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June 30, 2008

Eye On The Universe

by Jonathan Shaw and Jennifer Carling, Harvard Magazine

The cosmic drama, as seen from a vantage in space.

Thirteen Hundred Rats

by T. Coraghessan Boyle, New Yorker

Songs Of A Season

by Maureen N. McLane, New Yorker

After Love

by Jack Gilbert, New Yorker

'The Book Of Getting Even' By Benjamin Taylor

by Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

At the end, we are sadder and wiser, and yet somehow comforted too — signs that we are in the hands of a gifted storyteller.

Isn't It Funny?

by Mary Beard, New York Review Of Books

Laughter is one of the most treacherous of all fields of history. Like sex and eating, it is an absolutely universal human phenomenon, and at the same time something that is highly culturally and chronologically specific.

June 29, 2008

Running Strong

by Shira Springer, Boston Globe

WHen amputee athletes compete against able-bodied athletes, they're called courageous. But when they nearly win, they are accused of cheating.

June 28, 2008

Same Dance, Different Song

by Jeanne Marie Laskas, Washington Post

You can't help but marvel at the passage of time, all these generations.

Cubicle Rats

by Mark Sarvas, New York Times

Considering the ubiquity of the work experience in American lives, and the thousands upon thousands of novels published annually, perhaps the question shouldn't be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren't many more.

Interpreting The Evolution Of English

by Timothy Farrington, Wall Street Journal

Accents, dialects, slang and how we got from King James to hip-hop swagger.

No Country For Young Men

by Mara Hvistendahl, The New Republic

The one-child policy was instituted in an attempt to hamper the wild growth of the Chinese population. But, in the process of plugging one hole, the government may have left another open. The coming boom in restless young men promises to overhaul Chinese society in some potentially scary ways.

The Death Of Life Writing

by Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

Celebrity memoirs, breathless lives of 18th-century socialites and countless royal mistresses - whatever happened to the golden age of biography? And what is the future for a genre in which the best subjects have already been written about, time and again.

June 27, 2008

Yanks Thump Sox

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

One frequent newsroom complaint is that they are cutting back drastically in the use of copyeditors. It's true, but I for one am not complaining. I say good riddance.

(Paragraph Two: Four errors. "They" have no antecedent; should read "publishers." "Copy editors" is two words. The phrase "I, for one," needs two added commas.)

June 26, 2008

Albanian Custom Fades: Woman As Family Man

by Dan Bilefsky, New York Times

Pashe Keqi recalled the day nearly 60 years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father's baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.

June 25, 2008

Sexual Antagonism

by William Saletan, Slate

A genetic theory of homosexuality.

Service With A Wink To A Japanese Fad

by David Hochman, New York Times

As tea services go, the one at Royal/T here is definitely of the down-the-rabbit-hole variety. In an industrial-chic cafe surrounded by Japanese pop art, an American woman dressed as an English maid recently served French tea in a style that was straight out of Toyko.

June 24, 2008

Medals And Rights

by Andrew J. Nathan, The New Republic

What the Olympics reveal, and conceal, about China.

Is Local Food Really Miles Better?

by Roberta Kwok, Salon

Many of us now count "food miles." But local fruits and veggies may not be more carbon-friendly than produce at the supermarket.

Victoria's Circuit

by Adrienne So, Slate

Harnessing the untapped power of breast motion.

What's Up With Chinese Menus?

by Brian Palmer, Slate

The stories behind "Chicken Without Sexual Life" and "Bean Curd Made by a Pockmarked Woman."

At California's Asian Fish Markets, Freshness Is Everything

by John M. Glionnna, Los Angeles Times

In Asian cuisine, live fish are a delicacy. Asian diners insist they can distinguish on the plate between a fish freshly plucked from a tank or stream and one previously gutted and languishing on ice.

June 23, 2008


by Karl Kirchwey, New Yorker

The Itch

by Atul Gawande, New Yorker

Its mysterious power may be a clue to a new theory about brains and bodies.

June 22, 2008

How Darwin Won The Evolution Race

by Robin McKie, The Guardian

It's 150 years since Darwin made one of the most significant breakthroughs in scientific history - the theory of natural selection. But if it hadn't been for a young ornithologist on the other side of the world, his seminal work might never have appeared.

June 21, 2008

'Not My Fault'

by Jacob Heilbrunn, New York Times

What may, in fact, be most revealing about McClellan's book is not what it discloses about the head of state, but what it says about the continuing devaluation of the political memoir as a literary form. Pradoxical though it may seem, even as these books have become more accusatory, they have also become less illuminating.

True Grit

by Elmer Kelton, Texas Monthly

To me, the word "Cowboy" calls to mind a long and noble tradition of hard work and honesty. But every time I turn on the news, I hear it thrown around as a pejorative, hijacked by pundits and politicians to refer to arrogant, reckless types who go it alone and break all the rules. If any ot these folks had ever spent a day with my father on the McElroy Ranch—or with the thousands of working cowboys in Texas—they might have a different idea.

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by Paul Collins, Slate

Has modern life killed the semicolon?

Chinese Food Translations: Sweet, Sour And Downright Odd

by Jennifer 8. Lee, New York Times

Pumping Chinese dishes through a computer translator can create some strange results, but translation has always been more an art than a science. Of course, machine translation + human error can create even more bizarre results.

Typos A La Carte, Ever A Specialty Of The House

by Jane Black, Washington Post

In my fantasy, I enter a restaurant, order and sweetly ask the waiter if I can "hold on to the menu" during dinner. Then, using a distinctive purple pen, I discreetly copy-edit the descriptions of the dishes.

June 20, 2008

Six Degrees, But No PhD

by Mary Lynas, The Guardian

Not being a scientist is a help rather than a hindrance when it comes to communicating - with the necessary passion - the findings of scientific research.

Totally Fucking Limp

by Paul Constant, The Stranger

Can a filthy, filthy German give sex writing a kick in the pants?

Text Message From Los Angeles

by Paul Constant, The Stranger

On the demented, celebrity-crazed, surrdner-happy, endlessly-on-the-verge-of-being-wiped-off-the-planet publishing industry. (Note to panicked book lovers: Everything is going to be okay.)

June 19, 2008

Leaving The Country

by Susannah Felts, Please Don't

The Breakthrough: Feminism And Literary Criticism

by Judith B. Walzer, Dissent

Feminist criticism as these four writers practice it returs us (or should have) to one of the basic purposes of criticism—to have and defend a reasoned, coherent point of view.

June 18, 2008

Washington: City And Symbol - Or Neither?

by Kenneth Ringle, European Affairs

If Washington seems disappointing as a modern urban center (and perhaps to some European vistors as a national capital), it is not all L'Enfant's fault. In his fascinatingly vivid account of the city's first planner and his modern legacy, Scott Berg, a Pulizer prize-winning biographer and historian of the American heritage, shows that L'Enfant designed a substantially more libable national capital than the one the nation has ended up with.

Scenes From A Weekend Poetry Conference

by Rebecca McClanahan, Brevity 27


by Eamon Grennan, Slate

June 17, 2008

The Web Time Forgot

by Alex Wright, New York Times

Historians typically trace the origins of the World Wide Web through a lineage of Anglo-American inventors like Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson. But more than half a century before Tim Berners-Lee released the first web browser in 1991, Otlet (pronounced ot-LAY) described a networked world where "anyone in his armchair would be able to contemplate the whole of creation."

June 16, 2008

The Headstrong Historian

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, New Yorker

Slow Drag Blues

by Kevin Young, New Yorker

A Frame

by J. D. McClatchy, New Yorker

June 14, 2008

Where The Wild Things Came From

by Laura Miller, New York Times

Leonard Marcus's "Minder of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneuers, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature" is the story of the apparatus that conjured such readers into existence: the children's librarian who chose to order "The Hobbit"; the publisher (Houghton Mifflin, Marcus's own) who brought it to market, the stores that were out of stock (possibly because of paper shortages). He even has a few words for the parents who, in the mid-20th century, increasingly saw boks as an investment in their children's future.

American Murder Mystery

by Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic

Why is crime rising in so many American cities? The answer implicates one of the most celebrated antipoverty programs of recent decades.

Matinee Idol Of The Travel Book

by Sara Wheeler, The Guardian

Julian Evans's Semi-Invisible Man reveals that an unerring eye for the telling detail made Norman Lewis a writer of genius.

Art Of Discovery

by Georgina Ferry, The Guardian

What is a beautiful experiment? Conventional aesthetics has little to do with it.

June 12, 2008

When Mom And Dad Share It All

by Lisa Belkin, New York Times

They would not be the kind of parents their parents had been - the mother-knows-best mold. Nor the kind their friends were — the "involved" dad married to the stressed-out working mom. Nor even, as Marc put it, "the stay-at-home dad, who is cooed at for his sensitivity but who is as isolated and financially vulnerable as the stay-at-home-mom."

Instead, they would create their own model, on ein which they were parenting partners. Equals and peers.

Scorpions For Breakfast And Snails For Dinner

by Matthew Forney, New York Times

In Beijing, where my family lives, I once returned home from a restaurant with a doggy bag full of deep-friend scorpions. The next morning, I poured them instead of imported raisin bran into my 11-year-old son's cereal bowl. I wanted to freak him out. The scorpions were black and an inch long, with dagger tails.

"Scorpions!" shrieked my son, Roy. "Awesome!"

June 11, 2008

French Theory's American Adventures

by Francois Cusset, Chronicle Of Higher Education

In fact, if there is a future for theory, it will start on the campus, provided it doesn't die there. But theory may even find a suitable nesting place there; for now that its passions and controversies are over, now that it has been quietly normalized and institutionalized, it may finally be possible to treat it with a historical approach, a colder eye, rather than with the jargon-filled, decontextualized approach that has been a leading narrative of theory in the United States.

June 10, 2008


by Peter Balakian, Slate

Battle Of The Skyscrapers

by Ulrike Knofel, Salon

A building frenzy is raging in Asia, Russia and the Persian Gulf. And cities like New York don't have the money to compete. Will the West soon look outdated?

Words, Words, Words

by Michael Kinsley, Slate

My first day on the copy desk at the Royal Oak Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, Mich., the chief copy editor said something that has inspired me ever since. "Remember," he said, "every word that you cut saves the publisher money." But like so much else, this principle seems to have been turned upside down by the internet.

Buy Me Some Sushi And Baby Back Ribs

by Peter Meehan, New York Times

I spent a few weekends after opening day this year bopping around to 10 American cities, where I ate my way through 12 major league ballparks. My mission: to hoover down a shameful number of hot dogs and to sample the increasingly ambitious and occasionally delicious world of ballpark cuisine beyond peanuts and Cracker Jack.

June 9, 2008

A Thriller In Ten Chapters

by Robert McCrum, The Guardian

When I joined The Observer in 1996, the world of books were in limbo between hot metal and cool word processing, but it would have been recognisable to many of our past contributors, from George Orwell and Cyril Connolly, to Anthony Burgess and Clive James. Everything smelled of the lamp. It was a world of ink an dpaper; of cigarettes, coffee and strong drink. Our distinguished critic George Steiner used to submit his copy in annotated typescript.

June 8, 2008

Fiction Review: Joan Siber's 'Size Of The World'

by Karan Mahajan, San Francisco Chronicle

Joan Silber's beautiful new novel is called "The Size of the World," but thankfully it makes no attempt to ccount for the world's bigness with its page count. It is instead a marvel of compression - a mere 320 pages even as it spans several continents and lifetimes.

June 7, 2008

Cities For Living

by Roger Scruton, City Journal

American visitors to Paris, Rome, Prague, or Barcelona, comparing what they see with what is familiar from their own continent, will recognize how careless their countrymen often have been in their attempts to create cities. But the American who leaves the routes prescribed by the Ministries of Tourism will quickly see that Paris is miraculous in no small measure because modern architects have not been able to get their hands on it.

Playing The Odds

by George Johnson, New York Times

State lotteries, it's sometimes said, are a tax on people who don't understand mathematics. But there is no cause for anyone to feel smug.

The Ache Of Censorship

by Yiyun Li, San Francisco Chronicle

Good and evil, black and white, never make for memorable characters. It is the gray banding the nature of every human that makes me still wonder, from time to time, about the people, anonymous or apparent, operating the machine of censorship.

Sonnet By Billy Collins

by Guardian

June 6, 2008

Two Poems

by Hamutal Bar-Yosef, translated by Rachel Tzvia Back, Guernica

On The Road, Supposedly Headed For Fun

by Jonathan Eig, Wall Street Journal

We'll always have Walley World.

Salad Days For The Internet

by Michelle Slatalla, New York Times

Buy food online to eat locally? It sounded unnatural, or at least counterintuitive. But the phenomenon is growing nationwide.

June 5, 2008

Her Killer Meatballs Are The Stuff Of Fiction

by Julia Moskin, New York Times

In these stories, food has the power to define characters, propel plots, cause riots and even commit manslaughter.

Vinegar And Oil

by Jane Hirshfield, The Atlantic

June 4, 2008

Inflated Phrases

by Christian Demand, Signandsight

Most texts which accompany contemporary art production are so twisted and woolly that they could easily pass for self-parody.

A Yellow House In New Orleans

by Sarah M. Broom, Oxford American

We stood facing a fifty-foot-long burrow int he ground beginning near the curb and running, shadowlike, the length of where the house used to be. My friend asked where certain rooms were, where Ivory and my banjo-playing dad, Simon, once slept. I tried to pinpoint them, but found myself confused.

How I Learned To [Heart] Breakfast (Or At Least What To Eat For It)

by Amanda Fortini, New York Magazine

Since so many researchers argue that breakfast does matter, I began to investigate.

June 3, 2008

The Names

by Joe Wilkins, Slate

Dark, Perhaps Forever

by Dennis Overbye, New York Times

Although cosmologists have adopted a cute name, dark energy, for whatever is dirving this apparently antigravitational behavior on the part of the universe, nobody claims to understand wy it is happening, or its implications for the future of the universe and of the life within it, despite thousands of learned papers, scores of conferences and millions of dollars' worth of telescope time.

The Book Collection That Devoured My Life

by Luc Sante, Wall Street Journal

Why it's so hard to let go of books in a language I can't read... or duplicate copies of 'True Tales from the Annals of Crime and Rascality'... or Tijuana sailors' pornography...

A Biography Of The World's Most Famous Sex Manual

by Michael Dirda, Washington Post

The title alone summons visions of exceedingly ambitious sexual postures. Yet the real Kamasutra is even more fascinating than its myth.

June 2, 2008


by Gerald Stern, New Yorker

Dearborn Suite

by Philip Levine, New Yorker

Coffeehouse Is Not The Same Old Grind

by Danielle Drellinger, Boston Globe

Writers and coffee go together like deadlines and trying to avoid starting your article with a cliche.

Magical Spielism

by Steve Almond, Boston Globe

The novelist John Gardner claimed there are two basic plots in fiction: someone goes on a trip, or a stranger comes to town. Salman Rushdie's "Enchantress of Florence" opens with a stranger coming to town, and ends with the same fellow heading off on a trip.

On A Punishing Trail, Personal Truths Are The Reward

by Benjamin J. Romano, Seattle Times

Behind a chalk line on a dustry road int he igh valley east of Snoqualmie Pass, 93 extraordinarily fit humans are making final preparations for a 100-mile journey through lush Cascade forests, rock, wind-swept ridges, slick, ankle-twisting ravines, rain, darkness and extreme fatigue.

June 1, 2008

Maid Cafes? On The Trail Of Tokyo's Otaku

by Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times

The Japanese have perfected the art of obsession. Japan, after all, is the place that gave us otaku, that wonderfully elastic word that refers to people obsessed to distraction with the details of a single thing.

Stargazing On Hawaii's Mauna Kea

by Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times

"You were oxygen-deprived. You should try that sometime with a bottle of O2," he said. "Take on breath and the stars just"—he reached out as if grabbing teh sky and drawing it to his face—"whoop, leap out at you."

Oh yeah, I thought. I've got to try that.

By Heng-Cheong Leong