Monday, 30 June, 2014
Allegra Goodman, New Yorker
Mara Altman, Salon
I hoped my job as an end-of-life doula would help me understand death. But I never expected someone like Jethro.
John McWhorter, The Daily Beast
To utterly naïve anthropologists sent to document the ways of Americans in 2014, one of the first things that would strike them is that this country is quite poetry mad. No, they would not find well-thumbed volumes of Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, and Billy Collins laying around the typical living room. However, they could not help but notice that a great many people under about 50 regularly go around listening to and yes, reciting poetry—rap, that is.
Sunday, 29 June, 2014
Susan Cheever, New York Times
During the five years I worked on a biography of E. E. Cummings, I consulted every source I could find. My bookcases filled up with Cummings books. I read everything written about the accident, yet it continued to baffle me. Why didn’t Rebecca stop at the railroad crossing? How could she have missed the belching, screeching, clanking steam locomotive bearing down on her?
Rowan Jacobsen, OutsideOnline.com
It's been more than 50 years since the Colorado River regularly reached the sea. But this spring, the U.S. and Mexico let the water storm through its natural delta for a grand experiment in ecological restoration. As the dam gates opened, a small band of river rats caught a once-in-a-lifetime ride.
Saturday, 28 June, 2014
Harlan Coben, New York Times
You want to judge “The Silkworm” on its own merit, author be damned. It is, in fact, this critic’s job to do so. But writing that type of blind review in this case, while a noble goal, is inauthentic if not downright disingenuous. If an author’s biography always casts some shadow on the work, here, the author is comparatively a total solar eclipse coupled with a supermassive black hole.
Douglas Coupland, Financial Times
Minimum wage has gone from being a device created to protect the worst of power and labour imbalances to a fiscal panacea that allows its wielders to gut valuable social infrastructure while smiling beneath the cheesiest of haloes.
Reihan Salam, Slate
It would be a much better city with twice the population. Instead it’s America’s largest gated community.
Friday, 27 June, 2014
Devjyot Ghoshal, The Atlantic
A look at New York City's other media industry: immigrant presses, where print advertising still brings in substantial revenue, and readers keep subscribing.
Tim Urban, Wait But Why
Where is everybody?
Thursday, 26 June, 2014
Dennis Hollier, The Atlantic
A lesson in the lost technology of shorthand.
Wednesday, 25 June, 2014
Jane Black, Washington Post
Author Paul Greenberg was standing in his Manhattan kitchen, cleaver in hand. He had already fluidly removed two fillets from a gleaming red snapper, shipped overnight from the Gulf of Mexico. Now it was time to take off the head, which he would use to make a spicy Korean soup. “This,” he said with a laugh, “is where it gets gnarly.” Then with a swift chop he severed the fish’s head from its body.
Steve Coll, The New York Review Of Books
As Stone notes, “Amazon is a masterly navigator of the law.” And crucially, as in so many other fields of economic policy, antitrust law has been reshaped in recent decades by the spread of free-market fundamentalism. Judges and legislators have reinterpreted antitrust law to emphasize above all the promotion of low prices for consumers, which Amazon delivers, rather than the interests of producers—whether these are authors, book publishers, or mom-and-pop grocery stores—that are threatened by giants.
Julian Baggini, Financial Times
Which do our brains prefer? Research is forcing us to rethink how we respond to the written word.
Elizabeth Drew, The New York Review Of Books
There’s nothing particularly special about a beltway—some twenty cities around the country have one—and the Washington version has long since become so congested and odiferous that those who live in its environs avoid it if possible. Maybe it’s time to apply the same approach to the Beltway metaphor, which is increasingly employed as a substitute for serious analysis.
Tuesday, 24 June, 2014
David Sedaris, New Yorker
Living the Fitbit life.
Samuel Sattin, Salon
Miyazaki built an empire on rejecting fancy special effects, embracing darkness and ignoring the mainstream.
Joseph Peschel, The Boston Globe
Predominantly populated with unnamed, middle-age central characters, the stories in David Guterson’s second collection portray men and women who experience some sort of people problem.
Katrin Bennhold, New York Times
“We used to think of this as just as an impenetrable forest — actually this was a complex human environment,” said Martin Bates, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Wales Trinity St. David, who oversees the excavation work in Borth on a beach he played on as a toddler. “The floods have opened our eyes as to what’s really out there.”
Nikki Durkin, Medium
I found postmortems of startups outlining what didn’t work and why the company went under, but I was hard pressed to find anything that talked about the emotional side of failure — how it actually feels to invest many years of your life and your blood, sweat and tears, only for your startup to fall head first off a cliff. Maybe its because most founders are men, and men generally don’t like talking about their feelings. Maybe its because failure is embarrassing.
I don’t know why this is the case, but here is my contribution to the cause: my story. This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.
Monday, 23 June, 2014
Carol Memmott, Washington Post
If the Internet had existed in 1948, it’s a sure bet that the reaction to Shirley Jackson’s most famous short story would have gone viral. Instead, after its publication in the New Yorker, “The Lottery” provoked a record number of readers to write letters to the magazine, many proclaiming their revulsion for the story’s premise: a village’s annual stoning rite.
Maria Popva, Brain Pickings
“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”
Zach Zorich, Nautilus
Experiments in evolution are exploring what would happen if we rewound the tape of life.
N. R. Kleinfield, New York Times
A New York firefighter confronts his first test.
Sunday, 22 June, 2014
Emma Jane Kirby, BBC
From his desk at the Icelandic highways department in Reykjavik, Petur Matthiasson smiles at me warmly from behind his glasses, but firmly.
"Let's get this straight before we start - I do not believe in elves," he says.
Alex Bellos, Salon
The relationship between people and numbers is so much more fascinating than simple dollars and cents.
Nathaniel Popkin, Wall Street Journal
In a pendant story to Lampedusa's magnificent novel, a Sicilian student has a tryst with a mermaid.
Saturday, 21 June, 2014
Clancy Martin, New York Times
This is what I love about Geoff Dyer’s work: His feet are never on the ground. But where his younger narrators fight the feeling that they don’t belong, the grown-up Dyer embraces it.
Andrew Sean Greer, New York Times
Reading the blurbs on the dust jacket of Lauren Owen’s first novel — from such luminaries as Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel and Tana French — readers might think they’re about to embark on a highhanded version of the Gothic novel, full of metafictions and literary allusions. These do appear, along with some beautiful language, but by Page 100, when the first neck is about to be bitten, “The Quick” drops its cloak and becomes a good old-fashioned vampire novel.
Sarah Moss, The Guardian
Literary merit is more a matter of taste, but one could wish the writing more polished, not only to avoid the jolt of persistent grammatical errors, but because of heavy-handedness at moments of tension: "Feelings of anxiety and stress immediately flooded his heart." The pleasures here lie in the skilful characterisation of three men who don't look like anyone's hero.
Wislawa Szymborska, The New York Review Of Books
Simon Winchester, Wall Street Journal
But this is hardly surprising, given that the conception of the nation was so hasty, so little thought out. In 1945, the young President Sukarno famously read out a declaration that his stripling patchwork of a republic would work out "the transfer of power etc . . . as soon as possible." His dreamy imprecision gives Elizabeth Pisani a perfect title for the chronicle of her own journeys, a spectacular achievement and one of the very best travel books I have read.
Friday, 20 June, 2014
Tasneem Raja, Mother Jones
Upending our notions of what it means to interface with computers could help democratize the biggest engine of wealth since the Industrial Revolution.
Thursday, 19 June, 2014
Michael Schaub, NPR
Running through the whole narrative is Venegas' struggle to define herself — no easy task for anyone, but one that's even more difficult for her.
Wednesday, 18 June, 2014
Dwight Garner, New York Times
“The Last Magazine” is a thinly disguised roman à clef about life at Newsweek, here called simply The Magazine, in the run-up to its recent death rattles.
Elaine Sciolino, New York Times
Good bistros are essential to this city and to me. After living here for 12 years, I can report that despite the disturbing changes afoot, the old-style Paris bistro — an unpretentious place that celebrates honest food and wine, a cozy atmosphere and great conversation — is alive and well.
Betsy orais, New Yorker
Reason, humanity, and genius may not be found in the shadows of your room at bedtime, or past it, when there’s nothing left to do but go to sleep, and you find yourself, against your better judgment, not even doing that.
Tuesday, 17 June, 2014
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
This tale of a Norwegian girl held captive by her mother is a corker – and as sly a bit of unreliable narration as I have read in a long time.
Monday, 16 June, 2014
Jill Lepore, New Yorker
What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
In the “Silkworm,” Ms. Rowling concocts a case — involving the mysterious disappearance and grisly murder of a self-important novelist named Owen Quine — that plops these unconventional sleuths into the even more rarefied world of literary London, sending up the swollen egos and clashing ambitions of writers, editors and publishers vying for fame and top-dog standing.
Meg Favreau, The Smart Set
China, lobster, buillion... Victorian picnics could be stuffy, laborious affairs. And then came the sandwich.
Sunday, 15 June, 2014
Nabeelah Jaffer, Aeon
Every culture looks for creative inspiration to other cultures, but is there a point when this is just outright theft?
Saturday, 14 June, 2014
Maile Meloy, New York Times
The novel is set in rough, remote places, but the growing dread and terror reminded me of Daphne du Maurier, who knew a thing or two about birds. Like du Maurier, Wyld is interested in the haunting power of the past and the menace of the half-seen.
When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden.
Evan Hughes, New Republic
What makes Peretz’s article worth discussing is its near-perfect embodiment of a widespread and pernicious attitude: She consistently treats other people’s views as self-evidently the product of bad faith.
Friday, 13 June, 2014
Charles Finch, Slate
Can Stuart Dybek, an underappreciated master of the American short story, overcome the limitations of the American short story?
Miles O’Brien, New York Magazine
Denial is powerful. It can be a crucial coping tool when experiencing loss or trauma, but it also can unmoor you from reality. From the time I lost most of my left arm in February, I was living in that parallel universe, one where I’d power through, barely acknowledging the amputation—until I went for a run on the sunny afternoon of April 6.
Evgenia Peretz, Vanity Fair
No one denies that Donna Tartt has written the “It novel” of the year, a runaway best-seller that won her the Pulitzer Prize. But some of the self-appointed high priests of literary criticism—at The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The Paris Review—are deeply dismayed by The Goldfinch and its success.
Thursday, 12 June, 2014
Anne Helen Petersen, The Awl
EW's rise, scattered identity, brilliant heyday and slow, gradual decline mirrors the same journey of Time Warner's conglomerate hopes and dreams. The leading magazine company weds a film and television giant? It all looked so great on paper. But here we are with the EW of today, and it's clear: Just because it looks pretty in a business plan doesn't mean it's a good idea at all.
Wednesday, 11 June, 2014
Sophia Rosenbfeld, The Nation
How Americans have become tyrannized by the culture’s overinvestment in choice.
Because it’s a great name, and great names are like knots—they’re woven from the same stringy material as other words, but in their particular arrangement, they catch, become junctions to which new threads arrive, from which other threads depart. For me, “The Slow Web” neatly tied together a slew of dangling thoughts.
Tim Jenison, Boing Boing
I set up a simple experiment to test the idea. I don't know how to paint but in a few hours I was able to use the mirror to copy a black-and-white photo. This was my very first oil painting.
Kate Murphy, New York Times
Trauma patients arriving at an emergency room here after sustaining a gunshot or knife wound may find themselves enrolled in a startling medical experiment.
Tuesday, 10 June, 2014
Gabriel Muller, The Atlantic
Should competitive eaters be considered athletes? What kind of sport calls attention to such brazen gluttony and the unsettling digestive processes of the human body?
Stefany Anne Golberg, The Smart Set
On Suicide and suicide.
Monday, 9 June, 2014
Laura Miller, Salon
A poet-mathematician offers an empowering and entertaining primer for the age of Big Data.
Emily Greenhouse, New Yorker
In September, 2012, Stephanie Wilson, a twenty-eight-year-old Australian who lives in West Harlem, bought a pair of Hunter rain boots from Saks Fifth Avenue. She was digging for her receipt in the paper shopping bag when she discovered a letter inside that, in its urgency, started higher than the ruled paper’s printed lines. “HELP! HELP! HELP!!” a man had written, in blue ink on white paper. He opened, “Hello!! I'm Njong Emmanuel Tohnain, Cameroonian of nationality.”
Sunday, 8 June, 2014
Steve Hendrix, Washington Post
What matters to Andrés is food. Food fills his days, defines his dreams and has provided him a career and a fortune. In his cosmology, food is the sun, the gravitational core of family, friendship and community.
Now he wants food to fix the world.
Saturday, 7 June, 2014
Megan Abbot, New York Times
The fedora’s symbolic weight, and conspicuous disappearance, signal both King’s affectionate awareness of the hard-boiled tradition and his point of departure from it.
David Carr, New York Times
News carries with it a promise of transparency, a light that can be shined into previously dark corners. It is far from a coincidence that the rise of the popular press spelled eventual doom for monarchs of all types. Once the news becomes democratized, governance is sure to follow.
Suzanne Berne, New York Times
“My Salinger Year,” Joanna Rakoff’s breezy memoir of being a “bright young assistant” in the mid-1990s, opens with her decision to leave graduate school, desert her nice college boyfriend and move to New York to write poetry. Almost immediately, she falls for an overbearing aspiring novelist, takes a poorly paid job at a famous literary agency and lands in an unheated apartment in Williamsburg. “I wanted to be extraordinary,” she admits. Instead, she joins a legion of “girls” from comfortable backgrounds determined to live uncomfortably, at least briefly, in vague pursuit of Art.
Melissa Lee-Houghton, The Guardian
Friday, 6 June, 2014
Andrew Simmons, Slate
Do you think an ethnic restaurant caused your food poisoning? You might be a little bit racist.
Thursday, 5 June, 2014
John Lingan, Slate
If you want to understand Ulysses, you should read about its obscenity trial.
Stefano Evangelista, The Times Literary Supplement
As he found out, though, the task of collecting Wilde was far from straightforward. For, aside from the plays, fictions, fairy tales and critical essays, Wilde had also written an extensive amount of journalism. Most of these reviews and essays were published anonymously, as was standard practice at the time, and were therefore difficult to attribute with certainty.
Wednesday, 4 June, 2014
Maria Konnikova, New York Times
New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.
Keith Gessen, Vanity Fair
There was the author, Chad Harbach, who had spent a decade on a novel his friends thought he’d never finish. There was the agent, Chris Parris-Lamb, who recognized its power. There was the editor, Little, Brown’s Michael Pietsch, who won it in a high-stakes auction. With the story of one book, The Art of Fielding Keith Gessen examines the state of the troubled, confused, and ever unpredictable world of U.S. book publishing in the age of Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and e-readers.
J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious Eats
The greatest fried food in the world—and I'm pretty serious about my fried foods—is available only in one small corner of the United States.
Samanthi Dissanayake, BBC
An Indian man who made his name exposing the "miraculous" feats of holy men as tricks has fled the country after being accused of blasphemy. Now in self-imposed exile in Finland, he fears jail - or even assassination - if he returns.
Tuesday, 3 June, 2014
Helen Gao, New York Times
I do remember the first time the topic came up in conversation with my Chinese peers. On June 4, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the crackdown, I was shopping with a friend at a convenience store near Tsinghua University, when she, a junior at the university, turned to me, next to a shelf of colorful shampoos and conditioners. “Some people have been talking about this incident, liu si,” she said. “What was it all about?”
Monday, 2 June, 2014
Laura Miller, Salon
It’s the rare novel of ideas that devours its readers’ attention. More often, as with Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” or “Gravity’s Rainbow,” we work our way through these books carefully and with frequent pauses, rather than gulping them down in long, thirsty drafts. It’s not a literary form known for its great romances, either, although of course love and sex play a role in most fictional characters’ lives. Lily King’s “Euphoria,” a shortish novel based on a period in the life of pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead, is an exception. At its center is a romantic triangle, and it tells a story that begs to be consumed in one or two luxurious binges.
Bill Sheehan, Washington Post
On one level, “Mr. Mercedes” is an expertly crafted example of the classic race-against-the-clock thriller. On another, it is a novel of depth and character enriched throughout by the grace notes King provides in such seemingly effortless profusion.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Four short and sharp looks at the social pressures weighing on young women are both witty and unsettling.
Sunday, 1 June, 2014
Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath, New York Times
The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.
Increasingly, this experience is common not just to middle managers, but also to top executives.
Martin Blaser, The Guardian
For multiple reasons, we are losing our ancient microbes. This quandary is my central theme. The loss of microbial diversity on and within our bodies is exacting a terrible price. I predict it will be worse in the future. Just as the internal combustion engine, splitting the atom, and pesticides all have had unanticipated effects, so, too, does the abuse of antibiotics and other medical or quasi-medical practices (eg sanitiser use).
Dinah Gardner, South China Morning Post
While the attractions of the Chinese market - more money and the chance to engage with a new readership - grow, the costs to a writer's reputation and to the truth may turn out to be far greater than the rewards.
Michael Streissguth, Washington Post
Tiananmen was the biggest story yet of the post-Vietnam War era, and would prove to be a redemptive chapter in the history of CBS and a celebration of broadcast television news before the spectacular rise of cable news during the Persian Gulf War less than two years later.