Monday, September 14, 2009


This is an unusual posting, to be sure.

This morning, I awoke to the sound of circling helicopters, and soon after, heard on the radio that there was a fire in a residence two blocks away from my house. This was the ninth fire in the past couple of months, all only several blocks from my house (I live between 8th and 9th streets, the fires are two streets over, between 10th and 11th.) There's an arsonist at large who targets residential buildings (this morning's was a garage apartment, fortunately uninhabited at the moment) in the very early hours of the morning. No one has been hurt, so far.

I don't have a great deal to say about this, except it's disturbing. And I know there are psychological disorders involved, but I still wonder what motivates a person to become a serial arsonist. I understand insurance fraud and revenge, but this is clearly something else.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reading List

The New York Times reminded me today of one thing I will very much miss about New York City: reading on the subway. Lately I've had the unusual luxury not only of having stumbled upon two remarkable and compelling books, but also of possessing broad swaths of time unoccupied by things legal in which to enjoy them. I expect this time of luxury to end next week, as the school year sets in for real and I return to the academic doldrums. But, as the Times points out, we in New York all have to get where we're going, and the subway is blessedly free of internet and cell reception, which means I get a good hour every day to burrow into some good fiction. I'm taking recommendations, and I'd love to hear what people are reading on this blog. Here's my list.

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. Thanks to the tip from NPR via Gale, which billed this book as Harry Potter for grownups. Actually, it's a good deal better than that. Grossman writes beautifully, takes seriously our lonely childish longing for fantasy, and, unlike JKR, is unafraid to give his characters' flaws real and irrevocable consequences. Anyone who read C.S. Lewis and T.H. White as a kid and harbors mixed feeling about HP should read this. Plus, Grossman himself is a Yale CompLit PhD drop out like yours truly, so I feel a special affinity.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. Thanks again to Gale. I was skeptical of the title, the bestseller-y-ness, and the sexual violence, but you got to give to these Scandinavians, who really know how to write dark, quasi-philosophical, and incredibly satisfying mysteries. I couldn't put it down AND it made me think, which is more than I can say for most of what I read these days.

Next on my list: Motherless Brooklyn, the fourth Twilight book, and The Girl Who Played with Fire (next book in Larsson's triology). Anything else I should add?