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Sunday: Pico Iyer's long sentences and Stephen Hawking's birthday

January 6, 2012 |  2:56 pm

Call it the value of complexity in a frantic time. That’s the thought that came to mind when I first read Pico Iyer’s engaging essay on why he’s made the conscious decision to write longer sentences. What Iyer, whose latest book, “The Man Within My Head,” was published this month, is saying to us (and for us) is that the world of instant communication is far too distracting and that there is gratification -- and a relief from the mundane -- in reading something complex and engaging. It is an interesting proposition by one of our favorite writers. His essay begins on the front page of Sunday’s Arts & Books section. (For more on this topic, I would recommend David Ulin's book "The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time," which was developed from Ulin's article in the Aug. 9, 2009, issue of The Times.)

Sunday is also Stephen Hawking's 70th birthday and, to mark the occasion, Sara Lippincott is reviewing Kitty Ferguson’s latest book on the eminent physicist: “Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind.” As Lippincott notes, 70 is a real milestone for the superstar of the cosmos who has lived almost 50 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). Also, Carolyn Kellogg reviews “Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Kill Zones to the Courtroom,” the memoir of Connie Rice, the civil rights advocate and agitator who has made it her business to balance the scales of justice in Los Angeles.

On the fiction card, book critic David L. Ulin assesses playwright and television writer Alan Bennett’s latest work, a collection of  stories called “Smut.” And Susan Carpenter looks at “A Million Suns,” the second installment in the “Across the Universe” young adult fantasy trilogy by Beth Revis. Universe? Hawking? A birthday present?

And, of course, we have our weekly look at the bestsellers.

Thanks for reading.

-- Jon Thurber, book editor

Photo: Stephen Hawking at the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala in New York. Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images