Tue, Apr 30, 2013
Tom Vanderbilt, The Wilson Quarterly
The rise of online reviewing may be toppling the singular critical voice from its pedestal, and with its fall, taste has shattered into a thousand fragments. We are every day sifting through those shards, trying to make meaning of everyone else’s attempt to say what something meant to them.
Mon, Apr 29, 2013
Rachel Adams, Salon
No mother feels good about getting mad at her kids in public. Losing your temper only makes things worse, and besides, it’s embarrassing to have strangers witness your worst moments of parenting. But in our case, the shame is compounded by the fact that my son is already a visible target, the very sight of his body a red flag for some of the most conflicted bioethical debates of our time.
This is to say that Henry has Down syndrome. I can think of no other bodily condition that triggers such immediate and visceral assumptions about a family’s beliefs, values and quality of life. Seeing a child with Down syndrome invites other people to question the choices that led to his being in the world.
Sun, Apr 28, 2013
Mary H K Choi, Aeon
I love her and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her.
Coralie Colmez, BBC
As an Italian court prepares to try Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for a second time on charges of killing Meredith Kercher, an expert says a judge failed to grasp the maths of probability involved in the case - and that courts often struggle when it comes to statistics.
Anka Muhlstein, The New York Review Of Books
To walk into the first few rooms of the exhibition “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity,” now at the Metropolitan Museum, is to allow oneself to be immersed in the sweetness of life in the Belle Époque.
Kathryn Hughes, The Times Literary Supplement
In 1950 the thirty-two-year-old tyro poet Muriel Spark drew up a proposal for a “Critical Biography” of Mary Shelley. The project was never going to be easy to sell to publishers. Spark was virtually unknown outside the London poetry scene and, in any case, there was little interest in female novelists of the nineteenth century.
Max Silvestri, Eater
Was a Top Chef cruise worth the possibility of having to pee in the shower and "go number 2 in bags," as I heard a CNBC anchor refer to it? Yes.
Sat, Apr 27, 2013
Nick Greene, Village Voice
Last Saturday marked Record Store Day, a global celebration that encourages folks to head down to their local record store and buy some vinyl. Pleasantly, the initiative has done wonders for local businesses. Besides boosting sales, Record Store Day also offers an invaluable service to writers: It presents us with a peg to hang our "Vinyl is Back!" stories.
AS Byatt, The Guardian
Questions of Travel is about uprootedness and travel, about tourism and flight from terror, about the trivial and the terrible.
Francine Prose, New York Times
“After the first death, there is no other,” Dylan Thomas wrote. How obvious, one might think. But the one-time-only nature of death is anything but self-evident in Kate Atkinson’s new novel, “Life After Life.”
Wesley Yang, New York Times
A group of students at Cornell, born in Asia but raised in the United States by immigrant parents, were instructed to keep a diary. They struggled to recall the events of their own daily lives when they were later quizzed about them, remembering fewer details about their experiences than their Euro-American counterparts. Qi Wang, the Cornell scholar of “cross-cultural” cognition who conducted the experiment, speculated that Asians were not more forgetful but that they had, perhaps, filtered out the contents of their own stories, deeming them unworthy of being encoded as memories in the first place.
Fri, Apr 26, 2013
Kyle Minor, Salon
The brilliant essayist already writes for the listener, which makes his new audiobook yet another triumph.
Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, Foreign Affairs
Everyone knows that the Internet has changed how businesses operate, governments function, and people live. But a new, less visible technological trend is just as transformative: “big data.” Big data starts with the fact that there is a lot more information floating around these days than ever before, and it is being put to extraordinary new uses. Big data is distinct from the Internet, although the Web makes it much easier to collect and share data. Big data is about more than just communication: the idea is that we can learn from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend when we used only smaller amounts.
Jordana Rothman, Medium
Still, there’s an ancient kinship between chocolate and sex, sired by centuries of misinformation and spread by everyone from Aztec emperors to lip-biting ladies in Peppermint Pattie commercials. I came by it honestly. For me, the affinity between these two pleasures crystallized the first time I loosed an edible penis from a candy mold.
Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic
New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare.
Thu, Apr 25, 2013
Jennifer Szalai, New Yorker
It was the quintessential Oprah moment, the kind that made the Book Club thrive and her critics cringe. She was taking a novel about the end of the world, one that includes an image of a baby roasted on a spit, and making it palatable for talk-show television.
Wed, Apr 24, 2013
Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
It’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a major new strategic thinker during family movie night. But that’s what happened to Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, when he sat down with his children some eight years ago to watch “Clueless,” the 1995 romantic comedy based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”
Ann Bauer, Washington Post
Years ago, I had a writing teacher in college who responded to every paper the same way. “Enjoyed this essay about your cocker spaniel,” she would write at the top, “but I’d like to see the story told from his point of view.” Or, “Excellent screenplay! Now I’m wondering if you could try it as a poem.” Her aim was to open up new territory and truth by reconstructing our writing. Typically, step No. 3 would be to bring the piece back to its original form, incorporating the things we’d learned.
Tue, Apr 23, 2013
Ross Pomeroy, Pacific Standard
We default to cause-and-effect thinking because we want to maintain control over our lives, but some things just don’t have clear answers.
John S. Rosenberg, Harvard Magazine
The big science of building a giant telescope.
Mon, Apr 22, 2013
Rachel Shteir, New York Times
“Poor Chicago,” a friend of mine recently said. Given the number of urban apocalypses here, I couldn’t tell which problem she was referring to.
Laura Miller, Salon
Maybe it’s not the most efficient use of our time, he concedes. But it’s good for the soul to be a producer some of the time, rather than just the consumers our corporate overlords want us to be.
Sun, Apr 21, 2013
Brian Stelter, New York Times
One Wednesday last month, Ann Curry, camouflaged in a hat and trench coat, trudged into the art-deco lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It had been nine months since she was pushed out as co-host of the “Today” show. Curry was now NBC’s “national and international correspondent” and the anchor at large for “Today,” but these titles seemed honorary. Curry had appeared on “Today” only a handful of times since her ouster. She had no role in NBC’s coverage of election night or Inauguration Day. She taped a few stories for “Rock Center,” the prime-time newsmagazine show, but as she explained on Twitter, her bosses kept rescheduling them. Curry had moved to an office on the 27th floor of 30 Rock, far from her NBC News bosses on the third floor. On this morning, she was at work on a short “NBC Nightly News” segment about the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. It would be only her sixth appearance on the network all year.
Ishita Basu Mallik, Cha
Katie Ryder, The Paris Review
I remember sitting in red tights and buckled shoes in my childhood room as my word processor booted up. My father had taught himself DOS programming, and boxy yellow letters blinked on the gray green screen. “THIS IS KATIE RYDER’S WORD PROCESSOR. HELLO KATE.” A system-check flashed through my existing files—“/a_bad_day” (child minimalist), “/last_unicorn” (child plagiarist)—before bringing me to the composition page. My dad’s words changed slightly from week to week by mysterious means; this time, they declared: “YOU’RE READY TO WRITE KATE.”
Adam Gopnik, BBC
What I wonder about is why we love our children so asymmetrically, so entirely, knowing that the very best we can hope for is that they will feel about us as we feel about our own parents: that slightly aggrieved mixture of affection, pity, tolerance and forgiveness, with a final soupcon - if we live long enough - of sorrow for our falling away, stumbling and shattered, from the vigour that once was ours.
Sat, Apr 20, 2013
Joe Yonan, Washington Post
Why bother cooking? The reasons to skip it are stacked as high as the microwavable meals in a Costco freezer case. You don’t have time, of course (or you think you don’t); that’s the big one. But you also don’t do it as well as the professionals, so it’s tempting to let them handle it for you. Or at least let them give you a head start in the form of meal-assembly shops, cake mixes, and canned, frozen and pre-chopped ingredients.
Michael Pollan thinks you should bother, and not just as a fashionable exercise in hipsterdom. His latest book, “Cooked,” is a powerful argument for a return to home cooking of the sort that doesn’t begin with an attempt to find the perforated opening.
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian
It's thought-provoking stuff, but Dobelli's argument doesn't stack up. He has chosen the wrong target: it's not news per se that is the problem, but the formats in which we now consume news and the habits of constant interruption and brief attention they generate.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013
Hadley Freeman, The Guardian
Compared with the hugely popular television series, the book is tough, unapologetic and jittery with anxiety. This makes it a far more accurate representation of Manhattan than the fairytale version presented on HBO.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013
Evelyn Lamb, Slate
Everything in your past—and future—is encoded in the digits of pi.
Wed, Apr 17, 2013
Craig S. Smith, New York Times
China’s economic boom is driving a culinary revival, as chefs rediscover dishes that haven’t been seen for decades.
Ben Dolnick, New York Times
One day a couple of years ago, when I found my desk drawer so full of microphone headsets that it would no longer close, I realized it was time for an intervention. I could no longer deny it: I needed to stop reading interviews with authors.
Tue, Apr 16, 2013
Wayne Curtis, Wall Street Journal
Every liquor store is a fantastical greenhouse, its contents the products of hundreds of plant species.
Dean Young, Slate
Mon, Apr 15, 2013
Michael Z. Wise, Wall Street Journal
Can architecture itself be fascist?
Andrew Anthony, The Observer
The Bosnian has said that he writes "sad books for humorous people" and "humorous books for sad people". The Book of My Lives is a thoughtfully humorous and profoundly sad memoir-cum-collection of essays that explores Hemon's first life, growing up in the lively cultural atmosphere of Sarajevo before the onset of the war in Bosnia, and his second life as a sort of accidental exile in America, where he was effectively trapped in 1992 when the war broke out.
Sun, Apr 14, 2013
Melina Bellows, The Huffington Post
Still, I had to witness the pink clouds for myself. I think of them as pink fairies, ephemeral ambassadors of resilience.
I also witnessed nature bring the best out in everyone. I saw incredible patience, even the from the runners who had to weave and dodge. I encountered endless goodwill, people offering to take pictures or ducking out of someone else's frame.
David Sedaris, The Observer
The taxidermist nodded. Then he reached to an even higher shelf and brought down another plastic grocery bag, this one from Tesco, which is decidedly less upscale. "Now, a smell is going to hit you when I open this up, but don't worry," he said. "It's just the smoke they used to preserve the head."
Cecilie Gamst Berg, South China Morning Post
I must admit, nevertheless, that when you undertake learning Cantonese, you take on quite a challenge; but it's not the language itself - that's dead easy - it is the logistics. Everything is stacked against you.
Adam Gopnik, BBC
Truth no longer depended on the prestige, or the intelligence or even the integrity of any one person. That's why Galileo had the last laugh on the inquisitors.
Sat, Apr 13, 2013
Rolf Dobelli, The Guardian
News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
Haussmann is deeply entrenched in the mythology of Paris, and mythology as often as not has little to do with facts or historical truths.
Eric R. Kandel, New York Times
This new approach to the science of mind not only promises to offer a deeper understanding of what makes us who we are, but also opens dialogues with other areas of study — conversations that may help make science part of our common cultural experience.
Joseph Stromberg, Slate
The “electrosensitive” are moving to a cellphone-free town. But is their disease real?
Fri, Apr 12, 2013
Aimee Levitt, Chicago Reader
If Howard Goldblatt is doing his job well, no one realizes that he's doing it at all. This is because his job is translation, which, if done correctly, is invisible—with all the characters, plot points, descriptions, and, most challengingly, the jokes reading as seamlessly as though they'd been originally created in English.
Yet readers who pick up an English translation of a book by Mo Yan, Wang Shuo, Su Tong, or any other contemporary Chinese novelist are, more likely than not, reading Goldblatt. "It's all my words," he says. "If they're reading a translated novel, they're reading the translation and hope that the translator got the story, style, and characters right."
Thu, Apr 11, 2013
Deborah Copaken Kogan, The Nation
I'm told I have no say in the matter. The cover that the publisher designs has a naked cartoon torso against a pink background with a camera covering the genitalia. I tell them it's usually my eye behind the camera, not my vagina. I fight—hard—to change the cover. Thankfully, I win this one, agreeing to shoot the cover photo myself, gratis. When my publicist tries to pitch the book to NPR's Terry Gross, a producer tells him that Terry likes the "Shutter" part of the title but not the "babe" part.
Ian Crouch, New Yorker
Can a novelist retire? Do retired novelists exist, like retired accountants? It does seem unusual, as odd for a writer to be in retirement from words as for a man to be, as William H. Gass once wrote, “in retirement from love.”
Wed, Apr 10, 2013
Brad Leithauser, New Yorker
Novelists naturally hope that their scenes and phrases will lodge in the memory, but it’s chiefly poets who strategically seek, balancing syllable against syllable, to embed specific cadences, individual verbatim phrases. Most of their work is for naught, of course, and there’s something especially moving about those poets who, in the mind of the individual reader, have effectively created only one poem, or one phrase. Their souls hang so tenuously in our heads!
Ron Currie Jr., New York Times
These visions haunt his sleep and devour his days. They also make him, in order of succession: an object of curiosity and amusement, a wealthy corporate consultant and, finally, a reluctant prophet.
Tue, Apr 9, 2013
Frank Rich, New York Magazine
Time is on the block. The New York Times is teetering. It can get an alumnus down, but the last thing the news business needs is a case of nostalgia.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Now come two new books that are part manifestoes, part templates for achieving simplicity in business and government. Both display a lot of common sense, arguing for the elimination of bureaucracy and redundancy and insisting that consumers (of health care, insurance, credit and products large and small) deserve more transparency. But both also sidestep some of the difficulties involved in reducing or containing complexity in today’s lawyered-up and interconnected society.
Mon, Apr 8, 2013
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Brian Switek, Slate
In a real field camp, whoever had the bright idea to jam his paws into a dinosaur skull and start rooting around would be stopped with a scream of four-letter invective.
Mary Roach, Salon
Levitt published thirty-four papers on flatus. He identified the three sulfur gases responsible for flatus odor. He showed that it is mainly trapped methane gas, not dietary fiber or fat, that makes the floater float. Most memorably, to this mind anyway, he invented the flatus-trapping Mylar “pantaloon.”
Liv Combe, Salon
Some say that the “recluse” is an endangered species, but to my knowledge, there’s still one artist who is keeping the idea of the private public figure alive: Bill Watterson, writer and illustrator of the beloved comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.”
Sun, Apr 7, 2013
Chelsey Philpot, Slate
Roald Dahl’s bookish heroine is still an inspiration to the quiet girls.
Sat, Apr 6, 2013
Joe Dunthorne, The Guardian
Changing key plot points in a well-loved book can be risky. Hell hath no fury like a hardcore fan scorned. Often, the most hardcore fans of all are the authors.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Gulp” is far and away her funniest and most sparkling book, bringing Ms. Roach’s love of weird science to material that could not have more everyday relevance. Having graduated from corpses (“Stiff”), the afterlife (“Spook”) and sex (“Bonk,” full of stunts featuring Ms. Roach as guinea pig), she takes on a subject wholly mainstream. She explores it with unalloyed merriment. And she is fearless about the embarrassment that usually accompanies it.
Adelle Waldman, Slate
Delivered economically, her judgments are not only clever but perspicacious, humane, and, for the most part, convincing. Her real subject is not the love lives of barely post-adolescent girls, but human nature and society. Austen wrote stories that show us how we think.
Amanda Foreman, New York Times
Whom or what does the prize serve?
Dannie Abse, The Guardian
Fri, Apr 5, 2013
Mei Chin, Saveur
At 21 years old, I had never tried egg foo yung. A first-generation American-born Chinese, I was banned from certain things as a child. Television. Dating. Action movies. Then there was Chinese-American food, of which egg foo yung is an icon.
Jen Doll, The Atlantic
A long, long, long time ago (like, last year) I wrote an obituary for the word Artisanal. It seemed high time to declare the word dead and get on with our lives. And yet, it has become clear in the months that have followed that even if Artisanal did die, Artisanal has a radioactive half-life so powerful that it could for years sustain full-fledged underground communities of humans making bread from hand-picked cornhusks and locally sifted flour. Artisanal is not dead, it's undead, a whole food zombie running around feasting on artisanal brains. Artisanal, regardless of an organic beefsteak tomato through the heart or a hand-hewn bamboo stick to the brain, is eternal. Eternally damned, maybe, but sticking around and torturing us nonetheless.
Mark Bittman, New York Times
Twelve years after the publication of “Fast Food Nation” and nearly as long since Morgan Spurlock almost ate himself to death, our relationship with fast food has changed.
Thu, Apr 4, 2013
Henry Hitchings, The Guardian
The title of Simon Horobin's book poses what, at first blush, seems a banal question. I imagine most readers would answer "Yes, spelling matters", perhaps adding "though not as much as some believe". Yet if the question of how words should be written is not uppermost in many people's minds, its nagging everyday presence is nonetheless evident in the existence of spell-checkers and school spelling tests, as well as in mnemonics designed to help us with spellings, such as the venerable "i before e except after c".
Patricia Brennan, Slate
Generating new knowledge of what factors affect genital morphology in ducks, one of the few vertebrate species other than humans that form pair bonds and exhibit violent sexual coercion, may have significant applied uses in the future, but we must conduct the basic research first.
Tue, Apr 2, 2013
Angie Estes, Slate
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
Six narratives about sex that, due to the writer's verbal deftness, manage to be unflaggingly funny yet never wearisome.
Evgeny Morozov, The Baffler
Tim O’Reilly’s crazy talk.
Matthew J.X. Malady, Slate
The curious phenomenon of word aversion.
Mon, Apr 1, 2013
Laura Miller, Salon
“Life After Life” is far more than a game or a stunt; it’s rich in the gravity and texture of reality.