, cheese and noodles.” But in all three cities, rent gets the
better of her economy. “You don’t need a degree in economics,” she writes, “to see that
wages are too low and rents too high.” But this is a mathematical conclusion, which could
have been made with the aid of a calculator. By taking these jobs herself, Ehrenreich is able to capture the material details of workplace indignity.”