NYTBR 23 August 2009: New Memoirs and Biographies, Among Other Things

Books self is interested in reading after perusing the 23 August 2009 Issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1. After reading Dominique Browning’s review of Times food writer Frank Bruni’s Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater:

2. After reading Fernanda Eberstadt’s review of Benjamin Moser’s Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector:

3. After reading Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of Graham Swift’s Making an Elephant: Writing From Within, a collection of his essays, interviews and poems:

  • Graham Swift’s Booker-Prize-winning novel, Last Orders
  • Graham Swift’s Making an Elephant: Writing From Within

4. After reading Neil Gordon’s review of Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone:

  • Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
  • Galeano’s memoir, Days and Nights of Love and War
  • Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone

5. After reading John Haskell’s review of Jim Krusoe’s novel, Erased:

  • Jim Krusoe’s Erased

6. After reading Nancy Kline’s review of Anita Brookner’s latest novel, Strangers:

  • Anita Brookner’s Strangers

7. After reading Tom LeClair’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle:

  • James Lasdun’s story collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt
  • Christine Lehner’s novel, Absent a Miracle

8. After reading Roy Hoffman’s review of Pat Conroy’s new novel, South of Broad:

  • Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides
  • Pat Conroy’s Beach Music

Self Just Can’t Believe It

Self has gotten to p. 237 of her book, (A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of World War II) and there’s an account of an interview with Rudolf Hoss, the commander in charge of Read the rest of this entry »

Burma: A Clipping and a Poem

When self was in New York, at the end of June, she alternated between reading The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  Since then, she’s posted about the articles she clipped, over and over.  In particular, self remembers WSJ movie reviewer Joe Morgenstern’s review of “The Hurt Locker.”  (The review was titled “Shock, Awe, Brilliance,” which pretty much sums up self’s own feelings about the movie)

Another WSJ clipping was an article about Burma (which, self’s friend Kyi tells her, is called “Burma” by everyone who knows what’s really going on; only clue-less Western reporters refer to the country as “Myanmar”!)  Since self was writing a review on a biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, she read the article with more than the usual interest.  Among other things, she learned about the new capital city of Naypyitaw, which the reporters described as “four-lane highways that are largely empty, a gems museum with sapphires and a zoo with air-conditioned arctic habitats for penguins.”

Here’s something else:

The divide between Myanmar’s shining new capital, home to much of its military elite, and its commercial capital underscores the failure of a decade of U.S. and European sanctions, efforts to break the country’s military regime by cutting it off from doing business with much of the Western world.  Instead, the country’s leaders and top businessmen have survived and even thrived by replacing Western buyers with Asian ones.  Trade with China has more than doubled over the past five years, and sales of natural gas and other resources to Thailand, India and other Asian powers are also growing quickly.  In the process, the regime has only tightened its grip.

The bizarreness of Naypyitaw recalls a poem by Kyi May Kaung, from her chapbook Pelted with Petals:  The Burmese Poems (Self met Kyi in Berlin, at the same conference where she met Linh Dinh, Teri Yamada, Rattawut Lapcharoensap and so many other wonderful writers)

Rangoon Zoo

The polar bear sat
sweltering
near its single
factory delivered
2 x 1 1/2 x 1 foot
block of
yellow
ice —
dejected bear —
the tropical
heat is killing
the seal in
the rectangular swimming
pool had
a little better
luck —
bear and seal exchanged for
takin
very soon the bear
fed on corn on the cob —
the keepers had stolen the
meat for
their families —
very naturally died —
the otter pool is bereft of swimming and squealing otters and
the tigress — loose skin on bones
must have by now
died —
the same tigress that
in her youth
bit the hand
of the keeper who showing off
too familiarly
patted her
head —
Take that she
said.

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