February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Letters from the Editor: The New Yorker's Harold Ross

Too much is made, perhaps, of this band of NY humor writers, but these letters are lots of fun. Ross's short notes and letters were dandies -- witty, charming, effective. The collection is nicely edited as well, offering us just enough guidance to know who the players were without erecting a barrier of pedantry. A good reminder that the game's supposed to be fun, damnit.


Mark Bernstein: Far Side of the World
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Far Side of the World

Far Side of the World
Patrick O'Brian

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue the US frigate Norfolk far into the Pacific in this wonderful yarn of 1812. Superb, sophisticated, detailed, and enthralling.


Mark Bernstein: Fever Season
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Fever Season

Fever Season
Barbara Hambly

Dr. Benjamin January, a free man of color in 1830's New Orleans, returns in this second volume of this impressive mystery series. January faces uncommon challenges, not least of which is the continual risk of being caught without his papers, kidnapped, and enslaved; Hambly does a fine job of capturing a weird place and time at the edge of America. I prefer her extraordinarily imagined vampire novels, but Hambly is a clean writer with a flair for historical detail and shows an admirable determination to work in an charmless era with an uncharismatic hero who dares not want (or hope) too much.


Mark Bernstein: Trilobite!
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Trilobite!

Trilobite!
Richard Fortey

Why should dinosaurs get all the press? One of the world's leading experts on trilobites contributes this fascinating, lively account of the trilobite, how it lived, how it evolved, and how we know. Trilobite! also offers a close look at the way natural science actually works, and how it relates to art, history, and letters. Highly recommended.


Mark Bernstein: Book Business: Publishing Past and Future
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Book Business: Publishing Past and Future

Epstein, a prominent Random House editor, looks at the changing horizons of the book world: the demise of the independent bookstore, malls, the consolidation of publishing in a handful of conglomerates, superstores, amazon, ebooks. Epstein's intelligence, common sense, and acute observation make this the soundest book I've seen on the transformation of modern publishing. Where others sing sentimental elegies, muse upon lost golden ages, or imagine a world where art and artists are magically freed from economics, Epstein looks at the literary world as it has been and as it is becoming.

Most intriguingly, Epstein argues that the natural scale of publishing is small -- exactly the opposite of the current business wisdom. (Obviously, I'm betting with Epstein)

I've been working in new media publishing for fifteen years. Most of today's press on ebooks is wrong -- sloppy, ill-informed, substituting emotion for business sense or fostering nostalgia for an imaginary past. This singularly optimistic and well-argued book is a fine antidote.


Mark Bernstein: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Everybody else has read it. A charming modernization of Tom Brown's Schooldays, cleanly written with energy and a touch of wit.

Why is everyone interested in boarding school, now that nobody is sent to one?


Mark Bernstein: Havana Twist
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Havana Twist

Havana Twist
Lia Matera

Willa Jansson's old-line left-wing Mom is in trouble again. Mom jets off to Cuba on a goodwill mission, and vanishes. Well written, well drawn, with a nice sense of place. Lovely beach reading.


Mark Bernstein: Death and Taxes
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes
Tony Kushner

Short plays by the author of Angels in America. "Seven characters are too many for a ten-minute play. It'll be twenty minutes long! Fuck it. One of them is dead and the others can talk fast."


Some minor work, some work that's probably best forgotten, some work that's merely idiosyncratic. But it's all Twain, and that's good enough.

Mark Bernstein: The Old Neighborhood
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

The Old Neighborhood

I happened to see the very first performance of this play at the ART. It's finally in print. It's a collation of three, related one-act plays, all set in Chicago. Mamet captures the voice perfectly; I could swear I went to school with Bobby and Joey, the two characters of The Disappearance of the Jews.


Mark Bernstein: Humana Festival 2000
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Humana Festival 2000

Humana Festival 2000
Michael Bigelow Dixon and Amy Wegener, eds.

Alexandra Cunningham's No. 11 (Blue and White) is a well-crafted problem play with some wonderfully drawn teenagers. Charles Mee's Big Love takes on one of the hardest Greek plays to salvage, The Suppliant Women. I'd love to see a production of Jane Martin's Anton in Show Business.


Mark Bernstein: The Liar
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

The Liar

The Liar
Stephen Fry

Adrian Healey lies his way through public school, Cambridge, and the public conveniences of Picadilly in this strange and witty novel. The cover blurb by Rita Rudner is perfect: "A booth that is not only funny, clever, as touching, but is the perfect size."


Mark Bernstein: The Med
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

The Med

The Med
David Poyer

Naval adventure; a portrait of a really, really bad manager.