Smack-Bam, or the Art of Governing Men collects sixteen tales by Édouard Laboulaye, a French law professor and jurist of the Second Empire, and an activist for abolition and women’s rights. Laboulaye’s creative work has been eclipsed by his political career, but in his day he was recognized as a writer of fiction, too, and especially known for his fairy tales—with their satirical asides, irreverent humor, and free use of international sources, it is not hard to see why.
José Maria de Eça de Queirós’s numerous fictions have a central place in Portuguese and Brazilian literature, but they don’t seem much read elsewhere—at least not these days. It’s tempting to single out the fine quality of description, brilliant dialogue, rich cast of secondary characters, and unusual irony, which combines biting misanthropy with a broad and flexible attention to human pain. But another aspect of Eça’s writing has to be mentioned: how time unfolds with a sublime, almost arboreal leisure.
It’s hard to think of a sport less given to being competitively framed than skateboarding. Among its branches, “street” is particularly open-ended, when not outright illegal. In recent years, though, an exclusive and meticulously judged street skateboarding event has gained traction—one that now includes men and women.
Sci-fi spectacle was integral to P-Funk, the postmodern and psychedelic brand of funk that George Clinton helped innovate. Yet one of the most intriguing points to emerge in Clinton’s new memoir, Brothas Be, is just how consciously he shaped his music, weird and warped as it is, as a kind of smaller, counter-culture Motown.
Ahmir Thompson’s Mo’ Meta Blues is a hip hop memoir, a now distinct genre within America’s wider memoir boom; Ice-T, Jay-Z, and Prodigy have titles out, and more are coming. But Mo’ Meta Blues is, from what I can tell, the first not by a rapper, and that is just one way that it stands out. Reflective and self-deprecating, Thompson, a drummer who is also known as Questlove, says he’s tasted little hip hop glamor, calling the poor groupies who followed his band “those five guys who wanted to smoke a blunt and talk about recording equipment.” Instead of tales of gritty street life, we get to hear about nose-diving in conversation with Prince.