Public radio is facing an existential crisis. Some of the biggest radio stars of a generation are exiting the scene while public-radio executives attempt to stem the loss of younger listeners on traditional radio. At the same time, the business model of NPR—the institution at the center of the public-radio universe—is under threat: It relies primarily on funding from hundreds of local radio stations, but it faces rising competition from small and nimble podcasting companies using aggressive commercial strategies to create Netflix-style on-demand content.
The first thing you notice, rereading Valley of the Dolls is how badly it functions as fiction. First published in 1966, it has a status in the Virago canon that means many of us will have read it young, as a necessary classic, in that interim phase as a reader where you consume books like air, not stopping to interrogate their quality. I didn’t realise how bad it was. It covers the fortunes and friendship, but mainly the drug addiction, of three women: the prim but outrageously beautiful Anne Welles; the Judy Garland-inspired vaudeville star Neely O’Hara; and the busty airhead Jennifer North.
The Australian novelist Gerald Murnane has become known for works of difficult genius, and his latest will only burnish that reputation. An exploration of the mind and of literary creation, it is a book of intricate construction and vast intellectual scope.
This is a fascinating, informative, revelatory book about that most commonplace and mundane feature of our cities – parks. Everybody in Britain will be familiar with a park or several parks. As Travis Elborough suggests, it is a connection that most usually begins in early childhood. Even I, as a child brought up in West Africa where there were no parks of any description, can vividly recall the first one I came to know well – Duffus Park in Cupar, Fife. I was regularly sent there to play when we returned from Africa to stay with my grandmother in Scotland. I can revisit Duffus Park and its many acres in my head, almost as if a virtual video of the place is playing behind my eyes, even though I haven’t set foot in it for decades. Such is the folkloric power of the park in our forming minds.
One of the great ironies of the coast around Silicon Valley is that the region hosts a number of wireless dead zones. So, faced with the prospect of being technologically marooned, we decided not just to TripTik our route, but to forgo satellite navigation entirely—no gps, no Google Maps, no smartphones. Maybe freeing ourselves from virtual mediation would foster a more engaged travel experience; maybe it would be inconvenient and irritating. But for the sake of nostalgia, both real (hers) and invented (mine), we thought we’d give it a shot.
The past is like a foreign country: They have weird McDonald’s specials there. Here, it's a burger with olives and larks' tongues; it's called the McTrojan Deluxe, which makes it sound like there's something sneaky hiding inside it, which if you hate olives is true. I hate olives. But they also serve wine, so I'm drinking lots of wine. It’s unpleasantly packed in the restaurant, but then, it’s packed everywhere.