Critical Mass

Roundup 8

By Jane Ciabattari

Eric Banks visits Jonestown, 30 years after the murder-massacres:

“We expect our killing fields to be marked a certain way, and with at least a certain rhetoric of rectitude. At Jonestown, in Guyana, there are no markers, no memorials noting what took place, no manicured clearings to mark how the site looked 30 years ago, when more than 900 Americans died there in a still hard-to-imagine moment of mass suicide and outright murder. It is an open field bifurcated by a red dirt road, with knee-high bush to the north and, to the south, thick jungle. You don’t even realize you have entered the site until you are already there.”

Scott McLemee on Antonio   Negri, coauthor of “Empire”:

“Four new works by Negri appeared in English in 2008—the year we all found ourselves well downstream from that era when debate over globalization and its discontents took the form of extrapolating long-term trends. The problem now is to find a way through the ruins. I have been studying the books in a state of heightened (indeed, strained) attention—with powers of concentration periodically stimulated and shattered by arteriosclerotic convulsions in the world’s financial markets—but also through tears in my eyes.

“They are tears of perplexity and frustration.”

John Freeman talks to Garrison Keillor and considers the latest entry in the McSweeney’s “Voices of Witness” series, “Narratives From the Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan,“compiled and edited by Craig Walzer.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf on Nadeem Aslam’s latest:

“According to a Chinese proverb, the hardest things in life are three: to love someone who does not love you back, to be exhausted but unable to sleep, and to wait for a friend who never shows. The title of Pakistani-British author Nadeem Aslam’s latest novel evokes images of the last of these three afflictions, and in a sense, “The Wasted Vigil” is all about waiting.”

Rebecca Skloot suggests you take a look at Snowball, the Dancing Cockatoo…

Jon Stewart says: “Books make great gifts because they’re an amazing way to kill time while your website is buffering,” in a cameo appearance on the Association of American Publisher’s new BooksAreGreatGifts website, part of a campaign, via Facebook, Twitter, etc, to highlight book buying this holiday season.

Angie Drobnic Holan finds Sarah Vowell’s “The Wordy Shipmates” an “entertaining meditation.” While Carlo Wolff finds the pictures in “The Narcotic Farm” leave the deepest impression.

The Kansas City Star’s John Michael Eberhart writes that the 75th anniversary edition of “New Letters” contains “as good as any piece of nonfiction I’ve read in the last five years,” Robin Hemley’s “Field Notes for the Graveyard Enthusiast.”