Recently by Nathaniel Popkin:

When protestors in Istanbul’s Taksim Square last year refused to back down to soldiers trying to remove them ahead of a massive government-sponsored construction project, more than a few people must have nodded to themselves: I know that place, where Galip and Kemal, protagonists of Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul novels, go to the cinema, hail a taxi, have tea and pastry. But far beyond documentation, over the years Pamuk has transformed Istanbul streets and corners and neighborhoods into a kind of powerful metaphysical landscape, a character itself. The city’s history and mythology haunt the other characters, the searching humans. 

Nathaniel Popkin‘s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard. He is also the author of Song of the City, and The Possible City, and is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and co-producer and senior writer and editor of the documentary “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.” Most of his work can… More…

In one of the most famous political cartoons of the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson stands in the pose of a triumphant Roman emperor below the soaring Roman columns of his mansion, the Hermitage. He unfurls a decree, indicating his order to withdraw U.S. Treasury funds from the Bank of the United States (B.U.S.), the nation’s central bank. Jupiter’s thunderbolts emanating from the scroll zap the Greek Doric columns of the Bank, knocking it and the Bank’s president Nicholas Biddle, a noted Grecophile, to the ground.

The politician Charles Ingersoll likened Biddle’s fate at the hands of Jackson to Acteon, an unwitting victim of Greek mythology, ripped apart by “dogs” who, in better days for the Bank, “licked his hands and fawned on his footsteps.” In other cartoons during the period of the Bank War, as the fight over the political and economic role of the central bank came to… More…

It’s a cold autumn morning on location at Pennsbury Manor, William Penn’s estate on the Delaware River above Philadelphia. We are shooting reenactment scenes of the 17th and 18th centuries for the sixth and seventh episodes of the film documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.” The light — starry blue then pink then orange — awakens the fields and buildings here, WPA recreations circa 1938 that will serve as the various raw tableaux for uncertain meetings among Swedish settlers, Lenape, Quakers, and Africans.  

Nathaniel Popkin‘s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard. He is also the author of Song of the City, and The Possible City, and is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and co-producer and senior writer and editor of the documentary “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.” Most of his work can be found at nathanielpopkin.net

Oscar Wilde, says the standard biographical narrative, was trained in classics, won an Oxford award for an early poem in 1878, toured the United States lecturing on the field of Aesthetics, married, had two children, exercised latent homosexuality as he grew tired of the repetition of marriage, and exploded on the literary scene as the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Now that he had accepted the same sex desire that had followed him since youth, Wilde felt liberated, happy to be alive,” writes biographer Barbara Belford in Oscar Wilde: A Certain Genius (Random House, 2000). “He embarked on his most prolific period as a writer.”

“After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884 and the birth of his two sons, Wilde began to make his way into London theater, literary, and homosexual scenes,” says the biographical sketch… More…

My grandparents bought the house at the end of the row at the very edge of the city when my father was one year old, in 1938. Facing South Olden Avenue, the gray clapboard and brick building was set in from the corner of Pierce Avenue and given a side yard ample enough for one more house, as if the builder had anticipated the day when corner buildings in old cities would go vacant and be demolished, and the land assigned to the house next door.

   

The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. 218 pages. New Directions. $11.98.

My grandfather, whose name I share, liked flowers, which he tended in the yard. He planted a pair of trees, one of them a dogwood. He put his dental office in the front of the… More…

   

In Rawi Hage’s latest novel Carnival (Norton), the narrator, a cab driver named Fly, relies on books to escape the prosaic disquiet — and the systemic injustice — he encounters on the streets. He reads to imagine what might be. Fly’s small apartment is stuffed with books, and not just dime store paperbacks, but a blossoming sway of world historic literature in various languages (Beirut born, Hage lives in bilingual Montreal).

The hero of his own story, Fly has a habit of righting wrongs, particularly abuses perpetrated by “infidels” on the weak and the powerless. He has no patience for hypocrisy and he condemns stupidity. One evening, a woman with “sweet legs and thick glasses” gets in his cab. A man urgently forces himself into the car beside her. Fly immediately senses the mistreatment coming. When the man angrily… More…

   

The Indian-born Dutch writer Ernest van der Kwast has published five books, including the 2010 novel Mama Tandoori, a bestseller in the Netherlands. Van der Kwast is young, darkly handsome, intensely funny, and in search of readers — well beyond the Dutch-speaking world. “You can say a book that has sold 80-90,000 copies should be translated into many languages,” he told me last week via Skype (van der Kwast speaks beautiful English).

Both Mama Tandoori and the more recent Giovanna’s Navel (published in its original form with the English title) were picked up by the Italian publisher Isbn Edizioni and translated by Alessandra Liberati (Isbn Edizioni also brought the book out in German, with a translation by Mare Verlag). Now van der Kwast is hunting for an American publisher. “The main goal,” he says, “is to… More…

The critic James Woods, disdainful of the cold and calculating set piece of historical fiction, finds something else in Hilary Mantel’s recent Bring up the Bodies, the breathless follow up to her Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall: the ring of the contemporary. “One of the reasons for this literary success,” Woods writes in the New Yorker, “is that Mantel seems to have written a very good modern novel, then changed all her fictional names to English historical figures of the fifteen-twenties and thirties.”

   

But is it quite so easy? And is there not a cost to portraying figures from the past as if they were in effect mirrors of our own reality? In his new collection of essays, Waiting for the Barbarians, the classicist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn says the danger is that we risk losing the particular reality of the… More…

This summer, my wife and I decided to refurbish our second floor bathroom that the previous owners, a family from Milan, had fitted out in the mid-1980s with classic black and white tile and a shower stall. 11 years without a bathtub, we reasoned, was long enough.

   

The Color Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk. 400 pages. The MIT Press. $34.95.

Seeking ideas, we turned to our well-worn copy of the 1996 In Town, by the London interior designer Tricia Guild, whose design approach celebrates the color and texture of the city. “The streets are full of inspiration for using color in the urban home,” writes Elspeth Thompson in the book’s introduction, and indeed, Guild’s philosophy had been our inspiration when we renovated our first house, a rustic 1840s Philadelphia double-trinity, in 1998. At Guild’s London townhouse, Thompson… More…