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LOS ANGELES — Can a single object contain within it the narratives of a family and an entire nation? If so, for Joan Didion that item may have been a potato masher. The masher in question — a humble kitchen implement whose creation dates to the first half of the 19th century — made the arduous overland journey west some time in 1846-87 with her ancestors, the Cornwalls, a faction of the ...

Sparkling essays on a wide range of topics from a self-described "intellectual vagabond." "Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays" by Siri Hustvedt; Simon & Schuster (304 pages, $26) ——— Siri Hustvedt is one of America's great minds, and her intellectual and cultural commentary is sparkling. In "Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays," she engages readers in heady discussions while simultaneously ...

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