In Books:
Folk Photography

As a cultural phenomenon, the photo postcard was, according to Luc Sante, in its heyday from 1905 to the middle of the following decade, when the war put a crimp in things (Germany printed many of the cards and supplied much of the ink), but lasted in some form until about 1930. The cards primarily came from the middle of the country, Texas up to the Dakotas, and from a strip of country between the states of Washington and New York. The ones reproduced here are drawn from Sante’s own collection (harvested from sidewalk sales and antique-store dollar bins), and make a strong case for this format being considered its own unique form of folk art…

Luc Sante’s Folk Photography is available now where all finer books are sold. Or online. Read the full review at PopMatters.

In Books: Best Nonfiction of 2009


Now you can read the PopMatters take on all the best that we saw in nonfiction books last year, with an introduction by yours truly, right here.

My contributions to the list include:

  • Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement, Leonard Zeskind
  • The Death of Conservatism, Sam Tanenhaus
  • The Good Soldiers, David Finkel
  • The Jazz Loft Project, Sam Stephenson


In Books:
Best Fiction of 2009


Each January, the good folks at PopMatters publish an annotated list of what was really and truly outstanding in books the previous year. Right on schedule, their take on what truly stood out in the fiction category is now up for perusal here.

My additions to their list include:

  • Blood’s a Rover, James Ellroy
  • The Children’s Book, A.S. Byatt
  • The Magicians, Lev Grossman
  • Brothers, Yu Hua
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniel Mueenuddin
  • Richard Yates: Everyman’s Library
  • Sandokan, Nanni Balestrini

Now get reading.

In Theaters:
Leap Year


A third-circle-of-hell kind of film, Leap Year would make fools of us all for thinking that a brand-name actor picture being swiftly dumped into theaters so soon after the awards season has concluded, could contain within it any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It raises questions about many things that have nothing to do with the “story” that was filmed, namely: What sort of transgressions did fine actors like Amy Adams and Matthew Goode enact in order to get themselves consigned to this punishment? Is the studio system this broken that romantic comedy scripts without a single joke or likeable character are being assigned directors and many millions of dollars for exotic overseas shoots? And how is it, exactly, that all of Ireland is blooming with spring-like color in February?…

Leap Year is now playing everywhere, to our eternal regret. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.

New on DVD:
Big Love: The Complete Third Season


…Fortunately, things tightened up in Big Love‘s shorter third season (ten episodes compared to the previous seasons’ dozen each), producing a darker and more potent drama than expected. Bill and his wives each reached some kind of crisis point in the clashing of family and personal needs and spirituality, which is where Big Love finds its most enlightening conflicts…

The third season of Big Love is now available on DVD. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Books:
Republican Gomorrah

Instead of Hunter S. Thompson, these days we have writers like Max Blumenthal, and though we might be better off in the trade (the likes of Thompson frequently didn’t let the truthful details get in the way of a good story that they felt better explicated the reality of the situation), reading a book like Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party is not nearly so vivid or perversely enjoyable as it might be…

Republican Gomorrah is available in finer book outlets everywhere. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Movies:
The Best of 2009


Since we have finally made it to 2010, it’s time now to go find the time to check out all the great (well, good-ish) films you missed over the past year. Here is a list of what one guy thinks the ten best films of 2009 were:

  1. Adventureland
  2. A Serious Man
  3. Coraline
  4. In the Loop
  5. Still Walking
  6. The Way We Get By
  7. The Hurt Locker
  8. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  9. Bright Star
  10. Summer Hours

You can read a more detailed summation, along with the learned opinions of many other fine writers, of this list over at filmcritic.com.

In Comics:
The Best of 2009


Herewith, a quick jotting of some of the best graphic novels that hit the shelves in 2009:

  1. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
  2. Stitches by David Small
  3. Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
  4. Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman
  5. You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest
  6. Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman, et al
  7. Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance by Bill Kelter and Wayne Shellabarger
  8. Low Moon by Jason
  9. Fables Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition) by Bill Willingham
  10. The Beats ed. by Paul Buhle

My votes were part of the annual PW Comics Week Critic’s Poll, the results of which were published here — and Asterios Polyp won handily.