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Monday, April 23, 2018

Cupholders Are Everywhere, by Nancy A. Nichols, The Atlantic

Although it might be hard to imagine now, eating and drinking in cars was once next to impossible. Beyond a quick swig from a flask, rough roads and a lack of power steering and advanced suspension systems made it difficult and unpleasant to eat or drink on the road.

Cupholders began as an afterthought, mere circular indents on the inside of the door of the glove compartment, but they have become an absolute necessity and a key feature that shoppers evaluate when purchasing a new car, even for a time supplanting fuel efficiency as a consumer’s most sought-after attribute.

Hanya Yanagihara: Influential Magazine Editor By Day, Best-selling Author By Night, by Emma Brockes, The Guardian

In person she comes across as pragmatic, quick-talking, unsentimental about the costs of doing two difficult jobs, one of which is perennially living alone. A Little Life, by contrast, is expansive, overblown, at times almost mawkish, with a child abuse sub-plot of such startlingly graphic description that although it was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, it has about it a whiff of the Pat Conroy pot-boiler.

There are other contradictions. As anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows, management is not most writers’ and journalists’ strong suit. But, “I really love managing,” says Yanagihara. “It’s important to me to be a good boss. One of the things I found most offensive about [comments arising from] the recent #MeToo movement was this implication that in order to run a creative or semi-creative business, a certain amount of bad behaviour is tolerable, or even desirable, because from that comes great creative vision. I really don’t think that’s true! I know plenty of people who have been at the helm of various creative galleries, or production companies, and have never felt the need to behave poorly. It’s just a lazy justification. And as someone who has managed to go 25 years without conflating sex with power, or bullying my colleagues, I find it particularly offensive.”

The Soul-Crushing Student Essay, by Scott Korb, New York Times

Look around at what baffles you; look in at your peculiar self and how your own frontiers continue to edge back. Don’t worry, you’ll never fully grasp how the world transcends you and your ability to describe it. I surely don’t, and I’m 41! But don’t forget: You’ve been trying to understand and triumph in the world for as long as you can remember, even as a kid. Now go and write.

In 'Head On,' Killer Robots, Dogged Gumshoes ... And A Very Important Cat, by Jason Sheehan, NPR

I love that the entire plot of John Scalzi's newest novel, Head On, hinges on a cat.

I mean, it's such a stupid idea. It's a gimmick that's been played straight, played crooked, played backwards and forwards in so many stories that there's just no trope-life left in it. Cat as McGuffin. Cat as material witness. Cat as embodiment of damsels in distress. It's the literary equivalent of Scooby Doo and the gang pulling the rubber mask off old Mr. McGillicutty the groundskeeper because he was the pirate ghost all along.

And I love that Scalzi did it anyway. Mostly because he found a new way to use it (in addition to all the old ways in which he absolutely uses Donut the cat) which, in conforming so literally to the defining nature of science fiction, somehow makes it seem new and fresh.