June Thomas of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in The Book Reader.
It might seem like a business book about videogames and a collection of Afghan folk poems have little in common, but two new releases expand our understanding of conflict in surprising ways.
In "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation," Blake J. Harris provides a blow-by-blow account of the cut-throat competition for young Americans’ hearts and game controllers. When the story begins, in 1990, Nintendo controls 90 percent of the U.S. videogame market and treats game developers, stores, and customers with contempt. If Nintendo hadn’t been so arrogant, it’s unlikely that Tom Kalinske could have led Sega to become the new industry leader in just six years. For some readers, names like Sonic, Super Mario, Genesis, and NES will be like old friends. But even if, like me, you never played any of these games, this gripping saga will keep you reading the way Street Fighter II used to keep kids playing for hours and hours at a time.
A landay is a very short Pashto-language poem, traditionally recited by women. In 2012, Eliza Griswold traveled to Afghanistan with photographer Seamus Murphy to collect contemporary landays about drones, war, love, and homeland. In Griswold’s vivid and often witty translations, the poems in "I am the Beggar of the World" become a revealing and intimate form of journalism. The couplets can be funny, shocking, bawdy, and brutal. Some attack America, others the Taliban. Griswold’s explanations of the poems’ themes taught me more about contemporary Afghanistan than did many much longer books.
Look for reviews of new volumes of poetry and prose on the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.