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Ransom Jabara

A Winding Lane

Originally I had set out to do a write-up of Neil Gaiman’s short novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  It’s a book of magic and wonder and British children battling nefarious forces, not unlike Harry Potter or Mary Poppins.  But in Gaiman’s book those winning attributes are spun a degree darker, creating a story more akin in mood to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.  It’s a fantastic tale, and I’d like to be able to describe it beyond simple comparisons, but I’m at a loss to adequately put some of the magical happenings into words.  Here’s a quick attempt -  Read More..

A Waste of Energy?

As a concerned citizen, you try to do your part.  You’ve switched every light bulb in your house to those swirly compact fluorescents, you only buy produce grown within spitting distance of your kitchen table, and the closest thing to T.V. you watch is the fuel economy monitor in your Prius.  And for all those best efforts, you might just be making the environment worse.  Thanks. Read More..

Lady in Red

One of the intriguing things about dystopian novels is finding the parallels between the disturbing fictive world of the story and our somewhat less disturbing reality.  At its most chilling, the genre reads more as premonition than cautionary tale – as if we’re already on the wrong path and there is little chance we’re going to remedy the situation.  In this way, a compelling premise can feel more important to a dystopian novel than the plot or the storytelling.  That is, until you go to read the book. Read More..

Genetically Modified From Its Original Version

I recently read an article in the New York Times that details how scientists are on the verge of giving extinct animals a new lease on life.    I’m hazy on the science behind their reincarnation efforts, but it has something to do with plugging the extinct animal’s DNA into an embryo that can be carried by a similar present-day creature.  For example, an elephant might be used to gestate a wooly mammoth calf – and then the world would once again have fuzzy little puffball baby elephants.  Which is adorable.  If science makes this happen, the internet might cease to have any other function beyond housing and distributing footage of baby mammoths, in all their oxymoronic and anachronistic snuffleupagus-ian glory. Read More..

Beauty Is Pain, Never Said a Podiatrist

When the book club I’m in selected Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as its next title, I was a little hesitant to read it, thinking I might not be the book’s intended audience.  To be blunt:  it looked like a book for ladies.  And by that I don’t mean women, I mean proper ladies with lace parasols and deeply-held opinions about crumpets.  The book had a soft pink cover adorned with little flowers and a delicate fan framed by floral scroll work.  I know it’s unfair to associate a book with its cover, or a color palate with gender, but this one was asking for it. Read More..

Is it Square to Be Hip?

A few days ago, our director sent around a hipster lit flow chart that had appeared on HuffPost.  My initial reaction to it was relief that the good people at GoodReads had categorically disqualified me from hipsterdom (I haven’t read Infinite Jest).  But then I remembered that distaste for hipsters is  the single most qualifying characteristic for being one, and I teared up behind my oversized plastic glasses. Read More..

Rich and Unnecessarily Famous

Just as a matter of taste, I prefer it when the children of famous people accomplish little and keep a low profile. They are already set up on easy street and have plenty of spillover attention with which to entertain themselves. If that isn’t enough, they can always DJ or tweet about fashion. But to become a brilliant humorist, well, that’s just missing the whole point of being a kid of a famous person. Read More..

Twilight with a Different Kind of Vampires

If your weekday responsibilities have you conditioned so you can no longer sleep-in on the weekends, then you might occasionally catch MSNBC’s early morning political/news chat fest “Up with Chris Hayes.”  It’s the show where all of the guests have giant orange coffee mugs and in the center of the table there is a mountain of breakfast pastries no one ever eats.  I want to eat those pastries. Read More..

Watch out for writing called Muscular, Sparse, or Lyrical

Do you ever pick up a book because it received a rave in the New York Times, but it ends up feeling like a miserable chore reading it?  Or maybe the book’s jacket was plastered with awards and blurbs authenticating its brilliance, but the story seems dry and impenetrable to you?  And to add insult to injury, you have this book sitting around your house for weeks or years, occasionally popping up to accuse you of being a halfwit?  If so, I share your pain. Read More..

Author Self-Helps Himself

There’s a certain swaggering presumptuousness in authoring a book of advice.  Telling troubled people how to lead their lives is a substantial endeavor with potentially weighty consequences.   It’s hard to imagine too many people pulling it off gracefully.  That’s why, as a society, we officially and unofficially limit serious advice-giving to credentialed experts, spiritual leaders, and Oprah Winfrey. Read More..