Whenever I think of the circus (which, admittedly, is rarely), the first thing that comes to mind is Bruce Davidson's famous photograph of a forlorn clown smoking a cigarette and clutching a fistful of wilted flowers in the mud outside a ratty circus tent. Fittingly, I first saw this striking image on the cover of Heinrich Boll's 1963 novel, The Clown. The titular protagonist isn't the creepy backyard children's entertainer we've come to associate with the form. He's troubled and high-strung, and sees himself first and foremost as an artist — and something of a mystic, to boot.
This is not the first time Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid has taken a risky approach to a novel. His The Reluctant Fundamentalist was written entirely in the second person. The bearded narrator of that book sits at a tea stall in Lahore, talking about his drift toward extremism while directly addressing "you," the reader, who is taken to be an increasingly jumpy and terrified American across the table.
Mohsin Hamid's newest novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, takes its structure from the genre of self-help tutorials. Chapter 1: Move to the City. Chapter 2: Get an Education. Chapter 3: Don't Fall in Love (the book's nameless protagonist, who transforms from rural peasant to corporate tycoon, fails to follow this last directive). After all, the dogged pursuit of success doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 11:42 am
I've always thought caraway to be an underappreciated spice. It holds none of the historical significance of cinnamon, cloves, pepper or other prized spices that for centuries drove commerce among Asia, Africa and Europe (and that ultimately led to the discovery of the Americas).
In flavor, it lacks the Mediterranean perfume of its cousin fennel or the allure of cumin, another close relative. Its aroma is sharp and slightly aggressive, and if you bite into a seed on its own, there is, at first, a certain soapiness to its flavor.
Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 11:17 am
Dead Man Down is the first American film from Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it's not very American. This twisty existential thriller is set in a New York City that's as sun-deprived as Stockholm in January — and one in which nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.
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Every spring, you hear that almost anyone can win March Madness. Well, this year, it's true. There's no obvious favorite in this month's NCAA men's basketball tournament, at least a dozen contenders from schools big and small. And conference championships began today. So who knows which contender will fall on its face and which dark horse no one considered will emerge in the next two weeks?
A civil rights group that tracks extremist groups warns that President Obama's tenure and the gun control debate after the Connecticut school shooting have led to surging numbers of anti-government "patriot" groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday reported the rising numbers as it released its annual report on extremist groups.
The number of patriot groups, one category of extremist organizations tracked by the center, has risen dramatically over the past four years, from 149 groups in 2008 to 1,360 today.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, has died, Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced in a televised statement.
Chávez died at a military hospital in Caracas at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday. He was 58.
In power since 1999, the former military commander became an icon of socialist policies in Latin America. With his country's oil wealth as backup, he launched fierce and unyielding criticism of the United States and its allies.
A fiery leftist, Hugo Chavez was a steadfast ally of dictators like Cuba's Fidel Castro while loudly opposing the United States. He claimed capitalism was destroying the world and tried to transform Venezuela into a socialist state. Millions of Venezuelans loved him because he showered the poor with social programs.
Twenty years ago, theatrical clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner collaborated on a Broadway show called Fool Moon — a giddy mixture of slapstick, improv and audience participation that proved such a success that it came back to Broadway for two more runs and toured both the U.S. and Europe. Now Irwin and Shiner have put together a new show called Old Hats, and it's been receiving rave reviews off-Broadway.
Irwin and Shiner's rubber-faced, loose-bodied clowning hasn't gotten easier over two decades.
Fred Butler has done many things in his 106 years, from serving in two military theaters of World War II to helping raise five children. But he had never gone to high school, or earned a diploma — the result of leaving school after the eighth grade to work full-time in a print shop to help support his family.
Twelve former members of the Florida A&M marching band are charged in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. The charges have now been upgraded to manslaughter. Champion's parents said Tuesday that they are encouraged by the stiffer charges.
The Masters Tournament is still a month away, but the green jackets that grace the winners' shoulders are already in the news, thanks to a lawsuit over a proposed auction of a former champion's jacket.
On one side is tournament host Augusta National Golf Club, which says the jacket, won by Art Wall Jr. in 1959, was stolen; on the other is Florida doctor Stephen Pyles and Heritage Auctions of Texas, who insist the jacket was obtained legally and can thus be sold to the highest bidder.
Spring has come early to the Yosemite Valley, and the melting snow makes for a spectacular rush of water off the granite face of Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America.
Early March is when park officials would normally be gearing up for the busy tourist season. Instead, they're figuring out how to cut $1.5 million from their budget. Without a budget deal, the sequestration has forced the Park Service to cut a total of $134 million from sites around the country.