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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Surprising History Behind Leap Year, by Brian Handwerk, National Geographic

The ancient Egyptians did it, and so do we. Here's how a leap day—which occurs Februrary 29—helps keep our calendars and societies in sync.

‘Ways To Disappear,’ By Idra Novey, by Catherine Lacey, New York Times

A novel starring a novelist can often seem a little pleased with itself, as if the author is looking over her shoulder, eager to make a great drama from a greatly uneventful thing. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up “Ways to Disappear,” the first novel by the poet and translator Idra Novey. The protagonist, Emma Neufeld, is a Portuguese-to-English translator devoted to the work of a cult-classic Brazilian writer. Novey herself translates from Portuguese to English, most recently the work of Clarice Lispector, the cult-classic Brazilian writer.

But Novey has wholly eluded the hazards of writing about writers. Instead, this lush and tightly woven novel manages to be a meditation on all forms of translation while still charging forward with the momentum of a bullet.

States Of Mind Edited By Anna Faherty Review – ‘A Compelling Collection’, by Anita Sethi, The Guardian

Why do most of us feel that we are something more than molecules?”, asks Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in his engaging introduction to this compelling collection drawn from literature, science, philosophy and art ranging back 500 years and tackling the thorny question of what consciousness actually is. “We are made of the same raw materials as bacteria, as earth, as rock, as the great dark nebulae of dust that swim between the stars, as the stars themselves”, writes Haddon, introducing extracts that explore how the sense of being made of something immaterial, too, has long haunted humans.

Frankly, My Dear, Mark Leyner Doesn't Give A Damn, by Jason Sheehan, NPR

Gone With The Mind is Leyner's new novel. A novel that is, by turns, autobiographical, fictional, touching and just flat-out insane. It takes the form of a writer named Mark Leyner giving a reading in a mall food court — one to which no one has shown up except for two fast-food employees on their break, and Mark's mom, who arranged the reading and drove him there. Who begins the book with a long, rambling, deliberately saccharine introduction, transcribed verbatim (as is everything else that happens — there is no narrator, just some passing, italicized notes that read almost like stage directions) and run on forever. So long that you get that it's a joke, then get annoyed by the joke, then come to a place of grudging respect for the author for his commitment to the gag, then get annoyed all over again. And then it ends. Then Mark's opening remarks begin.

How To Eat: Croissants, by Tony Naylor, The Guardian

rust us, this blog was scheduled long before the unpleasantness, but given the amount of confusion that a certain supermarket’s decision to straighten a morning pastry has caused, it is timely (indeed, of great relief to the nation) that How to Eat will now definitively settle what constitutes the perfect croissant.

Please do not get too twisted up below the line. Ensure you can prove your point. Flaky, pain-ful arguments will not butter-up your fellow contributors. They will make you look like a cronut.

Buttony, by Fiona McFarlane