• Robert Birnbaum

Not The New York Times Book Review (4 April 2019)

Updated: Apr 5, 2019




"Reading, in the deepest, most difficult, ultimately satisfying sense is, and always was, the craft of an elite, but, in spite of what demagogues and anti-intellectuals would have us believe, an elite to which almost anyone can choose to belong." Alberto Manguel






This Storm: A novel byJames Ellroy(Author)


Is there another living novelist like James Ellroy? If there is I

haven't come across them. His narrative style (sometimes referred to as telegramatic) resembles the Dos Passos of his USA trilogy and employs 1940's vernacular. This new opus is set in Los Angelos, just after Pearl Harbor. It's part of his LA Quartet, which is part of a trilogy of trilogies mapping mid century American history, not quite like Gore Vidal's American Empire series.



James Ellroy copyright 2001, 2009 Robert Birnbaum


Calling himself "the Demon Dog of American Literature", Ellroy has a penchant for bombast , consider this from a New York Time interview, "I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime novelist who ever lived. I am to the crime novel in specific what Tolstoy is to the Russian novel and what Beethoven is to music." That notwithstanding , he is fun to read, like watching "The Big Sleep" or "The Wire" If you are fan, you can look forward to the Everyman Library's forthcoming publication of Volumes I and II of The Underworld USA trilogy.



Called Out but Safe: A Baseball Umpire's Journey by Al Clark, Dan Schlossberg and Marty Appel(Foreword)


I am looking forward to my 10th year adjudicating my local Little League. My experience of this world as been revelatory on many levels, not the least o f which, attention to the epistemological aspects of the calling balls and strikes. There have been a fair number of books by the men in blue (the best overview was a non ump, Bruce Weber's As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires). Al Clark (by the way, the first Jewish MLB umpire) hails from a time when umpires could be as demonstrative as legendary,hissy fitting managers Earl Weaver and Lou Pinella Billy Martin, and Dick Williams. He is infamous for tearing a hamstring during one of his not infrequent player ejections





Eugene V. Debs: A Graphic Biography by Paul Buhle Steve Max Noah Van Sciver(Illustrator), Dave Nance( Contributor


Having declared war on socialism in his State of the Union speech, the Bedlamite in the White House validated the rebirth of wide-spread interest and sympathy in social and economic justice. Thus a propitious time to revisit the life of one of the giant figures of the early 20th century, Eugene Debs. Historian and University of Wisconsin alumnus Paul Buhle has a large and glorious body of work making accessible the people's history via graphic narratives and biographies — latest of which makes accessible the life of Debs and the context for the rise of sociailism in the United States.




Figuring by Maria Popova


Maria Popova's website, Brain Pickings is an intellectually challenging way to procrastinate at your desk ( infinityly more rewarding than communion with your mobile device. I could not spare the time to create something better than the publisher's description of Brain Picking's Maria Popova's new book, Figuring


...explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries—beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement.


Stretching between these figures is a cast of artists, writers, and scientists—mostly women, mostly queer—whose public contribution have risen out of their unclassifiable and often heartbreaking private relationships to change the way we understand, experience, and appreciate the universe. Among them are the astronomer Maria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science; the sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who did the same in art; the journalist and literary critic Margaret Fuller, who sparked the feminist movement; and the poet Emily Dickinson.


Emanating from these lives are larger questions about the measure of a good life and what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world: Are achievement and acclaim enough for happiness? Is genius? Is love? Weaving through the narrative is a set of peripheral figures—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman—and a tapestry of themes spanning music, feminism, the history of science, the rise and decline of religion, and how the intersection of astronomy, poetry, and Transcendentalist philosophy fomented the environmental movement.


By the way, Popova collaborated with Enchanted Lion Press ( Claudia Bedrick) ,the much admired 'children's book' publisher,editing an alluring book, A Velocity of Being: Letters to A Young Reader.






Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky with Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier: Anthropoceneby Edward Burtynsky with Jennifer Baichwal , Nick De Pencier Suzaan Boettger , Jan Zalasiewicz , Colin Waters , Margaret Atwood



This is some serious shit


"Anthropocene is a multidisciplinary body of work by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, which includes a photobook, a major traveling museum exhibition, a feature documentary film and an interactive educational website. The project's starting point is the research of the Anthropocene Working Group, an international body of scientists who are advocating to officially change the name of our present geological epoch, Holocene, to Anthropocene, in recognition of profound human changes to the earth's system. The AWG's research categories, such as Anthroturbation, Species Extinction, Technofossils, Boundary Limits and Terraforming, are represented and explored in various mediums as evidence of our species' impact on a geological scale."




© 2018 by Robert Birnbaum. Proudly created with Wix.com