I asked local, independent booksellers to recommend books to read this summer.
Amy Sohn achieved infamy for her Park Slope-baiting Prospect Park West, and she once again has her sights on the rich and feckless. Motherland follows characters from Brooklyn, Cape Cod, and Manhattan through connected stories of infidelity, ambition, and reinvention. Of course, no Westchesterites can relate.
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"Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
It’s an American classic and all, but, ugh, 700 pages about a whale? Really? Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the equally seafaring In the Heart of the Sea, makes a case for why you should sit down and finally read something that’s a thousand times longer than a Facebook status.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
This young-adult novel comes to us from Jack Gantos—author of the Joey Pigza and Rotten Ralph books—and happens to be about a nose-bleeding, grounded-for-life character…named Jack Gantos. Things get even stranger when he’s conscripted to type out obituaries for his town’s elders, an entryway into the strangest summer he’s ever had. It’s an unusual coming-of-age tale without a wizard wand in sight—imagine that."
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Best of the Decade
An editorial feature package—edited by me and written with other editorial staffers—about the best county institutions that have been in business since the magazine was founded ten years ago. "One decade. Ten years of tireless research, experimentation, and reporting. Year after year, we scout out the most superlative offerings in Westchester County for our annual 'Best of Westchester' issue. Now, we’ve undertaken the enormous task of reviewing all of our previous editors' picks, distilling them down to the absolutely essential—the most stupendous, the most stunning, the most delicious, the most thrilling, the most dazzling—to bring you the 'Best of the Decade.' Think of it as the Best of the Best of Westchester."
A feature about how the county has changed in the past ten years: "Where do you go when, on a warm and breezy day, you want to have a drink or a bite to eat along the Hudson River? X2O? Half Moon? Red Hat on the River? The Day Boat Café? The Boathouse? A decade ago, none of these summertime staples would have been an option. The Hudson was not where we went to have fun. The river wasn’t for recreation—it was for work. (Not glamorous work, either—Riverkeeper called it the 'region’s sewer.') The water was polluted, the sites were choked off from the rest of the county, and it still had the workhorse vibe of lingering manufacturing industries, many of which had already taken flight, leaving chemical-filled messes in their wake."She Checked It Out
A Q&A with writer Marilyn Johnson: "The old stereotype of the librarian with the tight bun, horn-rimmed glasses, and finger pressed to her lips in the 'shhh' position has been shattered. Now, you’re more likely to see librarians with tattoos, funky haircuts, and blogs that—rather than being meek and reserved—actually are quite loud-mouthed and opinionated. Marilyn Johnson, Briarcliff resident for the past 24 years, is one of the writers to shatter the fussy old preconception about librarians. Her book, This Book Is Overdue!, published in February, chronicles the work librarians do today, from getting the library plugged in to fighting the Patriot Act."Happening Holidays
A round-up of holiday events outside of the usual performances of Handel and The Nutcracker: "People often forget that A Christmas Carol is one of the best ghost stories of all time. If you love Christmas/Halloween mash-ups, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and want to see the Dickens tale become even more ghastly, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has a new show just for you. A Sleepy Hollow Christmas Carol, adapted by Jean-Paul Richard, weaves together A Christmas Carol and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, Scrooge, played by Mamaroneck’s John Treacy Egan, is visited by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman."Totally Goth
A review of a local production of Jekyll & Hyde: "Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there are two." Four Questions For...David Harbour
A Q&A with an actor in The Merchant of Venice and The Green Hornet: "'Al Pacino is a real gentleman—generous and gracious. He’s really grounded in being an actor and loves working on scenes. But, on stage, he’s like an untrained animal—you never know what he’s going to do.'"Hepladock the Mylagoat
An item about a locally produced game that uses nonsense words: "'People think the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with the idea, but it’s not—it’s getting the idea in front of people,' Phelps says. After the meeting with the buyer, Barnes and Noble agreed to stock 48 copies of the game. Today, five years later, Yamodo sells more than 30,000 copies per year through Barnes and Noble, Toys R’ Us, and independent retailers, as well as its own website (yamodo.com)."Book Clubs' Best Reads
A round-up of what local book clubs are reading: "Looking for a great book recommendation? Look no further than local active readers—the ones who go to their book-group meetings having actually read the books, not just to socialize."November Culture Highlights
Barenaked Ladies, Anna Deveare Smith, Kathleen Hill, and more.November Home Theater
The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, The Pacific, and The Goonies.December Culture Highlights
Cyndi Lauper, Judy Gold, and more.December Home Theater
Inception, The Other Guys, Despicable Me, and Futurama Vol. 5.January Culture Highlights
Citizen Cope, Twelfth Night, the African American Writers and Readers Literary Tea, and more.January Home Theater
Genre movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Machete, The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, and Justified.
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A look ahead at the movies, books, network television shows, and cultural events premiering in the fall. Due to the size and number of components in this package, it looks much better in PDF form than on the web. See "Recent Work" for an excerpt. Where the Laughs Are
Comedians come to the county: "Who says that every-thing in Westchester has to be so serious all the time? No, we don’t have our own dedicated comedy club, and we’re missing improv culture that’s present in a place like Astoria, Queens. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want a good laugh every now and again."Home Theater
Iron Man 2, The Secret of Kells, and TV on DVD This Month's Highlights
Roller Derby, circus art, and more.October IssueRock-a-Bye Baby
One local musician arranges Simon & Garfunkel and Billy Joel tunes for babies: "How many times can you listen to one baby-oriented album before you wish they’d be old enough to start listening to Metallica, just for something different?"Haunted Hudson Valley
A preview of a new Halloween attraction in Sleepy Hollow: "Unlike at certain other haunted attractions, don’t expect to see a man with a Scream mask wielding a knife at an off-model Freddy Krueger here. Lance Hallowell, the man behind Norwalk’s Misery Mansion FestEvil and last year’s haunted hayride in Sleepy Hollow, is in charge of keeping all the haunts—including the 40 to 50 professional actors working in the event—in line with our local history."Home Theater
Scary movies: The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Splice, and the Alien box set.This Month's Highlights
An Arts Fest in New Rochelle, Harvesting at Stone Barns, John Lithgow's one-man play, and more.
It's not Vogue, but the September issue is still my favorite issue of the year. Fall Arts Preview! I take a look at upcoming arts, culture, and events.Fall Movies
"Where the Wild Things Are: It might seem like Maurice Sendak’s chidren’s book classic is impossible to adapt into a feature-length movie, but leave it to a couple of hipsters: Being John Malkevich director Spike Jonze and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius writer Dave Eggers have come up with a big-screen version that actually looks faithful to the spirit of the book. Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. stirs up the wild rumpus by providing original music."Fall TV
"Melrose Place: Consider Tuesday flashback-to-the’90s night. Coming on the heels of the CW’s 90210 revamp, Melrose Place is another resurrected, catty, soapy, California-based drama with an ensemble of fresh-faced up-and-comers (and a couple of original Melrose Place veterans). Watch it while wearing your old flannel and drinking a Zima."Fall Books
"The Humbling: Philip Roth is one of the country’s most decorated authors, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Nabokov Award, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, among others. It’s strange, then, that the protagonist of his newest book has lost all confidence. The celebrated actor no longer feels at home on stage, and he has to learn to get through his most challenging performance: life in his 60s."Fall Events
"Bike Rides: In between releasing albums with Brian Eno, staging critically raved-about tours, and generally being awesome, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is a tireless bicycle advocate. It’s no shock, then, that he is an advisor on this exhibition, which features two-wheelers that have been customized and repurposed by artists. We love the Pimp my Piragua bike, which is essentially a giant boom box with huge speakers attached to the bike frame. Keep an eye out for museum-sponsored bike rides (where some of the artwork actually performs), bike raffles, and other fun two-wheeled events."In addition to the Fall Arts Preview, it was also an issue devoted to kids, so wrote about the best in children's books and movies.Book Reports
A survey of almost two dozen local children's book authors and illustrators: "No matter what your book is about, two things will always happen on a school visit. A kid will ask you about dinosaurs, and another how much money you make. I know a fair amount about dinosaurs. As for the other question, I usually reply, ‘More than you do.'"New Classics
Local children's librarians and film educators were asked to name recent classic books and movies: "It’s inconceivable that you haven’t heard about the young wizard and his attempts to avenge his parents and stop the evil Lord Voldemort. 'Part of the series’ appeal is the proximity of the magical world to our world,' Rovenger says."On top of all of that, there were my usual departments:Craft Work
A look at some upcoming craft fairs: "Why learn to knit, decoupage, or make jewelry when you can buy artisanal goods from neighbors much handier than you?"Culture Etc.
Los Lobos, John Scofield, Alan Menken, and more.Home Theater
Sugar, The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition, and more.