What We Are Reading Today: ‘Bartleby and Me’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Bartleby and Me’
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Updated 16 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Bartleby and Me’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Bartleby and Me’

Writers love to write about writing and none seemingly more so than Gay Talese, the journalist known as a pioneer of the American literary moment called “New Journalism.” This style of writing originated in the 1960s and ‘70s and combines journalistic research with creative non-fiction.

Talese started his career as an obituary writer at the New York Times and, later, as a magazine writer who ended up reluctantly penning the most widely read magazine articles of all time. He showcases some of that editorial wisdom — and reporting mishaps — in his 2023 book, “Bartley and Me: Reflections of an Old Scrivener.”

Now 92 years old, he writes vividly about his early reporting days and the stories behind the stories; he masterfully weaves in stray strands that somehow come together into a coherent narrative. Talese writes crisp copy. He writes about nobodies and somebodies with equal fervor.

He recalls his time as a young reporter on assignment where, at the insistence of his persistent editor, he attempted to sit down for an interview with the elusive and super-famous star Frank Sinatra. Talese recounts how he repeatedly tried — and failed — to pin down “Ol’ Blue Eyes” while chasing him around California in the 1960s. He eventually published his distinctively titled profile, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” in the April 1966 issue of Esquire. That piece of writing is considered one of the most celebrated pieces of magazine journalism to date.

Talese’s tales are mostly centered around his time in New York. He recalls things in meticulous detail — for example, pointing out the exact address and precise building within a neighborhood to help the reader visualize the space. The city is always a leading part of the story.

“New York is a city of things unnoticed,” he wrote 60 years ago, something that could easily be written today. He recalls the early days of his journalistic career in New York, churning out newspaper copy and still, now, being ever-so-curious about everything. The pages of this book show that we all, alongside him, still have much more to notice.

The title of the book was inspired by American author Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” published in the 1800s. This is a social criticism piece about a lawyer who hires a peculiar scrivener or clerk, Bartleby, and the adventures (or misadventures) that ensue.

In his version, Talese shares with us a fresh piece of original reporting titled “Dr. Bartha’s Brownstone,” which is his version of “Bartleby.” This time, however, Bartleby is an unknown doctor who makes his bombastic mark on the city one random summer day. It is a brilliant piece of journalism about journalism.


What We Are Reading Today: Money Capital

What We Are Reading Today: Money Capital
Updated 21 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Money Capital

What We Are Reading Today: Money Capital

Authors: Patrick Bolton & Haizhou Huang

In this book, leading economists Patrick Bolton and Haizhou Huang offer a novel perspective, viewing monetary economics through the lens of corporate finance.

They propose a richer theory, where money can be seen as the equity capital of a nation, playing a similar role as stocks for a company. 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Crossing Thoughts’

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Updated 20 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Crossing Thoughts’

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Author: Sultan Ayaz

“Crossing Thoughts” is a fantasy novel in English by Saudi author Sultan Ayaz, published in 2017.

Ayaz’s novel is about humans defending their homeland against demon oppression. It is about the eternal fight between humanity and demons, and the person who stands between them.

The story begins with Drake, a child who lives a peaceful life with his family in a small town. However, a demonic attack destroys the village, but Drake somehow survives.

Three characters emerge: Aria, Ray and Amber, who study the nature of elements at the Grand College of Elements in the Kingdom of Iora, one of three kingdoms suffering demonic oppression. They learn to employ elemental magic as a weapon against their demonic opponents.

Aria (wind element user), Amber (fire element user) and Ray (thunder element user) end up fighting a sea demon and are discovered by a mysterious man called Soul, who admires their powers and helps them train to become “demon slayers,” to free humans from oppression.

There are many fight scenes in the storyline using magic and elements, and the book is full of drama, plot twists and terror.

What I liked about the narrative is how easy it is to read and follow, and the development of the world building —from the village to the Kingdom of Iora.

The female characters in the novel shine brighter and have distinct styles, making them more intriguing to read about, and each possesses a particular power.   

It might be confusing for some readers that the story begins with Drake’s perspective and then cuts to the story of Aria, Amber and Ray. However, the more you read, the more intriguing the female storylines become.

The book has received four-plus star ratings on the Goodreads website and is simple enough to read in one sitting.  

In 2020, Ayaz became one of the first Saudi novelists to have a fiction work in English published overseas when Olympia Publishers, a British publishing house, purchased the rights to “Crossing Thoughts.”

The novel is also set to be adapted into a Manga comic by Manga Arabia.

 


What We Are Reading Today: When the Bombs Stopped

What We Are Reading Today: When the Bombs Stopped
Updated 20 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: When the Bombs Stopped

What We Are Reading Today: When the Bombs Stopped

Author: Erin Lin

Over the course of the Vietnam War, the United states dropped 500,000 tonnes of bombs over Cambodia—more than the combined weight of every man, woman, and child in the country.

Fifty years after the last sortie, residents of rural Cambodia are still coping with the unexploded ordnance that covers their land.


What We Are Reading Today: Father Time

What We Are Reading Today: Father Time
Updated 19 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Father Time

What We Are Reading Today: Father Time

Author: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

It has long seemed self-evident that women care for babies and men do other things.

Puzzled and dazzled by the tender expertise of new fathers around the world— several in her own family—celebrated evolutionary anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy set out to trace the deep history of male nurturing and explain a surprising departure from everything she had assumed to be “normal.”


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Breaking the Mold’

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Updated 18 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Breaking the Mold’

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Authors: RAGHURAM G. RAJAN AND ROHIT LAMBA

India’s economy has overtaken the United Kingdom’s to become the fifth-largest in the world, but it is still only one-fifth the size of China’s, and India’s economic growth is too slow to provide jobs for millions of its ambitious youth.

In “Breaking the Mold,” Raghuram Rajan and Rohit Lamba show why and how India needs to blaze a new path if it’s to succeed.