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January 31, 2009

Thoughts On The City By A New Yorker Writer Who Avoided New York

by Clyde Haberman, New York Times

John Updike defined "the true New Yorker" as someone who came with a "secret belief that people living anywhere else had to be, in some sense, kidding."

The guy nailed it. In the depths of their souls, that is exactly how unreconstructed New Yorkers feel.

How To Measure A Cheshire Grin?

by John Allen Paulos, New York Times

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was a mathematician at Oxford University for most of his life. His fanciful "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" are quite familiar to us, as, to a lesser extent, are his photographs of young children. In "Lewis Carroll in Numberland," the distinguished British mathematician Robin Wilson has filled a perceived gap in the writings about Carroll by describing in a straightforward, jbberwocky-free fashion the author's mathematical accomplishments, both professional and popular.

Eyeless In Gaza

by Roger Cohen, New York Review Of Books

I have never previously felt so despondent about Israel, so shamed by its actions, so despairing of any peace that might terminate the dominion of the dead in favor of opportunity for the living.

January 30, 2009


by John Updike, New York Times

Wnadering Life, Perpetual Feast

by Ian Brunskill, Wall Street Journal

A food critic remembers far-flung places and the meals of a lifetime.

Can I Serve You Now?

by The Economist

American attitudes to stem-cell therapies are changing fast.

January 29, 2009

Flipping Awful

by Tim Harford, Slate

Why the NFL should replace the overtime coin toss with an auction system.

The Complete Updike

by Lorrie Moore, New York Times

It has been a hard year or so for writers. The world seems to grow emptier and emptier, depletion without replenishment, and now with the passing of John Updike at the age of 76, death has taken perhaps its biggest prize.

January 28, 2009

Book Soup's Ending Isn't Yet Written

by Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"When a wise man dies," Rabbi David Wolpe asked at the memorial service for Book Soup owner Glenn Goldman, "how can he be replaced?"

For customers, employees, sales reps, writers and just about everyone who ever wandered into the Sunset Boulevard bookshop, this question has taken on an added significance in the wake of Goldman's death.

Late Works

by John Updike, New Yorker

Last words, recorded and treasured in the days when the deathbed was in the home, have fallen from fashion, perhaps because most people spend their final hours in the hospital, too drugged to make any sense. And only the night nurse hears them talk. Yet, at least for this aging reader, works written late in a writer's life retain a fascination.

Updike Made The Mundane Into A Saga

by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Endowed with an art student's pictorial imagination, a journalist's sociological eye and a poet's gift for metaphor, John Updike — who died on Tuesday at 76 — was argably this country's one true all-round man of letters, moving fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.

January 27, 2009


by Zachary F. Meisel and Jesse M. Pines, Slate

Health care reformers should look to the banking collapse as a cautionary tale.

Out Of The Fire, Into The Frying Pan

by Judy Joo, Wall Street Journal

The analogies between the financial world and the world of restaurants don't stop in the kitchen.

January 26, 2009

Army Cats

by Tom Sleigh, New Yorker

January 25, 2009

Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story

by Molly Young, n+1

The first thing that strike the casual reader is the anatomical variety among bunnies. Nipples, for one thing. Some are as big as cupcakes, others are the size of a penny. They are occasionally erect and come in a range of colors as varied as drugstore lipsticks. Pubic hair is another delight to behold, appearing first in 1971 and thriving until 1997.

Sad Men

by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

"A new breed of American has arrived on the scene," Dalton Conley declares in "Elsewhere, U.S.A.," his compact guidebook to our nervous new world. Instead of individuals searching for authenticity, we are "intraviduals" defined by shifting personas and really cool electronics, which help us manage "the myriad data streams, impulses, desires and even consciousnesses that we experience in our heads as we navigate multiple worlds."

Appraising Grace

by Toni Bentley, New York Times

The first English-language edition of one of the very greatest writers on ballet, who witnessed the mythic Russian ballerinas of the early 20th century.

The End Of Solitude

by William Deresiewicz, Chronicle Of Higher Education

As everyone seeks more and broader connectivity, the still, small voice speaks only in silence.

January 24, 2009

What The Hell Just Happened? A Look Back At The Last Eight Years

by Tom Junod, Esquire

As we move into the next era of American history, we need to reflect on the bizarre sequence of events we've experienced since 2000, and on how we — and not just George W. Bush — handled them.

Handwriting Is On The Wall

by Cullen Murphy, Wall Street Journal

Penmanship skills are being slowly erased in a typing and texting age.

January 23, 2009

Don't Fear The Reaper

by Laura Miller, Salon

Is it really so terrible to grow old? Two new books explore what we can (and can't) learn from the elderly.

It Took A Village

by Louis Menand, New Yorker

How the Voice changed journalism.

Books Unbound

by Chris Jackson, Time

We think of the novel as a transcendent, timeless thing, but it was shaped by the forces of money and technology just as much as by creative genius.

Middlebrow Messiahs

by Brendan Boyle, City Journal

Robert Hutchins didn't think much of his Yale education, which he said had "nothing to do with any intellectual development." He didn't keep this opinion to himself. When the Yale class of 1921 elected him "most likely to succeed," he delivered a speech titled, "Should Institutions of Higher Learning Be Abolished?" Alex Beam's A Great Idea at the Time shows what an odd answer to this question Hutchins had in mind.

January 22, 2009

Someone To Disturb

by Hilary Mantel, London Review Of Books

It was then June 1983. I had been in Saudi Arabia for six months.

America's Fear Of Competition

by Eliot Spitzer, Slate

How cronyism and rent-seeking replaced "creative destruction."

January 21, 2009

Cooking Their Books

by Lauren Shockey, Slate

Trying to re-create restaurant dishes at home.

His Camera-Ready Comedy

by Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

Hammett's 'The Thin Man' should be taken seriously.

Back Issues

by Jill Lepore, New Yorker

The day the newspaper died.

January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

by Frank Bidart, Slate

Solving Avalanches' Mysteries

by Jim Robbins, New York Times

Forecasting avalanches has always been as much an art as a science because of the wide variability of conditions, from time of day and year to type of snow, to slope and temperature.

January 19, 2009

Cursive, Foiled Again

by David Mehegan, Boston Globe

We e-mail, we text, we Twitter - what will become of handwriting?

From Books, New President Found Voice

by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Much has been made of Mr. Obama's eloquence — his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while ocntextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

Last Robot Song

by Robert Pinsky, New Yorker

It Must Have Been The Spirits

by C. P. Cavafy, New Yorker

Pink Is A Flower... And Other Things The Nose Knows

by Russell Smith, Globe And Mail

On New Year's Day, I rather idly threw out a question to the great cosmic ear, a question about the language of smell. I wondered aloud why all our words for smells seemed to be the words of real things — such as apple or ozone — while we had abstract words for colours (red) and other sensations (soft).

The massive response from scientists and poets of all stripes was overwhelming. It made clear two things: (1) science is hard (2) scientists tend to seek explanation from within their own disciplines.

January 18, 2009

Status Anxiety

by Toby Young, The Spectator

Puritans love disasters. No sooner has some calamity befallen mankind than some hair-shirted scold emerges from his priest hole and starts wagging his finger. The message is always the same: 'You are being punished for your immoral lifestyle.'

January 17, 2009

The Popular Newsweekly Becomes A Lonely Category

by Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times

People have asked for a generation whether newsweeklies would survive — but that is a more pressing question than ever, as the recession pummels the magazine industry. For now, the answer maybe that newsweeklies are already gone, having evolved into something else.

Modern Darwins

by Matt Ridley, National Geographic Magazine

The father of evolution would be thrilled to see the science his theory has inspired.

January 16, 2009

The American Character

by Louis P. Masur, Chronicle Of Higher Education

Obama's popular narrative, and the way he has told it, promises to revive interest in what scholars term American exceptionalism — the idea that the American story is somehow unique.

Mission Accomplished

by Chris Mooney, Slate

The "war on science" is over. Now what?

January 15, 2009

In The Lap Of Luxury, Paris Squirms

by Elaine Sciolino, New York Times

France is the birthplace of luxury fashion, and here the recession biting the world has the feel of a morality play.

How To Write A Poem For The President

by Jim Fisher, Salon

Elizabeth Alexander has been commissioned to write a poem for Inauguration Day. But the checkered history of the form suggests it's an almost impossible task.

Our Inner Artist

by Jonah Lehrer, Washington Post

The premise of Dutton's work is that this instinct for art isn't an accident. Instead, he argues that our desire for beauty is firmly grounded in evolution, a side effect of the struggle to survive and reproduce.

Lunching On Lympus

by Steven L. Isenberg, The American Scholar

My meals with W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster, Philip Larkin, and William Empson.

January 14, 2009

Zeros-Sum Game Of Inflation

by Neely Tucker, Washington Post

Real money. Lots of zeros. Getting scary, isn't it?

The First Suppers: A Tradition Of Inaugural Meals

by Andrew F. Smith, Los Angeles Times

Over the last 200 years, food has been an integral part of the celebrations surrounding the transition of power from one American president to another.

Chefs Settle Down In 'The Real D.C.'

by Kim Severson, New York Times

In Petworth, Columbia Heights, the U Street district and even the dicier parts of North Capital Hill, a little restaurant revival is under way. Washington neighborhoods that for years were considered too dangerous or too poor for a viable sit-down restaurant are suddenly entertaining quite a few.

The New Journalism: Goosing The Gray Lady

by Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine

WHat are these renegade cybergeeks doing at the New York Times? Maybe saving it.

Baby Food

by Jill Lepore, New Yorker

If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk?

January 13, 2009

Morning Of The Monsoon

by Diane Mehta, Slate

The blue-black curve of weather sizzles when it smacks the asphalt.
Ocean air tumbles in, loosely shaped in networks of water.

At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going The Way Of The Blackboard

by Sara Rimer, New York Times

For as long as anyone can remember, introductory physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was taught in a vast windowless amphitheater known by its number, 26-100.

But now, with physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, M.I.T. has made a striking change.

January 12, 2009

Learning To Read

by Franz Wright, New Yorker


by Nathalie Anderson, New Yorker

L.A. Weekly: The Autopsy Report

by Marc Cooper

The slow-motion collapse of L.A. Weekly also coincides with a radical shriking of the L.A. Times, the implosion of The Daily News and the continuing downard descent of smaller papers likeCity Beat and The Daily Journal. If there was ever a time for an aggressive, irreverent, credible metro weekly to take on the Gray Lady, it's right now, right here. That requires investment, not layoffs — seriousness and not shoddy, half-arsed ideological crud passed off as news.

January 11, 2009

Telling The Holocaust Like It Wasn't

by Jacob Heilbrunn, New York Times

The further the Holocaust recedes into the past, the more it's being exploited to create a narrative of redemption.

At McDonald's, The Happiest Meal Is Hot Profits

by Andrew Martin, New York Times

It wasn't too long ago that McDonald's, vilified as making people fat, was written off as irrelevant. Now, six years into a rebound spawned by more appealing food and a less aggressive expansion, McDonald's seems to have won over some of its most hardened skeptics.

My Genome, My Self

by Steven Pinker, New York Times

Like the early days of the internet, the dawn of personal genomics promises benefits and pitfalls that no one can foresee.

January 10, 2009

Children Of The Left, Unite!

by Caleb Crain, New York Times

A new anthology of radical children's literature shows that Marxist principles have been dripping steadily into the minds of American youth for more than a century.

Hear Also: Tales For Little Rebels, from The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC.

Mining The Mountains

by John McQuaid, Smithsonian Magazine

Explosives and giant machines are destroying Appalachian peaks to obtain peaks. In a tiny West Virginia town, residents and the industry fight over a mountain's fate.

January 9, 2009

Twilight Of The Color Photo

by Dushko Petrovich, Boston Globe

As printed snapshots vanish, we're losing more than shoe boxes full of memories.

Stephen King Fan Publishes Shining's Jack Torrance's Novel

by Alison Flood, The Guardian

Phil Buehler said he decided to stick to type and formatting that could have been created on a typewriter, with the first ten pages duplicating shots of Torrance's work from the film.

January 8, 2009

Inching Its Way Back Onto The Lip

by David Colman, New York Times

Beards have had their moment, now it's time for mustaches to get their 10 minutes of fame.

End Times

by Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic

Can America's paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism?

January 7, 2009

Why Early Detection Is The Best Way To Beat Cancer

by Thomas Goetz, Wired

Despite a proven model, early detection is an afterthought in cancer research.

From Asia, Rapture In A Bowl

by Julia Moskin, New York Times

People priase chicken soup, especially in these chilly, Kleenex-ridden days, but a bowl of it is usually greeted politely — not rapturously. Purists find pleasure in a clear, golden broth with a few perfect dice of carrot and egg noodles, but the taste? Dull, honestly. Bland, even.

Enter, steaming: the rich, spicy chicken noodle soups of Southeast Asia.

January 6, 2009

My Bright Abyss

by Christian Wiman, The American Scholar

I never felt the pain of unbelief until I believed. But belif itself is hardly painless.

The Written History Of Prose

by T.R. Hummer, Slate

January 5, 2009

How To Live What Michael Pollan Preaches

by Laura Miller, Salon

Mark Bittman's revolutionary "Food Matters" is both a cookbook and a manifesto that shows us how to eat better — and save the planet.

Snark Attack

by Adam Sternbergh, New York Magazine

I'm sorry, did that sound snarky? I apologize.

Bleeping Expletives

by William Safire, New York Times

Today we are going to deal with the media coverage of profanities, expletives, vulgarisms, obscenities, execrations, epithets and imprecations, nouns often lumped together by the Bluenose Generation as coarseness, crudness, bawdiness, scatology or swearing. But roundheeled readers should stop smacking their lips and rubbing their hands because the deliberately shocking subject can be treated with decorum, in plain words, without the titillating examples of "dirty words." (Titillating, from the Latin titillare, "to tickle," is clean.)

January 4, 2009

Creature Comforts

by Rebecc Skloot, New York Times

It's no longer just guide dogs for blind people. Service animals now include monkeys for quadriplegies, parrots for psychotics and at least one assistance duck. Should the law recognize all of them?

Hew And Haw

by Terri Trespicio, Boston Globe

Can the wrong pair of jeans throw a first date into serious doubt?

Timing Is Everything

by Ian Bostridge, Standpoint Online

If the world of physics is a space-time continuum, music is a pitch-time continuum.

January 3, 2009

Kyoto Celebrates A 1,000-Year Love Affair

by Michelle Green, New York Times

The city known for its shrines, temples and blazing autumn hills is celebrating the millennial anniversary of Murasaki Shikibu's episodic story of love and loss among the imperial set.

East Meets West, East Loses West

by Sarah Fay, New York Times

This novel traces the delightfully absurd affair between a Belgian language teacher and her Japanese student.

January 2, 2009

My Secret Life

by Ellen Ullman, New York Times

I am not adopted; I have mysterious origins.

Behind The Green Veil

by William Birdthistle, Wall Street Journal

The case for seeing Ireland and its literature in a fresh way — free of Celtic lore.

The Sentence Is A Lonely Place

by Gary Lutz, The Believer

And as I encountered any such sentence, the question I would ask myself in marvelment was: how did this thing come to be what it now is?

January 1, 2009

New Year, New You? Nice Try

by Alex Williams, New York Times

In a season of change, in a year of change, most people who embark on a journey of self-renewal can expect anything but.

By Heng-Cheong Leong