“Justified at home in Kentucky,” The Oxford American, April 30, 2013. FX’s Justified is basically a Western set in southeastern Kentucky, and specifically Harlan Country. (And its based on an Elmore Leonard short story, so it has to be good.) Part of what makes the show so great is its insistence on anchoring the action in a very specific sense of place, making the region itself an essential part of the action.
“Oscar Wilde gets serious,” Broad Street Review, January, 26, 2013. My review of the Walnut Street Theater’s production of An Ideal Husband. This is one of the first theater review I wrote for pay and while i didn’t like the play that much, I did enjoy writing about it. Also, its kind of an argument that The Importance of Being Earnest is the only Wilde play anyone should ever stage.
“Carry on, Wodehousians,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January, 13, 2013. My last column for the Inquirer (their new contract stripped much freelance money from the budget). I attended a meeting of the Philadelphia Wodehouse Society, a gathering of the devotees of that wonderful English comic author. It’s an introduction to P.G. Wodehouse and an attempt to explain why he is so well loved.
“Like father, like son,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, 2012. A brief essay on the NYRB’s republication of two Kingsley Amis novels, Lucky Jim and The Old Devils, in the shadow of his more son, Martin Amis, who is far better known in America.
“Why Love Hurts,” AlterNet, July 24, 2012. Eva Illouz’s new book does an excellent job of complicating popular conceptions of romance. But she writes in a fashion that won’t be accessible to, well, the populace.
“Beyond the Wall,” Full Stop, June 22, 2012. Review of a collection of essays about Game of Thrones and an exploration of that series’ appeal. “The best essays in Beyond the Wall deal with questions of genre and gender politics, which is appropriate for a series that stakes so much on the (winning) gamble that fantasy can compellingly depict realistic problems while still remaining a transporting experience.”
Review of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, Philadelphia City Paper, June 14, 2012. For the Summer Reading edition of the paper. “[Bring Up the Bodies is] best enjoyed after reading…Wolf Hall, which established Cromwell’s humble upbringing and rise to the halls of power (much to the displeasure of the noble families). In this context, Bodies is even better than its predecessor — with its characters already established, Mantel is free to devote herself to the action.”
“Tea for ’12,” Full Stop, May, 29, 2012. Review of Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson’s The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism“Right-wing parties must build a mass base in order to get elected and rule, therefore they must provide genuine power and benefits for their supporters, who are framed as ‘deserving’ or ‘earning’ government support, unlike whichever flavor of ‘other’ is (un)popular at the time.”
“Americans Are Protesting, But What Keeps Full-Scale Riots From Breaking Out?,” AlterNet, February, 15, 2012. Review of Michael Katz’s Why Don’t American Cities Burn? “The revitalized core makes disparities clearly visible to impoverished youth, who have been slammed by dramatic cuts to school budgets and youth programs. (Philadelphia youth program funding fell from $16 million in 2002 to $1.2 million in 2010, according to the New York Times.)”
“From London, With Angst,” The American Prospect, December 9, 2011. Review of the 2011 film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. “Tinker, Tailor gives us a portrait of a corrupt institution in which bureaucratic striving and delusions of grandeur have allowed something rotten to grow and thrive at its heart.”
“A protagonist who’s seen too many movies,” Broad Street Review, September 20, 2011. Review of Drive. “Driver gets to be a badass like Clint Eastwood, he gets to save the girl, but he’s still kind of Travis Bickle-creepy. He doesn’t seem like ‘a real human being and a real hero,’ as his theme song croons.”
“Coming soon to a theater near you… for the rest of your life,” Campus Progress, May 8, 2009. Review of the state of comic book movies after seeing Wolverine. “Superhero movies hit a lull after the excruciating Batman and Robin, which made most people want to rake their fingernails across their eyeballs, a sentiment which tends to result in poor action figure sales.”