Mon, Dec 31, 2012
Jeff Jordan, The Atlantic Cities
Rapidly declining demand for real estate amid growing supply is a recipe for financial disaster.
Bruce Feiler, New York Times
My father spoke to his college roommate every day for 50 years. Though the two lived in different states, 800 miles apart, they were business partners, sounding boards and friends. Then one day my father called and his friend wasn’t there. He had died the night before of a terminal illness, which he had never told my father about. The two never said goodbye.
Joe Moran, The Guardian
But to write a diary for any extended period is an exceptional and eccentric act. If historians wanted to relate a truly representative history through diaries, they would have to include the vast, forgotten majority that do not see January out. It would be an eternal winter in this alternative history, populated by a tribe of initially loquacious people who suddenly become monosyllabic and then lapse irrevocably into silence.
Sun, Dec 30, 2012
Sarah Hepola, The Morning News
I’ve spent my life complaining and arguing and telling stories about the city I came from. Then I changed—but it did, too.
Sat, Dec 29, 2012
Parul Sehgal, New York Times
In its quality of attention and faith in the salvific power of the right words in the right order, the essay resembles nothing so much as a secular prayer. That, at least, was the original point. The essay has proved wayward, which has been the great secret to its longevity.
Andrew D. Scrimgeour, New York Times
On this particular day I’m standing in the doorway of a distinguished but forlorn library in South Bend, Ind., ready to perform last rites on the extensive collection of James White, a noted historian and specialist in the liturgies and worship practices of the Christian tradition. I always pause before entering these libraries. Even after the family has shown me to the space, I can’t just barge in. That seems disrespectful. I need to be introduced to the books. I need to become acquainted.
Richard Price, The Guardian
Fri, Dec 28, 2012
Linda Colley, The Guardian
At some level, varieties of Britons still kick against being confined to Europe only, to a single continent. Consciously or not, many of them still yearn to be a global people, to be actors on a bigger stage. Darwin's new book is now the best single-volume guide as to why this is.
Thu, Dec 27, 2012
John Markoff, New York Times
Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly
Kevin Eastman was 21 when he created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He's 50 now, and the Turtles are still around. The past three decades have been a long, weird ride.
Jennifer Howard, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Anyone who has ever displayed a trophy volume on the coffee table knows that people do many things with books besides read them.
Bret Victor,
How can we design systems when we don't know what we're doing?
Wed, Dec 26, 2012
Robin Lynam, South China Morning Post
Assembling a few expensive ingredients on a plate is a creative cop out, and one which in recent years has led to some extravagantly silly menu items, as chefs compete to stretch the limits of what a customer is prepared to pay.
Tue, Dec 25, 2012
Bill Pahlka, New York Times
Literary critics occasionally practice an aphoristic little art form without a name, one that captures in vivid analogies the distinctive architecture or choreography of a writer’s sentences. Sometimes critics (or reviewers) celebrate the author’s distinctive style, sometimes they mimic it, sometimes they skewer it. Whatever the case, these figurative sketches are always illuminating, and they provide a small literary pleasure of their own along the way.
Mon, Dec 24, 2012
William L. Copithorne, The Atlantic
I haven't the slightest intention of writing a Christmas letter myself, but once I'd put a red or green ribbon in my typewriter, I'm sure I could turn one out in no time at all.
Thomas Pierce, New Yorker
Sun, Dec 23, 2012
Jackson Lears, London Review Of Books
Defenders of the Enlightenment can cogently argue (and many have) that Nazi science was a grotesque caricature, that the Holocaust was a betrayal of the Enlightenment rather than a fulfilment of its fatal dialectic. But it is harder to make that case with respect to the development of nuclear weapons. Indeed the subject seems designed to lay bare the contradictions at the core of Enlightenment culture by revealing them at work in the subculture of professional physicists bent to the needs of government power.
Zadie Smith, The New York Review Of Books
It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure and joy. But maybe everybody does this very easily, all the time, and only I am confused.
Cara Feinberg, Harvard Magazine
The challenge now, says Kaptchuk, is to uncover the mechanisms behind these physiological responses—what is happening in our bodies, in our brains, in the method of placebo delivery (pill or needle, for example), even in the room where placebo treatments are administered (are the physical surroundings calming? is the doctor caring or curt?). The placebo effect is actually many effects woven together—some stronger than others—and that’s what Kaptchuk hopes his “pill versus needle” study shows.
Sat, Dec 22, 2012
SF Said, The Guardian
Creech's epigraph seems to anticipate the latter reaction by posing the question: "What is 'real'?" Don't let her light touch fool you into thinking that her work is somehow lightweight; there's substance here, too.
Fri, Dec 21, 2012
Jonah Weiner, New York Times
“I like money,” he says, “but it’s never been about the money.” Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”
Thu, Dec 20, 2012
Paul Elie, New York Times
The obvious answer is that it has gone where belief itself has gone. In America today Christianity is highly visible in public life but marginal or of no consequence in a great many individual lives. For the first time in our history it is possible to speak of Christianity matter-of-factly as one religion among many; for the first time it is possible to leave it out of the conversation altogether. This development places the believer on a frontier again, at the beginning of a new adventure; it means that the Christian who was born here is a stranger in a strange land no less than the Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Soviet Jews and Spanish-speaking Catholics who have arrived from elsewhere. But few people see it that way. People of faith see decline and fall. Their detractors see a people threatening rear-guard political action, or a people left behind.
Wed, Dec 19, 2012
Daisy Yuhas, Scientific American
It’s not the first “end is nigh” proclamation—and it’s unlikely to be the last. That’s because, deep down for various reasons, there’s something appealing—at least to some of us—about the end of the world.
Joshua Foer, New Yorker
An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented.
Tue, Dec 18, 2012
Frank Conroy, The Paris Review
Amy Chozick, New York Times
In the decade since my sister and I left South Texas and adopted the palates that come with our respective coastal cities, San Francisco and New York, meals for my family — and, I discovered, many others like ours — have become a source of tension, a stark reminder of the generational red food-blue food divide.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012
Frances Wilson, Telegraph
Since the death of Angela Carter, Tennant has been the queen of Gothic. Postmodern excursions into chaos are what she does best; there is nothing quite like being with her in a Tardis.
Rian van der Merwe, Elezea
Just like we’ve moved on from the idea that the big office is a big deal, we have to let go of the idea that a big enough title is equal to a successful career.
Sun, Dec 16, 2012
Edward Zuckerman, New York Times
Heading into my golden years, I have one bad knee, two good daughters and 836 names in my iPhone address book. Of the latter, 246 are people I have not seen or spoken to in at least 10 years. Thirty-nine are a total mystery to me — I have no idea who they are.
Seventeen are dead.
Sat, Dec 15, 2012
Tim Parks, The New York Review Of Books
Ninety-eight uses of a two-syllable “carriage” are not the same as ninety-eight occurrences of a single-syllable closed-o “coach.” This is why, statistically, assonance, alliteration, and rhythm tend to be weaker in translations than in original texts; consciously or otherwise a writer, even of the least ambitious prose, is guided by sound, while the language itself is constantly forming standard collocations of words around pleasantly assonant combinations—fast asleep, wide awake. Any intervention in these patterns, whether simply substituting words to suit a local use of the same language, or more radically translating into another language, disturbs the relationship between sound and semantics.
Johannes Lichtman, Los Angeles Review Of Books
Both favor a kind of story that generally relies on a first page/first sentence hook, a second page circling back to explain how we came to this interesting place, and, after the necessary information has been dumped on the reader, a series of events that lead to some sort of change in the protagonist: a change which usually takes place epiphanically, when the story has, to paraphrase Stuart Dybek, shifted from the narrative to the lyrical mode.
Bernard Porter, The Guardian
Of course he was an imperialist – no two ways about that – and imperialists aren't much loved in progressive circles these days. But if you have to have them – and colonial expansion of one kind or another has been the rule rather than the exception in world history right back to the Cro-Magnons – Raffles seems a decent sort. This is one of the reasons why he was considered such a failure, by and large, by other imperialists before his Singapore coup (1819).
Oliver Sacks, New York Times
Writing should be accessible in as many formats as possible — George Bernard Shaw called books the memory of the race. No one sort of book should be allowed to disappear, for we are all individuals, with highly individualized needs and preferences — preferences embedded in our brains at every level, our individual neural patterns and networks creating a deeply personal engagement between author and reader.
Darin Strauss, New York Times
I think the naysaying misses not only the fact that this has been a wildly good book year but also the emergence of a new trend. It’s less a school or a movement than a clutch of writers who share a really unlikely pedigree: “Ulysses.”
Kevin Brockmeier, New York Times
It runs deep in life, the feeling that we have wandered down some corridor just alongside the one where we truly belong. An inattentive step or two and already we have traveled too far. The door has disappeared. Our place in the world has become irrecoverable.
Jacob Polley, The Guardian
Amy Serafin, The Smart Set
When Denmark realized a few years ago that it had an oyster invasion, it turned the problem into a tourism opportunity, inciting people to gather up the pests and eat them. It wasn’t too difficult: Danes and oyster-eating go way back, at least to the Stone Age, as evidenced by ancient heaps of discarded shells called kjökkenmödding. In 1587, King Frederick II made oyster fishing a royal monopoly — those who broke the law three times risked the death penalty.
Fri, Dec 14, 2012
Walter Mosley, The Atlantic
Rick Gekoski, The Guardian
Often I would get up and write, which is a near-perfect remedy for sleep. But I have recently come to accept what I thought of as a malady, and to embrace it as a boon. The reason for this is my Kindle.
Philip Hoare, The Guardian
It's always struck me as a strange, even surreal thing to do: to drag a living tree into your house once a year and set it up for worship.
Leslie Kaufman, New York Times
Increasingly she turned to writing about the recipes she was trying as her interest in cooking deepened in parallel to her relationship. Nine years later Mrs. Perelman, who never trained as a chef or even worked in a restaurant, has an established cooking blog,, and she’s extended her franchise with “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” which was published in October by Knopf.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012
MyAppleMenu is dark for a week until 14 Dec, 2012.
Edmund White, The Guardian
As Susan Sontag once observed, pornography is practical. It was designed as a marital aid, and its vocabulary should follow natural biological rhythms and stick with hot-button words in order to produce a predictable climax. It is not about sex but is sex. Whereas the great sex writers (Harold Brodkey, DH Lawrence, Robert Gluck, David Plante, the Australian Frank Moorhouse) have a quirky, phenomenological, realistic approach to sex. They are doing what the Russian formalists said was the secret of all good fiction – making the familiar strange, writing from the Martian's point of view.
Sara Davis, The Smart Set
One reason that art is such a jealously guarded term is that we use it to elevate sensory experience to something special — the implication being that sensory experiences are not all that special on their own.
Thu, Dec 6, 2012
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Ms. Mathis, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, writes with uncommon narrative authority in “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” conjuring the lives of the Shepherd family with extraordinary psychological precision.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012
Tim Carman, Washington Post
The cookbook is, by turns, brilliant, absorbing, challenging, frustrating and sometimes even contradictory in its aim for precision and its lack of clarity in directions.
John Kaag, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
But here's the thing about not being miserable.
Life is still a pathetic ruse: either too painful or too short. You pick.
Diasy Rockwell, Bookslut
At times, when she was reading the memoir, she was reminded of that cherished moment in her youth, when she had first read prose in Latin class. That too was a memoir, as it happens, and one also written in the third person singular.
Kevin Warwick, Chicago Reader
So I embarked on a controlled experiment (though I admittedly had no real idea what I was doing). I spent a little over two weeks cataloging my physical and psychological shifts as I eased myself into coffee, caffeine, and the surrounding culture. And then, once I was fully addicted, I kept drinking it, because, well, I had become addicted.
Tue, Dec 4, 2012
Sara Peters, Slate
Rebecca P. Sinkler, New York Times
“I am not dead,” exclaimed an astonished Capt. Georges Lecointe on awaking one morning circa 1897. Or perhaps we should say “complained.” In the throes of scurvy, his ship trapped in the ice in the black Antarctic winter, one of the leaders of the first major scientific expedition of the heroic age had been saved from death by a “last meal”: penguin that tasted like “beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck, roasted together in a pot with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce.” The poor man might have welcomed death.
Ann Patchett, The Atlantic
You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.
Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic
It's not a technical proposition to get people to share your content. Sure, there are things you can do that marginally improve your share rates by placing the buttons in the right places, etc. But the main determinant of social sharing is the quality, tone, and form of your stories. The only way to figure out what works -- because it's constantly evolving -- is to keep sending work you love out into the ecosystem and seeing what gets amplified. Then, you take that feedback, write another thing you love and send it back into the field. If a bunch of stuff sits behind a paywall, that iterative cycle gets broken. You don't know what's working.
Mon, Dec 3, 2012
Stephanie Guo, Cha
Sarah Weinman, New Yorker
As an inveterate lover of mystery, cracking the code of a writer’s true identity has the same effect, for me, as tasting forbidden fruit. In looking further into Day’s story, I hoped to learn more about who she really was. But what I discovered raised more questions than answers—which is likely what Day would have wanted.
Steven Millhauser, New Yorker
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Jane Yeh is an American poet based in London. Her voice, to my ear, has a distinctly English quality. Combining fantasy, melancholy, precision and gently-disturbing wit, it suggests at times how Lewis Carroll could have written, had he been a young 21st-century postmodernist.
Sun, Dec 2, 2012
Dana Goodyear, New Yorker
For the past two years, in a loft apartment in downtown Los Angeles, Craig Thornton has been conducting an experiment in the conventions of high-end American dining. Several nights a week, a group of sixteen strangers gather around his dining-room table to eat delicacies he has handpicked and prepared for them, from a meticulously considered menu over which they have no say. It is the toughest reservation in the city: when he announces a dinner, hundreds of people typically respond. The group is selected with an eye toward occupational balance—all lawyers, a party foul that was recently avoided thanks to Google, would have been too monochrome—and, when possible, democracy.
G. Murphy Donovan, New English Review
Culture begins and ends on a plate. A proper wake is followed by good food and drink for good reason; a testament to life even without the guest of honor.
Glen Weldon, Slate
But then, one day, you finally arrive in the longed-for city, only to realize that you have brought with you the flat gray fussiness of everyday life. You can’t help it; we all exude mundanity from our pores like so much sebum. In its presence, the eagerly anticipated riot of new ideas and experiences that enticed you to the place dissolves into a prosaic succession of ghastly toilets and transportation strikes and sore feet. For this is the grim secret of travel: We ache for Wallace Stevens, but we find only, always, Rick Steves.
Julia Turner, Slate
The Missing Ink, from British novelist Philip Hensher, makes the case that it has probably been too long. Subtitled “The Lost Art of Handwriting,” the book is an ode to a dying form: part lament, part obituary, part sentimental rallying cry.
Kate Linebaugh, Wall Street Journal
As a mathematician steeped in the theories of vertical transportation at Otis Elevator Co., Ms. Christy, 55, has spent a quarter-century developing systems that make elevators run as perfectly as possible—which means getting most riders into a car in less than 20 seconds. "Traditionally, the wait time is the most important factor," she says. "The thing people hate the most is waiting."
Sat, Dec 1, 2012
Leszek Kolakowski (Translated from the Polish by Agnieszka Kołakowska), The New York Review Of Books
Such a condition can be imagined, but it has never been seen. It has never been seen.
Geeta Dayal, Slate
10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10, a new book collaboratively written by 10 authors, takes a single line of code—inscribed in the book’s mouthful of a title—and explodes it.
Steve Greenberg, Billboard
When executives of CBS Records went about the business of preparing for the November 30 release of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the fall of 1982, they knew they had on their hands a terrific album by one of the biggest superstars in the music industry. But they were also a bit concerned, since the timing of Jackson's follow-up to his mega-selling 1979 album "Off The Wall" could not have seemed worse.
Carol Ann Duffy, The Guardian
Helen Vendler, Harvard Magazine
Can frugality seem as desirable to our undergraduates as affluence—provided it is a frugality that nonetheless allows them enough leisure to think and write? Can we preach a doctrine of vocation in lieu of the doctrine of competitiveness and worldly achievement?
David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"The Particle at the End of the Universe" is a scientific detective story, the saga of the search for the Higgs. Like all such stories, it's driven by a fundamental, yet elusive, mystery: What is the nature of the universe?
Carol Shaben, The Observer
It was after that event that my father confided in me that he measured his worth as a man by what he'd contributed to society during the extra years God had granted him and not others.
Colin Fleming, The Smart Set
With some artists, it’s hard to resist the temptation to take up the cause of what I call their B-sides, the material that gets overshadowed by other works that inform, shift, color, and do just about everything that can be done to the cultural zeitgeist. But when we’re talking the best of artists, all of the parts the drawer, so to speak, need to be explored; right up front, where the popular goodies are, and way in back, where the nuggets reside, those often one-off, singular creations that can give us a deeper understanding of works we’ve already felt we’ve come to know so well.
Chris Stokel_Walker, BuzzFeed
On Nov. 29, 1972, a crude table-tennis arcade game in a garish orange cabinet was delivered to bars and pizza parlours around California, and a multi-billion-dollar industry was born. Here's how that happened, direct from the freaks and geeks who invented a culture and paved the way for today's tech moguls.