In Our Good Books

The reading suggestions have been kindly provided by staff members of the downtown bookstore McNally Jackson.

Fated by S.G. Browne

From the acclaimed author of Breathers—an irreverent novel about fate, destiny, and the karmic consequences of getting involved with humans.

Over the past few thousand years, Fabio has come to hate his job. As Fate, he’s in charge of assigning the fortunes and misfortunes that befall most of the human race—the 83% who keep screwing things up. Continue reading

Culture Desk Book review: The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai Interview: George Szirtes (translator of The Melancholy of Resistance)

by Bernie Langs

After years of feasting on nonfiction books, I find myself binging on works of fiction these days, and most recently, of all things, Hungarian prose. Having read the German W.G. Sebald and the Austrian Thomas Bernhard, who both write with no paragraph breaks, I was not taken aback when I realized that the book my brother had insisted that I read, The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai, had none as well. Yet, in comparison to the other two, this book was dense, lengthy, and boasted long, convoluted, and incredibly beautiful sentence structures. In fact, that’s an understatement. The language of this book is a tour de force. It is a lesson in how the writer’s sheer passion for his craft sweeps the reader into the palm of his hand, to be taken on a journey, which is a touch surreal and more than a touch apocalyptic. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW Entering an Unseen World: A Founding Laboratory and Origins of Modern Cell Biology 1910-1974, by Carol L. Moberg, The Rockefeller University Press, 2012

by Joseph Luna

Credit: RU Press

The birth of a scientific field often combines new technology with bold hypotheses, unexpected collaboration, and a healthy dose of luck. There’s also time, that ultimate arbiter of the significant, upon which a new field grows and matures, from puzzling first glimpses to textbook diagrams and beyond. Increasingly in today’s world, inhabited by 90% of all the scientists who’ve ever lived1, the pace has quickened, but the basic arc remains the same: new tools are seized upon with fresh minds, and the results are often breathtaking.

The story of modern cell biology in the twentieth century presents a fascinating case study of this trajectory, considering the strides made by its predecessor, cytology. Tracing a direct route from van Leeuwenhoek’s first microscope to Hooke’s descriptions of cork (from which the term “cell” was coined) in the seventeenth century, cytologists by the 19th century had the impression that cells were worlds unto themselves, with analyses of visible structures such as mitochondria, golgi bodies, and nuclei, and with microscopic descriptions of processes such as cell division. But by the early twentieth century, the resolving powers of the light microscope had reached their limit, and the study of the fine structures of cells remained out of reach, if they existed at all. There wasn’t much to counter the argument that while cells were the basic units of life, they were largely devoid of subcellular structure. Continue reading

CULTURE CORNER Book and Film Reviews: Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald & Celebration Day featuring Led Zeppelin

by Bernie Langs

Source: Wikipedia

I waited impatiently for five years to view and listen to the one-time concert of the 2007 Led Zeppelin Reunion performance, and immediately bought the film the week it became available in November 2012. Celebration Day, the video of the occasion, was well worth the wait.

I would venture to say that living heroes are few and far between these days, there being a shortage of Achilles-types or gallant Mr. Darcys running around. I have a loose sense of those I admire, and my list includes former Rockefeller University President and scientist Sir Paul Nurse, who writes and speaks with wit and wisdom; Curtis Martin, a former New York Jets football player who diligently trained his body like a machine to absorb the hits he took for years as a premier running back; and Jimmy Page, because of the way he has handled the band’s legacy after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980. The market hasn’t been flooded with countless Zeppelin retreads and reissues. Page and his bandmates, singer Robert Plant and bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, have issued only top-notch select concert footage and very few packaged musical offerings. Because of this, Led Zeppelin remains a precious commodity. Continue reading

CULTURE CORNER Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

by Bernie Langs

The three current kingpins of British literature are, in my opinion, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes. In the past I have enjoyed novels by all three, reveling in their tragedies and comedies filled with satire, sarcasm, wit, fine prose, elegance, and decadence, all in the continued tradition of masters such as Saul Bellows and, dare I say, the mighty Vladimir Nabokov. Then I threw all three under the bus and turned away from fiction completely, with the exception of the writings of the Austrian Thomas Bernhard.

I find myself wondering if my complete turn to non-fiction is related to my having worked a decade at The Rockefeller University. Non-fiction is a compilation and compounding of Continue reading