Who are the Signmakers? Los Angeles English teacher Kathleen Kaufman creates a near-future world in which Las Vegas and other cities become ecologically self-sustaining, but only because the mysterious Signmakers "permanently remove" anyone who does not go green. "The Tree Museum" ($14.95 in paperback from The Way Things Are Publications) traces the collapsing marriage of Nate and Rosemary. The delusional Nate, convinced he is directing a "dystopic love story," trails his wife across across transformed territory from Southern California to Colorado. The tale, stocked with paranoid wanderings and f-bombs galore, asks what price we might pay for a tyrannical harmony.
Chico State University philosophy professor Troy Jollimore won a National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. "At Lake Scugog" appears in the July 27 issue of The New Yorker. At the southern Ontario lake the poet observes that "up on the bank, who I am / maintains an uneasy truce / with who I fear I am. . . . // Out in the canoe, the person I thought you were / gingerly trades spots / with the person you are // and what I believe I believe / sits uncomfortably next to / what I believe. . . ."
Cover by Gahan Wilson. Copyright The New Yorker.
Cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham teaches psychology at the University of Virginia. He writes that "People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking." That suggests an answer to his book's title, "Why Don't Students Like School?" ($24.95 in hardcover from Jossey-Bass). Teachers assume students can learn principles in the abstract and then apply them to specific situations, and that "learning styles" are important considerations. The author disputes both of those claims. His conclusion? "Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work."