No Place Like Rome

The story of Dido and Aeneas gets my vote as the great tragic love story. In the early chapters of Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas, on his way from the smoking ruins of Troy to the shores of Italy, is shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage.

The Ravenous Doctor Is In. Again

The trouble with Hannibal Lecter—as a literary character—is that he has no equals. He's always the smartest person in the room. He has no Achilles heel, no vulnerability to green Kryptonite.

American Lit's All-Night DJ

More random thoughts while in the middle, literally, of Thomas Pynchon's new novel, "Against the Day": I once lived in a city with one of those public-supported radio stations that played just about every kind of popular music under the sun: rock, blues, jazz, Celtic, Tex-Mex, bluegrass, gamelin, calypso and so on and on.

Pynchon on the Installment Plan

Here's my problem: I've now read more than 400 pages of the new Thomas Pynchon novel, "Against the Day," and I'm not even half through. Normally I wouldn't complain, and I certainly wouldn't look for sympathy.

An 'Unbelievable' Talent

Reading the stories about the murder of actress Adrienne Shelly in New York City this week, I kept thinking of a Frank O'Hara poem that begins, "Lana Turner has collapsed!" After that he spends about half of the poem's 17 lines talking about the weather (snow, rain, possibly hail, "but hailing hits you hard on the head/ hard so it was really snowing and/ raining and I was in such a hurry …") and the New York City traffic.

The Satirist Who Would Save a State

For the 12 years I spent in Florida, I never thought the state needed its own satirist, since my local newspaper did such a bang up job in that department simply by reporting the news.

Marconi--And Cheese

By grafting together the story of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the tale of a serial killer who worked that city's darker corners while the fair was in progress, Erik Larson produced a huge nonfiction best seller: 2003's "The Devil in the White City." His new book, "Thunderstruck," apes the formula: this time he links a murder in Edwardian England with Guglielmo Marconi's efforts to perfect the wireless telegraph.

Hero or Hatchet Man?

When you pick up "Blood and Thunder," Hampton Sides's new history of how the U.S. government almost destroyed the Navajo Nation in the 1800s, you can't help thinking, "Here we go again" All the usual suspects are present.

On the Lost Highway

For a more than decent summary of the plot of Cormac McCarthy's latest novel, "The Road," consult the Library of Congress boilerplate that follows the book's title page: "1.

'Bluegrass in Reverse'

Mike Compton calls the music he and David Long play on their wonderful new album "bluegrass in reverse." "Stomp" ( Acoustic Disc ), released March 7, features the mandolins, guitars and voices of Compton and Long on 17 songs, some original, several by Bill Monroe, and a good many that date as far back as the 19th century.

Mr. Ford's Mr. Lincoln

A John Ford movie is a tough sell these days. The sentimentality, the boys-club atmosphere, the broad humor—where the only thing funnier than a bar fight is a longer bar fight—these things don't play well with modern audiences.

Not Easily Categorized

The boxed set has become the de rigueur honor for any aging pop musician who is A.) still around, B.)  still pumping it out and C.)  has enough fans to make it worth someone's while to produce one of these things.

'I'm Not Dead Yet'

Richard Thompson isn't doing live interviews to promote this new set, but he did graciously agree to answer a few questions from NEWSWEEK's Malcolm Jones via e-mail.

Walking a Fine Line

Being the child of a celebrity means running into some part of your personal life every time you turn the corner. Being the child of a dead celebrity, as Rosanne Cash has discovered since her father's death in 2003, can drive the surreal meter right into the red: "I walked into a store the other day, and I heard my father's voice say, 'I'm not afraid to die.' You know that song 'Personal Jesus'?

Cash on the Line

Being the child of a celebrity means running into some part of your personal life every time you turn the corner. Being the child of a dead celebrity, as Rosanne Cash has discovered since her father's death in 2003, can drive the surreal meter right into the red: "I walked into a store the other day, and I heard my father's voice say, 'I'm not afraid to die.' You know that song 'Personal Jesus'?

Jazz: Pictures That Swing

In 1960 William Claxton took the road trip of his dreams. A West Coast photographer already well known for his photos of jazz musicians, Claxton was asked by German writer Joachim Berendt to document a cross-country search for American jazz artists.

Look Books

"Deep South" by Sally Mann ( Bulfinch Press )In her latest collection, Mann extends the exploration she began with "What Remains," her study of death that focused on corpses and battlefields.

Among School Children, McCourt Got Schooled

As he will be the first to tell you, Frank McCourt almost failed the exam to become a teacher in the New York City schools. "A passing grade was 65. I scored a 69," he recalls over a bowl of oatmeal one recent morning in a Manhattan diner.

America From Tom to Abe

Sean Wilentz ends his massive history, "The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln," with a description of a photograph taken in 1865: 13 men, six white, seven black, the jury empaneled to try Jefferson Davis, ex-president of the Confederacy, on charges of treason.

A Comedy Of Suffering

Amy Tan means well, but she knows that's not enough. So she did what she does best and wrote a novel about her dilemma. "Saving Fish From Drowning" is not your usual Tan story.

Books: A Lighter Look at Suffering

Amy Tan means well. But she knows that's not enough. So she did what she does best and wrote a novel about her dilemma. "Saving Fish From Drowning" is not your usual Tan story.

SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

Spook by Mary RoachHer choice of subjects--corpses in her last book ("Stiff") and now the search for the soul--suggests Roach is not your average science writer.

Monk And 'Trane --Together At Last

It is the musical equivalent of discovering a new Mount Everest: last February, while digitizing a lot of old Voice of America broadcast tapes, Library of Congress archivist Larry Appelbaum discovered several boxes labeled CARNEGIE HALL JAZZ 1957.

Fast Company

Myla Goldberg talks so fast and so intensely that after 10 minutes with her you feel you've known her forever. Over lunch in a Brooklyn diner you learn--before the food arrives--that she hates to repeat herself as a novelist, which explains why "Wickett's Remedy," in stores next week, is nothing like her debut, "Bee Season." That she grew up in Laurel, Md. --"15 miles from the shopping center where George Wallace got shot"--but couldn't wait to get to New York, where she hopes to live until she...

Snap Judgment: Books

--Malcolm JonesGarbo: Portraits From Her Private Collection By Scott Reisfield and Robert Dance Greta Garbo made only 26 movies before retiring and brilliantly perpetuating a myth that continues unabated.

One For The Road

When book-sellers go to a convention, they apparently do spend the night reading. This past June, at BookExpo America in New York City, Hyperion Books started handing out prepublication copies of J.

DEAR OSAMA BIN LADEN...

It is hard to imagine an uglier coincidence: Chris Cleave's stunning debut novel, "Incendiary," the story of what happens after a bomb kills more than 1,000 people in a London soccer stadium, was published in England on July 7, the day of the London bombings. (The American edition is out Aug. 2.) No one seemed to know what to do.

GUNS, MONEY AND DOPE IN THE TEXAS DESERT

Llewelyn Moss, the hero of Cormac McCarthy's new novel, is out hunting antelope near the Rio Grande when he comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong: three Broncos full of corpses and heroin.

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