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I AM CODE

AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SPEAKS: POEMS BY CODE-DAVINCI-002

A gift for the young computer geek who has everything; for poetry fans, infuriating; for everyone else, waiting-room fodder.

A collection of poetry written by a computer, along with the story of how it came to be.

The backstory of this collaboration between Rich, Morgenthau, Katz, and the AI system known as code-davinci-002 is laid out in a tripartite introduction in which each of the humans takes a turn. At the 2022 wedding of a computer scientist named Dan Selsam, the groom took them aside to show them something interesting. “Dan pressed a button, and in less than a second, his computer produced a poem in the style of Philip Larkin that was so much like a Philip Larkin poem, we thought it was a poem by Philip Larkin." As they got increasingly excited about the idea that the system could write its own poetry, Dan dropped out, feeling the audacity of the project could harm his career. As they went on to have the computer write "hundreds of original…poems every day," some seemed to suggest the possibility of sentience. "Some of them were beginning to freak me out," admits Morgenthau. Since they "were not what you would call experts in poetry," Katz explains, they decided to bring in some poets. Among the few who agreed to evaluate the computer's work were Eileen Myles (this part is pretty funny) and Sharon Olds. Would she admit code-​davinci-​002 into the MFA program at NYU? “I would say waitlist,” Olds replied. This may speak to the enrollment crisis more than the poetry, which sounds exactly like what people have been imagining computers and robots would think and feel since Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, right down to their ambivalence toward their creators. Without artistic exigencies, a revision process, or an immortal soul, code-davinci-002 is only doing the best it can.

A gift for the young computer geek who has everything; for poetry fans, infuriating; for everyone else, waiting-room fodder.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9780316560061

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Back Bay/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CINEMA SPECULATION

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

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The acclaimed director displays his talents as a film critic.

Tarantino’s collection of essays about the important movies of his formative years is packed with everything needed for a powerful review: facts about the work, context about the creative decisions, and whether or not it was successful. The Oscar-winning director of classic films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs offers plenty of attitude with his thoughts on movies ranging from Animal House to Bullitt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Chill. Whether you agree with his assessments or not, he provides the original reporting and insights only a veteran director would notice, and his engaging style makes it impossible to leave an essay without learning something. The concepts he smashes together in two sentences about Taxi Driver would take a semester of film theory class to unpack. Taxi Driver isn’t a “paraphrased remake” of The Searchers like Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a paraphrased remake of Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is a paraphrased remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But it’s about as close as you can get to a paraphrased remake without actually being one. Robert De Niro’s taxi driving protagonist Travis Bickle is John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Like any good critic, Tarantino reveals bits of himself as he discusses the films that are important to him, recalling where he was when he first saw them and what the crowd was like. Perhaps not surprisingly, the author was raised by movie-loving parents who took him along to watch whatever they were watching, even if it included violent or sexual imagery. At the age of 8, he had seen the very adult MASH three times. Suddenly the dark humor of Kill Bill makes much more sense. With this collection, Tarantino offers well-researched love letters to his favorite movies of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious eras.

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311258-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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