By Nathan Bierma
Content & Context
FEBRUARY BOOK BLOG
So far this weblog has dealt mostly with culture, but once a month, it will do justice to the other half of this magazine's name, as a supplement to B&C's weekly Web exclusive Book of the Week. Were you to actually obtain all of the books reviewed here, your den would soon resemble the office of B&C editor John Wilson, with stacks of books sprouting from the floor and surrounding the room like Stonehenge. But perhaps you'll find a few worth following up on, and deem the rest of these reviews—sampling the arts, history, culture, science and ideas—a worthy substitute for the books themselves.
- Have Clancy and King saturated their markets? Slow sales for some best-selling authors made for a disappointing Christmas season for booksellers, says the New York Times.
- Random House looks to plug leak of leaving authors after editor ouster, from the New York Times.
Earlier: Publishing president driven from Random House after merger. From the New York Times.
- Libraries to cut back on Harry Potter orders this time, from the BBC.
- Armageddon expected to be best-seller, war or no war, says the Washington Post.
- 10 writers to watch in 2003, from Book Magazine.
- A look at the National Book Critics Circle nominees, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- Latest book from Harvard's Randall Kennedy's studies interracial romance, from the New York Times Book Review.
Related:Read the Times' interview with Kennedy
- Grisham's latest is thin on plot, from the Seattle Times.
- Latest Crichton thriller exaggerates downside of biochemical technology, from the New York Review of Books.
- Steven Pinker's contrarian take on nature versus nurture in The Blank Slate, from the New York Review of Books.
- Is truth stranger than science fiction, asks futurist novelist? From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Portuguese professor in London breaks ground in theoretical physics with Faster Than the Speed of Light, from the NY Times Book Review.
More theoretical physics: Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, in the NY Times.
- Dante scholar pens literary mystery The Dante Club, from the NY Times.
- Vast subject summed up smartly in Introduction to English Poetry, from the Canadian Globe and Mail.
- The reach of grace: British journalist searches Sierra Leone for her father's killers, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- Hills at Home is wittiest family portrait since The Corrections, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- Transplanted San Francisco English teacher writes about her Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- New biography shows the coldness of Carnegie, from the Economist.
- Russell Baker on H.L. Mencken, the pride of Baltimore, in the New York Review of Books.
- A chilling account of Russia's Kursk submarine tragedy, from the Washington Post.
- Newsman's memoir blander than title suggests, from the Washington Post.
- Book of the Week
- Books of the Year 2002 and follow-up
- Recommend a book review for the March book blog: email@example.com
From the New York Times:
ROME, Feb. 13—Ah, the wonders that greet a visitor to Rome! Look up, and spires and domes scale the sky. Look down a bit, and the chipped remnants of ancient columns stand tall, defying the passage of time. Look down again, at street level, and there it lurks: the spell-breaking, reverie-rupturing contribution of many of today's Romans, in swirls and swishes of black and blue, like bruises on a beauty who deserves so much better. Graffiti is here, there and everywhere, an enduring vexation that seems to be flourishing of late. It creeps like a stubborn vine across the pale yellow- and clay-colored buildings near the Campo dei Fiori. It sprouts in the shadows of the Colosseum. It skirts Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and it hems the Via del Corso. … In few other environs does graffiti seem as incongruous as in Rome, even though Italians invented the concept and coined the word for it. And in few other environs is it as revealing a window into the present-day spirit of the place.
QASSIM PROVINCE, Saudi Arabia—From the air, the circular wheat fields of this arid land's breadbasket look like forest-green poker chips strewn across the brown desert. But they are outnumbered by the ghostly silhouettes of fields left to fade back into the sand, places where the kingdom's gamble on agriculture has sucked precious aquifers dry. … Saudi Arabia may sit atop the world's largest oil reserves, but the other side of the geological coin is that the country also sits atop one of the world's smallest reserves of water. It does not have a single lake or river. … Muhammad H. al-Qunaibet, a hydrologist and government adviser, estimates that the country uses 6.34 trillion gallons of water a year for agriculture, but says that only a third of that is replaced through rainfall.