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December 2015

Posted 12.23.15:  Publishers Weekly on The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness by David Gelernter: "Those in a state of panic induced by books and articles about the possibility of a 'singularity' in which artificial intelligence triumphs over the human race will find comfort in this quite reasonable and decidedly human study of the mind. Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, argues that the current trend in philosophy toward 'computationalism' ignores basic, glaringly obvious truths about the difference between brain and mind. For example, he asserts that human intellect and selfhood are not merely the product of the conscious mind. He explores the 'spectrum' of thought experienced over the course of a day: the creative haze encountered upon first waking, the focused and rational thoughts of our most productive hours, the daydreaming we engage in while drowsy, the involuntary free association of near-sleep, and finally the opaque and mysterious realm of dreams and the unconscious. The author contends that the 'down-spectrum' realms of dreams and fantasies, which are controlled by emotion and memory, allow for the creative thinking that will always separate humans from machines.”
Posted 12.08.15:  "This [is a] delightful and incisive book by David Lehman. Lehman is a poet, critic, and editor, known for his book on the New York School of poets and Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man, a hard-hitting attack on deconstruction as a peculiarly toxic form of literary discourse. But who would have predicted this tribute to a singer with whom Lehman has had a lifetime love affair? The subtitle, with its crisp pun on 'notes,' takes the singer from his birth in Hoboken in 1915 to his death in Los Angeles in 1998. The notes vary in length from one to four or five pages, but are always focused on some aspect of his career…. The notes are pithily, aggressively written, as if to live up to the feisty voice of Lehman's hero, The Voice. He brings out vividly [Sinatra's] style.… Lehman pays attention to minute but significant pleasures…. We don't need yet another biography of Sinatra, and Lehman has been wise not to try to get too much fact in that can already be sampled elsewhere. His relatively brief book is more like Pete Hamill's Why Sinatra Matters (1998) but goes further and deeper than Hamill did into what makes Sinatra's treatment of a song so memorable, inimitable."—William H. Pritchard, The Weekly Standard • “It's a great year for Sinatra fans…. There have been some substantial additions to the ever-growing shelf of books about Sinatra. I would particularly recommend Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World, a wonderful new book by the poet, editor, and essayist David Lehman…. The book is at once short, fun to dip in and out of, full of quirky yet thoughtful lists of best albums and songs, with a poet's appreciation of Sinatra's craft."—Ken Tucker, Yahoo TV
Posted 12.05.15:  "Mr. Vinciguerra is an artful stage manager of his material; at times, one has a stirring sense of eavesdropping on intimate, literate, testy conversations. As a writer, he has a knack for understatement, an eye for the odd and telling fact, and a fondness for precise and slightly old-fashioned diction…. In other words, his writing would not be out of place in a New Yorker issue of, say, 1938. I hasten to add that that is a high compliment."—Ben Yagoda, The Wall Street Journal, on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra • "Swift and enjoyable reading."—Pamela Erens, The New York Times Book Review

November 2015

Posted 11.30.15:  "Many readers thought the last word on Frank Sinatra went to tell-all biographer Kitty Kelley, who gave us His Way in 1986. But now, poet (and Sinatra fan) David Lehman gives us a more nuanced study—Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. Bookstores will display Lehman's richly illustrated work in the biography section. But actually, it's a collection of musings about Sinatra's life.... Lehman sprinkles anecdotal gems throughout the book…. Let this book cast its spell." — Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Posted 11.30.15:  Kate Tuttle in The Boston Globe on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker: "Fresh and invigorating. Begun as a biography of theater critic and longtime staff writer Wolcott Gibbs, Thomas Vinciguerra's account covers the lives and work of Gibbs and colleagues James Thurber, E.B. White, John O'Hara, St. Clair McKelway, Charles Addams, and others—led by Harold Ross and Katharine White—as they created the magazine…. Where Vinciguerra excels is in figuring out how the dysfunctional workplace of the early New Yorker turned out such sparkling, electric prose. It all seems very glamorous to us now, but the author doesn't shy from the uglier side of New Yorker history—alcoholism, sexual indiscretion, petty feuds…. It's to Vinciguerra's great credit that he manages to avoid both condescension and hagiography in writing about the flawed, brilliant people behind it."
Posted 11.22.15:  The New York Times' Sam Roberts on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra: "An exuberant reunion of the magazine's eccentric inner circle…. Likening his approach to Eileen Simpson's Poets in Their Youth, Mr. Vinciguerra (whose cast of characters is simply more fun) elegantly conjures an evocative group dynamic embellished by figures like Harold Ross, Katharine White, Dorothy Parker, St. Clair McKelway and, of course, the underappreciated Gibbs."
Posted 11.03.15:  “Mr. Lehman holds the reader by ferreting out of the voluminous files lots of choice quotes and anecdotes that reanimate Sinatra's gamy lost world…. Mr. Lehman's book is an artful miniature portrait.”—Ed Kosner in The Wall Street Journal's "Weekend Review" on Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. And Ted Gioia in Bookforum writes, “He will hold your interest with his smart and passionate views. The book is the literary equivalent of a late-night session among Sinatra devotees sharing their favorite recordings over drinks, calling attention to the finer nuances of beloved tracks. Even an old Sinatra fan like me learned new things from Lehman.”

October 2015

Posted 10.29.15:  "David Lehman's Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World is a much shorter but more intimate portrait [than James Kaplan's Sinatra: The Chairman]. Many of the same anecdotes used by Kaplan can be found here, too, but Lehman, an established poet, widens the frame of reference, thereby expanding the emotional resonance of the songs.... Whereas Kaplan accumulates facts, Lehman tells us what those facts mean. For example: 'There are two reasons that male resistance to Sinatra turned completely around.... His voice deepened...and he was able to sing so convincingly of loss, failure, and despair unto death.' But when a fact is needed, Lehman comes through: In a 2014 commercial for Jack Daniels, a voiceover tells us what Sinatra's recipe was: 'three rocks, two fingers, and a splash.' There it is, a Sinatra haiku, and, boy, what a splash he made."—Sibbie O'Sullivan, The Washington Post
Posted 10.26.15:  "His 100 glowing and gleaming fragments on Sinatra's life and meaning are filled with wildly entertaining quotation, anecdote and insightful critical judgment."—Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News on Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World by David Lehman

September 2015

Posted 09.21.15:  Publishers Weekly on Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World by David Lehman: “In this set of affectionate and vibrant fan's notes, poet and critic Lehman celebrates Ol' Blue Eyes's 100th birthday (December 12) with 100 impressionistic reflections on the singer's successes and shortcomings…. Lehman's lively reflections wonderfully celebrate Sinatra's enduring impact on his own life and on American culture.”
Posted 09.15.15:  The American Library Association's Booklist magazine on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra: “Vinciguerra's writing has a way of bringing these characters to sparkling life; using quotes, anecdotes, and descriptive prose, he gives great nods to such sometimes-background figures as John Chapin Mosher, the dedicated denier of unsolicited manuscripts; James Thurber, whose contributions ranged from witty observations to art; and countless others who came and went but who left a mark, which Vinciguerra ferrets out and celebrates. Founding editor Harold Ross bristles brightly in these pages; Katharine White gets her due for her never-ending contributions. New Yorker readers are a dedicated lot and will snap this ‘golden age' volume up, adding it to their view of the vibrant, eccentric, shape-shifting rag that touches them, and the world, with its words and pictures.”—Eloise Kinney, Booklist
Posted 09.10.15:  The Road to Character by David Brooks is now in its twenty-first week on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Posted 09.09.15:  “Thank goodness for good old-fashioned readers like Michael Dirda, who reminds us on each page of Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books of the deep and soulful pleasures of a great book. [The essays] showcase Dirda's remarkable range of fancy and his indomitable and unabashed joyfulness in the memory of his own reading life. For all their intelligence, these essays are not pedantic. Rather, they have a sort of plain-spoken elegance about them…. Dirda shows that he's one of the most accessible critics still doing the good work.”—Peter Geye, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Posted 09.09.15:  “Tracing how the meaning of heroes and heroism has changed throughout Western civilization's development, Tod Lindberg's new book, The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern, illuminates how the evolution of those concepts relates to the spread of democracy, freedom and equality—and how old notions remain perilous today…. His book spans civilization's arc, from the ancient Sumerians, Greeks and Romans to the present day.”—Alan Wallace, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Posted 09.06.15:  Joel Brouwer in The New York Times Book Review on The State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988-2014 by David Lehman: "Each year Lehman chooses an eminent poet to make the 75 selections, and the nation's versifiers spend the next 12 months arguing over geniuses overlooked and charlatans canonized, or pretending they're too cool to care. 'Best' is of course the fighting word, but also undoubtedly the key to the success of the series; the joy of the project, for me, arises exactly from the fact that its click-bait cachet gets people reading and discussing contemporary poems. Lehman has contributed brief forewords to every volume; this book collects them. They aren't scholarly, and aren't meant to be. Read end to end, they form a swift, dishy, insightful, entertaining account of American poetry's fashions and trajectories as one century sputtered out and the next cleared its throat."

August 2015

Posted 08.11.15:  Kirkus Reviews on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra: "A fresh view of the much-chronicled magazine, focused on the three writer/editors who, with founder Harold Ross, shaped its sophisticated stance in the years between the world wars…. This book is admiring without airbrushing the magazine's limitations and eccentricities…. With the micromanaging Ross looking over their shoulders, they gave the magazine its voice and its panache, nicely conveyed by Vinciguerra in judicious excerpts from emblematic articles and juicy anecdotes involving many talented, turbulent contributors…. Ably captures the antic spirit of The New Yorker's first heyday."

July 2015

Posted 07.28.15:  Publishers Weekly on Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra: "Vinciguerra's sprawling history of the New Yorker's early luminaries captures the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of its editors and writers—Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, and James Thurber, as well as founder Harold Ross and various other 'fabled oddballs.'… Ross and Gibbs, the New Yorker's theater critic, were chiefly responsible for its success…. The most amusing sections focus on the writers' wit, office romances, and sometimes outrageous behavior…. Vinciguerra's tone is more nostalgic than elegiac, and for that reason his book…will be embraced by faithful New Yorker readers."
Posted 07.22.15:  Nicholas A. Basbanes is the recipient of a Public Scholar Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his work-in-progress, Cross of Snow: The Love Story and Lasting Legacy of American Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to be published by Knopf in 2017. The NEH Public Scholar Program "aims to encourage scholarship that will be of broad interest and have lasting impact.... The challenge is to make sense of a significant topic in a way that will appeal to general readers."
Posted 07.22.15:  The Union League Club presented Logan Beirne with the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award for his Blood of Tyrants: George Washington and the Forging of the Presidency, published by Encounter Books in 2013.

June 2015

Posted 06.30.15:  Erwin Chemerinsky in the Los Angeles Review of Books on The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic by Akhil Amar: "Profound in its insights about the United States Constitution…. The book is filled with fascinating and important discussions of constitutional issues.... Amar has written a fascinating book on constitutional history. I learned a great deal from it, as I believe will every reader. The underlying issues—the proper role of the states in the national government, the appropriate way to interpret the Constitution—will be argued over as long as the United States exists. Amar's new book has a great deal to say on these topics and is definitely worth reading."