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anthony lane   He's brilliant. He's execrable. Throughout his nine-year tenure at The New Yorker, film critic Anthony Lane has excited almost as much debate as his reviews. Whether or not one agrees with his opinions on Showgirls (very bad), British cinema (bad), The English Patient (good), or Walker Evans (very good), Lane's articles always display an enthusiastic bent. Nobody's Perfect, a collection of his New Yorker work, provides a generous cross-section of his writings: film reviews and longer pieces on a surprising range of topics, from surrealists Luis Buñuel and Jan Svankmajer to astronauts and fashion. In this issue, we offer Lane's thoughts on Batman & Robin, Pearl Harbor, cookbooks, and Legos.
 
ethan hawke   Grungy, messy, slacker—these are the simple terms most often invoked to describe reluctant Generation X poster boy, Ethan Hawke. With Mr. Hawke's second novel, Ash Wednesday, terms such as sensitive, earnest, and insightful may be introduced to the lexicon that defines this multi-talented modern artist.

Ash Wednesday is the sentimental story of two young lovers who embark on a road trip that serves as a forum, and at times a metaphor, for the problems that haunt them individually and threaten to end their relationship. Matters are made more complicated by the fact that Christy Ann Walker, a na´ve but curious idealist, is pregnant with the child of misguided but well-intentioned AWOL army private James Heartstock.

In an ambitious artistic endeavor, Mr. Hawke alternates between his two main characters' first person perspectives with each chapter. In addition to taking an honest and unapologetic look at relationships as seen by both genders, Ash Wednesday effectively explores the magically cathartic nature of a cross-country road trip.
 
w.g. sebald   The death of W.G. Sebald in December 2001 was a sad and shocking ending to a sad and shocking year. Sebald was at the height of his career — his novel Austerlitz having reached a much wider audience than any of his previous books — and was routinely hailed as one of the world's greatest living writers.

Sebald will be remembered for his prose, for the stunning, brilliant masterpiece The Emigrants, for Vertigo, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz, but his poetry is perhaps equally remarkable. In After Nature, one of Sebald's earliest works, there is much that echoes the structure and obsessions of his prose — it is a triptych of three biographical poems, poems that blur the line between poetry and history, between horror and beauty. The last of these poems, "Dark Night Sallies Forth," is autobiographical, chronicling Sebald's own journeys.
 
salman rushdie   Salman Rushdie is reknowned for his rich, vibrant novels and exhuberant prose, but his non-fiction writing is less well-known. The publication of Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002, which showcases Rushdie's inquisitive, thoughtful and compassionate mind, should remedy that. In this essay written just after September 11th, Rushdie opines on the virtues of New York City, his adopted home, and what's truly at stake and worth fighting for in the battle against terrorism.
 
marcel rouff   One of the best known books in gastronomic literature, Marcel Rouff's classic French novel The Passionate Epicure brings to life Monsieur Dodin-Bouffant, bachelor and gastronome extraordinaire. Based on the famous nineteenth-century gourmet Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Dodin-Bouffant is an "arbiter of taste" whose "prodigiously refined taste would pounce upon a grain of superfluous pepper, or the missing pinch of salt, whose extraordinarily developed taste-buds could trace by a touch a few moments too many or too few of cooking." He regards eating as an art and an act of patriotism, a philosophy that single-handedly resurrects France's grand culinary tradition. When Dodin's unparalleled chef Eugénie Chatagne unexpectedly dies, the country plunges into mourning, wondering what will become of the master—and of themselves. But Dodin soon returns in even rarer form: nearly succumbing (twice) to a different sort of appetite, finding another chef, and handing the Prince of Eurasia an infamous defeat in a battle of dueling dinners. Comicly entertaining, Marcel Rouff's The Passionate Epicure is a delicious depiction of the high art of cooking—and eating.
 
george bradley   George Bradley's fourth collection of poems, Some Assembly Required, states its goals casually and pursues them rigorously. Understanding the world around one's own hard-won life requires "some assembly" of ideas, memories. Bradley's choice of such a mundane, practical phrase — as might be encountered on a children's toy or wall unit — sets the tone and purpose of the book: to examine faith and comprehension in a nation glutted with disposable knowledge and indulgent commerce, to "pick up / The drive-thru punishment of one day's understanding." The poems, while never merely humorous, often convey their weighty subjects as if in a buoyant vessel, such as a catalogue of animals qualified 'For the New Ark': "Cockroaches, of course, the professionals, / As well as most varieties of lice." Lively rhythms — "light, leaping and releaping off of water" — braced by both perfect and irregular rhyme are combined with word selection so precise each matches perfectly its circumstances. Read a poem from Some Assembly Required.
 
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