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October 31, 2008


by Jordan Ellenberg, Slate

Why your ballot isn't as meaningless as you think.

VA Hospital Confessional

by Brain Turner, Virginia Quarterly Review

October 30, 2008

Visual Thinking

by Catherine O'Flynn, Granta

I sneer also at the two-dimensionality of maps. The missing third dimension of depth is less debilitating than the missing fourth of time.

Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly Is Here

by Sarah Kershaw, New York Times

Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself, in some small part because of the success of television's "Ugly Betty," which ABC promoted with a "Be Ugly" campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women.

Ladies Of The Nightly News

by Rebecca Traister, Salon

Call it historical accident or mere coincidence, but this election, built as it has been around two history-making female candidates, traditional "women's issues" like the economy and healthcare and the acknowledgment of the power of the female voters, also happens to have been translated, interpreted and picked apart by women newscaters. And that's something new.

Translating The British, For Americans

by David M. Shribman, Boston Globe

Sarah Lyall is a witty American married to an Englishman. She has the access afforded to a New York Times foreign correspondent and the deft hand of a portraitist. "The Anglo Files," her field guide to the British, treats the folks ont he other side of the "special relationship" as if she were an anthropologist and they a bizarre subcult requiring scholarly explanation.

A Universe Of Books: Borges's 'Library Of Babel'

by Alberto Manguel, New York Sun

Barely nine pages long, "The Library of Babel" is nothing less than an attempt to describe the chaotic order and meaning of the universe, buidling on the ancient notion of the world as a book (or a book itself divided into an almost infinite number of books) in which we ourselves are written, and which we also attempt to read.

October 29, 2008

Nurses Speak Out, About Doctors

by Abigail Zuger, New York Times

In "Reflections on Doctors," nurses have produced something quite extraordinary in recent medical writings: a compilation of 19 brief essays musing on the current relationship between the species.

The Peter Pans Of Broadway

by Jesse Green, New York Magazine

For three boys (and their mothers), Billy Elliot is the role of a lifetime. Provided they don't grow out of it too fast.

Ach, Wien

by Rita Dove, Slate

October 28, 2008

The Questions

by Alice Cullina, 2River View

Payback's A Bitch

by Louis Bayard, Salon

If nothing else, Margaret Atwood has a gift for timing. Her 1986 futuristic dystopia, "The Handmaid's Tale," arrived at the precise cultural moment when theocracy was starting to look scarier than nuclear holocaust. And her latest work, a book-length essay called "Payback: Debt And The Shadow Side Of Wealth," comes just as Wall Street is undergoing a holocaust of its own.

Confessoins Of A Naked Sushi Model

by Melanie Berliet, Vanity Fair

Be still, rogue toe. Please! Don't you dare surrender to that muscle cramp. Now is not the time.

October 27, 2008


by W. S. Merwin, New Yorker

The Fat Man's Race

by Louise Erdrich, New Yorker

Whenever I Hear Writers Reading Their Own Work, I Fake A Migraine And Flee To My Room

by Mark Ravenhill, The Guardian

Far better that each generation discovers a fresh Dickensian voice through the novels, than to be haunted by a delivery that would probably seem risbly melodramatic now.

October 26, 2008

Moms Are Taking Back The Holidays By Taking On Consumerism

by Natalie Singer, Seattle Times

Starting with homemade costumes and healthier treats for Halloween, a group of moms is banding together to transform holiday rituals - casting off the stuff and bringing back the meaning.

October 25, 2008

A Big Joke

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

Why did the post office throw the clock out the window?

Cracking Wise

by David Kirby, New York Times

People are funny. Words are funnier. And poems, when they're at their smartest and best-made, are funniest of all.

Young America's Wild Side

by Jay WInik, New York Times

In his latest book, "Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson," David S. Reynolds asks us to more carefully consider the brawling, chaotic, boisterous years from 1815 to 1848 as a fascinating age in its own right.

Green Fantasia

by Bill McKibben, New York Review Of Books

Just as you can't run for commander-in-chief on any platform other than "Our best days are still ahead of us," so you can't run for pundit-n-chief either. But those instincts can get you in trouble.

Missing The Mark

by Lionel Shriver, Wall Street Journal

QUotation marks have fallen out of favor, and that's bad for books.

October 24, 2008

Publishers, Enough With Vapid Hype

by David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

Let's set aside the economic sound and fury and focus on the writing rather than the noise.

October 23, 2008

Who Says Americans Won't Ride Mass Transit?

by Katharine Mieszkowski, Salon

With gas prices through the roof, our car-crazy nation showed the love for buses and trains. But there's a glitch.

Date Local

by Barron YoungSmith, Slate

The case against long-distance relationships.

October 22, 2008


by Kathleen Hellen, The Cortland Review

Dracula's Housecat

by Anna George Meek, Threepenny Review

Some Heavy Reading, Recipes Included

by Julia Moskin, New York Times

Once, all it took to cook like a chef was the nerve to push a live crayfish through a sieve. Now that the fall publishing season has delivered several hundred pounds of recipes from these international stars of molecular gastronomy, home cooks may want to prepare the kitchen with syringes, soy lecithin and a big bag of hero worship.

Wary Tourists Toss Aside A Chance To Taste History

by Marc Lacey, New York Times

There is one eatery with a particularly distinguished history that is relevant to the question of whether one should consume salads in Mexico. Called Caesar's Restaurant, it sits int he seediest of spots, along Tijuana's Avenida Revolucion, and specializes in sald — Caesar Salad, to be exact, which it says was invented in its kitchen in 1924.

Is Theer A Poetry In Architecture?

by Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian

Structure, rhythm, balance... the two art forms are very similar.

The Joy Of Sharing Your Favorite Obscure Books

by Billy Mills, The Guardian

Open up and share; you're going to enjoy it.

Freedom's Curse

by Steven Pinker, The Atlantic

Why Washington's crusade against swearing on the airwaves is f*cked up.

The Hyped Panic Over 'War Of The Worlds'

by Michael J. Socolow, Chronicle Of Higher Education

That is the ultimate irony behind "The War of the Worlds." The discovery that the media are not all-powerful, that they cannot dominate our political consciousness or even our consumer behavior as much as we suppose, was an important one.

October 21, 2008

Reading Faulkner At 17, You Forsee Your Reckoning

by Chaterine Pierce, Slate

Financial Crisis: We Should Turn To Charles Dickens In Hard Times, Not Just Little Dorrit

by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Telegraph

The centre around which the Victorian age revolved and Dickens's combination of ambition and anxiety make him unmistakably our contemporary. And not only can we find parallels in his novels with the current crisis, we can also learn from them how to survive and triumph over it.

The Thing: Magazine Or A Work Of Art?

by Mindy Farabee, Los Angeles Times

The Thing is not your garden-variety periodical. Putting a spin on the idea of text messaging, the Thing is by turns a window shade, a baseball cap, a set of coasters and a hunk of rubber. That last issue puts the lie to those glossy fall fashion magazines that could double as doorstops. It is a doorstop.

The Terror And Attraction Of Science, Put To Song

by Dennis Overbye, New York Times

Is it the hrror or the beauty that makes science cool?

The Carnivore's Dilemma

by Michael Shae, New York Times

Such a litany of negatives may be presumed to create a sense of unease, if not a downright bad conscience, among those who take pleasure, guilty or not, in eating beef. Both Betty Fussell's "Raising Steaks" and Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser's "Beef" hold fast to th ecause, but both are shadowed by an anxiety that an ancient pleasure may come to be shunned out of fear and disapproval — an anxiety that causes them to rise at times to distinctly overheated defense.

October 20, 2008

Free To Be His Own Buckley

by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

Perhaps only Christopher Buckley, the novelist, political satirist and son of the conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., would think to quote the queen of England in describing his increasingly complicated life.

Learning To Make An Oud In Nazareth

by Ruth Padel, New Yorker

The Crossing

by Gerald Stern, New Yorker

On Reality TV, Even 'Survivor' Looks Mortal

by Brian Stelter, New York Times

The series — once renowned for rejuvenating CBS and drawing young viewers to the network — is showing its age. So, too, is the competition-based reality format that has dominated television for nearly a decade.

How Do We Show Our Love For New York? We Say It With Monsters

by Sam Roberts, New York Times

From the earliest urban legends to the latest computer games, Americans have embraced fantasies of the city's destruction as "a reaffirmation of New York's greatness," said Max Page, a professor of history and architecture and the author of a new book called "The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears and Premonitions of New York's Destruction."

October 19, 2008

The Woman In The Moon

by Carol Ann Duffy

October 18, 2008

What's Really Wrong With The Price Of Oil

by Roger Lowenstein, New York Times

In a sense, the question is whether we want to return to an era of plentiful oil and low prices — assuming it is possible — or to accept that political, geological and possibly environmental limitations will force us to diversify.

Capitalism At Bay

by The Economist

What went wrong and, rather more importantly for the future, what did not.

October 17, 2008

She Fine-Tuned The Forks Of The Richan Vulgars

by Dinitia Smith, New York Times

It is something of a surprise nearly 50 years after Emily Post's death to be reminded that there was a real person behind the name that has become synonymous with good manners. And it is to Laura Claridge's credit that she has written the first full biography of Post.

The Things He Carried

by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

Airport security in America is a sham—"security theater" designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items.

Every Man A Derrida

by Tim Cavanaugh, Reason Magazine

Are the great American habits of directness, foursquare honesty, and a hearty handshake being undermined by fancy-pants French critical theory? You betcha!

October 16, 2008

Epic Win

by Christopher Beam, Slate

Goodbye, schadenfreude; hello, FAIL.

Light Pollutoin: Our Vanishing Night

by Verlyn Klinkenborg, photography by Jim Richardson, National Geographic Magazine

In a very real sense, light pollution causes us to lose sight of our true place in the universe, to forget the scale of our being, which is best measured against the dimensions of a deep night with the Milky Way—the edge of our galaxy—arching overhead.

October 15, 2008

Years Lost To Drinking, And Fits And Starts Of Recovery

by George Gene Gustines, New York Times

If endign up in a station wagon with a pudgy, dwarflike hag doesn't make you want to quit drinking, what will? That is the kind of question, along with wondering how often a man can sink and rebound, that is raised by "The Alcoholic," an engaging graphic novel written by Jonathan Ames and illustrated by Dean Haspiel.

As Checks Shrink, Restaurants Stretch Hours

by Florence Fabricant, New York Times

Restaurants that once served two distinct meals a day, lunch and dinner, are acting more like diners, opening early in the morning and keeping their kitchens busy late into the night, and serving in the traditonally slow times between meals.

Hubris Inc.

by John Homans, New York Magazine

Oliver Stone's new film, W., is about a man many would sooner forget — which didn't stop him from making it.

October 14, 2008

Spring Comes To Ohio

by Joseph Campana, Slate

Actor Battles To Play A Bigger Role As A Father

by Jennifer A. Kingson, New York Times

Survivors of a gory divorce think their stories are the worst of all, and the actor Alec Baldwin is no exception. He may have a bit of a leg to stand on — though Christie Brinkley deserves at least honorable mention — if only for the ugly public spectacle of his custody battle with the actress Kim Basinger.

He Counts Your Words (Even Those Pronouns)

by Jessica Wapner, New York Times

James W. Pennebaker's interest in word counting began more than 20 years ago, when he did several studies suggesting that people who talked about traumatic experience tended to be physically healthier than those who kept such experiences secret.

In Russia, A Second Home For U.S. Astronauts

by John Schwartz, New York Times

Star City has become an important second home for Americans working with their Russian counterparts, and it is about to become more important still.

October 13, 2008

Late Bloomers

by Malcom Gladwell, New Yorker

Why do we equate genius with precocity?


by Roddy Doyle, New Yorker

It was the thing he'd always loved about her. The way she could sleep. When they'd just started going with each other, before they really knew each other, he'd lie awake, hoping she'd wake up, praying for it, dying. But even then he'd loved to look at her while she slept. There was something about it that made him feel lucky, or privileged. Or trusted. She could do that beside him, turn everything off, all the defenses, and let him watch her.

Poem By The Bridge At Ten-Shin

by Frederick Seidel, New Yorker

Nymph And Shepherd

by Donald Hall, New Yorker

October 12, 2008

Big Country

by J. R. Moehringer, New York Times

Taking as their inspiration the state guides published by the Federal Writers' Project during and shortly after the Great Depression, Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey assembled 50 of America's finest writers and asked them to contribute essays on the same general theme: why my state is special — or not. The result is a funny, moving, rousing collection, greater than the sum of its excellent parts, a convention of literary superdelegates, each one boisterously nominating his or her piece of the Republic.

My Parrot, My Self

by Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times

Both in liteature and in life, parrots have been employed to bear false witness.

October 11, 2008

'Remix,' By Lawrence Lessig

by Michael O'Donnell, San Francisco Chronicle

This is to be his last book on intellectual property. The field will be worse without him, but any cause would be lucky to gain such a trenchant advocate.

A Little Less Conversation

by Lynsey Hanley, The Guardian

The official call for more chatter in libraries is absurd. Silence, too, can be a creative, social glue.

October 10, 2008

Why Tip?

by Paul Wachter, New York Times

In his brief experience, working for tips encouraged selfishness rather than teamwork. Moreover, good service was not always rewarded with a big tip, nor bad service with a poor one. "No other profession works like this," Porter told me, "and I don't see why the restaurant business should either." At his restaurant, Porter and his staff agreed, it no longer would. The Linkery would be more than just a restaurant; it woul dbecome perhaps the nation's only anti-tipping laboratory.

A Catfish By Any Other Name

by Paul Greenberg, New York Times

Catfish isn't the first product from Asia to spark emotional trade disputes. But unlike the public hood-bashing that autoworkers dealt an unwitting Japanese car in 1992, what came to be known in the American South as "the catfish wars" simmered out of sight, a resentment that finally boiled up out of the very bottom of America's economy.

Beyond The Reach Of God

by Eliezer Yudkowsky, Overcoming Bias

What does a child need to do - what rules should they follow, how should they behave - to solve an adult problem?

October 9, 2008

Why Poets Take Trains

by Adam O'Riordan, The Guardian

Planes are too expensive, cars shouldn't even be considered. Little wonder, then, that the train is the poet's preferred mode of transport.

The Bonds Of Matrimony

by Carolyn See, Washington Post

Philip Lopate is such a smart man and such a fine writer that sometimes it's hard to know whether he's gaming you — having fun with you just because he can.

False Apology Syndrome - I'm Sorry For Your Sins

by Theodore Dalrymple, In Character

I am, of course, sorry if you disagree.

October 8, 2008

The Unspeakable Odyssey Of The Motionless Boy

by Joshua Foer, Esquire

How much of our humanity are we prepared to cede to machines? This is a dilemma of the future, but it's not much of a concern for Erik Ramsey. Erik can't move. He can't blink his eyes. And he hasn't said a word since 1999. But now, thanks to an electrode that was surgically implanted in his brain and linked to a computer, his nine-year silence is about to end.


by James Wood, New Yorker

The Republican war on words.

High-End Restaurants On A Tightrope Of Economic Uncertainty

by Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

People always have to eat, but do they have to dine out? That's the question Southern California's top chefs are facing after the last few weeks of grim economic news.

October 7, 2008

Citizen Enforcers Take Aim

by Benedict Carey, New York Times

The public urge for punishment that helped delay the passage of Wasignton's economic rescue plan is more than a simple case of Wall Street loathing, according to scientists who study the psychology of forgiveness and retaliation.

October 6, 2008

'The Wall Of America,' By Thomas M. Disch

by Edward Champion, Los Angeles Times

A posthumous short story collection by a singular science fiction writer.

35 Lucky, And Hungry, Diners Eat And Walk With Calvin Trillin

by Ann Farmer, New York Times

The writer Calvin Trillin's gastronomic walking excursion in Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy is called "Come Hungry" with good reason.

Importing A Passion For Poetry

by Sarah Maguire, The Guardian

If we could read the poets that move huge audiences elsewhere in the world, would it wake up our own?

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

by Yiyun Li, New Yorker

He was raised by his mother alone, as she was by her father. She wondered if his mother, who had set up their date, had told him about that.


by Spencer Reece, New Yorker

The Way

by Albert Goldbarth, New Yorker

October 5, 2008

The Hidden, Joyful World Of Words

by Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

There's not a word in English that isn't furled-up history, resonating to some degree withits notorious unfairness and spin.

Stories That Are Jeweled Windows Into Characters

by Ann Harleman, Boston Globe

The stories in "Yesterday's Weather" offer up surprise after surprise. They're quite short, as short stories go, yet they contain whole worlds inhabited by complex, contradictory characters.

October 4, 2008

The Ambition Of The Short Story

by Steven Millhauser, New York Times

The short story — how modest in bearing!

October 3, 2008

Babble On, Say Researchers In 'Linguists' Documentary

by Joel Garreau, Washington Post

Doesn't your life seem like a daily adventure in linguistics? Americans today routinely encounter more languages from more continents than at any time in the past century. Whether you're getting a meal or a clean shirt or a cab, or visiting a university or a hospital or simply walking through the mall, it's easy to think you're living in the golden age of language diversity.

October 2, 2008

Some Bookshops I Have Known

by Alastair Harper, The Guardian

I can't help the false romance. It's through different bookshops I've frequented that I can mark out the different moments of my upbringing.

A Nation Of Conspiracy Theorists Can't Be Wrong

by Louis Bayard, Salon

From miracle diets to creationism to rumors about the origins of 9/11, a new book traces our irrational love of misinformation.

The End Of Art

by Roger Kimball, First Things

We behave as if art were something special, something important, something spiritually refreshing; but, when we canvas the roster of distinguished artists today, what we generally find is far from spiritual, and certainly far from refreshing.

The Final Frontier

by Stephen Hawking, Cosmos

The human race has existed as a separate species for about two million years. Civilsation began about 10,000 years ago, and the rate of development has been steadily increasing. But, if the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to go boldly go where no one has gone before.

By Heng-Cheong Leong