Michael Long’s new book, Peaceful Neighbor, dares to place Mister Rogers in his social, historical, and political context.
I say “dares” because this can be more threatening to the reader than she might expect. Not that Long unearths salacious secrets—this isn’t a scandalous tell-all. But those of us who grew up watching Mister Rogers may discover, in reading Peaceful Neighbor, that we were hoping for a hagiography. Instead, Long offers us moments of Rogers being human—and that includes conflicts with cast members, decisions that were not as prophetic or consistent as one might wish in retrospect, and even some insecurities.
The story Margaretta Barton Colt has to tell in her charming memoir, “Martial Bliss” — do not misread its title as “Marital Bliss” — takes place only a few decades ago. But it seems to emerge as if from a time machine.
Ms. Colt returns us to 1976, when New York City was a seedier and stranger place. The name Duane Reade sounded more like an imagined country and western singer than a blandly invasive drugstore. There was no Internet and so Manhattan was crammed with bookstores, new and used.
The first time I heard the term “dead letter,” I imagined all the missives sent out into the world that had gone unread. Reading this poem, a translation from its original Swedish, I was reminded of that childhood wonder and felt again the heft of so many truths waiting to be known.
I am lucky. I make a decent living at this job, which puts me into a rare percentile among those identifying as professional writers. I almost always have work, I get to travel, and I can provide for the people around me. But it never gets easier. That’s the only lesson I can pass on, as I get older and I get slower. It is, perhaps, the only lesson worth passing on. You have to want to live like this. You have to love the words more than anything. You’ve got to be okay with your skin getting weathered, and the damp getting into your bones, and that little thrill of fear that never, ever goes away as you stand on the shivering sand at the cold water’s edge.
For some, amnesia is specific to a situation: being in car crash or witnessing a murder. In others, it is not a solitary personal experience that drifts away in time but your identity, your self. “Who am I, what have I been doing all my life?”
Jason Bournes in the real world are usually found by police on street corners and led, in an often dishevelled and confused state, to emergency rooms. No name and no memories. Some have travelled hundreds of miles from home as part of their psychogenic fugue (fugue is Latin for flight). It is a departure from a distant physical location, but a remote place of the mind, too.
I am a person who finds fault with the world. I try my best not to be unpleasant about it, but I wish that many things were not as they are. It would be better, for instance, if it weren’t so hot outside. Dogs should not be allowed in New York City, nor should duck boots – which belong in a swamp. Christmas is stupid and ought to be cancelled. Ketchup does not belong on hot dogs, and Will Ferrell isn’t funny.
So when I was given the assignment of eating and reporting on the latest innovation in modern street food, the spaghetti cone, created by chef Emanuele Attala and available at his new restaurant, the Spaghetti Incident, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I was prepared to do some quality complaining. It is, after all, a ridiculous-sounding idea. Why would anyone want to eat spaghetti out of a cone?
But here’s the thing: it turns out that the scientific world is actually far, far ahead of the journalistic world on these matters. Yes, the world of online journalism is full of parasites, and a lot of those parasites have real value. But all that the parasites have to go on are published articles: no one is transparent about the process that created those articles. No one shows their work, and no one ever tries to replicate anything.
Novelists and screenwriters can terrify people, feel pretty good about themselves, and call it a day. But for journalists, or at least this one, fear is not an end in itself. At best, it is a means to an end, a way to channel emotion into action. To achieve that, however, you need to navigate between the twin obstacles of panic (which makes you do all the wrong things) and fatalism (which makes you do nothing). In an effort to help people to do so, I’ve answered, below, some of the questions I’ve heard most often since the story was published, and also provided a little advice about how best to prepare for the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, and their aftermath.
Puns, non-sequiturs, sight gags and miscellaneous forms of anarchic humor defined their craft. Often the jokes were juvenile, sometimes crass, but they could also be subtle, embracing an almost absurdist ethos of the sort espoused by such paragons as Steve Martin and David Letterman. And though the influence of “Airplane!” and works like it has waned in the wake of our infatuation with more puerile, to say nothing of more vulgar, forms of comedy, its impact continues to resound.
Adult critics (and who wasn’t raised on a dose of the good doctor?) might have a few quibbles, but it’s hard not to smile at this retro charmer.
Dr Seuss knew it was no easy feat to awaken their minds and imaginations, and it was a task he took immensely seriously. There are glimmers of that spirit in the artwork here, and no doubt it’ll make parents nostalgic, but as a story, it might have been better off back in the box.
There is no single explanation for why asserting its authority over the South China Sea now matters so much to China. Controlling the many tiny islands is in part a matter of controlling of the wealth assumed to lay beneath the sea in the form of unexploited minerals and oil and gas, not to mention the immense fisheries that exist in these waters. It is in part a matter of increasing the country’s sense of security, by dominating the maritime approaches to its long coast, and securing sea lanes to the open Pacific. It is in part a matter of overcoming historical grievances. And finally, it is about becoming a power at least on par with the US: a goal that Chinese leaders are themselves somewhat coy about, but which is now increasingly entering the public discourse.
Homo sapiens sapiens sometimes deserves his double plus for intelligence. Let’s hope we are about to start living in one of those times.
Deep below Zurich, IBM has built the stillest, most shielded rooms in the world.
Research regularly suggests that so-called slow thinking requires more disciplined thought and yields more productive decision-making than quick reactions, which are less accurate or helpful. And slow thinking is — like the tortoise, slowly but surely — inching its way into new interventions in fields as disparate as criminal justice, sports, education, investing, and military studies.
Now, I’m at Shopify as a marketer, and I still write every day, and I love what I do. But I’m not writing creatively as often as I’d like. It’s like that old screwhead. Leave it alone and it’ll get all rusty. Worst metaphor ever, and didn’t I just call myself a writer? But whatever; I’ve been training myself not to rely on metaphors because of my haikus, so let’s move on.
Lispector’s madness is that of an artist who won’t allow herself to settle for what’s known, who has to see and feel everything for herself, even what can’t be seen (like that damned egg). Her “Complete Stories” is a remarkable book, proof that she was — in the company of Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo and her 19th-century countryman Machado de Assis — one of the true originals of Latin American literature.
In fact, people have been predicting the end for physical money for nearly 60 years. With the rise of credit cards, contactless payments and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin the death knells have only gotten louder. It may seem like physical money could soon be a thing of the past, but if you take a closer look at the evidence – and the intriguing psychological relationship we have developed with notes and coins – you’ll find that it’s a bit premature to predict cash’s disappearance.
But progressive San Francisco had a fatal, Shakespearean flaw that would prove to be its undoing: It decided early on to be against new buildings. It decided that new development, with the exception of publicly subsidized affordable housing, was not welcome.
Much as I hate to say anything negative about a fellow musician, and despite his monumental output — 28 operas, 10 symphonies, countless film scores, and many incidental pieces — I have never gone out of my way to hear his music live. I picked up his autobiography having heard maybe a tenth of his work; the only piece that I actually know well is the ballet Glass Pieces, which I’ve seen at least 15 times. But other than that one piece, no matter how much I hear about the theory behind his practice and how important his work is, I have just never found the there, there.
Thus I started the sensationally titled Words Without Music with trepidation. My anxiety dissipated quickly, though. The opening sentence quotes his mother: “If you go to New York to study music, you’ll end up like your Uncle Henry, spending your life traveling from city to city, and living in hotels.” My mother said the same thing to me, practically verbatim. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked.
Summer is here and brings for many a welcome opportunity to spend time on the beach immersed in the pages of a good thriller. Well, if you’re off to the coast let me recommend two crackers from the ‘underworld’ of science. Both spin yarns full of unlikely twists and turns about brilliant detective work that has uncovered the chemical and coding secrets of life on Earth.
here were other amusements in [the] camp too. As children, we were very curious to know whether the barbed wire of the electric fence was really electrified. The question gave us no rest. We would approach the fence … and compete among ourselves over who would dare to touch the barbed wire and stay alive.” So writes Otto Dov Kulka in his memoir of Auschwitz, Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death. The fear that he and other children felt of the intermittently electrified fence was great, he explains, but it was a small, conquerable fear in comparison to their overwhelming fear of the “immutable law” presented by the crematorium. Their curiosity was a way for them to try to overcome the lesser of the two fears.
Levi Strauss may have invented jeans, but it never saw yoga pants coming. Inside the effort to win back the hearts, and butts, of shoppers.
The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.
Most interestingly of all, for me at least, you can ruminate about what those differences say about American travel, American writing, American history.
And now, at this juncture, when death is no longer an abstract concept, but a presence — an all-too-close, not-to-be-denied presence — I am again surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity. At one end of my writing table, I have element 81 in a charming box, sent to me by element-friends in England: It says, “Happy Thallium Birthday,”a souvenir of my 81st birthday last July; then, a realm devoted to lead, element 82, for my just celebrated 82nd birthday earlier this month. Here, too, is a little lead casket, containing element 90, thorium, crystalline thorium, as beautiful as diamonds, and, of course, radioactive — hence the lead casket.
The Carron fish bar’s sign proclaiming it as birthplace of battered bar has been saved. But what is the appeal of something resembling a turd in batter?
For a long time, Joe Gould thought he was going blind. This was before he lost his teeth, and years before he lost the history of the world he’d been writing in hundreds of dime-store composition notebooks, their black covers mottled like the pelt of a speckled goat, their white pages lined with thin blue veins.
He wrote with a fountain pen. He filled it with ink he stole from the post office. “I have created a vital new literary form,” he boasted. “Unfortunately, my manuscript is not typed.”
He told everyone who would listen that he was writing down nearly everything anyone said to him. “I am trying to record these complex times with the technique of a Herodotus or Froissart,” he explained to the Harvard historian George Sarton, in 1931, soliciting support. Herodotus wrote his Histories in ancient Greece; Jean Froissart wrote his Chronicles in medieval Europe. Gould was writing his history, a talking history, in modern America. “My book is very voluminous,” Gould told Sarton.
Mr. Wald is a superb analyst of the events he describes. And his analyses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Even his introduction includes enough startling context to indicate “Dylan Goes Electric!” will be seeing the old story with new eyes.
In a new paper, Dr George Walkden argues that the use of the interrogative pronoun “hwæt” (rhymes with cat) means the first line is not a standalone command but informs the wider exclamatory nature of the sentence which was written by an unknown poet between 1,200 and 1,300 years ago.
According to the historical linguist, rather than reading: “Listen! We have heard of the might of the kings” the Old English of “Hwæt! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!” should instead be understood as: “How we have heard of the might of the kings.”
This poem, the first section in a longer sequence titled ‘‘Songs for the Cold War,’’ recalls the fears and delights of childhood — how often they are mixed. We do not need to have experienced these moments exactly for the images to evoke vivid recollections of time spent with the beloved adults of our childhoods.
My obsessions usually fuel my work as a writer. But whenever I attempted to write about surfing, my prose was saturated with a fatuousness that could not be scrubbed away. How do you say “life is a wave” without saying “life is a wave?” My failures, I suspected, were related to my own deficiencies as a surfer. I had never paddled out in perfect Rincon; I could not tell you about the eerie, green elation one finds deep in the barrel because I have never been there. All I could tell you about was the “stoke” and how it made me feel.
A Cure for Suicide ponders memory, identity, love, desire and choice. The question that remains is a heavy one indeed: Would you choose to start over? If pain, regret and despair reached high enough, would you actually erase yourself and walk into a new life?
But even before Sonya Haines pulled out her slicing knife, she was in well over her head. She had 10 dozen bagels (five plain, five everything) overnighted to herself, and by 10:30 a.m. there were more than 200 people standing on the 16th Street sidewalk in the rain. When you offer an East Coast Jewish transplant the possibility of a fresh New York bagel on a Sunday morning, you arouse a lot of yearning. Californians, spoiled by Platonic produce, excellent burritos and fine-art coffee, have a tormented relationship with this particular food item. Even expert local bakers, like Joe Wolf, the owner of Marla Bakery, concede, ‘‘San Francisco has struggled with the bagel.’’
Traditional travel writing surely needed to be infiltrated and broken apart, its masculine tropes challenged. But the popular female travel narrative has overcorrected in a serious way; these writers are experts only on their own selves.
A view from a great height is irresistible. It is twinned with the ancient dream of flight. For millenniums, we have imaginatively soared above our material circumstances and dramatized this desire in tales from Icarus to Superman. Things look different from way up there. What was invisible before becomes visible: how one part of the landscape relates to another, how nature and infrastructure unfold. But with the acquisition of this panoptic view comes the loss of much that could be seen at close range. The face of the beloved is but one invisible detail among many.
By all means, eat up. Wrap your fingers around a sticky Laotian sakoo yat sai, savor your first tango with corn smut. But it’s time to stop talking about ethnic food as though we’re Columbus and the cuisines served up by immigrants are ours for the conquering. Let us never again blog a lengthy ethnography, no matter how well intentioned, when we visit a pupuseria. In fact, let’s drop the term “ethnic food” altogether.
I went to the Downtown Public Library to do a very unscientific survey of what they had on hand. I sat in their second-floor reading room, surrounded by stacks of cookbooks, just to see if I could find a recipe to prove that in Nashville we didn’t choose our chicken style based on race. I walked away with several new ways to fry a chicken. One of them added some black pepper, but none of them made it spicy.
Sure enough, as I started investigating, I discovered Denise was right. For almost 70 years, hot chicken was made and sold primarily in Nashville’s black neighborhoods. I started to suspect the story of hot chicken could tell me something powerful about race relations in Nashville, especially as the city tries to figure out what it will be in the future.
In theory, Ivo Iacono is the modest owner of a tiny wine bar in Sant’Angelo, the prettiest town on the sunny Mediterranean island of Ischia, which lies a short ferry ride from Naples and within sight of Capri.
In fact, Mr. Iacono, 45, is much more than that: a talented cook with the island’s terroir in his bones, a repository of local food history, and a culinary curator of the entire region of Campania. His wine bar, Enoteca la Stadera, is filled with treats like crispy red chiles from Senise; Neapolitan taralli, salty, crunchy bread rounds with almonds, lard and showers of black pepper; organic liqueurs flavored with lemon, bergamot and fennel; and tortano, a rich bread dough coiled and baked around chunks of aged mozzarella and prosciutto.
The verminous association is symptomatic, he believes, of the way in which the brothers' characters have been traduced over the years; something that's still going on to this day. It was the spectacle of their reputation being hauled over the coals once more that led to their story, which had simmered in his head for years, offering itself as a subject. "My books start almost before I realise it," he says, leaning forward in the study chair of his unfussy mid-town apartment. "Once in a while, some accident causes an idea to rise to the surface and say: 'now'. I've known about the brothers for years, of course; I wasn't the only teenager of the time whose mother looked into his room and said 'My God, it's the Collyers'!' But a few years back, I saw a piece in the New York Times saying locals were objecting to having the park named after them. I thought, they're still disturbing people, 50 years after they're dead! They've become folklore. This is something to think about."
The boarding procedure has barely started at Chicago O'Hare, and Ben Schlappig has already taken over the first-class cabin. Inside Cathay Pacific Flight 807 bound for Hong Kong, he's passing out a couple of hundred dollars' worth of designer chocolates to a small swarm of giggling flight attendants. The six suites in this leather-bound playpen of faux mahogany and fresh-cut flowers comprise the inner sanctum of commercial flight that few ever witness. They're mostly empty now, save for two men in their twenties who seem even giddier than the flight attendants. The two stand to greet him. "This is so cool!" exclaims one, and soon Schlappig is ordering champagne for everyone.
John Hersey’s Hiroshima takes place, as one might expect, in Hiroshima. Originally published in the August 31, 1946, issue of the New Yorker, it recounts what the magazine’s editors called, in a statement to readers of the issue, “the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb.” Within a few months it was brought out as a hardback book, with a subdued, text-based cover. But two years later, when Hiroshima was republished in paperback as Bantam Book No. 404, its cover implied a different setting. In this image, two people, not Japanese, are fleeing an explosion just beyond the frame. They are young, white, and stylish: she epitomizes New Look fashion in her loafers and gathered skirt, he sports pleated cuffs and a fitted trench coat––the same type of coat that Holden Caulfield dons on the cover of the notorious 1953 Signet/NAL paperback of The Catcher in the Rye.
In “The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life,” Nick Lane sets out to answer these questions and many more with a novel suite of ideas about life’s emergence and evolution. Dr. Lane, a biochemist at University College London, argues that with just a few principles of physics, we can predict why life is the way it is — on Earth and in the rest of the cosmos.
A once-marginalised subject, now enthusiastically rediscovered by poets of all genders, parenthood might be at risk of becoming the modern poetic equivalent of the ready-mix sunsets and nightingales of a previous age. Kathryn Simmonds, one of the most original and formally fluent younger poets currently writing, as her second collection, The Visitations, confirms, steers a clear and thoughtful path through the pitfalls in this week’s poem, elegantly avoiding both the rainbows-in-both-eyes syndrome and the sleepless-in-soggy-nappies alternative.
Residents of the United States hung on to words that dropped out of British English: guess, gotten, cabin, junk, molasses. We also began using words lifted from native languages—maize, canoe. But, mostly, Americans would just make words up. Thomas Jefferson, who described himself as "a friend to neology,” created the word "belittle." British writers despaired over it; he simply made up more.
Seuss never spoke down to his readers, no matter how small.
His tales were told with vim, vigor and zest.
“What Pet Should I Get?” entertains us just fine.
Who cares if this book’s not really his best?
News about The Girl in the Spider’s Web brought me back to a day last spring when AgathaChristie.com informed me of an upcoming addition to the Hercule Poirot canon. From beyond the grave, the queen of mystery had produced a new Poirot adventure entitled The Monogram Murders. For a reader like me, who had devoted the past year to reading the canon, this news had the sinister implication that my reading project might be literally endless. Poirot’s adventures will continue, I thought, however rapidly I read them. Part of me didn’t mind this, since it allowed me to continue following the exploits of one of my literary heroes. But were heroes really meant to live forever or was that, as Gabrielsson objected, a “load of crap”?
The problem isn’t that my mental illness has stopped me from being great at my job. On the contrary – in many ways it has helped me become a more insightful, intuitive and creative thinker. The problem is the words that go around it. I’ve not yet found a way to say, “I’m depressed” without it sounding like, “I want to have some time off because I’m lazy.” It doesn’t sound like that. But the thing about depression is that it tells you lies right to your face, and one of those lies is that you should be able to just go to work and function like everybody else does. You should be able to go to work without chaos.
And so, I’ve spent years making excuses for my brain. To appear “normal”. To be ordinary.
During the Cold War, the Soviet military mapped the entire world, parts of it down to the level of individual buildings. The Soviet maps of US and European cities have details that aren’t on domestic maps made around the same time, things like the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and the types of factories. They’re the kinds of things that would come in handy if you’re planning a tank invasion. Or an occupation. Things that would be virtually impossible to find out without eyes on the ground.
Given the technology of the time, the Soviet maps are incredibly accurate. Even today, the US State Department uses them (among other sources) to place international boundary lines on official government maps.
And so you don’t break up, and you outlast some more of your friends’ marriages.
“The way to stay married,” my mother says, “is not to get divorced.”
Maybe the limitations of the body carry some hidden benefit: that in marking out ideas at a pace slower than typing, there is some link between neural and muscle memory.
“Let Me Explain You” is propelled by the combined forces of these two troubled women and the mystery of what will happen to their father when his self-imposed countdown ends. This whole death business: Is it a premonition? A ploy for attention? A roundabout way of threatening suicide? The world’s biggest guilt trip? When is death a metaphor and when is it, you know, a cessation of vital functions?
A three course meal tells a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and when done well it resonates like the perfect pitch of a tuning fork. I rarely finish a good three-courser feeling anything other than comfortably satisfied.
I love how poems can inscribe in concrete images some figurative notion of the world I’ve harbored. Here, it is the notion that the dead don’t completely go away, but travel among us, emerging at moments to be seen.
But in the past 25 years, the apparel industry, the entire global economy, has undergone a complete transformation. The way our clothes are made and distributed and thrown away is barely recognizable compared to the way it was done in the ’90s. And yet our playbook for improving it remains exactly the same.
This year, I spoke with more than 30 company reps, factory auditors and researchers and read dozens of studies describing what has happened in those sweatshops since they became a cultural fixation three decades ago. All these sources led me to the same conclusion: Boycotts have failed. Our clothes are being made in ways that advocacy campaigns can’t affect and in places they can’t reach. So how are we going to stop sweatshops now?
Enough with all this relativism. Summer is, after all, the season to cast aside the inessential and the overwrought. It is also when the produce is good enough to warrant star billing without excessive embellishment. I propose a return to the green salad: clean and classic.
Considering sheer deliciousness, White Castle1 might be the best burger out there. It’s a steamed burger, sopped up with juices and grease: a homogenized bite of amazingness. It’s as pure as can be. I love In-N-Out and Shake Shack, don’t get me wrong. But White Castle is just greater than the sum of its parts.
Is there any other production house operating today that is more obsessed with narratives of the workplace and employment? The basic Pixar story is that of an individual seeking to establish, refine, or preserve their function as an instrument within a system of labor. The only way Pixar is able to conceptualize a protagonist is to assign them a job (or a conspicuous lack of one) and arrange the mechanisms of plot to ensure that they fulfill that job. This is why Joy can only accept Sadness once she comes to understand what it is she does.
One of the rudest things you can do, food-wise, is to stare at someone in the act of eating. It draws attention to the unseemly fact that eating is a bodily function—like animals, we are trapped by our hungers, but we do our best to disguise them with such civilized props as menus and forks. When someone watches us eating, we feel exposed. We might also harbor a suspicion that the person staring wants to steal food from our plate. The taboo, in any case, is long-standing. In 1530, Erasmus of Rotterdam noted that it was “bad manners to let your eyes roam around observing what each person is eating.” Even now, for all our Instagramming, we find it invasive for someone to watch too closely as we chew and swallow. Last year, there was outrage over a Facebook group entitled “Women Who Eat on Tubes,” which collected photographs of unsuspecting women eating on London subway trains.
In it, Scout Finch's neighbor, Maudie Atkinson, is known for her Lane cakes and guards her recipe closely. She bakes one for Aunt Alexandra when she moves in with the Finch Family. Scout gets buzzed from the whiskey in it and comments, "Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight."
I was determined to try a slice of Lane cake after learning it was invented in Clayton, Ala., around the same time my ancestors lived there during the late 19th century. But it's now difficult to find this layered sponge cake filled with a rich mixture of egg yolks, butter, sugar, raisins and whiskey anywhere. During my travels across Alabama, I've always been on the lookout for it but never spotted it in the wild. A local baker from Clayton recently told me she'd never even heard of it.
If Mockingbird projects a South that can be read in terms of black and white, Watchman shows us the gray complexity that is the real Dixie.
What killed the dinosaurs? Was it the Internet? Global warming? Gluten? There’s been a journalistic version of Dutch elm disease.
This is my lonely way of suggesting how much I looked forward to “The Prince of Minor Writers: The Selected Essays of Max Beerbohm,” a new selection of this writer’s work, which is as British as marmalade, edited by Phillip Lopate. If we can’t have new contrarians, we can revere our old ones.
In middle age, this sense of internal assurance is worn away by doubts and insecurities. Our culture of consumerism and competition undermines it further. As long as we build relationships on the shaky foundations of an infantilising wish for the regard of others – on the quantity of “likes” rather than the quality of intimacy – the spread of middle-aged loneliness is unlikely to abate.
Poets — people, for that matter — have always been drawn to binaries, and Lowell’s distinction echoed dozens of earlier pairings spanning hundreds of years. But two things are especially interesting about the “cooked” versus “raw” formulation, which reverberates in discussions of poetry to this day. The first is that both terms are negative: “Cooked” poems aren’t that appetizing, but “raw” doesn’t sound so tasty either. The comparison seems to call for a better, middle way: half-cooked, or maybe just raw enough. Certainly Lowell imagined his own poetry fitting that bill quite nicely, thanks.
The second, more curious aspect of the juxtaposition is that it mirrors the schema that the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used to describe the way societies conceive of the transformation of the products of nature (“raw”) into manifestations of culture (“cooked”). But poetry is always and inevitably cultural, whether it’s written in a garret or declaimed from a stage. Where poems are concerned, there is really only the “cooked” and the “cooked differently” — and as with any meal, success involves not merely the style of the dish but the sensibility of the diners.
The Brazilians have churrasco, a mixed grill of chicken and beef, heavy on hearts and other small parts. The Argentines have asado, fire-kissed beef and kidneys and liver and sausages, tied together with chimichurri sauce. Italians grill chicken marinated hard in olive oil and garlic, lemon and rosemary, join it with pork and beef, then eat in the shade. The British grill lamb, tomatoes, mushrooms, the dry-brined pork known as gammon.
And Americans? “Mixed grill is the way we grill here,” said the chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C. “We just don’t call it that.”
When I was in my twenties, I went often to the Strand Bookstore, less to buy books than to discover them: the hardcover by an author I’d read about but never read; the tattered, out-of-print paperback that had been mentioned, obscurely, somewhere. The idea was to change my life. I spent hours on these treasure hunts, somehow made sweeter by the inhospitable setting: the grimy floor and high, cramped shelves, the narrow, dark aisles that required you to turn sideways and inhale when another browser needed to pass by. And then there was the staff, who responded to flubbed title requests the way I imagined Parisian waiters might respond to mispronounced orders.
I have continued to visit the Strand, and I have continued to think of it as a place you can get lost in. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when, wandering to the back of the first floor, I found myself in what looked more like an Ikea showroom than the ragged used bookstore of my youth.
Taken together, Looking Backward and King Solomon’s Mines comprise the complementary halves of what we can call a collective cartography. If the mapping of social space into tightly controlled regularities in Bellamy’s Boston finds its counterpart in the mapping of the African interior as the repository of hidden treasure in Haggard’s fantasy, the figure of the map here is more than just a metaphor.
Psalm is an unexpected poem in a first collection that often challenges expectations.
In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan, triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, and cost an estimated two hundred and twenty billion dollars. The shaking earlier in the week turned out to be the foreshocks of the largest earthquake in the nation’s recorded history. But for Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State University and one of the world’s leading experts on a little-known fault line, the main quake was itself a kind of foreshock: a preview of another earthquake still to come.
Prejudice against the medieval runs deep. It is an adjective applied to atrocity, as in Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comment on the men who murdered 126 people at a school in Peshawar and served “a dark and almost medieval vision.” It is also applied to all severe punishment, out-of-date technology (this “medieval” typewriter), and all illiberal attitudes. For many, the Middle Ages are ineradicably reprehensible, as well as comic: knights immobilized in their armor, fat monks panting after licentious nuns, ladies locked into chastity belts. The stand-bys of eighteenth-century derision have stood the test of time. Remember those angels dancing on a pinpoint? They still dance for those who believe that the medieval schools were engaged in a wasted intellectual effort.
Unfair! the medievalists have shouted, from the days when Edward Gibbon cried “Gone Away!” and set the enlightened hounds on the scent of decay and moldy monks that in his nostrils accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire. Unfair because it has been found again and again that our skills, laws, liberties, nations, and languages are the result of hard work in the millennium reputed dark, unlit by reason, and recessive from the sunshine of the classical civilizations, when perfectly formed philosophers sat debating in public colonnades, monk-free.
Regardless of whether the new book is regarded as Mockingbird 2 or Mockingbird 1.0, it is, in most respects, a new work, and a pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event, akin to the discovery of extra sections from T S Eliot’s The Waste Land or a missing act from Hamlet hinting that the prince may have killed his father.
Teachers of American literature have been handed a fascinating potential course comparing and contrasting the pair, while there is clearly opportunity for a new movie of To Kill a Mockingbird combining the two genres most beloved by modern Hollywood – remake and sequel – within a structure of interlocking flashbacks that are the most fashionable form of movie narrative.
Moore’s history is just as evocative, and full of wisdom for modern times. FitzRoy finally brought systematic storm warnings to England, saving countless lives at sea and on land, only to commit suicide in 1865 as critics questioned his science. It is impossible to read “The Weather Experiment” without thinking of climate change and modern meteorological science. Nearly a decade before the Royal Charter storm, when “dunderheaded politicians” shrank funding in Francis Beaufort’s busy Hydrographic Office in 1851, the man who brought order to the wind wrote these prescient words: “I will not trifle with your time by repeating here any hackneyed truisms about the comparative expense to the country in the cost of surveys or the loss of ships and cargoes, but I will entreat you to weigh the small sum which you propose to save against the large amount of mischief which may result.”
Sometimes the plot can strain credibility, but Mr. Sheers’s writing is so psychologically astute that it hardly matters. By the end, the questions grow more profound, addressing storytelling itself — how it can mislead but also how it can transform. Stories that go untold, Michael thinks, remembering a conversation he had with his wife, are “like landfill, unseen but still there, seeping into the soil.”
Let’s reread Nabokov on rereading. On first approach to a novel, Nabokov claimed, we are overwhelmed with too much information and fatigued by the effort of scanning the lines. Only later, on successive encounters with the text, will we begin to see and appreciate it as a whole, as we do with a painting. So, paradoxically, then, “there is no reading, only rereading.”
This attitude, I recently suggested in this space, amounts to an elitist agenda, an unhappy obsession with control, a desire to possess the text (with always the implication that there very few texts worth possessing) rather than accept the contingency of each reading moment by moment.
“Wrong!” a reader objects. “Isn’t it true,” he invites an analogy with music “that the first time we hear a new song we can’t really enjoy it? Only after two or three hearings will it really begin to give us pleasure.”
What is it about shiny, clean, contemporary New York that inspires writers to evoke it wrecked, dangerous and falling apart? Does a certain sickness settle in at the sight of another branch bank? An anomie at the word “artisanal” or the discovery of an undercover J. Crew? Gotham is expensive, clean, incredibly safe and full of Chipotles. Without anyone quite catching the switch — here’s the fear — rock ’n’ roll has become middle management.
I would like to experience the profound sense of wellbeing and peace of mind that fasting delivered again. And I had more time – think how much time shopping, cooking, eating and clearing up afterwards takes out of every day. Suddenly there was time to think deeply, to read and to reassess.
Freedom is a prison for the representative savant
addled on bath-tub gin and with retinas inflamed
from too long staring into the Arizona sun
or into red dirt which acknowledges no master
but the attrition of desert winds and melt-water.
My favorite example: “I have this insane problem—if I read 300 pages of anything I’ll find something to write about, but the more I read the less novel the idea seems and the less I want to write about it.” Such are the phenomena that preoccupy him. After our first phone conversation, he called me a “new soul mate” before signing off. Ever mindful, ever curious, he is a poster boy for the humanities.
While written in the third person, “Watchman” reflects a grown-up Scout’s point of view: The novel is the story of how she returns home to Maycomb, Ala., for a visit — from New York City, where she has been living — and tries to grapple with her dismaying realization that Atticus and her longtime boyfriend, Henry Clinton, both have abhorrent views on race and segregation.
Scrabble differs from chess, poker, and other games with a fanatical competitive following in that it is “owned and zealously guarded by a large corporation,” notes John D. Williams, who was affiliated with that corporate ownership as the first and, it appears, last head of the National Scrabble Association. Perhaps that’s one reason reading his memoir, “Word Nerd,’’ feels a bit like sitting next to an ebulliently chatty businessman for the duration of a long plane ride. “I’ve got so many stories, I oughta write a book!” one imagines him declaring. After 25 years in what a reporter once called “quite possibly . . . the most random job in the United States,” Williams has done just that.
One day, a few weeks ago, four enormous bottles of Hillrock Estate Distillery whiskey showed up at my house. They were: one bottle of Double Cask Rye, two bottles of Solera Aged Bourbon and, finally, a Single Malt. The surplus appeared to be the result of some administrative error—I was supposed to get one bottle. My first thought was: Should I tell someone? My editor perhaps? No, I thought. Tell no one. Take the whiskey and run.
Accelerated winds near skyscrapers are caused by the "downdraught effect", says Nada Piradeepan, an expert on wind properties at engineering consultancy firm Wintech. This happens where the air hits a building and, with nowhere else to go, is pushed up, down and around the sides. The air forced downwards increases wind speed at street level.
Did you get enough sleep last night? Are you feeling fully awake, like your brightest, smartest, and most capable self? This, unfortunately, is a pipe dream for the majority of Americans. “Most of us are operating at suboptimal levels basically always,” the Harvard neurologist and sleep medicine physician Josna Adusumilli told me. Fifty to seventy million Americans, Adusumilli says, have chronic sleep disorders.
In a series of conversations with sleep scientists this May, facilitated by a Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship, I learned that the consequences of lack of sleep are severe. While we all suffer from sleep inertia (a general grogginess and lack of mental clarity), the stickiness of that inertia depends largely on the quantity and quality of the sleep that precedes it. If you’re fully rested, sleep inertia dissipates relatively quickly. But, when you’re not, it can last far into the day, with unpleasant and even risky results.
Nevertheless, Imprisoned in English is engaging, provocative and wide-ranging in its subject matter. Not only are semantic primes discussed and justified, but they are applied to the fields of linguistic anthropology and endangered languages, politeness research and human emotions, and used to posit a theory of cognitive evolution from the last common ancestors 6 million years ago to the hypothesized emergence of language some 60,000 years ago. And the book’s message – that English, like all languages, is “culturally shaped, and this has profound consequences for today’s globalizing and English-dominated world” – is an urgent one.
We danced at midnight in Venice, motored through Tuscany and made memories. Just as newlyweds should.
In troubled times, poems can offer a kind of solace. Reading this one, I am reminded that even the darkness of difficult knowledge is a shared experience, that we are not alone in joy or in despair.
When you’re young, few things are quite as intoxicating as meeting someone with confidence: someone who lives freely, untroubled by doubt or self-consciousness, all fire and will, allergic to talk of status or career, who represents pure possibility at a time before any of these concepts—doubt, career, freedom—have taken on the full force of their meaning. For the journalist Leon Neyfakh, that person was Juiceboxxx, “a fifteen-year-old white rapper from the Milwaukee suburbs” he befriended when he was in the eleventh grade. “He didn’t seem angry,” Neyfakh recalls of the first time he saw Juice rap, to about twenty schoolmates in a church basement. “Just possessed.”
But if all this reading has improved me somehow, you wouldn’t know it from the way I behave around my books. In fact, when I spend hours arranging my bookshelves and buying books I won’t read any time soon, I’m acting like the only thing I want to get out of reading Taipei is the chance to show off its shiny cover on my bookshelf. The way I treat my books shows that no matter how important they are to me as things to read, they also exist as decorative objects and status symbols.
It’s strange, when you think about it, that we spend close to a third of our lives asleep. Why do we do it? While we’re sleeping, we’re vulnerable—and, at least on the outside, supremely unproductive. In a 1719 sermon, “Vigilius, or, The Awakener,” Cotton Mather called an excess of sleep “sinful” and lamented that we often sleep when we should be working. Benjamin Franklin echoed the sentiment in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” when he quipped that “there’ll be sleeping enough in the grave.” For a long time, sleep’s apparent uselessness amused even the scientists who studied it. The Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold has recalled his former collaborator J. Allan Hobson joking that the only known function of sleep was to cure sleepiness. In a 2006 review of the explanations researchers had proposed for sleep, Marcos Frank, a neuroscientist then working at the University of Pennsylvania (he is now at WSU Spokane) concluded that the evidence for sleep’s putative effects on cognition was “weak or equivocal.”
When I showed up for my interview at the magazine, I was perfectly on time. The chapel clock chimed as I put my hand on the doorknob. Before I could turn it, the door opened and I saw Kevin, the managing editor, for the first time. The way I’ve framed it sounds like something out of a romantic comedy, but instead of romance I felt something familial when I saw his face. He looked at me like we shared a secret—that’s the only way I know how to put it. His eyes actually twinkled. I stood there on the step, my mind flashing to vintage images of Santa Claus. But Kevin wasn’t jolly, a fact for which I was grateful, because neither was I.
He gave me a tour of the office, which was housed in one of the oldest buildings at the university. The general atmosphere was threadbare yet confident—WASPy, really. The wooden floors were so worn that some planks looked white, like birch trees. Each room had a fireplace, though none of them worked, which, in the end, was an apt metaphor for the soul of the place. The mantel in the main room was lined with copper Ellies, a kind of cold fire.
I remember how well dressed he was for my interview, his pressed blue shirt and loafers. When I got to know him better, I understood that he cared about his appearance even when it seemed like he hated everything in the world. In the nightmares I had about him dying before he died, he had hanged himself in his office, and he was always wearing a suit.
On the cover of Mr. Padgett’s latest collection, “Alone and Not Alone,” there’s a Jim Dine drawing of Pinocchio, the wooden marionette who longed to become a boy. Many of the puckish, unadorned poems within suggest that Mr. Padgett himself, now a grandfather, may have similar thoughts on his mind.
Why on Earth would you start a literary magazine? You won’t get rich, or even very famous. You’ll have to keep your day job, unless you’re a student or so rich you don’t need a day job. You and your lucky friends and the people you hire—if you can afford to pay them—will use their time and energy on page layouts, bookkeeping, distribution, Web site coding and digital upkeep, and public readings and parties and Kickstarters and ways to wheedle big donors or grant applications so that you can put out issue two, and then three. You’ll lose time you could devote to your own essays or fiction or poems. Once your journal exists, it will wing its way into a world already full of journals, like a paper airplane into a recycling bin, or onto a Web already crowded with literary sites. Why would you do such a thing?
Here’s what’s supposed to happen when you fall asleep. Your body temperature falls, even as your feet and hands warm up—the temperature changes likely help the circadian clocks throughout your body to synchronize. Melatonin courses through your system—that tells your brain it’s time to quiet down. Your blood pressure falls and your heart rate slows. Your breathing evens out. You drift off to sleep.
That, at least, is the ideal. But going to sleep isn’t always a simple process, and it seems to have grown more problematic in recent years, as I learned through a series of conversations this May, when some of the world’s leading sleep experts met with me to share their ongoing research into the nature of sleeping. (The meetings were facilitated by a Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship.) According to Charles Czeisler, the chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, over the past five decades our average sleep duration on work nights has decreased by an hour and a half, down from eight and a half to just under seven.
How two technology consultants helped drug traffickers hack the Port of Antwerp.
Perhaps it’s fundamentally human both to be awed by the things we look up to and to pass over those we look down on. If so, it’s a tendency that has repeatedly frustrated human progress. Half a century after Galileo looked into his “inverted telescope,” the pioneers of microscopy Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke revealed that a Lilliputian universe existed all around and even inside us. But neither of them had students, and their researches ended in another false dawn for microscopy. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century, when German manufacturers began producing superior instruments, that the discovery of the very small began to alter science in fundamental ways.
In an era where breaking stories can be shared in real-time on the Internet, it’s odd to hold a paper that literally contains yesterday’s news — and comics are no exception: reprints of old Garfield, Peanuts, and Dennis the Menace strips fill the page. The world has moved on, but in the newspaper, Garfield still loves lasagna, Lucy is still pulling away the football, and Dennis is still menacing.
Nestled between these strips, Bizarro is a modern beacon of hilarity and social commentary. In a single panel, the oddball cartoon tackles issues like gay marriage, gun laws, and animal rights. It exposes, with reckless abandon, the frequent idiocy of mankind. Like its creator, Dan Piraro, it is both eccentric and doggedly political.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” so spake chapter 13 of St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
So yes, I have put away the childish things (even though I am not a man). But right now Australian cafes are busy putting them back out. They’re putting out bowls of cereal, cups of milk, kittens and plates of toast. And we – like big kids missing our kindergartens and nurseries – seem to be lapping it up.
Artfully simple, this poem can be enjoyed for its pristine surface, but also suggests a melancholy allegory.
It’s easy to assume that time flows at the same rate for everybody, but experiences like Baker’s show that our continuous stream of consciousness is a fragile illusion, stitched together by the brain’s clever editing. By studying what happens during such extreme events, researchers are revealing how and why the brain plays these temporal tricks – and in some circumstances, they suggest, all of us can experience time warping.
Never in a Kundera novel has plot mattered less. Instead, the party merely serves as a platform on which Kundera can examine themes that will be familiar to his readers—for example, the absurdity of history.
Without a reader, a poem is nothing. That is what interests Underwood – and his first collection, Happiness, happily for him and us, has the generous quality he promotes: it is conversational, arresting, makes you want to respond.
Billy Mitchell, the most knowledgeable and masterful Pac-Man player ever to drop a quarter in a machine, is a hard man to find. When I asked one of his best friends, Walter Day, the best way to get in touch with him, Day told me, “First I spend an hour praying to God, then I visit a psychic, then I place a classified ad, then I hire a plane to carry a banner that says CALL ME BILLY! and make it fly all over South Florida. Because he might be anywhere.”
After some seventy phone calls, I manage to arrange a meeting with Mitchell at Ricky’s, the restaurant in Hollywood, Florida, that he took over from his father in the mid-1980s. Mitchell is probably the greatest arcade-video-game player of all time. When the Guinness Book of World Records first included a listing for video games in 1985 (discontinued in 1987), Mitchell held the records for Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong, Jr., Centipede, and Burger Time. In 1999, he achieved the Holy Grail of arcade gaming, executing the first-ever perfect game on Pac-Man. The feat requires navigating 256 boards, or levels, and eating every single possible pellet, fruit, and ghost, for the highest score of 3,333,360, all without dying once.
Maclean is a master not only of story, but of words. The writing is too lyrical to categorize the book as just a thriller. "The Joy of Killing" is a noir literary work, a relentless tale about the dark side of the human soul.
If almost every high-end restaurant in the world is to be believed, how their dishes look is right up there with flavours and ingredients. Gone are the 1990s, when food came in vertiginous towers that required servers to have the balancing skills of a circus act. Today, a dish’s components must appear to have been insouciantly strewn by Tinker Bell in a bewitching melee of dots and splodges and tiny, edible flowers.
Last May, Robert Frank, the world’s pre-eminent living photographer, returned to Zurich, the orderly Swiss banking city, cosseted by lake and mountain, where he grew up. When an artist who made his reputation by leaving returns home, mixed feelings are inevitable, and that was especially true for Frank, whose iconic American pictures are notable for their deep understanding of human complication. ‘‘I know this town, but I certainly feel like a stranger here,’’ he said.
As he walked through the immaculate Zurich city center, with its many statues, gilded shop signs and fountains, Frank was ‘‘just amazed how well organized everything is, how perfect everything is.’’ The Swiss, he explained, do not throw coins into fountains, because ‘‘they have everything they need. They don’t believe in wishing wells. Only the poor have to hope.’’ Deciding he wanted to ride a streetcar, Frank surveyed the different lines. ‘‘I usually don’t get a ticket on the tram,’’ he explained. ‘‘This town is rich enough.’’ He said he never worried about being caught by inspectors, and he didn’t seem worried. He seemed the way he typically did — fully present and yet filled with personal mystery. ‘‘I don’t know where that one goes, so we’ll take it,’’ he said, and was soon bound for a working-class district of the city.
Damascus (pop. 800) is in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains, along the Appalachian Trail. Downtown consists of about five blocks “but in those blocks there are five churches,” Montgomery said. A visitor crosses one bridge coming in, another heading out. Idyllic is the word. The Montgomery Homestead Inn is only an old, two-story brick home with four bedrooms travelers can rent. On the morning those FBI agents came knocking, it was the weekend of the annual Appalachian Trail Days Festival, when something like 20,000 hikers descend on the town for fellowship and revelry, and the inn’s four rooms had been booked for weeks. Montgomery did not know what business the men crowding the porch could have there.
When she opened the front door, one of the agents held up a photograph of a man and asked if she knew him. She looked at it and said, “Yes. That’s Bismarck.”
The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation of why good people write bad prose. It simply doesn't occur to the writer that her readers don't know what she knows—that they haven't mastered the argot of her guild, can't divine the missing steps that seem too obvious to mention, have no way to visualize a scene that to her is as clear as day. And so the writer doesn't bother to explain the jargon, or spell out the logic, or supply the necessary detail.
What keeps us turning the pages is the cunning plot, but in the end, “The Truth and Other Lies” feels hollow at the center, like its protagonist. The only thing anyone in the novel cares passionately about is the unfinished manuscript, left by Henry’s wife with a note, “Can you guess how it ends?” This is ultimately a crime novel about crime novels, a book about itself, and the reader finishes it complicit with the conceit, having kept reading to the end only to find out what happens next.
Had he been alive today, Orwell – the great opponent and satirist of totalitarianism – would have deplored the bureaucratic repression of HR. He would have hated their blind loyalty to power, their unquestioning faithfulness to process, their abhorrence of anything or anyone deviating from the mean.
I only met Jacques Pépin once, during one of the worst weeks of my life. Over a simple meal, he showed me a way forward. It was time to say thanks.
In 1932, a trio of New York physicians published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association that described a new form of bowel disease. The illness came to be named after only one of them, the paper’s lead author, Burrill B. Crohn, who now numbers among such illustrious medical eponyms as Alois Alzheimer, Hakaru Hashimoto, and the town of Lyme, Connecticut. The fame appears not to have gone to Crohn’s head. At home, according to one of his granddaughters, Susan Dickler, he remained a proponent of good digestive health. “He was really into roughage,” she said. Abby Pratt, another of his granddaughters, told me that his reaction to a visit from one high-profile patient, Marilyn Monroe, was indicative of his temperament. “When he got home, my grandmother said to him, ‘Burrill, what was she like?’ ” Pratt told me. “And he said, ‘I don’t know, I only remember the plates’—meaning the X-rays. So he was not a celebrity watcher, and nor did he want to be a celebrity himself.”
At Fourth of July cookouts around the country, no word brings people together like “barbecue.” But for much of American history, that word has also sparked regional divisions about its meaning, its etymology and even its spelling.
In 1776, the American colonies declared independence from Britain.
But it wasn't until 1796 that someone dared to tackle a question that would plague every generation of Americans to come: "What is American food?"
Sooner or later, every road comes to an end—but not in Vermont. In other states, a road that goes unused for a reasonable period of time is legally discontinued; in Vermont, any road that was ever officially entered into a town’s record books remains legally recognized, indefinitely. It doesn’t matter if the road has not been travelled in two hundred years, or if it was never travelled at all, or if it was merely surveyed and never actually built. Any ancient road that exists on paper—unless it has been explicitly discontinued—is considered a public highway in the eye of the law.
Walking in a city is the greatest unpriced pleasure there is. I have walked bustling short blocks in New York; absurdly crowded pavements in Shanghai; the bucolic reaches of the Philosophenweg, near Heidelberg; mazey souk lanes in Doha; the tangled streets of East London; Edinburgh’s Escheresque stone stairways and eerie closes; the winter-dark hills of Reykjavik and the rain-showered ones of San Francisco; the slope of sunny Sydney running down to the Pacific; the concrete canyons of Chicago’s downtown Loop; the Cambridge Backs when Fen-born frost rimed the mown grass; the lovely sward of the Boston Common passing into the Public Garden. I have walked not only along the Mall in Washington but all the way out to the airport, cruising down the Potomac in the heat, thinking fond thoughts of the Sam Adams lager I would have when I got to the departures lounge.
What I like best about poems, beyond their sheer aesthetic pleasures, is the way that the intimacy of a single voice speaking across time and space can become a call to empathy. In this poem, the close and particular focus invites a kind of mindfulness — a way to recognize ourselves in others, linked by our common need.
Nobody owns David Foster Wallace anymore. In the seven years since his suicide, he’s slipped out of the hands of those who knew him, and those who read him in his lifetime, and into the cultural maelstrom, which has flattened him. He has become a character, an icon, and in some circles a saint. A writer who courted contradiction and paradox, who could come on as a curmudgeon and a scold, who emerged from an avant-garde tradition and never retreated into conventional realism, he has been reduced to a wisdom-dispensing sage on the one hand and shorthand for the Writer As Tortured Soul on the other.
In “Skyfaring,” a superb chronicle of his career as an airline pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker makes jet travel seem uncanny and intriguing all over again, finding delight in clouds, airports, rainstorms, fuel loads, sky gates, fragments of jargon, lonely electric lights on the plain, suns that rise and set four times in a single daylong journey and the fanciful names of waypoints on flight maps (one near Kansas City is BARBQ; another near St. Louis is AARCH).
Attenberg has written a bold, magnificent book about family, altruism, women and freedom, as well as a love letter to New York and a timely social manifesto for the 21st century. What more can we ask of our fiction?
We use herbs; they act. In that, we find answers to all the questions.