Books

The Sentimental Anarchists

Sentimentality is not often associated with terrorism, yet authors Paul and Karen Averich display an unmistakable nostalgia for the so-​called first American Age of Terror in their wildly sympathetic history, “Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman.“

Ecce homo!

Feeling discouraged? Lacking self esteem? Skip the self-​help books and read “Last Ape Standing” instead. Subtitled “The Seven-​Million-​Year Story of How and Why We Survived,” this engaging précis of recent developments in paleoanthropology is imbued with enough enthusiasm for evolution to cheer and inspire even the most miserable Homo sapiens.

A tragedy for the ages

I don’t think anybody can get a handle on what makes me tick… without understanding what I learned from the deep relationship I formed with Virgil,” wrote the late Pennsylvania State University football coach Joe Paterno in his 1997 autobiography, “Paterno: By the Book.” The remark refers without irony to…

Creepy creatures!

Given the prevalence of vampires and werewolves in contemporary culture, one wonders why it has taken so long for them to reach the Pittsburgh area. (We’re a world-​class city, dammit!) With typically gray skies and an abundance of abandoned steelworks and subterranean coal mines, our region possesses a strong Gothic…

Divorce in Morningside

Hallelujah! at last, there is a novel about contemporary divorce that eschews shallow revenge-​fantasy clichés of dream jobs, boytoys and boob jobs in favor of a thoughtful, balanced and gently humorous representation of the end of a marriage. Local author Jane McCafferty laudably transcends melodrama in “First You Try Everything”…

A different Jonas

Well, it’s official: the end is near. Whether or not the dire Mayan predictions for the future of mankind come to pass in 2012, it is clear that time is running out for books.The sad inevitability of this is demonstrated both by the ascendancy of electronic readers and the proliferation…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Black Humor

“See you in the funny papers” is a phrase one seldom hears these days. Indeed, with the possible exception of “Daddy-​O” or “23 Skidoo,” few expressions seem more obscure.But once upon a time, when newspapers were the Internet of their day, conversational reference to the funnies was the equivalent of…

Big Business Now and Then

Be careful what you wish for” is the adage that best applies to the McGraw family and their neighbors on the failed and failing dairy farms northwest of Scranton, Pa. After generations of scraping by, their dreams are finally poised to come true, now that corporate prospectors have come calling,…

The Tao of Emily

Readers, rejoice! Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, not everything in the world is getting worse. Novelist Stewart O’Nan, for instance, just keeps getting better and better.

Literary Pittsburgh

Kathleen “kit” McCafferty, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, has never discussed her trauma with anyone, and its residual rage and pain have left her estranged from her shell-​shocked husband and grown children. Now approaching death, Kit is determined to complete and bequeath to her family a series of confessional…

The Power of the Pelt

Behold the beaver! Beady-​eyed, snubnosed and bucktoothed, it is hardly a thing of beauty, yet the pursuit of this oversized rodent across North America launched more ships (and keelboats, rafts and canoes) than the lovely Helen of Troy, for all her charms.

A Checkered Past

Renaissance, schmenaissance. To read Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day’s new book, “Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II,” is to realize an inconvenient truth. The skies above our city may have cleared, but racial inequities of generations past still cast a pall on the…

The City Revisited

After a year-​long anniversary celebration in 2008 and two national championships and a global summit in 2009, one might think that the city’s appetite for tributes would be pretty well sated. But there is always room for a little something more, particularly when the fare is as lovingly prepared and…

Anatomy of a Tar Baby

Move over, David McCollough and make room for Ken Gormley, another native son who brings honor to Pittsburgh as a narrative historian of the highest order. Gormley, the new dean of Duquesne University’s law school, clearly shares McCullough’s belief that “history is the story of people,” and manages to transform…

Medicine, Murder and the Mon

Corporate histories commissioned by the client are seldom (read never) impartial, and UPMC’s “Beyond the Bounds” is no exception. Author Mary Brignano lays on the praise in this glossy tribute to UPMC founder Thomas Detre, M.D., and his protégé, current President & CEO Jeffrey Romoff.
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