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Book Reviews

(Among the sponsors of the Los Angeles Review of Books is PEN Center USA. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said PEN America is among its sponsors.)

Hundreds of thousands of books were published in the United States last year. You might read 12 of them. That doesn’t mean you can't familiarize yourself with the rest.

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Why Pay Less? Just COS


During an event in August at a castle outside Berlin, an American wearing a Prada suit bumped into a friend from the city.

"Great suit," said the American, sizing up his friend.

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City to Water: Drop Down

Water Tank

New York's prewar apartment towers have good bones, lots of character and the water pressure of a fire hose. Turn the shower up to full blast and you could get bruised before you get clean.

For that you can thank the water tanks that dot the skyline. Water is pumped up from the municipal works into a tank, from which it cascades down to your bathroom according to a shrewd deal the city made with gravity. It's a simple system, and an old one -- wooden water tanks have been on tall buildings since the late 19th century.

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Where a Car Isn't Really a Car


Before you buy a used car, it's standard practice to take it to a mechanic, lift it up and see what's underneath. If there's a bent wheel well, you can add several hundred dollars to the cost.

Buying a car at auction is a different story. Places like Bonhams Auctioneers and RM Auctions regularly offer fun, fairly affordable weekend wheels. But if you're buying an old car that's been (gasp) driven, things can go wrong. How can you be sure the car you're bidding on won't require thousands of dollars in maintenance before you can put it on the road?

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He Ain't Heavy. That's the Problem

Chris Burden

Once you've been shot in the arm with a rifle, crawled through a pile of glass and been nailed to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle, what's left?

Not much. See for yourself at "Chris Burden: Extreme Measures," which opened on Wednesday at the New Museum in New York.

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In Case of Pumpkin Omelette, Break Glass and Read This 

ABC Kitchen

What's a seasonal menu in summer? Fresh everything. When fall rolls around, the choices narrow, and pumpkin starts cropping up in suspicious places.

At first blush it's thrilling. By your fourth pumpkin soup/ravioli/pudding/pie/tart, you're ready for a more inventive take on the Taste of Autumn.

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Spike Lee's Kickstarter Campaign

People are upset over the recent rash of celebrities using Kickstarter, the mass-fundraising website, to crowdfund projects. Spike Lee, who bought a mansion built by the Vanderbilt family on New York's Upper East Side, raised $1,418,910 for his coming vampire film. Zach Braff, who reportedly made $350,000 an episode for his role on "Scrubs," has completed a campaign to fund his new movie that netted $3,105,473. Most recently, Marina Abramovic, who just bought a loft in SoHo for $2.65 million, raised $661,452 to fund her $19 million Marina Abramovic Institute in Hudson, New York.

Yes, it's kind of annoying that millionaires are asking for 10 dollars. Yes, it's kind of surprising that Zach Braff has fans, let alone 46,520 of them.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Private museums can be vanity projects -- if beautiful vanity projects -- where people who have spent their lives collecting can show off the fruits of their labor. The Maeght Foundation, the Berggruen Museum, the Frick. But what to make of a museum that's a marketing machine?

The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco is the corporate showcase of a software company best known for Auto CAD, hugely popular among architects. Part exhibition space and part informational tour, the gallery, open twice a week to the public, would be a drag, yes?

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"Mao" (1973) by Andy Warhol

Headlines about art auctions mostly trumpet sales in the millions. But spend enough time looking through the auction catalogs and you'll be treated to something very different. Knickknacks.

Auction houses don't love to advertise that they're selling tchotchkes, but it's a necessary part of the business. Often, to get an estate that includes a valuable painting or piece of furniture, they have to agree to take what in collectors' minds might be less desirable pieces -- a silk couch, a set of silver flatware, or other, vaguely valuable things.

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Sheer Puffery

Slices Of Croissant On White

Consider the puff pastry: airy and voluminous, sweet and savory, flaky and moist. To make real puff pastry, layers of dough and butter have to be delicately, painstakingly folded, often hundreds of times, at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Mash the layers and there will be no puff to the pastry. Layer the butter and dough at a warmer temperature and the layers will congeal.

So which places in New York, a city rife with French bakeries, give such a sophisticated dessert its due? Here are a few of the best. If you try all six, you'll be 30 pounds heavier but immeasurably more enlightened.

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About Loot

Loot chronicles everything from culture to luxury goods. It's not about being rich but leading an enriched life. Commentary or analyses in this blog are the views of authors and/or commentators, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.


  • James Tarmy
    James Tarmy
  • Jennifer Parker
    Jennifer Parker