PositiveThe AtlanticRobinson’s most unexpected insights were about American discontent. We may constantly complain about our harried schedules, but the real joy-killer seemed to be the absence of any schedule at all. Considerably less happy than the just-rushed-enough, he said, were those with lots of excess time ... his discussion highlights at a macro level what the Sunday scaries signal on a personal level: Modern life has made it harder for Americans to forget about their work ... what Suzman’s foray into humanity’s past reveals is that leisure has never been the ready default mode we may imagine, even in the chillest of cultures. The psychological cost of civilization, the scourge of the Sunday scaries, and the lesson of the Ju/’hoansi converge in an insight worth taking to heart: Safeguarding leisure is work. While progress depends on pinning our hopes on a world that doesn’t yet exist, those who cannot stop planning for the future are doomed to labor for a life they will never fully live.
PositiveThe AtlanticIn a new effort to sum up the protean figure—a seven-year undertaking by the biographer Edmund Morris, who died in May—Edison emerges as a giant containing multitudes ... Morris\'s book is not built as a revisionist biography—more on its strange architecture in a moment—but it usefully demolishes several myths that have accreted around Edison’s legacy in recent years ... Now I have to tell you something about Morris’s biography: It goes backwards. Thomas Edison dies in the prologue, and toward the end, a young boy called Alva reads a book about electricity and is inspired ... If Morris perhaps felt his innovation would shed fresh light on a life marked by improvisatory creation rather than by structured, strictly cumulative accomplishments, he was mistaken. Nothing is gained by this approach, and much comprehension is lost ... Within the chapters, however, Edison is vibrantly alive, and though Morris doesn’t step back to emphasize this, Edison’s conjuring powers make him a mascot and a microcosm of his turn-of-the-century era.
PositiveThe AtlanticFor diehard Mitchell fans, The Bone Clocks is another six-part, globe-trotting, time-traveling performance in literary ventriloquism. For the unconverted, it offers everything you could possibly want from a conjurer at the height of his powers—a ludicrously ambitious, unstoppably clever epic told through a chorus of diverse narrators that is both outrageous in scope and meticulous in execution … As characters from Cloud Atlas and earlier novels accumulate throughout the story, you begin to wonder whether The Bone Clocks is a mere sequel or perhaps a larger vessel. Mitchell has said that this novel is a keystone in a project that spans his entire fictional output—an ‘uber-book.’ The modern master of Russian-nesting-doll novels has suggested that each of his novels are little porcelain babushkas hiding inside Mitchell’s meta-Russian-nesting-doll oeuvre, all along.
RaveThe AtlanticSo, what happened? Cowen’s thought-provoking book emphasizes several causes, including geographic immobility, housing prices, and monopolization ... Cowen’s book performs the trick of all successful idea-driven non-fiction. It provides an open invitation for the reader to think deeply, even when deep thinking leads to some disagreement ... The sign of a good book is that it helps readers see the world through a useful lens. Cowen’s book is a full of 'huh, I hadn’t thought about it like that' moments, even on topics that I’ve spent years thinking about.