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Christopher Michel

CHRISTOPHER MICHEL is a freelance writer, poet, runner, father, and Brooklyn transplant currently living in the small-town wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania.

The Pre-Fast Food Era: The Food of a Younger Land

Mark Kurlansky’s new book, The Food of a Younger Land might have a better back story than any book that has come out in the last several years.

An Interstate of Words

It Might Do Well With Strawberries, a new book by David Matlin, sits at the blurry edges between diary, polemic, poetry, and essay collection. For the most part, Matlin, a West Coast poet who has previously written about the American prison system, constructs the book as a set of excerpts from his journals from early 2004 through the end of 2005.

Tears of a Clown

Glenn Beck doesn’t bother me all that much. My secret: I don’t really watch his TV show, and I’ve only heard his radio show a few times. Aside from other people’s rants about him, my only real sense of Beck comes from the occasional mocking YouTube clip where his guests pass out, he screams at his callers, or gets tripped up during interviews on other shows.

The Cost of Capitalism

Two books have recently been published addressing issues of fairness and economics. One, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), is from the economists’ point of view. The other, I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay was written by a novelist who only began researching global finance in 2008, just before the meltdown.

Wes Is Moore

The book-jacket overview of The Other Wes Moore describes the kind of random-probability event that works so well in non-fiction precisely because it would work so poorly in fiction.

Drawing the Disasters

Three books out recently report on situations in dangerous or repressive countries, using the comics medium: Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles reports on daily life for ex-patriots and aidworkers in the country now generally referred to as Myanmar; Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza provides an exhaustive account of two massacres that occurred more than 50 years ago in two Palestinian settlement towns; and David Axe describes the high-adrenaline life of a war reporter in his short book War is Boring

An Accidental Memoir

Probably every person who has made it into adulthood has some memory of that strange transition between childhood, where action and outcome is largely delimited, and the adult world of often random and tragically permanent consequences.

All the Gorey Details

Edward Gorey was the kind of person tailor-made for legend-making. Lanky, tall, sporting short-cropped hair and a giant Tolstoy-esque beard, he often wandered about wrapped in a full-length fur coat with a pair of dirty Keds on his feet.

Three Reviews

One of the first questions that may be asked about a memoir is the degree to which it is true, backed up by outside corroboration. This is a property unique to the genre. In fiction, in poetry, in almost every other form of storytelling, readers may look for truth, but they look within the story.

Portrait of the Artist

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest was published my freshman year of college, just as I was discovering the world of contemporary literature and my own desire to participate in it.

What the Wild Things Do

In his new book, Gordon Grice tries to convince us that the Discovery Channel hasn’t cornered the market on gruesome nature documentary.

A Judt Guide

Tony Judt has been an outspoken voice in the New York intellectual scene for more than 20 years. He’s an unapologetic and strident critic of Israeli policy, an advocate of left-wing politics, and an authority on French and European history.

Hyde's Gravity

Books in general are vital, of course, to a well-lived life. Any given book may be instructive, entertaining, engaging, or distracting.

To Do is to Be

In the overgrown field of books that aim to define a critical failing of modern society (and set us on the path to fixing it), very few deliver. Usually these books spend most of their time listing evidence for familiar problems (global warming, broken trade policy, the decline of morals, what have you) that are already over-discussed.

A Violent Ride

Before The Adderall Diaries, Stephen Elliott had written six books. Two were non-fiction accounts of his personal experience (with, respectively: politics and BDSM), and four were novels that, by his own admission, were based on his own life. His friends were advising him to find new subject material, to get outside himself. But it was difficult.

Drawing Trouble

Since their inception, comics have always had a few practitioners who pushed the medium past its expected limitations.

Stop and Think

Jaron Lanier is not a particularly eloquent rhetorician. He can be maddeningly vague about concepts fundamental to his arguments. He makes pronouncements based on unstated (and sometimes unshared) presumptions, and sometimes, with even his most cogent points, he uses examples that are (to say the least) extremely wacky.

Recreating Russell

In 1958, the noted logician and pacifist Bertrand Russell wrote an angry cartoon-style book called The Good Citizen’s Alphabet, with his wife, Franciszka Themerson.

Happy Trails, Sort of

The comics medium and the memoir genre are very well suited to each other.

Still Looking For a Cure

It’s pleasant to think that we’re long past the time when illness was attributed to divine retribution. Nowadays, we understand that most disease has an external cause.

Hodgman's World

John Hodgman is a liar. But not in the way that you think.

Cut Him Off

David Cross has been a lightning rod for public opinion since 1995 when he first broke out with Bob Odenkirk in the critically acclaimed television show Mr. Show with Bob and David. Since then he has drawn accolades, both for his stand-up comedy and for his role as the deeply closeted Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development.

A Wide Open Mind

By any objective account, Aaron Swartz, the programmer and activist who killed himself on January 11 of this year, was a genius.

The Worst Story Ever Told

In August 2010, Harper’s Magazine published a story by Tom Bissell about a very bad movie that had become something of a phenomenon at midnight screenings in Los Angeles.

Fearing The Feral Carousels No More

Savage Park reads like an amazing, late-night, nearly life-changing conversation with a too-perceptive friend—one who so succinctly expresses existential problems that it helps you to envision an entirely new (and possibly happier) way of living. Everyone should have a friend like that.

Why Nabokov Matters

Any account of 20th century authors with larger-than-life biographies has to begin with Vladimir Nabokov. The famed Aurelian and author of Lolita was born into the Russian nobility, inherited vast wealth and estates as a teenager (childless uncle), then lost everything in the Bolshevik revolution (Black sea escape, boat attended by gunfire).

Betting Big

In the fall of 2007 I entered Syracuse University’s M.F.A. in Poetry program, up in Syracuse, New York. My first workshop leader was Brooks Haxton. The six of us that year had been admitted into the program, ostensibly, because we showed some talent. Brooks’s role was to disabuse us all of the notion that talent is any kind of replacement for effort when wresting images into the kind of muscular language that makes poetry.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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