The park service issued reassurances that mountain lions (also called cougars or pumas) are basically shy creatures. To keep an eye on things, they sedated the animal, put a monitoring collar on him, and named him P-22 (P for Puma, 22 to indicate the number of urban mountain lions being tracked at the time), and released him back into the park.
During this time, I lived in New York City, unaware of P-22 and his Hollywood haunting.
Four years later, I decided I'd have to hunt and kill him.
The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
It’s no longer controversial to give other authors a share in Shakespeare’s plays—not because he was a front for an aristocrat, as conspiracy theorists since the Victorian era have proposed, but because scholars have come to recognize that writing a play in the sixteenth century was a bit like writing a screenplay today, with many hands revising a company’s product. The New Oxford Shakespeare claims that its algorithms can tease out the work of individual hands—a possibility, although there are reasons to challenge its computational methods. But there is a deeper argument made by the edition that is both less definitive and more interesting. It’s not just that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights, and it’s not just that Shakespeare was one of a number of great Renaissance writers whose fame he outstripped in the ensuing centuries. It’s that the canonization of Shakespeare has made his way of telling stories—especially his monarch-centered view of history—seem like the norm to us, when there are other ways of telling stories, and other ways of staging history, that other playwrights did better. If Shakespeare worshippers have told one story in order to discredit his contemporary rivals, the New Oxford is telling a story that aims to give the credit back.
If authors can be seasonal, then Scottish writer Ali Smith is, to my mind, a summer novelist. Her fiction, even when it depicts upsetting events, has an Arcadian atmosphere reminiscent of As You Like It, as if her characters were wandering through a green glade on a sunny day. These people shine brighter and are also a bit more straightforward than the people you meet in the course of real life; psychological complexity is not a hallmark of Smith’s work, but its buoyancy and charm more than make up for that.
In Mastai’s instantly engaging debut novel, the world as we know it (or knew it in 2016) is the dystopian future that never happened. Tom Barren’s world (or as he puts it, “where I come from”) is more like The Jetsons: “Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations and moon bases.”
You know that future everyone fantasized about in the 1950s? It all happened, says Tom. Until, that is, he kind of undid it. And he undid it, at least in part, for love. He also undid it out of resentment — a very messy way of lashing out at his imperious, “super-genius scientist” father who invented the time-travel machine that propels Tom and the story on a wild ride through the space-time continuum.
This is, instead, a novel to be enjoyed for its visual and impressionistic prose style. Paragraphs are short and resemble prose poetry. August’s memories are fragmented and questioned. What is real? What is imagined? The overall effect is a collage of experiences and reflections that intersect geographically, temporally and sexually.
My Sister’s Bones is an elegant, punchy thriller with a dark heart. The twists and turns aren’t entirely unexpected, but that doesn’t detract from the power of the story-telling.
Furnham studies queueing, but is not immune to its stresses. Last week, his latest research was widely reported as revealing a “rule of six” behind queueing behaviour: people will wait for only six minutes in a queue, and are unlikely to join one with more than six people in it. This simplification has a grain of truth. Six minutes of queueing does make people impatient, but it is not a magic length of time beyond which people stop waiting. For one thing, it depends what they are waiting for. “You won’t wait for six minutes at an ATM machine,” Furnham says, “but you will if you want concert tickets. Six minutes was the sort of average.”