So few book reviews, so many books. No, it hasn't started appearing on T-shirts yet, but wait. For the last half year, thanks in part to vigorous noisemaking by the National Book Critics Circle and its energetic president, Swarthmore grad John Freeman, the publishing world has done almost as much talking about the "book review crisis" as it has about the rectangular objects it sells.
'Do you think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us?" asks sage headmaster Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, responding to Harry's criticism of himself as "stupid" for believing he'd seen his deceased father the night before.
NEW YORK - In the Hell's Kitchen hideaway the XChange, a hip party venue with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River, literary lion Michael Ondaatje flits among the rest of the pride gathered by his publisher for a Friday-night dinner at BookExpo America - among them Nathan Englander, Mary Gordon, Edwidge Danticat, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
For those of us who find sports boring but literature exciting, an upcoming Olympics brings expectations of a special sort. Olympic cities increasingly stage a "Cultural Olympics" before their Summer Games. Barcelona celebrated its leading artists in fields from architecture to poetry to sculpture. Atlanta invited the world's living Nobel Prize laureates in literature, gathering a dazzling cast that included Joseph Brodsky, Kenzaburo Oe, Octavio Paz, Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott.
Finally, a Philadelphia First absolutely, positively not launched by Ben Franklin! Allow me to introduce Andy Kahan and Sara Goddard, impresarios (we did not say divas) of the "First Annual" Philadelphia Book Festival, coming to your Central Library on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
NEW YORK - Can we learn anything about today's Russian writers and intellectuals by examining their predecessors? Get a jump on which Russians are coming (are coming!) by pondering a few who are going - that is, Tom Stoppard's 19th-century Russian intellectuals, once his hit Broadway trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, closes next month?
'What might have been" haunts lovers, bedevils military strategists, distracts well-behaved dogs, and inevitably pesters everyone. Thankfully, the urgencies of the day relieve most of us of ongoing, painful concentration on alternative scenarios. Novelists, though, come with imaginations that won't let go, not to mention open afternoons and empty screens to fill.