So when I was 18 and came out to my family, I began in Finnish and ended in English: “Mä oon gay” — “I’m gay,” I said, instead of using the loaded and clinical Finnish homo, a derivative of the Finnish medical term “homoseksuaali,” meaning “homosexual.”
After I came out, I moved to London and then New York and lived in English. I discovered that “gay” also means “happy”; that “queerness” denotes so much more than just sexual orientation. The vagueness is there by design: These words encompass all forms of queer life and recast them in a more positive light. In English, I found more room to breathe, to evolve.
The prolific author of multiple popular science books, Mr. Kaku is a futurist, broadcaster and professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York. He is also the host of the wildly successful and popular weekly radio program Science Fantastic. If there is anyone who can demystify the esoteric mathematics and physics of string theory, it is he. And in this wonderful little book, that is precisely what he does—explain in clear and simple terms the conceptual breakthroughs, the blind alleys and the unanswered questions—in the search for a grand unified theory of everything. Most of all, what I like best is that he remains open to the possibility that there may ultimately not be a single unifying theory after all, encoded into a single tidy equation.
Even as we produce more and more images every day—and our methods of communication increasingly rely on them—Strauss’s book, like all good criticism, attempts to carve out space for freedom. His method allows us to look carefully and consider the impact of the status changes on society—an ever more important task given the breakneck pace of today’s media. “Belief in images has become the test case for the social,” he writes. “If we are to believe in the world, we must have images of it.” That includes images of the world as it truly is, but also images of the world as we would like it to be. Or else, if there’s nothing to see here, there’s nothing to believe.
Focusing largely on the mid-1960s, “Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am” remembers a time when air travel was synonymous with luxury and glamour — not just for passengers but also for the women hired to wait on them.
Julia Cooke, the daughter of a Pan Am executive, builds “Come Fly the World” around interviews with five women: Clare, Karen, Lynne, Hazel and Tori; four White, one Black; four American, one Norwegian. For some, working as a Pan Am stewardess was always the dream; for others, it was the backup plan that kicked in when their visions of a career in biology or the Foreign Service faded. For all of them, working for Pan Am was transformative.
We thought it would be over soon enough.
He’d listen to the facts and move along,
find a job, a house, someone to love,
but we were wrong.