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Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century

In this thoughtful, engaging, and moving work, Slate writer Stevens posits that Buster Keaton’s life is an entry point to understanding the 20th century—and vice versa … Stevens’s acumen and analysis further elevate this book, offering insights and entertaining extrapolations on the myriad films and entertainment figures discussed within … More than a biography of Buster Keaton, this is a stunning, extensively researched, and eminently readable cultural history. Read more

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A literary injustice: The ambitious, serious Russell Hoban is best remembered for his children’s books about Frances the Badger

In​ a more just universe, Russell Hoban would be widely celebrated as the author of one of the most ambitious novels of the later 20th century: Riddley Walker (1980). Miserably, though, in much of the English-reading world – including the US, where he was born – he remains best known for his children’s books about Frances the Badger. They have remained continuously in print for more than half a century. Read more

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‘Mapping Fiction,’ at the Huntington, explores novels’ landscapes, invented and real

Drawing on the Huntington’s archives, the show explores the construction of made-up worlds through maps and novels, including expressive etchings of Joyce’s Dublin; J.R.R. Tolkien’s map from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy; Octavia Butler’s visualizations of “Parable of the Talents” and the unpublished “Parable of the Trickster”; Robert Louis Stevenson’s map of “Treasure Island”; and many others. Read more

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Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire

Journalist Katz (The Big Truck That Went By) delivers a searing and well-documented portrait of early 20th-century U.S. imperialism focused on the career of U.S. Marine Corps major general Smedley D. Butler (1881–1940). Contending that American military actions served the interests of U.S. business and financial institutions, often with dire effects on local people, Katz provides the geopolitical context behind interventions in China, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and visits each location to document the legacy of U.S. interference. Read more

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Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby

Kirby’s book succeeds not just because she’s a preternaturally gifted prose stylist, but because of her willingness to take risks. She experiments with points of view and occasionally dips into metafiction (“Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories” is a master class in storytelling, as well as a hilarious commentary on a fiction scene that’s seen men overrepresented for decades.) And yet she also knows when to tap the brakes, when to step back and let her carefully drawn characters speak for themselves. It’s a stunning collection from a writer whose talent and creativity seem boundless. Read more

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