Book Reviews & Essays

An Ad Hoc Affair

Jane Jacobs's clear-eyed vision of humanity

Originally published February 3, 2017 in The Nation

In 1956, Jane Jacobs was 39 years old, working as a staff writer at Architectural Forum. Her boss, unable to attend a conference at Harvard, asked her to go in his stead and give a talk on land banking. Jacobs, skittish about public speaking, reluctantly agreed, on one condition: that she could speak on a subject of her choice. That […]

The Annie Dillard Show

Review of The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New, by Annie Dillard

Originally published June 6 - 13, 2016 in The Nation

For an epoch defined by mass attention-deficit disorder, Annie Dillard would seem to be the perfect antidote. Dillard, the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), is devoted to patience and to presence. “It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open,” she has declared. She is thoroughly and ecstatically attuned to her surroundings, willing to wait […]

Impurity

Two Books on the Anthropocene

Originally published November 30, 2015 in Los Angeles Review of Books

THEY WARNED US about this. In California, the future has arrived in the form of desiccated land, 100-degree autumn days, and freakish fires that burned more than 300,000 acres in 2015. In Oklahoma and Texas, this year brought record deluges of rain, while severe drought in the Middle East has fueled the refugee crisis. As Al Gore is fond of […]

A Safe Haven for Whom?

Review of 'Giving Up Baby,' by Laury Oaks

Originally published September/October 2015 in Pacific Standard

On Christmas Eve, 2007, a blond woman in her late 30s arrived at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, with a crying newborn in her arms. The woman had given birth alone at home and tied off the umbilical cord with a rubber band. Now she wanted to leave the baby, wrapped in a T-shirt and towel, at the hospital. After […]

‘Leaving Orbit’ cheers spaceflight’s feats, mourns its fading

Review of 'Leaving Orbit,' by Margaret Lazarus Dean

Originally published May 22, 2015 in Los Angeles Times

In 1969, the moon landing brought together a nation, millions slack-jawed in the glow of their televisions. In 1986, the explosion of the Challenger became a defining moment for a generation of schoolchildren. But how many of us remember the blastoff of Atlantis in 2011 — the final flight of NASA’s manned space shuttle program? Margaret Lazarus Dean, an English […]