A Touching, 'Telling' Book About Cheese

Jul 28, 2013

The first thing you should know: This is not a book about cheese. I mean, it is — and a famous, award-winning cheese at that, a Spanish sheep's milk cheese called the Páramo de Guzmán that cost $22 per pound in 1991. A cheese so good, the king of Spain himself couldn't get enough of it.

But this book is far more about its makers — the cheesemaker himself, an enormous and enormously charming Castilian named Ambrosio, and the book's maker, journalist and author Michael Paterniti, who basically falls in love with Ambrosio at first sight.

Actress Najla Said is a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian, but growing up in New York City, her identity was anything but clearly defined.

The daughter of prominent literary critic Edward Said, she spent her childhood in one of the most influential intellectual households in America. Edward Said, who died in 2003, was a renowned professor at Columbia University and was critical to defining Palestinian independence.

Verlyn Klinkenborg's essays about life on his farm in upstate New York have run in The New York Times since 1997. With a long family history of farming, his agricultural roots run deep into the soil.

"All of my aunts and uncles farmed; all of my cousins still farm," he says. "The home farm where my dad was raised has been in my family since the early teens, and ... following the track of modern agriculture, has changed its character hugely over time. But it's still in the family."

A World A Few Degrees Of Whimsy Away From Our Own

Jul 28, 2013

Anthony Marra is the author of A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena.

Ditie, the narrator of Bohumil Hrabal's transcendent novel, I Served the King of England, is described in the jacket copy as "a hugely ambitious but simple waiter in a deluxe Prague hotel." I first crossed paths with him when I, myself, was working as a night porter in a deluxe Edinburgh hotel.

During the 19th century, a panopticon was a prison or asylum with an all-seeing eye. Some of the C-shaped prisons with central watchtowers still stand in the U.S. and Europe.

Jenni Fagan's new book borrows the panopticon idea as the setting for a gritty, often poetic, novel. The story is based loosely on Fagan's own experience growing up in the Scottish foster care system for 16 years.

'The Telling Room': This Cheese Stands Alone

Jul 27, 2013

Here's a great piece of travel writing, storytelling, mythmaking and hero worship — all rolled into one book with a near record-breakingly long title. It's by magazine writer Michael Paterniti of GQ, and it's called The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese.

What if the X-Men were real? And what if they weren't mutants in spandex, but people like you and me and Bob in accounting, just endowed with superhuman talents for things like pattern recognition, programming and strategy?

When Detroit filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week, news accounts were filled with troubling stories of urban decay in the city: vast areas of vacant lots and abandoned houses, shuttered parks, nonworking streetlights and police response times close to an hour.

If you asked me to name my favorite movie scene, I'd choose the one in Citizen Kane when newspaper owner Charles Foster Kane steals his rivals' best reporters, then throws a party in his own honor. As musicians literally sing his praises, we watch Kane dance with chorus girls wearing a look of radiant delight. It's a moment bursting with promise and cockiness and joie de vivre, made all the more exuberant because Kane's pleasure is so obviously shared by Welles himself.

If every era gets the historical fiction it deserves, we have been good indeed. From the transcendent psychological rummagings of Hilary Mantel to the gooey pleasures of Philippa Gregory, we can set aside flowery bodice-rippers (not that there's anything wrong with those) and view the dusty figures through lenses literary, pop culture-y, or near-pornographic.