--The Future Fire has posted a review of Kiini Ibura Salaam's Ancient, Ancient. Reviewer Martha Hubbard writes, "Throughout the language is stunning, like music become words. I found my own mind dazzled and my imagination stretched to keep up with the flow of images. The story that spoke most strongly to me was that of ‘Marie’, a young Creole woman who has gradually become disconnected from her Louisiana home and her family identity."
--The AALBC has also posted a review of Ancient, Ancient. Reviewer Emanuel Carpenter is a bit uncomfortable with its fantastic and science-fictional elements-- "If you haven’t been exposed to this type of writing, which can be described as African storytelling with a touch of poetic verse, erotica, science fiction and spiritual themes, then each story may indeed have you scratching your head and asking questions. Questions like: What’s up with the moths? Was that really a part snake, part human? What’s up with all the poetry?"-- even as he likes the book (and calls it a "page-turner"): "The stories in this book are sensual, unique, and thought-provoking. In fact, it’s easy to imagine many of the stories as the basis for short films instead of a book. Many of the stories that deal with issues of sexuality, desire, and even revenge (including some not mentioned in this review) will have you wishing they were expanded into a novel."
--Sofia Samatar has reviewed Ellen Klages's In the House of the Seven Librarians for Strange Horizons. She characterizes the physical book thus: "Since the story takes place in such a library, the illustrations are more than padding: they cast a shadow of the world we know into the enchanted realm of the rather special Carnegie Library in the tale. Even with the illustrations, however, the book is small. You could put it into the envelope of a birthday card. It feels like a gift, and it would make a good one, because the story is delightful. Like other magical small spaces—the wardrobes and rabbit holes of fantastic literature—Klages's House is bigger on the inside." -
-Wired's Recovered 1927 Metropolis Film Program Goes Behind the Scenes of a Sci-Fi Masterpiece is worth checking out: "A remarkable 32-page theater program from Metropolis’ 1927 debut has surfaced at a well-known rare book shop in London, which scanned it and shared some pages with Wired. The program was created for the premiere of Metropolis at London’s Marble Arch Pavilion, and it’s packed with firsthand anecdotes from the making of the movie, and some stunning photographs. Only three surviving copies of this program are known to exist, according to the Peter Harrington rare book shop, which has its copy on sale for 2,750 pounds ($4,244). (All 32 pages are available for viewing.) The program reveals the intriguing backstory behind the German sci-fi epic, as told from the perspective of Lang, his wife and collaborator Thea von Harbou, and several members of the cast and crew."
--New York Magazine has posted an essay by Frank Rich on the media's reaction to actor Andy Griffith's death to mourn not Griffith's passing but his role's being "one of the last links to another, simpler time" and a repository of “values which actually transcended the deep divides which tore the nation apart during the years the show aired from 1960 to 1968.” "In reality," Rich writes, "The Andy Griffith Show didn’t transcend the deep divides of its time. It merely ignored them." Rich then examines some of the narratives of American decline now flourishing, particularly the right wing's accusations against the Obama Administration and the reintroduction of the claims for American exceptionalism by Sarah Palin in 2008:
Once Obama was elected, American exceptionalism became as Palin had defined it—a proxy for the patriotism that the new president lacked. From there, it took just a rhetorical sleight-of-hand to link Obama’s deficiency of Americanism to America’s advancing decline. The conflation was consummated by Charles Krauthammer in an influential October 2009 article for The Weekly Standard titled “Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy.” To make his case, he leaned on an Obama quote from a press conference at a NATO conference in Strasbourg, France, that spring. In response to a question from Edward Luce, a Financial Times reporter (and himself the author of a subsequent declinist tome subtitled America in the Age of Descent), the president had answered, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In Krauthammer’s view, this was proof that Obama was endorsing American decline, for “if everyone is exceptional, no one is.”
Since then it’s been pile-on time on the right, usually with that one Obama quote brandished as the smoking gun. The president is constantly being lashed for his lack of commitment to American exceptionalism, much as he was slapped around during the 2008 campaign for not at first slavishly donning a flag lapel pin. Newt Gingrich helped lead the way with a campaign book titled A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters; he explained that he is an “American exceptionalist” because he believes in “fundamentally rebuilding the America we inherited,” as opposed to Obama, who “believes in fundamentally undermining the America we inherited.” Mitt Romney’s contribution to the genre, No Apology, is one long dirge for how America has lost its greatness in the Obama era’s bankrupt “reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism.”
“On the right, the word ‘exceptional’—or ‘exceptionalism’—lately has become a litmus test” is how the columnist Kathleen Parker accurately characterized her fellow conservatives last year when chastising Obama for not obediently saying “that word ‘exceptional’ ” during his 2011 State of the Union address and instead “studiously” avoiding “the word conservatives long to hear.” The only flaw in her argument is that no American president has ever publicly referred to “American exceptionalism” in the more than eight decades since Stalin coined it—with the sole exception of Obama. According to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara—a repository of all the presidents’ public words, eagerly mined by fact-checking bloggers in response to exceptionalism fetishists like Parker—George W. Bush did at least use exceptional in office, albeit twice in reference to his torpedoed Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand why Obama, branded as an outlier to the “real America” by Palin in 2008, would be held to a different standard than his predecessors by a modern GOP that is almost as lily-white as Mayberry. But declinists not normally engaged in conservative partisan politics have fallen into the American-exceptionalism trap as well by buying wholeheartedly into the right’s elevation of Stalin’s coinage from near obscurity to a jingoistic buzz term. Murray writes that the country will be on the right track “only when we are talking again about why America is exceptional and why it is so important that America remain exceptional.” Friedman and Mandelbaum second the motion: American exceptionalism “has to be earned continually” and “is now in play.” Their intention may not be to join the right in tarring Obama with America’s collapse, but in this hothouse political climate that is the practical effect.You can read the entire essay here.