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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why We Must Remember To Delete – And Forget – In The Digital Age

Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian

When Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's stepfather died, he left a collection of 16,000 heavy glass photographic slides, his visual record of decades travelling the world. His stepson had to decide what to do with them. "I had two rules in working out whether to keep a slide. One, if there was anybody in it I knew or might know. Two, if it was beautiful. Know how many I kept? 53."


Alice Munro, New Yorker


Deborah Eisenberg, The New York Review Of Books

Snails Definitely Aren't Fast Food

Phil Daoust, The Guardian

Imagine sitting in your garden, perhaps sipping a beer as the sun goes down, and watching a tiny little steak pass by, so slowly you could just reach down and pick it up. You'd be a fool to ignore it. In fact, it would be a criminal waste.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

I have never, even in my darkest hours, considered suicide. But with my troubles I have been fortunate; I've never had unbearable physical pain. In Barry Levinson's movie "You Don't Know Jack," Dr. Jack Kevorkian's best friend says his mother told him: "Imagine the worst toothache you've ever had. Now imagine that's how it feels in every bone of your body."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Meal With A Message

Tim Chester, The Guardian

I suppose you can't blame them really. In a world of endless criticism, 140 character reviews and a general Urbanspoon-type consensus dictating opinion, perhaps it's only right and fair that restaurants should try to big themselves up. If everyone from the most feared critic to the iPhone-toting enthusiast is sharing harsh words, thoughts, theories and opinions on anywhere flogging food, why shouldn't the sellers try to redress the balance?

For These Chefs, Even Fire Can Be Improved

Steven Raichlen, New York Times

As burgers and steaks are being flipped on backyard grills all across the United States this weekend, some of the world’s top chefs are finding sophisticated new ways of handling this ancient, elemental cooking method. They are among a new generation of grill masters whose revolutionary techniques are redefining the very notion of grilling.

The End

Kristen Hoggatt, The Smart Set

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Home Before The End Of The World

Adelheid Fischer, Design Observer

The least we can do — for the survival of the world and for the thriving of our own species — is to learn the real identities of the organisms that surround us.

Learn To Be Like Lieutenant Columbo

Robert Butler, More Intelligent Life

The lesson that Columbo has for greens is not dissimilar to the one that Shakespeare has: let the other guy do the work.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poem Of The Week: Mimi Khalvati

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

The Rise And Fall Of Pseudonyms

Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times

Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the nom de plume, and rarely talked about, is its power to unlock creativity — and its capacity to withhold it. Even when its initial adoption is utilitarian, a pen name can assume a life of its own. Many writers have been surprised by the intimate and even disorienting relationships they have formed with their alter egos. The consequences can prove grievous and irrevocable.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hem And Us

Clancy Sigal, The Guardian

Ernest Hemingway, who died by his own hand 50 years ago, has long since ceased to be a fashionable writer. We do him wrong.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everything You Think You Know About The Collapse Of The Soviet Union Is Wrong

Leon Aron, Foreign Policy

Whence such strangely universal shortsightedness? The failure of Western experts to anticipate the Soviet Union's collapse may in part be attributed to a sort of historical revisionism -- call it anti-anti-communism -- that tended to exaggerate the Soviet regime's stability and legitimacy. Yet others who could hardly be considered soft on communism were just as puzzled by its demise.


Steven Shapin, London Review Of Books

In the past, a weak stomach and poor digestion was recognised as one of the diseases of philosophers, scholars and the learned. There was a finite quantity of vital spirits in the body: if they were called on to power digestion, they would not be available for the demands of deep thinking, and, conversely, philosophising interfered with the stomach’s duties.

'... Lay Thee Down'

Tim Liardet, The Guardian

Between Shades Of Grey By Ruta Sepetys – Review

Linda Buckley-Archer, The Guardian

The fluid narrative is compelling yet restrained. The horrors of the cattle trucks and the gulag, the cruelty of the Soviet guards, are all there. Minor characters are memorably and vividly drawn, and the first half of the book, in particular, roars along. Dr Johnson wrote that the only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it. Hard to read but even harder to stop reading, there is no doubt into which category this tremendous first novel belongs.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Poetry Magazine Well-versed In Criticism

Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

Poetry makes nothing happen.

So said W.H. Auden.

Who never lived in Chicago.

Why 1970 Deserves Its 15 Minutes Of Fame

Scott Timberg, New York Times

The Beatles broke up, the Weathermen accidentally torched a Greenwich Village brownstone, and pop music went really soft. (Except when it didn’t.) That’s the tale, in a nutshell, told by “Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970,” which proposes to wrap together a year in the life of several loosely connected artists.

Balanced Diets

Daniel Mason, Laphams Quarterly

“Is earth capable of being assimilated?” asked Humboldt. “Or is it simply ballast for the stomach, to appease hunger? These are questions I cannot answer.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant

Jose Antonio Vargas, New York Times

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”

My Disillusionment: China, 1973

Perry Link, New York Review Of Books

The first time I tried to go to China was in 1967, the year after I graduated from college. My father was a radical leftist professor who admired Mao Zedong. And that influence, along with the Vietnam War protests—a movement in which I was not only a participant but an activist—led me to look at socialist China with very high hopes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Foreign Bodies By Cynthia Ozick: Review

Mark Sanderson, The Telegraph

Ozick is not in the business of providing easy answers. She deals in big themes – not the least of which is anti-Semitism – yet uses a playful style to explore them. To echo the most famous line in The Ambassadors (“Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to”): read this wonderful novel; it would be a mistake not to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Heavy Sentences

Joseph Epstein, The New Criterion

On How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish.

Ooo Baby Baby

T.R. Hummer, Slate

Consider The Hamburger

Oliver Thring, The Guardian

Even in its maligned, fiddled-with and industrialised form, it remains a prince of sandwiches.

Tall Tales From Gifted Storytellers

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.” This George Eliot quotation is the cynical and telling epigraph to Adam Ross’s noirish, self-consciously constructed stories — a collection that underscores the same dark view of human relationships that animated his debut novel, “Mr. Peanut” (2010), which focused on a man’s morbid fantasies of killing his wife.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Liberty Scam

Stephen Metcalf, Slate

Why even Robert Nozick, the philosophical father of libertarianism, gave up on the movement he inspired.

Poem Of The Week: Hero And Leander By Christopher Marlowe

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

Into The Heart Of The Ice

Bill Streever, Wall Street Journal

But glaciers are inescapably and uniquely beautiful, blue ice mixed with white snow forming rolling hills, sheer cliffs and long shallow ramps, surfaces reflecting light and casting shadows, the frozen mass creating its own cold winds. A glacier is a landscape beyond normal experience, and moulins go inside the glacier, into the beauty and the mystery.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How To Land Your Kid In Therapy

Lori Gottlieb, The Atlantic

Our main job as psychotherapists, in fact, was to “re-parent” our patients, to provide a “corrective emotional experience” in which they would unconsciously transfer their early feelings of injury onto us, so we could offer a different response, a more attuned and empathic one than they got in childhood.

At least, that was the theory. Then I started seeing patients.

Eating Myself Silly

Adam Platt, Condé Nast Traveler

Some tourists like to collect seashells on their journeys, or shards of pottery, or nostalgic postcards from the distant places they've visited, like the Pyramids of Giza or Timbuktu. But ever since those early days in Taiwan, I've always equated the glamour of travel and of living in a far-off land with the eternal joys of a good meal. And why not?

The 72-word Door

Ben Zimmer, Boston Globe

If you’ve ever spent much time consulting a modern unabridged dictionary, you might have noticed the peculiar phrasings and tone of its definitions — each one winding its way from a general opening through a litany of complex details in a single, sometimes unmanageable, phrase. And you might have wondered: If dictionaries are intended to illuminate, why can the definitions sound so convoluted?

Time Wars

Adam Barrows, Boston Globe

Last August, on the first day of Ramadan, the largest clock in the world began ticking for the first time. The Mecca Clock, designed to serve as the authoritative timepiece for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims and positioned at the top of the world’s largest clock tower, poses not only an architectural challenge to England’s iconic Big Ben, but a political one as well. Defying the global agreement to consider Greenwich, England, the zero-point for measuring time and space — based on when the sun crosses over that meridian — the clock was constructed to run not on Greenwich Mean Time but on Mecca Time, with Mecca as prime meridian. This means that the Mecca Clock, and anyone who sets a watch by it, deviates from standard time by roughly 21 minutes.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Formative Years

Gabrielle Hamilton, The Guardian

I turned 17 during my waitress shift at the Lone Star Cafe, high on coke. And I made a big show of it. It made me feel something, something like bad and good, to run to the restroom in pairs, giggling with one of my waitress friends, while patrons watched. I felt, somehow, as if I were sending a coded signal to potential admirers if I made an oh-so-casual point of wiping the little trickle of coke-laced snot from my upper lip and then licking my finger so as not to lose that last shot of tongue-numbing tingle.

Book Review: 'The Hair Of Harold Roux' By Thomas Williams

David L. Ulin, Los Angles Times

"The Hair of Harold Roux" revolves around Benham's attempts to write a novel, also called "The Hair of Harold Roux," which is revealed in increasingly detailed fragments. It's a risky strategy, the kind of literary looking glass that often collapses under the weight of its own self-reflection, and Williams addresses such concerns head-on. "[W]ho wants to write about or read about a professor who is a writer who is writing about writing," he observes early in the novel. "It's all incestuous and even narcissistic."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Summer Of Drowning By John Burnside: Review

Anthony Cummins, The Telegraph

The novel invites you to view storytelling as akin to madness.

My Death Is My Affair – Just Don't Let My Daughter Design My Headstone

Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

The reality is of assisted living. And as we speak, for many it is not good at all. We have an ageing population – with dementia increasing – and it's bloody tough. That is the future. I may at some point want to refuse that future. It is my affair, and I take comfort in this. To be pro-choice on assisted dying means simply to me to be entirely pro–life.

Rereading: The Go-Between By LP Hartley

Ali Smith, The Guardian

A combination of knowing and not-knowing is this novel's driving force.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Match That Would Never End

Ed Caesar, GQ

Curiously, it's not an image I remember best from the match, but a sound. At seemingly incongruous moments in the fifth set of the last year's first-round tie between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, the crowd on Court 18 at Wimbledon emitted a nervous giggle.

Wimbledon crowds don't usually giggle. Of course, they have a famously low threshold for laughter. A rogue pigeon, for example, can reduce Centre Court to weepy guffaws. But this was something higher and finer than laughter. The sound rose from Court 18 like freshly applied cologne. It was the noise of a crowd watching a tightrope walk, not a tennis match. And it told you one thing: the spectators could not process the evidence placed before their eyes. They did not believe that two professional tennis players could fail to win, or refuse to lose a match for so long.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cognitive Surplus By Clay Shirky – Review

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

There's much to take note of in Shirky's thoughtful portrait of a world in which everybody shares information.

Book Review: 'The Reading Promise' By Alice Ozma

Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times

Alice Ozma's father read to her every night before bed for 3,218 days straight. "The Streak," as Ozma and her father, Jim Brozina, called it, began when Ozma was in fourth grade and didn't stop until the day she moved into her college dormitory when she was 18 years old. This significant, deeply odd, sometimes-embarrassing, often-inspiring accomplishment is chronicled by 23-year-old Ozma in a new memoir, "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared."

Your English Is Showing

Tim Parks, New York Review Of Books

If one suggests that the international literary market is also a power game where different nations set their cultural and political might against each other in bestseller lists and international prizes, one inevitably arouses a certain amount of hostility from those who like to think of literature as operating in a more idealized world of noble aspiration and expression. The hostility intensifies if one seeks to exemplify one’s ideas with reference to individual writers, to the point that I fear that my recent piece on Jonathan Franzen and the Swiss writer Peter Stamm may have generated more heat than light. At the risk, then, of turning down the heat without exactly achieving a blaze of illumination, let me offer a more general word about present developments in the international spaces where contemporary novels from different countries vie for attention.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Trouble With Ayn Rand

David Bentley Hart, First Things

Civilization teeters on the brink: they’ve made a movie of Atlas Shrugged.

Does Anything Matter?

Peter Singer, Project Syndicate

Can moral judgments be true or false? Or is ethics, at bottom, a purely subjective matter, for individuals to choose, or perhaps relative to the culture of the society in which one lives? We might have just found out the answer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weapon Salve

Charles Harper Webb, Slate

A Day In The Life Of A Smiling Woman: The Collected Stories By Margaret Drabble

Elena Seymenliyska, The Telgraph

Drabble’s collected stories offer a clear distillation of her classic themes – women and relationships, England and abroad, work and family, class and manners. Better still, they link elegantly together into a narrative about the changing lives of women, not just in terms of a woman’s own decades – from her clueless twenties to her wised-up sixties – but also in terms of the century’s sexual politics.

Book Review: 'A Wild Surge Of Guilty Passion' By Ron Hansen

Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

The story of the Snyder-Gray murder is irresistible for a storyteller like Ron Hansen, for whom context, period, culture is everything.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sell Descartes, Buy Spinoza

Rebecca Goldstein, Prospect

Thinking of buying shares in a great philosopher? The first question you need to ask is whether you’re interested in long or short-term investment. If you are looking long-term, then prepare yourself for serious scholarship. Alternatively, short-term investment could merely involve comparing the battle over women’s hemlines on catwalks in Milan and New York to Wittgenstein’s language-games. Investors must also keep in mind a philosopher’s obscurity, as this allows room for interpretation. Counter-intuitive shock appeal is also a plus.

The Last Lion

Brittany Newmark, Fictionaut

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Truth Is In There

Leon Neyfakh, Boston Globe

And most notably — after 40 long years of writer’s block — Morris has suddenly become a prolific writer, with no fewer than three books under contract with publishers and a series of long investigative essays that appear regularly on the website of The New York Times.

‘The Book Of Mormon’: No Offense

James Fenton, New York Review Of Books

But then something mysterious happened, and the show that opened in March at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre drew praise of a glutinous and sickly kind from the greyer eminences of the press—from David Brooks of The New York Times, for instance, who spoke of the “jolt of energy” that surges through the audience during the first number, a “jolt of joy, gratitude and laughter” at the realization that the production was going to live up to its reviews.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Which Sandwich Has It All Wrapped Up?

Mina Holland, The Guardian

Without Chorleywood bread, the likes of Tesco, Pret a Manger and Greggs might struggle to meet the enormous demand for sandwiches (we get through 11.5bn annually). But there are many substitutes for the standard sliced bread sarnie offering taste experiences beyond anything of which the eponymous Earl could have dreamed.

A Comrade By Accident, A Seeker By Design

Janet Maslin, New York Times

“You don’t say much,” says the man who flirtatiously sidles up to Joy, the young heroine of Lisa See’s latest novel. He has a smile that’s “warm and embracing.” He leaves Joy “dumb with wonder and astonishment.” And he has a question for Joy’s father: “How many more pretty daughters have you left across China?” Perhaps the question is impertinent, but this is a man who can say whatever he wants to: Joy is fielding a come-on from Chairman Mao.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Empty Trash. Buy Milk. Forge History.

Gal Beckerman, Boston Globe

To trace the great arcs of civilization, historians tap the humble list.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Enigma Of The Infinitesimal

Mark Strand, Slate

Could Liquid Nitrogen Help Build Tasty Burgers?

John Tierney, New York Times

The World Science Festival this past week was another triumph of cultural cross-pollination, but I’m afraid there was one missed opportunity to bring art and science together. If only someone had thought to put Daniel Boulud and Nathan Myhrvold on the same stage, we could have considered the ultimate interdisciplinary question: Can science create a better burger?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Nature Of E.B. White

Michael Sims, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

During my research into the inspirations for and the writing of Charlotte's Web, which took me back to White's early childhood, I was intrigued by many aspects of his personality: his anxieties and hypochondria, his passionate defense of free speech and civil liberties, his one-man campaign for world government. But nothing else about him caught my own imagination more than his attitude toward animals.

Social Darwinism

Michele Pridmore-Brown, Los Angeles Review Of Books

The number is highly debatable, but it turns out that, Facebook aside, the average person has about 150 friends — people he or she might actually recognize and be recognized by at a random airport, 150 people he or she might feel comfortable borrowing five dollars from. As for how many friends we have evolved to “need” in a more intimate sense, that is a different matter.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Considering The Lobster

Dawn Drzal, New York Times

It’s nearly impossible to put a live lobster into a pot of boiling water without asking yourself, “Does it feel pain?” In Richard J. King’s elegant little history of the world’s pre-eminent crustacean, he reveals that anguishing over this “final vestige of what it is like to butcher or kill our own food” isn’t restricted to our PETA-­sensitized age. Apparently, it’s been debated in the West since at least the early 19th century.

Book Review: 'Indigo: In Search Of The Color That Seduced The World' By Catherine E. McKinley

Swati Pandey, Los Angeles Times

Indigo is something of a mystery. It sits between the more familiar purple and blue of rainbows. And it's the elusive center of Catherine E. McKinley's "Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World" which like its eponymous shade, falls somewhere between more familiar poles. As history, it wanders, sometimes too hastily, through millenniums and contents to trace the reach and power of indigo dye and fabric. As memoir, it gorgeously recounts McKinley's journey to West Africa's teeming markets and churning factories, through funerals and uprisings, to find "the bluest of blues."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Are Artists Liars?

Ian Leslie, More Intelligent Life

Both liars and artists refuse to accept the tyranny of reality. Both carefully craft stories that are worthy of belief—a skill requiring intellectual sophistication, emotional sensitivity and physical self-control (liars are writers and performers of their own work).

A New York Staple, Korean Grocers Are Dwindling

Sam Dolnick, New York Times

For decades, Korean greengrocers have embodied a classic New York type — the immigrant entrepreneur — and become as much a staple of city life as the yellow cab and the pretzel vendor. Spike Lee and Jerry Seinfeld found early inspiration in them. The Rev. Al Sharpton led boycotts against them; Rudolph W. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign used them as a key symbol.

Now, they are on the wane.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Great Night By Chris Adrian - Review

Patrick Ness, The Guardian

The most magical novelist you've never heard of.

Hooked On Meat

Mark Bittman, New York Times

We can’t afford to wait to evolve.

The High Price Of The New Beijing

Ian Johnson, New York Review Of Books

When I got to the end, I turned back and looked. Behind the new buildings were empty lots strewn with the rubble of demolished courtyard houses and stores. What had once been a warren of alleys and streets—one of the liveliest and most atmospheric in the city—was now mostly bulldozed. As I stood there, a couple walked by. In a heavy Beijing accent, the man asked the woman where they were. She replied, “Qianmen,” and he blurted out, “No way! How did it end up like this?”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Social Animal By David Brooks – Review

Andy Beckett, The Guardian

In some ways, the book's most original and powerful passages are not about success but about its costs.

By Heng-Cheong Leong