What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham
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Updated 25 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

Bringing together reception history, music analysis and criticism, the history of music theory, and the philosophy of music, Beethoven Hero explores the nature and persistence of Beethoven’s heroic style. What have we come to value in this music, asks Scott Burnham, and why do generations of critics and analysts hear it in much the same way?

 Specifically, what is it that fosters the intensity of listener engagement with the heroic style, the often overwhelming sense of identification with its musical process?

Starting with the story of heroic quest heard time and again in the first movement of the Eroica Symphony, Burnham suggests that Beethoven’s music matters profoundly to its listeners because it projects an empowering sense of self, destiny, and freedom, while modeling ironic self consciousness.

In addition to thus identifying Beethoven’s music as an overarching expression of values central to the age of Goethe and Hegel, the author describes and then critiques the process by which the musical values of the heroic style quickly became the controlling model of compositional logic in Western music criticism and analysis.


What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities
Updated 20 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

Author: Adam Gopnik

A stirring defense of liberalism against the dogmatisms of our time from an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author.
Not since the early twentieth century has liberalism, and liberals, been under such relentless attack, from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and, even worse, in liberal thought.
A Thousand Small Sanities is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition, according to a review on goodreads.com. Taking us from Montaigne to Mill, and from Middlemarch to the civil rights movement, Adam Gopnik argues that liberalism is not a form of centrism, nor simply another word for free markets, nor merely a term denoting a set of rights.
It is something far more ambitious: The search for radical change by humane measures. Gopnik shows us why liberalism is one of the great moral adventures in human history — and why, in an age of autocracy, our lives may depend on its continuation.


What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now
Updated 19 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

What We Are Reading Today: They Will Have to Die Now

Author: James Verini

A searing narrative of the battle of Mosul, Iraq, described by the Pentagon as “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
In this masterpiece of war journalism based on months of frontline reporting, National Magazine Award winner James Verini describes the climactic battle in the struggle against Daesh, says a review on goodreads.com.
Focusing on two brothers from Mosul and their families, a charismatic Iraqi major who marched north from Baghdad to seize the city with his troops, rowdy Kurdish militiamen, and a hard-bitten American sergeant, Verini describes a war for the soul of a country, a war over and for history.
Seeing the battle in a larger, centuries-long sweep, he connects the bloody-minded philosophy of Daesh with the ancient Assyrians who founded Mosul.


What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics
Updated 18 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

Author: Anthony Carelli

The New World, Anthony Carelli’s new collection of poems, is an American travelogue that unfolds in a series of darkly comic episodes, with allusions to Dante as a thread throughout. In these epics in miniature, we meet a pilgrim-poet as he awaits the arrival of his child, a would-be Columbus, on the shores of a land “disenstoried” by explorers present and past. It’s a land and a people largely lost in mindscapes and mythscapes, haunted by sketchy aspirational visions, misbegotten misremembering, and emptiness. Nonetheless, the poet steps out to the shore to sing for the child—and reader—to do what Columbus never did: “land gently. /And listen and/ listen and listen/and stay.”
From an Arizona nursing home and a grandmother’s memory of a stolen golden Schwinn in the occupied Philippines, to a tale of road-tripping west through Pennsylvania as sunrise transpires in the wrong sky, The New World opens strange spaces for us to re-see, lament, and re-sing the stories we tell.


What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong
Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

Taking readers behind the scenes in the world of fiction reviewing, Inside the Critics’ Circle explores the ways critics evaluate books despite the inherent subjectivity involved and the uncertainties of reviewing when seemingly anyone can be a reviewer. Drawing on interviews with critics from such venues as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, Phillipa Chong delves into the complexities of the review-writing process, including the considerations, values, and cultural and personal anxieties that shape what critics do.

Chong explores how critics are paired with review assignments, why they accept these time-consuming projects, how they view their own qualifications for reviewing certain books, and the criteria they employ when making literary judgments. She discovers that while their readers are of concern to reviewers, they are especially worried about authors on the receiving end of reviews. As these are most likely peers who will be returning similar favors in the future, critics’ fears and frustrations factor into their willingness or reluctance to write negative reviews.

At a time when traditional review opportunities are dwindling, book reviewing  is being brought into question.


REVIEW: Yassin Adnan’s ‘Hot Maroc’ explores Marrakech, and the influence of the digital world on reality

REVIEW: Yassin Adnan’s ‘Hot Maroc’ explores Marrakech, and the influence of the digital world on reality
Updated 16 September 2021

REVIEW: Yassin Adnan’s ‘Hot Maroc’ explores Marrakech, and the influence of the digital world on reality

REVIEW: Yassin Adnan’s ‘Hot Maroc’ explores Marrakech, and the influence of the digital world on reality

CHICAGO: Longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2017, and published in English for the first time in July this year, Yassin Adnan’s novel “Hot Maroc” is a glimpse into Marrakech, Morocco through the eyes Rahhal Laâouina, a university student desperate both for the degree that will allow his life to match the legend he has made of himself in his mind, and to make his father proud. While this contemporary story begins with Rahhal’s journey, it is also a tale of the generations since Morocco’s independence, university life, identity politics, protests, and the Internet. When Rahhal learns that he can control certain aspects of life using the latter, he becomes obsessed.

Rahhal, named after a martyr, sees his counterparts as animals and himself as a squirrel. It helps him make sense of the city around him. From Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, where he is studying for a degree in Arabic language and literature from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rahhal can put aside his upbringing in the Ain itti neighborhood outside the city walls. He can join the National Union of Students in Morocco and can drown himself in a narrative that he lives in dreams but that plays out quite differently in real life. When he finds himself managing the Atlas Cubs Cyber Café, Rahhal revels in hiding behind his anonymity in the virtual world and pursuing outcomes he could never imagine in real life.

With Morocco’s rich history as a backdrop and set against a modern-day distrust among Marrakech’s residents of secret police, politicians, and each other, Adnan creates a space where a person’s identity and past can mean everything in the real world and nothing on the Internet. Online, every opinion, if it garners enough attention, matters, and Rahhal does not let opportunity pass him by. Adnan’s main character can steer the narrative to fit his liking, as long as he is careful.

Adnan introduces every character with a wit and ease, their eccentricities and most intimate desires laid out on the page. Each personality is carefully crafted to create an extraordinary stage of characters. Translated into English by Alexander E. Elinson, Adnan’s novel highlights the Red City’s modern and ancient stories, its heroes and villains, its takers and givers, creating a seamless line between its inhabitants and their city, paying homage to Marrakech and its bustling streets, resolute residents, and cyber avenues.