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The Freewheeling Jonathan Lethem

by Pam Black   A Gambler’s Anatomy, Jonathan Lethem’s tenth and most recent novel (2016), is a romp of a read, laden with lush language, cynical wit, and bizarre twists. It follows Alexander Bruno, a jaded, 50-ish backgammon ace and ladies’ man, to secret, international, high-stakes gambling parlors, where he fleeces the rich with his superior gaming […]

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December 8: Sherwin Nuland Examines Death

Sherwin B. Nuland (Shepsel Ber Nudelman), a surgeon and professor at the Yale School of Medicine who wrote the bestselling 1994 book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for its honest portrayal of end-of-life biological breakdown and its critique of the medical system’s futile struggles […]

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October 21: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) won the Nobel Prize for Literature on this date in 1976, for writing that mixed, said the Nobel Committee, the “rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture…  entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation… all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and […]

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June 3: Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg, the author of “Howl,” “Kaddish,” and numerous other stunning poems that brought Jewish and homosexual content, as well as outrage at the inhumanity of modern American capitalism, to the forefront of American intellectual consciousness, was born (first name Irwin) in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1926. Ginsberg became the most enduring […]

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February 22: Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern, who has been described as “a post-nuclear, multicultural [Walt] Whitman for the millennium — the U.S.’s one and only truly global poet” (Kate Daniels), was born in Pittsburgh on this date in 1925. He was already 50 when his poetry first received critical acclaim, and his many awards since then include a 1998 […]

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January 16: Susan Sontag

Essayist, novelist, critic and philosopher Susan Sontag (Susan Rosenblatt) was born on this date in 1933 in New York City. She taught philosophy and theology at Sarah Lawrence, CUNY and Columbia before devoting herself to full-time writing in the early 1960s. Sontag’s best-known books include Against Interpretation (1966), On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1978), […]

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