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Archive for June 2021

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

In A World Without Sushi, by Juhea Kim, Guernica Magazine

Yet if you’re lucky, on a fall hike in the Northwest, you can still encounter salmon that leap over towering fish ladders and rocky waterfalls to fatefully give up their lives for more lives. These marvelous animals have value that has nothing to do with their utility to human enterprise. Their existence in nature is itself that value.

Review: What Happens When The West Doesn't Love You Back, by David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

For the people in Claire Boyles’ debut collection of short fiction “Site Fidelity,” place is destiny. I don’t mean that in any grand sense, but more as fate or habit. Set in Colorado and Nevada, these stories find traction among the forgotten towns and overlooked lives of the rural West; they are populated by those who stayed behind, or those who came back after trouble found them in the world.

These Short Stories Don't Have Much Plot — And That's Their Beauty, by Clare Marie Schneider, NPR

Plot does not anchor or propel New Yorker editor Clare Sestanovich's debut short story collection, Objects of Desire. It isn't of much interest here. Women take odd jobs, live with polyamorous couples, and attempt to build homes. Marriages end. Children graduate college, develop eating disorders, and make art. The stories contain plot insomuch as real life contains plot: we make sense and meaning out of what we're given.

The Struggles Of Those Who Regain Sight And Hearing, by Robin Marantz Henig, New York Times

Twenty years ago, I got a glimpse of how it feels to lack one of our vaunted five senses when I took a bonk on the head and lost my ability to smell. I grieved the loss — one that’s not uncommon after a brain injury or, as we’ve learned from grueling experience, a bout of Covid — and I searched mightily for advice on how to get it back. Months later, an improvised form of brain retraining (basically, sticking my nose into things and telling myself what I was supposed to be smelling) ultimately worked. When I smelled new-mown grass again for the first time, I cried.

Accustomed to having all my senses, I’d been desperate to recover one I had lost. So it seemed reasonable to me that anyone else deprived of one of the senses — especially the ones I considered most precious, sight and hearing — would do anything to get it back, too. Which is why it was a revelation to read, in “Coming to Our Senses,” about people who retrieved part or all of their vision or hearing late in life, and who not only didn’t like it, but who actually suffered and even died as a result.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Unpacking The Nap Dress, by Anne Helen Petersen

I don’t have a daughter, but Instagram sure thinks I do. I blame my birthday weekend, back in May. That’s when I was surrounded by women who are the parents of children between the ages of 2 and 7, which meant my phone was hanging out with their phone, my Instagram near their Instagram, and the dark tubes of the internet that communicate to one another about potential shared consumer interests started serving me the ads for Mother-Daughter dress ads that have since filled my feed.

Some are higher-end. Some are from Target. There are a bunch of those brands with good lighting and racially diverse models who somehow all have the same breast size that you only see on Instagram. Maisonette. Doen. Mark and Spencer. Pehr. Christy Dawn. Rolee. One Loved Babe. Alix Cherry. Marks and Spencer. Hillhouse. There are sets from Anthropologie, and Reformation, and LuLaRoe. I asked people to send me Instagram ads when they spotted them in their own feeds, and I received hundreds. They are flowy and floral. Feminine and wistful and demure. And they reach full expression in the Nap Dress.

377: The British Colonial Law That Left An anti-LGBTQ Legacy In Asia, by Tessa Wong, BBC

Till today, colonial-era laws that ban homosexuality continue to exist in former British territories including parts of Africa and Oceania.

But it is in Asia where they have had a significantly widespread impact. This is the region where, before India legalised homosexual sex in 2018, at least one billion people lived with anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Bring Back Menus!, by Christina Cauterucci, Slate

For me, the pleasure of poring over a physical menu is so integral to the experience of dining out that I made my friends mimic it during an early-pandemic dinner over Zoom. We’ve all just had the most isolated, screen-mediated year of our lives. If there’s an opportunity for us to make a familiar social interaction more tangible and human, and less coldly transactional, let’s take it.

Quentin Tarantino Turns His Most Recent Movie Into A Pulpy Page-Turner, by Dwight Garner, New York Times

He’s here to tell a story, in take-it-or-leave-it Elmore Leonard fashion, and to make room along the way to talk about some of the things he cares about — old movies, male camaraderie, revenge and redemption, music and style. He gets it: Pop culture is what America has instead of mythology. He got bitten early by this notion, and he’s stayed bitten.

Quentin Tarantino Turned His Last Movie Into A Novel, But Don’t Think You Know The Ending, by Charles Arrowsmith, Washington Post

Chapters have the propulsive thrust of anecdotes; his exuberant excess is the dominant charm. Far from being the throwaway artifact it sometimes pretends to be, Tarantino’s first novel may even, as he’s hinted, herald the start of a new direction for this relentlessly inventive director.

An Aspiring Editor Meets A Thorny Dilemma, by Amy Bloom, New York Times

Francine Prose writes sentences that make me laugh out loud. Her insights, the subtle ones and the two-by-fours, make me shake my head in despair, in surprise, in heartfelt agreement. The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending.

Review: A Magnetic New Bible Belt Thriller Is No 'Hillbilly Elegy' — And Thank The Lord For That, by Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times

What really sets McHugh apart, though, is that her social novels are seasoned with gothic horror. Each of them has kept me reading late into the night and left me chilled by their revelations. The mountains and hollows of Arkansas are gorgeous, but there be monsters in those hills.

'Survive The Night' Is A Fast-paced, Twisty Thriller, by Bruce Desilva, AP

For a thriller that starts off with two strikes against it, Riley Sager’s “Survive the Night” turns out to be a first-rate read. The strikes? First, Sager asks readers to believe that a young woman obsessed with her roommate’s murder would get into a car with a stranger. Second, a young woman stuck in a car with scary stranger is an overused trope of crime fiction. We’ve seen this movie before.

That may be so, Sager seems to be telling us, but you haven’t seen anybody do it like this.

Commencement Speech, Delivered At The Buncombe County Institute For Elevator Inspectors, by Matthew Olzmann, New England Review

I’ve been thinking about things lifted
into the sky. Szymborska gets lung cancer
and is whisked into the clouds. Muhammad Ali
floats the way he always said he would, but this time,

Monday, June 28, 2021

Are All Short Stories O. Henry Stories?, by Louis Menand, New Yorker

The story of the writer who called himself O. Henry could almost be an O. Henry story. The writer—his real name was William Sidney Porter—had a secret, and he spent most of his adult life trying to conceal it.

What Deadlines Do To Lifetimes, by Rachel Syme, New Yorker

My relationship to deadlines, like that of almost everyone I know, is full of contradictions. I crave them and avoid them, depend on them and resent them. Due dates form the rhythm of my life as a journalist, and there is some comfort in these external expectations. But a deadline is also a train barrelling down the track, and you’re the one strapped to the rails. The time-sensitive obligations that add both structure and suspense to our lives—tax returns, loan payments, license renewals, job applications, event planning, teeth cleanings, biological clocks—can inspire nauseating dread as much as plucky action.

An Intense Bond Between Two Women Fuels The Suspense In ‘Palace Of The Drowned’, by Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post

The ingeniousness of “Palace of the Drowned” derives from Mangan’s great skill in stirring up carefully calibrated doubt about everything and everyone. Was that initial meeting by the Grand Canal a trick of fate or did Gilly (who may or may not be a stalker) engineer the encounter? Is Frankie right to be suspicious or is she simply becoming more and more of the madwoman in the palazzo? And, is the palazzo really haunted or are Italian mice just particularly noisy? The ground of truth in this story is as unstable as its watery setting.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Basil Heatter And The Great Comma Awakening, by Robert Fromberg, Los Angeles Review of Books

The first phase of my comma awakening came several decades ago when I found myself intellectually, physically, and psychically uncomfortable while reading Patricia Highsmith’s wonderful novel The Blunderer. The cause of my angst was not Highsmith’s exquisite rendering of a nightmarish trap, but her use of commas.

The Boy Who Learned To See—and What He Teaches Us About Vision, by Susan R. Barry, Wall Street Journal

From the moment Liam was born, it was obvious that there was something different about him. His hair was metallic silver, and blood vessels were plainly visible through his very light-colored skin. “Oh my God!” the nurse exclaimed as she rushed from the delivery room. Moments later, she returned with the doctor, who took one look at the newborn and hurried out too. When the doctor returned, Cindy, Liam’s mother, now deeply concerned, asked what was wrong. “Oh, he’s a towhead; he’s a cotton-top,” the doctor responded.

“ Liam wasn’t completely blind, but his zone of clear vision extended only 3 inches from his nose. ”

Young Love Shines In The Dark In This New Story Collection, by Denny S. Bryce, NPR

During the 2020 pandemic, six best-selling African American young adult novelists put their time to good use by combining their enormous talents for this collection of stories about young Black teens in love. Set in one of America's most romantic cities (IMHO) — New York City — these tales of Black love celebrate family as much as they showcase the many ways teenage love can claim a heart.

Frenemies In A War Zone: On Andrey Kurkov’s “Grey Bees”, by Olesya Khromeychuk, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Grey can be plenty bright! What do you know about it? I can discern twenty shades of it. If I had a better education, I’d come up with a name for each shade, like they were all separate colours.” Andrey Kurkov does just that on behalf of his protagonist: he describes the shades of gray so vividly that you learn to tell them apart better and better as you leaf through the pages of Grey Bees.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

How To Write A Sex-Positive Potboiler, by Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic

From the late ’60s—when she published her first book, The World Is Full of Married Men—until her death in 2015, Collins published 32 best-selling novels, characterized by their ballsy female characters, explicit bedroom scenes, and trenchant portrayals of the entertainment industry and its abuses of power. To read a Collins novel, as roughly half a billion of us humans have, is to know that sex and power are inextricable. No one mined the dynamics of both as astutely in the late 20th century as she did. (As she told The New York Times in 2007, “I published my first novel in 1968, when no one was writing about sex except Philip Roth.”)

A Peek Inside The World's Greatest Record Store, by Richard Grant, Smithsonia Magazine

I first heard about Val Shively—a legendary figure among serious record collectors—from a friend of mine in Philadelphia named Aaron Levinson. He’s a Grammy-winning music producer, composer, DJ and rare vinyl collector who has been buying records from Shively for 40 years.

“He has a store called R&B Records in this sketchy neighborhood out past West Philly,” Levinson told me. “The building is listing like the Tower of Pisa because he’s got five million records in there. It’s likely the biggest record store in the world and collectors fly in from the U.K., Germany, Japan and wherever else, in order to buy from Val. But if they say something wrong, or he doesn’t like their attitude, he explodes in an unbelievable rage and throws them out of the store.”

Book Review: Lifting The Curtain On A Long-Neglected Disease, by Emily Cataneo, Undark

The power of this book lies not just in Hernández’s unflinching journalistic examination of the racism and classism embedded in the U.S. and international health care systems, but also in the blend of this examination with her complicated grief over Dora. This is no book about an angelic aunt snatched too soon: Dora stopped speaking to Hernández when Hernández came out as queer, and when Dora died, Hernández wondered why she was drowning in grief for someone who was so horrid to her. Her search for the kissing bugs is partly an extirpation and examination of that grief; she eventually concludes that she is mourning not her relationship with Dora, but how that relationship might have healed had Dora lived.

Book Review: The Last Man Who Knew Everything, By David N. Schwartz, by Chad Orzel, Forbes

The title refers to the fact that Fermi is one of the last physicists to make significant contributions to both experimental and theoretical physics. Fermi’s model of beta decay took a vague suggestion by Wolfgang Pauli and turned it into a rigorous mathematical theory, and his work in statistical physics is critical to modern condensed matter physics. He also ran an experimental group in Rome that was one of the first to demonstrate nuclear fission— work that’s (incorrectly) cited in his Nobel Prize— and later headed the team that built the first working nuclear reactor as part of the Manhattan Project. Even in the 1940’s, that sort of breadth was unusual; these days it’s unheard of.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Writing My Dead Sister Through Fact And Fiction, by Brian Phillip Whalen, Literary Hub

My launch, however, was enjoyable. I read with an author I’ve long admired. There was a decent-enough turnout on Zoom, all things considered. My expectations for the night were low, my hopes sober (so they couldn’t be dashed). I’ve had my share of disappointments since the book’s release, as any first time author does, but on the night of my launch, I didn’t cry because I was unhappy, disillusioned, or depressed.

I cried because I read a story about my sister.

Review: A Forgotten Titan Of New York, Revived In Fiction, by Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

Should you immediately recognize the name Andrew Haswell Green, the historic civic leader and protagonist of Jonathan Lee’s new novel “The Great Mistake,” perhaps it’s because of the New York City institutions he founded, which astoundingly include Central Park, the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo. He is even, arguably, responsible for uniting the city’s five boroughs. But more likely you haven’t heard his name at all. Despite his tireless work for the city he moved to in 1835, Green didn’t seek laurels.

“The Great Mistake” speculates one reason for that: Lee’s fictionalized version of Green is a gay man whose anxieties about his education and social class tangle so tightly with his sexual orientation and personal ambition that it’s a wonder he manages to accomplish anything at all.

Translation As Homemaking In “A Ghost In The Throat”, by Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Chicago Review of Books

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat is a genre-bending autofictional book about one woman’s “crush”—on a poem written three centuries ago. In the narrator’s first encounter with the “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire,” written by the eighteenth-century Irish noblewoman Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill after her husband was murdered, and while she was pregnant with their third child, the author is a schoolgirl who draws pierced hearts in the margins of the canonical poem when she reads of Eibhlín Dubh drinking “handfuls of [her lover’s] blood” in grief. When the author returns to the lament yet again, she too is pregnant with her third child.

Nature Isn't Always Nice: On Megan Kaminski's 'Gentlewomen', by Mark Tardi, The Millions

Amidst so much isolation and loss over the past many months, Kaminski’s laudable effort cleaves a space for us to listen a bit more attentively; to learn from the accretion of errors we’ve both inherited and bequeathed as a species (and not just in terms of my misplaced musical associations from the ’90s); and to empathetically navigate a way forward through the world she so heartbreakingly articulates and envisions.

The Lyric In A Time Of War, by Eloise Klein Healy, Poetry Foundation

Let my music be found wanting in comparison

Thursday, June 24, 2021

On Going Back To The Movies, by Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

On Saturday night, while jumping out of my seat to let someone squeeze past me at Radio City Music Hall, I spilled my red wine on the stranger seated next to me. Just sloshed it right across his knees, onto his jeans. Big dark stains, visible even in the dim light. World’s most embarrassing party foul.

He forcefully and repeatedly assured me it was fine, no problem at all, they were old jeans he was going to throw out anyhow — thank you, kind stranger — but as we sat back down, I was equal parts horrified and elated. Horrified, because that’s just a rookie mistake. Elated, because, well, put yourself in my shoes: I spilled wine on the stranger in the seat next to mine. At Radio City Music Hall. I was close enough to someone else to spill wine on them, and I was drinking wine, and we were in one of the world’s most famous concert venues, the most capacious in New York City. Packed to the gills, everyone vaccinated. Ready to see a movie (and a concert, though we didn’t know that part yet).

I Burn In The Memory Of Love: On “Yours Presently: The Selected Letters Of John Wieners”, by David Brazil, Los Angeles Review of Books

Yours Presently depicts the harrowing life of an artist in a country that has always been indifferent to its artists, teases out the networks of affinity that form the ecologies in which such artists survive, and furnishes essential insights into the conditions from which poetry arises. As Robert Dewhurst has written, it’s a watershed, and a gift to all those who “burn in the memory of love.”

When The ‘Change Of Life’ Means It’s Time To Change Your Life, by Parul Sehgal, New York Times

The movement of the book is essentially a panicked ricochet: how the choices the characters make force choices on other people.

Triage, by Reginald Gibbons, New York Times

Along my hospitable hall
I hear tongues speaking in people —
a kind and suffering, jumbled
and scared, multilingual choral
improvisation. From my bed,

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

What If Procrastination Is An Essential Part Of Our Writing Process?, by Amy Sackville, Literary Hub

I‘ve been meaning for some time to write on the subject of writing and procrastination, but there’s always a few other things I just need to get done first. Reading, research, annotating. Following up interesting links. Finding images. Looking up word origins (such as: “crastinus” is “belonging to tomorrow”). Reading about books you ought to read and then buying them. Not reading those books properly, feeling worried about the other ones you haven’t read and distracted by the fact that there’s some other thing you should be doing (like writing).

A Man, A Dog, A Walk Around The World, by Ann Babe, Afar

Since leaving his home in New Jersey in April 2015, the 32-year-old has rescued a puppy named Lulu in Texas whom he now calls Savannah, been held up at knifepoint in Panama, and halted by life-threatening sickness in Scotland. He has celebrated the nuptials of strangers in Turkey and waited out a global pandemic in Azerbaijan, returning to the U.S. multiple times along the way, for recovery following his illness, for rest, for visas, and for a COVID vaccine. What he once expected to be a continuous five-year journey will be a piecemeal seven-year one.

Review: The Joni Mitchell-James Taylor Saga Makes For A Potent Novel That Stands On Its Own, by Chris Vognar, Los Angeles Times

It’s a tricky business, basing a novel on a real-life relationship between two people. Obsessives will demand facts rather than fiction. Hew too closely to the record, however, and you choke off the imagination.

Emma Brodie toes this line with zest and balance in her debut novel, “Songs in Ursa Major.” The book is very much based on the love affair and mutual muse-hood of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, leading lights of the folk-rock world and onetime residents of L.A.’s Edenic Laurel Canyon. But from the very start, it stretches out and becomes its own thing. Brodie works with big themes — individuation, mental illness, legacy, self-destruction and redemption — but her touch is lighter than an onshore breeze.

Identity And Memory In “All The Water I’ve Seen Is Running”, by Rachel León, Chicago Review of Books

Scientists are still studying exactly how our nerves’ collective activities transcribe our experiences into memories and, while a noble study, a certain question persists: isn’t memory so intoxicating because it’s so elusive? Memory’s pliability makes it a rich playing ground in fiction; it can manipulate and subvert what characters think they know and is fodder for ruminations. While Elias Rodriques’s debut novel, All the Water I’ve Seen is Running, can be described as a meditation on memory, what makes it stand out from other novels is how Rodriques uses memory as a conduit for revealing and exploring identity.

You Don't Have To Be A Complete Nerd To Love This Novel ... But It Helps, by Jason Heller, NPR

Vaughn's novel is not just a tribute to its many beloved influences; it's her love letter to the very human and universal need for fandom itself, no matter what it is that we stan.

Cats And The Good Life, by Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Los Angeles Review of Books

Professors tend to scoff at books written for more general audiences. Anything that becomes popular is taken as potentially not serious. But the truth is, most professors simply cannot write, talk, and perhaps even think in a manner which can engage non-academics. Having gone through years of rigorous, specialized training, scholars find it hard to communicate their insights to anyone outside their narrow fields. Gray does not. Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life© is broadly appealing. Even more impressive, it has readers seriously consider radical ideas.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Yes, No, Maybe So: A Generation Of Thinkers Grapples With Notions Of Consent, by Parul Sehgal, New York Times

I come not to bury the word, not today, but to observe its travels and its odd, nagging magnetism — the new hive of capacious thinking it has provoked.

Coming Home Is Anything But Easy In This ‘Millennial Noir’, by Jakob Guanzon, New York Times

The longer you’re gone, the slipperier coming home gets. To reconcile the person you’ve become with the one old friends remember is as easy as telling the tide not to rise.

This dilemma lies at the core of Elias Rodriques’s poignant debut novel, “All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running.” After seven years away, Daniel has come back to Palm Coast, Fla., where he fell in love with his high school flame, Aubrey. It is her death that has impelled his return.

Whenever She Has This Dream, Someone In Her Village Dies, by Katherine Hill, New York Times

Sometimes that’s just what we want from fiction — a reminder that suffering is also part of life’s comedy. Other times we’d rather sleep a hundred years or see the evildoer boiled alive. For that, we have the original fairy tales. For a more civilized magic, there’s “What You Can See From Here.”

The House That Mouse Built, by Melissa Albert, New York Times

This lovely mini-narrative recontextualizes objects that were previously weaponized — open scissors as suitors, a net shopping bag that trapped the mouse’s feet — and re-envisions them as the landscape of a different life: one full of hope, in which the mouse may dream herself a better story.

Laura Lippman's Sharp And Timely Thriller 'Dream Girl' Sticks The Landing, by Emily Gray Tedrowe, USA Today

Lippman’s sharp and timely thriller is a fast read, one that will surely please her many longtime devotees as well as attract new and enthusiastic fans.

From Poverty To Stanford, Memoir Tells A Physicist's Remarkable Tale, by Adam Frank, NPR

The stars can save you: If you can really see them in all their beauty and mystery, they can lift you up and give you solace in even the worst times.

That's the potent lesson from A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars, the new memoir from astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi and writer Joshua Horwitz. Tracking Oluseyi's journey from the streets of Los Angles, Houston and New Orleans to graduate study in physics at Stanford University, A Quantum Life is not only a story about resilience but also about the power of science as a transcendent force for personal transformation.

Book Review: "Brut: Writings On Art & Artists" - Proceed With Caution, But Proceed, by Vincent Czyz, The Arts Fuse

While proceed with caution (or skepticism) might be the best way to read this eclectic collection, I do think it’s worth reading. These are not persuasive essays; rather, they are thought-provoking juxtapositions of facts, observations, and speculations — with a teleology. Jaffe makes interesting connections between lives and across disciplines while illuminating some of the darker corners of art history.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Our Family Stories Are The Bridge Between Nature And Nurture, by Lauren Fox, Literary Hub

We tell our stories, and our stories tell us. They’re a bridge between nature and nurture, the answers to questions we might not even know we had. For me, that question took the form of the nebulous sadness and anxiety that hovered over my family. For my daughter, maybe the story that suddenly clicked for her was a clue to the fierce bond she and I share, the way it can morph, sometimes, from delight and adoration into tears and fury and then, just as quickly, back again. Or maybe it was something else, something that will come to light as she leaves home and figures out who she is.

The Time Machines Of Myrtle Beach, by Tim Campbell, The Smart Set

The 50 cent token set into motion the electro-mechanical magic of the batting cage. The magic is not in the conveyors, the wheels, or the accelerator arm which catapults hardballs dumbly into flight. It is the machine’s ability to pull special memories right out of the past and into the strike zone. To get the memories to dance among flying fastballs requires squinting a little at life and letting yourself be lifted with the suspension of the present.

Book Review: ‘The Appalachian Trail: A Biography’, by Bill Heavey, Wall Street Journal

In “The Appalachian Trail: A Biography” Philip D’Anieri, a lecturer in architecture and regional planning at the University of Michigan, provides deft, engaging profiles of a dozen people who were instrumental in the trail’s history. These range from Arnold Guyot, who literally put the Appalachian Mountains on the map, to Bill Bryson, whose bestselling “A Walk in the Woods” resulted in a 45% increase in “thru-hikers”—those who travel the entire length of the trail in a single trip. Not bad for a travel writer who walked only 10% of the trail.

I’m Sorry, Apple Sapling, by Joan Gerstein, The RavensPerch

that I cut you down
with a knife borrowed
from the cafeteria
on a dark December night

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Bob Dylan, Historian, by Sean Wilentz, New York Review of Books

Dylan’s case, though, history is only one branch of knowledge and creativity that absorbs him: whether it’s a Juvenal satire or a picture at an exhibition or a recording of Robert Johnson, Dylan responds by breaking things down, trying to understand how they work and what makes them different from everything else. As the critic Greil Marcus recently noted, it’s helpful to think of Dylan as a scholar, as well as craftsman. Do so and we might better understand how his art works.

The Becoming Of Italo Calvino, by Katy Waldman, New Yorker

“Every choice has an obverse, that is to say a renunciation,” the narrator of “The Castle of Crossed Destinies,” a shapeshifting late novel by Italo Calvino, observes. If this man is right—and he seems wise, if often visited by a strange turbulence—then we are constantly inflicting violence of a metaphysical nature. We go about our lives smothering possibilities and knifing alternatives, slashing at the fabric of reality itself. By trade, the narrator tells us, he is a fiction writer; he understands what it means to impose his will. One imagines him killing off subpar versions of his characters, littering the forks in his narrative with corpses. His off-kilter energy, which the novel itself shares—is it a shudder of reluctance, or a thrill of pleasure?

That Time The United States Almost Made A New Route 66 With Nuclear Bombs, by James Gilboy, The Drive

By harnessing the power of the atom and capturing the potential to unleash divine fire in its hands, humanity understandably developed something of a Prometheus complex when we made the first nuclear bomb. As the Cold War dragged on in the years after World War II, scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain started looking for ways this new ability could be used for the benefit of humanity, not just to kill everything and render the planet uninhabitable. But we're not talking about nuclear power—no, we're talking about the U.S. government's very real plan to detonate a bunch of nukes in the California desert and blast a highway bypass for Route 66 into existence.

I Use Food To Bond With My Father In Prison, by Simran Randhawa, Refinery29

I discovered more about my dad through the food he loved. My dad’s cooking methods tell me about his patience, the spices he is drawn to speak of complexities and his choice of ingredients signals resourcefulness. Now, he works in the kitchens and he is always telling me about the things he’s cooking – gungo beans, mackerel curry, rice and beans. In prison, his food is influenced by what he’s able to get, the people around him and the time he has.

Book Review: 'Three-Martini Afternoons' Places Poets In Fresh, Worthy Light, by Drew Gallagher, Free Lance-Star

One of the elements that makes “Three Martini” so successful is that Crowther does an exceptional job of painting both Plath and Sexton as trailblazers years before the feminist movement took a foothold in America’s conscience. Given the current climate and the #MeToo movement, Crowther has written a necessary book that has given her subject matter a fresh importance in how we reflect on the accomplishments of both Plath and Sexton.

'Widespread Panic' Might Be The Most Ellroy Book James Ellroy Has Ever Written, by Gabino Iglesias, NPR

The Demon Dog of Crime Fiction is back, and this time around it's more boocoo bad business, crooked cops, pervs, prowlers, and putzo politicians than ever, and that's saying a lot. James Ellroy's Widespread Panic is quintessential Ellroy, but with enough alliteration, Hollyweird flavor, booze, distressed damsels, communist conspiracies, and extortion to make this the most Ellroy novel he's ever written.

A Very Nice Rejection Letter Review: An Entertaining Diary Of A Writer, by Neil Armstrong, The Mail on Sunday

A statement from his publisher shows that, as a result of books being returned to the warehouse, he has sold minus 45. ‘I have therefore sold 45 fewer novels than an unpublished writer. No mean feat.’

Do We Need God For Happiness?, by Timothy Larsen, Los Angeles Review of Books

How God Becomes Real is an ethnographically-informed study focused on the development of a person’s relationship with God, including the ways in which they come to hear God speak to them. What is bracketed is the question of whether or not they are really hearing from God—or even whether or not God really exists. Whether or not God exists is an important question, of course, but it is primarily another kind of question – philosophical or theological, perhaps – rather than an anthropological one.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Why Bother Organizing Your Books? A Messy Personal Library Is Proof Of Life., by Mark Athitakis, Washington Post

Since May, I’ve been doing writing consultations over Zoom through a public library, which means exposing my unruly shelves to public scrutiny. I know everybody is too polite to say anything about it. But if somebody did, I’ll just tell them what Perec knew all along — a neat library is a dead one, and I’ll accept a little chaos as proof of my living.

The Big Tuna Sandwich Mystery, by Julia Carmel, New York Times

From a reporter’s perspective, however, the case bore further investigation — a deep dive, if you will.

So, I procured more than 60 inches worth of Subway tuna sandwiches. I removed and froze the tuna meat, then shipped it across the country to a commercial food testing lab. I spent weeks chatting with tuna experts. I waited, and waited, until the lab results came back.

Here’s what I found.

Addiction Treatment Had Failed. Could Brain Surgery Save Him?, by Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post

After nearly two decades of hardcore drug addiction — after overdoses and rehabs and relapses, homelessness and dead friends and ruined lives — Gerod Buckhalter had one choice left, and he knew it.

He could go on the same way and die young in someone’s home or a parking lot, another casualty in a drug epidemic that has claimed nearly 850,000 people like him.

Or he could let a surgeon cut two nickel-size holes in his skull and plunge metal-tipped electrodes into his brain.

Douglas Coupland On Generation X At 30: ‘Generational Trashing Is Eternal’, by Douglas Coupland, The Guardian

I’m 59 and a half years old – and these days I no longer feel that I identify as a human being. I’ve turned into an app. I’m a filter for words. I filter the ways I experience the world.

Freedom Mindset, by Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, San Antonio Express News

Juneteenth so a sistah been celebrating. Raise a toast for all those who are melanated. Basking in the beauty of what God created.

Friday, June 18, 2021

What Teffi Knew: On “Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints”, by Anna Razumnaya, Los Angeles Review of Books

We were talking about movies. Someone said that tragedies are therapeutic, while happy endings — “don’t they just make you feel awful about your own life.” His irony whipped up a flurry of mild outrage, as if everyone at once sensed in it a dark truth urgently in need of being swept under the carpet. Yet none of us could deny that, as creatures who need contrast in order to articulate our experience, even to ourselves, we are hardly ever sure that fortune is smiling upon us — unless aided by the knowledge that it has turned its back to someone else. In moments of distress, our most convenient consolation is that “it could be worse,” meaning that it could be worse and could still be mended. Teffi, the late Russian writer whose latest collection of stories in English is Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints, is unrivaled in tracing the intricate connections of sympathy and social comparison. Like no other author, she knew that comedy is tragedy amended.

For A Composer, The Final Minutes Are Critical, by Seth Colter Walls, New York Times

Closing minutes — of a movement, or of an entire work — tend to be a big deal for Cerrone. His compositions can seem like vessels that catch sparse rainfall for long stretches, thus setting critical terms of engagement for a listener, until a limit of storage is reached. Then, his writing sends this carefully husbanded material back outward in generous pourings.

Nghi Vo’s Demonic Adaptation Of ‘The Great Gatsby’ Might Be — Gasp — Jazzier Than The Original, by Ron Charles, Washington Post

Not only does Vo capture the timbre of Fitzgerald’s lush prose, but she follows the trajectory of the novel’s contrails into another realm. This is a version of “The Great Gatsby” in which partygoers drink demon blood, sorcery twists the beams of reality, and Jay Gatsby is a bisexual vampire.

Finally, the story makes sense.

Capitalism American-style: A Financial History Of The United States, by Kevin O’Kelly, Christian Science Monitor

“Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States” is a stunning accomplishment from history professor Jonathan Levy. It’s a history and analysis of the various economic systems from the Colonial period to the 2016 election. And it’s relatively free of jargon and written in lively, accessible prose.

The Surprising History Of Home Economics, From Industry To Diplomacy, by Rachel Newcomb, Washington Post

For most of us, the phrase “home economics” probably conjures up images of postwar high school classes designed to launch young women into their marital lives, fully armed with sewing and souffle-making skills. But home economics has a much more complicated and at times surprising past. In “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live,” journalist Danielle Dreilinger uncovers the complex history beyond the stereotypes of “stirring and stitching.”

Take The Bait, by Adele Elise Williams, Guernica Magazine

A student asks for eulogy guidance.
The next day, I have a brother and
we discuss sociopaths, cold worms,
how we ended up so undisturbed.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Intimate Strangers: Reading Airport Essays During A Pandemic, by Annelise Jolley, The Millions

Maybe this is, in the end, why I’ve been reading about airports. In reading, as in traveling, I want to be transported—not physically, but into a deeper engagement with the world and the people around me. Absent of the kind of traveling I’d like to do, reading has been its own kind of portal. Iyer and Jamison shuttle me back into the world of public travel, which can be both boring or luminous depending on my capacity to give attention to strangers.

The Daily Tenderness Of Cooking Dinner For Family, by Krys Malcolm Belc, Literary Hub

The earliest dinner I remember: pasta. My dorm kitchen, boxers and a tee shirt. I kept quiet. I chopped vegetables. Did the work. Anna was my first serious girlfriend, my first girlfriend at all. The way food and gender and family all swirled together for me, she didn’t know any of that yet. She only knew I said I could cook pasta and there I was.

'Republic Of Detours' Revisits A Group Of Quirky, Depression-Era Guides To The States, by Maureen Corrigan, NPR

It sounds like the premise for one of those classic screwball comedies of the 1930s: Thousands of out-of-work writers are hired by the United States government to collaborate on books. What could possibly go wrong?

But as Scott Borchert reveals in his new book, Republic of Detours, the amazing thing about the Federal Writers' Project was just how much went right.

Serena Williams: The Queen And Her Court, by Touré, New York Times

Marzorati has written a deep, satisfying meditation on Serena’s path through an unsatisfying year. But she’s still the greatest tennis player ever, and it’s instructive to watch her become a Madison Avenue darling after being rejected by so many white fans early in her career; it says a Black person can eventually win ’em over if she’s a winner and she’s sympathetic and she’s nonthreatening. Serena may be fearsome on the court, but her apolitical nature means she’s not going to challenge white supremacy in ways that make fans feel uncomfortable, while her personal triumph gives them a chance to feel good about rooting for a Black woman who’s risen up from Compton.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Is Alice Munro’s Lone Novel… Even A Novel?, by Benjamin Hedin, Literary Hub

“My ambition is to write a novel before I die.” When Alice Munro said this, in 1998, she was not at an age when we might expect to hear such an announcement: not 20 or 30, but a few years shy of 70, and already known as one of the world’s best short story writers. With seven collections behind her, Munro would go on to author six more, and in 2013 she would join Toni Morrison as one of only two North American writers of fiction to win the Nobel Prize in the last 40-plus years.

But the novel Munro was dreaming of would remain unwritten, a source of regret in spite of the fact that, according to some accounts, Munro was said to have already published one, Lives of Girls and Women, in 1971. The story of Del Jordan’s coming of age in small town Ontario in the years after World War II, Lives of Girls and Women is Munro’s second book, and her only novel—or is it?

In Lisa Taddeo’s ‘Animal,’ A Woman With A Sordid Past Reclaims Her Own Origin Story, by Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

Origin stories are rarely pretty. You can just imagine the carnage Grendel’s birth wrought on his beastly mother, or how the wolf might have had difficulty nursing Rome’s purported founders, Romulus and Remus. Lisa Taddeo’s “Animal” contains just as much as a damaged woman in her late 30s spins her own ugly, cracked but loving tale to her newborn daughter.

Book Review: Early Buzz On ‘The Other Black Girl’ Is Well-deserved, by Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel

“The Other Black Girl” is strongest in its penetrating look at book publishing, augmented by snappy, often witty dialogue, sharply created characters and well-placed pop culture references. The hilarious — and realistic — scene in which Nella firmly but diplomatically confronts the white author’s stereotypical depiction of a young Black woman is unforgettable, as is his undiplomatic reaction.

The Exploration Of Memory In Things Remembered And Things Forgotten, by Julia Shiota, Ploughshares

While the objectivity of memory—and even its actual substance—is consistently brought into question in her stories, what remains clear are the emotions attached to the act of remembering and the way these emotions meaningfully link individuals or objects across time.

Joan Didion’s Long View, by Haley Mlotek, The Nation

There was a time when reading Didion made me feel like I had swallowed something that burned—that I could taste what it might be like to make someone sick with desire—and she retains that sense of being both divisive and adored; she will remain a powerful observer of our times and someone whose style people are quick to turn into metaphor. You could read every Joan Didion book ever released, study every sentence, look for her name in the margins of other biographies and in the bylines of archived clippings, in the credits rolling past on the screen, and still, you might know nothing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Every Poem Has Ancestors, by Joy Harjo, The Paris Review

Though I loved poetry all of my life, it wasn’t until poems like “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee” by N. Scott Momaday that I turned to the making of poetry. Like Momaday, I came to poetry as an artist who painted and drew. And both Momaday and I have a love of those traditional rituals that place the speaker/singer into an intimate relationship with a place on earth, a people. I believe every poem is ritual: there is a naming, a beginning, a knot or question, then possibly revelation, and then closure, which can be opening, setting the reader, speaker, or singer out and back on a journey. I can hear the tribal speaker in his voice, in whatever mode of performance. And when I trust my voice to go where it needs to be, to find home, it returns to where it belongs, back to the source of its longing.

A Star Is Born, by Claire Cock-Starkey, Lapham's Quarterly

Physical examples of Aristarchus’ asterisks have not survived, so we cannot know their physical shape, but as the word asterisk derives from the Greek asteriskos, meaning “little star,” an assumption has been made that they resembled a small star. Aristarchus used the symbols to mark places in Homer’s text that he was copying where he thought passages were from another source. By the third century Origen of Alexandria had adopted the asterisk when compiling the Hexapla—a Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, the Septuagint. Origen used the asterisk to demarcate texts that he had added to the Septuagint from the original Hebrew. Both these early uses of the asterisk are as an editing tool, to notify the reader that the passage they are reading should be read with caution.

On Aging Alone, by Sharon Butala, The Walrus

Seventy years later, I still recall this moment, although without the shame I once associated with it—my peculiarities, my sullenness—as being when my status as a loner and a pursuer of solitude was cemented. Yet I and those friends my age who admit to suffering from loneliness do everything that remains within our power (not being able to bring the dead back to life or get rid of their own Parkinson’s, arthritis, congestive heart failure) to relieve or dispel loneliness. I tell myself that everybody feels this emotion. It is some help but not much, and my inability to find the right or true source or cause of my loneliness is as painful as the loneliness itself.

You Can’t Escape The Attention Economy, by Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

It’s appropriate to give credit to people for their creativity and compensate them for their labor. It’s empowering to siphon value from the social-media companies that have been making billions off our personal lives. But it’s also a kind of giving up.

Four Decades On, Martin Yan Faces A New Audience And A New World, by Priya Krishna, New York Times

Mr. Yan, now 72, introduced legions of people to Chinese flavors, and eventually to other Asian cuisines. In the 1980s and ’90s, he achieved what many nonwhite cooks still struggle to do today — to get Americans to view the cooking of other countries as something they can replicate at home.

Lionel Shriver’s ‘Should We Stay Or Should We Go’ Offers Many Variations On A Couple’s Fate, by Wendy Smith, Washington Post

She turns her attention to her adopted homeland in “Should We Stay or Should We Go,” which uses a middle-aged British couple’s decision to commit suicide together on the wife’s 80th birthday as a springboard to a dozen alternate outcomes. They run the gamut from blackly funny to apocalyptic, with a few surprisingly cheerful stops along the way.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Los Angeles?, by Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times

To write the definitive book about Los Angeles would be impossible. In “Everything Now,” the novelist Rosecrans Baldwin doesn’t try. And in not trying, he may have written the perfect book about Los Angeles.

Freewheeling and polyhedral, the book could serve equally as an ornament on the coffee table of a Silver Lake architect; a pamphlet at an anti-deportation rally downtown; or a primer beside bound scripts in a filmmaking class who knows where, as entertainment, Baldwin says, “often feels like an alien ship hovering over the county, spewing out chemtrails that breeze around the world.”

Library Of Rain, by Miguel Avero, translated by Jona Colson, Chicago Review

Nothing Thiago Rocca on the first shelf
with Laura and her Call
to water by name.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Julian Barnes On The Sense Of An Ending: ‘I Learned To Do More By Saying Less’, by Julian Barnes, The Guardian

I published The Sense of an Ending in 2011, when I was 65. My previous novel had come out six years before, and was the longest I had written. This was to be my shortest. Various things change you as a person and a writer as you age. You think more about time and memory; about what time does to memory, and memory does to time. You also mistrust memory more than when you were younger: you realise that it resembles an act of the imagination rather than a matter of simple mental recuperation.

The Deep Sea Is Filled With Treasure, But It Comes At A Price, by Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker

“We seem to be in a Catch-22 scenario where we haven’t explored the deep ocean because we don’t appreciate what a remarkable, mysterious, and wondrous place it is, and we don’t know what an astonishing place it is because we haven’t explored it,” she argues. Meanwhile, she writes, “we are managing to destroy the ocean before we even know what’s in it.”

Book Review: “What You Can See From Here” – Hopefully Romantic, by Melissa Rodman, The Arts Fuse

Yes, there are some heavy-handed metaphors about vision (see: the optician, the book’s title, etc.) and sentimental bits. particularly when characters recall childhood memories. But there is enough candor and humor, along with a handful of bracingly moody characters, to make Leky’s vision of perpetual love compelling. Of course, that’s because I err on the side of hope.

When Graphs Are A Matter Of Life And Death, by Hannah Fry, New Yorker

In “A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication”, Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer, a psychologist and a statistician, argue that visual thinking, by revealing what would otherwise remain invisible, has had a profound effect on the way we approach problems. The book begins with what might be the first statistical graph in history, devised by the Dutch cartographer Michael Florent van Langren in the sixteen-twenties.

The Theater, by Jana Prikryl, The Atlantic

We browsed and as usual that one I hadn’t read.
At showtime we lay down between the stacks

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Accidental True Crime Writer, by Chip Jacobs, Los Angeles Review of Books

When my city editor yelled out that she needed someone to help cover a shooting at the County General Hospital in East Los Angeles, I sunk low behind my computer, trying to be invisible. As a young metro reporter focusing on transportation back in 1993, I had barely typed a word about violent crime.

Forty minutes later, I lingered near one of the hospital’s side entrances, unable to spot any fellow journalists milling around. So, I popped open the door, figuring they might be inside. That’s when a tubby police officer whipped around the corner, telling me in an angry whisper that the gunman who’d already shot three doctors — one with a .38-caliber slug to the head — was holding two people hostage just around the bend. “Get down and go!” he said, his hand gripping a revolver.

For Literary Novelists The Past Is Pressing, by Jonathan Lee, New York Times

As students of history know, fashions ebb and flow; it’s increasingly clear that the historical novel is being embraced and reinvented.

How To Think Outside Your Brain, by Annie Murphy Paul, New York Times

My classmate back then was doing exactly what our culture commands when we are faced with challenging cognitive tasks: Buckle down, apply more effort, work the brain ever harder. This, we’re told, is how we get good at thinking. The message comes at us from multiple directions. Psychology promotes a tireless kind of grit as the quality essential to optimal performance; the growth mind-set advises us to imagine the brain as a muscle and to believe that exercising it vigorously will make it stronger. Popular science accounts of the brain extol its power and plasticity, calling it astonishing, extraordinary, unfathomably complex. This impressive organ, we’re led to understand, can more than meet any demands we might make of it.

Book Review: Author Recounts Watergate Scandal As Classic Tragedy In 'King Richard', by Jay Strafford, Free Lance-Star

With cohesion of purpose, command of subject, wealth of specificity and precision of prose, Dobbs fashions an absorbing narrative.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Rise And Fall Of Planet Hollywood, by Kate Storey, Esquire

For a few years in the nineties, these stars dropped any pretense of hauteur, while everyone else succumbed to their love of celebrity by paying ten dollars to eat a burger under the Terminator’s leather jacket. Cheesy? Yes. A massive—but fleeting—success unlike anything before it? A resounding yes.

By the start of the next decade, the enterprise would collapse, falling into bankruptcy twice, and the bold-faced names who reveled there would begin to walk away. Today, there’s a tendency among the stars involved to be overcome with sudden amnesia. It seems they’d rather we all just forget about the whole thing.

What's It Like Inside An ER? This Doctor And Author Shares Raw, Honest Stories, by Heather John Fogarty, Los Angeles Times

Touching on themes of race and gender, Harper gives voice and humanity to patients who are marginalized and offers poignant insight into the daily sacrifices and heroism of medical workers.

The Curious Case Of “Herlock Sholmès”, by Matthew Dessem, Slate

The short answer is copyright law, but the long answer is much funnier.

Why Doesn’t Philosophy Progress From Debate To Consensus?, by Chris Daly, Aeon

Yet, despite this wealth of questions and the centuries spent tackling them, philosophers haven’t successfully provided any answers. They’ve tried long and hard but nothing they’ve said towards answering those questions has quite made the grade. Other philosophers haven’t been slow to pick holes in their attempted answers and expose flaws or dubious assumptions in them. The punctures in the attempted answers then get patched up and put up for discussion again. But what happens is that new punctures appear, or the patches fail and the old punctures are revealed again. Philosophy emerges as a series of arguments without end, and its questions settle into seemingly intractable problems.

I Had To Travel 6,000 Miles To Learn This Lesson About Being Asian American, by Jean Trinh, Los Angeles Times

It took traveling more than 6,000 miles, and the kindness of my extended family, to underline the lesson I’ve been learning bit by bit for decades: There are no rules to being Asian American.

Book Review: "Refugee: A Memoir" - A Powerful Story Of The Plight Of Millions, by David Mehegan, The Arts Fuse

The dusty or sodden roads and heaving seas are full of desperate pilgrims, carrying small children or old people and what they can carry, pushing wheelchairs or market baskets from the southern hemisphere, looking for shelter and hope in the developed parts of the world. We see their forlorn faces on the nightly news, lined up in flashlight at our own border by the Border Patrol, or bodies packed shoulder to shoulder in Zodiac-type rafts supplied by traffickers at the cost of the migrants’ last pennies — all too often pathetically overturned — on the Mediterranean Sea.

We seldom read their complete stories in their own words, except in brief answers to journalists’ questions on rescue ships or in refugee camps. Thus the value of Congolese activist Emmanuel Mbolela’s comprehensive 2014 account, Refugee: A Memoir, originally published in German and now (with some updating) in English.

There Was A Cultural Shift In 1974, And Los Angeles Played A Starring Role, by Louis P. Masur, Washington Post

It is easy to think of transformative years. Some are obvious: 1776, 1861, 1914, 2001, last year. Others are notable, but do not immediately leap to mind: 1831 (I wrote a book about that year), 1877, 1968, 1989. Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at the Atlantic and political analyst for CNN, offers 1974 as a pivotal year in which Los Angeles took center stage as a cultural broker and “transformed movies, music, television, and politics.”

Friday, June 11, 2021

Dickinson’s Improvisations, Brenda Wineapple, New York Review of Books

“‘It is finished’ can never be said of us,” Emily Dickinson once wrote, and certainly there is nothing finished about Emily Dickinson. Since her death in 1886, an army of poets, playwrights, biographers, filmmakers, cartoonists, editors, and literary gumshoes have celebrated her singular, heart-stopping poems while trying to decide what her intentions must have been and how we should read her.

There Is No Metaphor Here, by Anne Valente, Guernica Magazine

The first time I heard your heartbeat, you were a green grape. You’d already been a poppy seed, a lentil, a blueberry, a kidney bean. The technician pressed a monitor to my abdomen in late January and the sound of running horses filled the room. That’s what I heard first: galloping, the hooves of so many wild horses and not your tiny grape heart. You were equine because I couldn’t describe the strange wonder of hearing you alive within me for the first time. Our baby app said you were the size of a single grape.

When The End Of Life Seems Endless, by Walter Kirn, New York Times

Yet the novel isn’t really about death, one learns while negotiating its branching paths. It’s about marriage. The persistence of relationships. For whatever direction the Wilkinsons’ lives take, or history takes, they always end up together, chattering, spatting and laughing, drinks in hand. It’s a charming notion, circuitously stated: When two become one, they need never part again.

I Burn Time, by Maya Abu al-Hayyat, translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah, New York Review of Books

like tires at a checkpoint,
alone I choke,
alone I pollute the air.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

In Covid’s Early Days, Her Loss Resonated. She Hopes Her Hope Does, Too., by Katherine Rosman, New York Times

You don’t move to New York from Ohio at 18, go to countless thanks-but-no-thanks auditions, dust yourself off again and again, or practice tap dance nightly on your small apartment bathroom floor in case a spot in the ensemble for “42nd Street” or the Rockettes opens because you think you are best suited to a life of quiet anonymity.

But she didn’t anticipate the way she’d get there. “It’s such a juxtaposition, it’s such a weird state” to realize your professional dreams because of a huge, public loss, Ms. Kloots, 39, said.

The Brain Isn’t Supposed To Change This Much, by Ed Yong, The Atlantic

Carl Schoonover and Andrew Fink are confused. As neuroscientists, they know that the brain must be flexible but not too flexible. It must rewire itself in the face of new experiences, but must also consistently represent the features of the external world. How? The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset, or hears a bell. These representations—these patterns of neural firing—presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others have found, they sometimes don’t. They change—and to a confusing and unexpected extent.

The Psychological Benefits Of Commuting To Work, by Jerry Useem, The Atlantic

In its pre-pandemic heyday, we very narrowly thought of the commute as doing one job: getting us to and from our place of work. But clearly, the commute was doing something more, something that we failed to appreciate. What was it?

'We Need New Stories' Asks: Why Are People Prone To Believing The Largest Of Lies?, by Jason Heller, NPR

By unashamedly spinning yarns to ourselves and our communities — either familial, social or political — we're able to protect ourselves from harsh truths simultaneously while harming those who feel duped when those harsh truths are discovered. She's pointing fingers, for sure, but she's not categorically condemning any one group of people — unless, of course, you count those individuals who willingly pervert not only the stories that inform our civic discourse, but the very sacred and essential human need for storytelling itself. "The strength of myths is not in facts, but in the narrative," Malik sums up. "It's important that we also stake our claim to stories." In her measured yet passionate voice, these statements aren't simply observations. They're rallying cries.

This Family Saga Finds Grace And Beauty In Ordinary Lives, Fully Lived, by Jason Sheehan, NPR

Sometimes, in the dark, a book will talk to you. The words stop crawling on the page and become music. Its voices whisper in your ear.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Chronology Of A Body, by Kate Zambreno, The Paris Review

It was the fall three years ago, massively pregnant, bouncing on an exercise ball to try to stimulate contractions, trying to not stroke out while watching the presidential debates, the one where he loomed menacingly over her like a horrible phantom, when I received an email. Would I be interested in writing a short book, a study, about a novel of my choice, for Columbia University Press? I thought I could write it fast in those early months. It took me almost two years before I could even begin thinking through it. Now, I set myself a deadline, amid the deadline of my body. One month before I find out my news, whether or not I will choose to terminate this pregnancy, whether this pregnancy will decide to end itself, whether it will continue, I will finally write this study of Hervé Guibert.

Bogus Social Media Outrage Is Making Authors Change Lines In Their Books Now, by Laura Miller, Slate

While it’s perplexing that people who are always rhapsodizing about how much they love reading can be so very bad at it, the truth is that the incentives for interpreting a book’s meaning in the worst possible light are high.

Kristen Arnett’s ‘With Teeth’ Gives Voice To A Parent’s Darkest Thoughts, by Ron Charles, Washington Post

Absolutely captivating and scathingly frank, it’s a story of motherhood stripped of every ribbon of sentimentality. Arnett conjures up the disturbing mixture of devotion and alienation endured by anyone raising a child they don’t understand, don’t even like. And at its heart, “With Teeth” explores the way parenthood exacerbates our own vulnerabilities and delusions.

Rivka Galchen’s Historical Novel Satirizes Moral Panic, by Sarah Hagi, New York Times

Galchen expertly weaves together a story told from multiple perspectives, showing how easy it is for a mob mentality to take hold in a climate of fear and ignorance when a woman simply exists outside of the norm. But within the novel’s sharpest and most humorous moments, there’s a deep underlying sadness for an elderly woman reckoning with the loss in her life. Katharina’s fictional story reminds us of the thousands of real lives of men, women and children that have been lost to absurd cultural anxiety.

When Information Became Efficient, by An Xiao Mina, The Atlantic

Like the once-ubiquitous 8-track tape, the filing cabinet was an essential marker of modernization that’s now considered clunky and outdated, with none of the mystique that some objects, such as vinyl records and windup clocks, have acquired over time. But Robertson’s captivating history makes the case that, when the filing cabinet was invented in the 1890s, it represented a new mode of efficient work. And today, its legacy informs some of our most innovative technologies, including search, Siri, and the way we organize the files on our computers.

Anna Sale Helps Us To Talk About Hard Things, by Sarah Larson, New Yorker

As Sale shows us how supportive listening happens, and doesn’t scold anyone for not doing it better, we deepen our trust for her as a narrator: she’s dispensing not “tough love” to the reader but empathy. By the end, we feel clearer, more known, and ready to proceed. In that way, her book is not unlike a good conversation with a friend.

Consumed: A Sister’s Story By Arifa Akbar Review, by Claire Allfree, London Evening Standard

This is a scrupulously told memoir, exacting on the slippery nature of grief, memory and family history, but also on the rivalries and resentments that can stealthily accumulate between two siblings who care for each other deeply.

The List, by Zoë Hitzig, Literary Hub

Who lords this list anyway. Whose lists is
the lord of this list on. Eighty days of next
on the list after a lifetime of lists. Of

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Move Over, Poe—The Real Godfather Of Gothic Horror Was Nathaniel Hawthorne, by Adam Fleming Petty, Electric Literature

Edgar Allan Poe is generally regarded as the OG of American literature. OG, of course, stands for “Original Goth.” When it comes to the creepy, the weird, and the macabre, Poe takes his place as the grandmaster of the whole black parade. Guillermo del Toro, serving as the series editor of the Penguin Horror line, writes: “It is in Poe that we first find the sketches of modern horror while being able to enjoy the traditional trappings of the Gothic tale. He speaks of plagues and castles and ancient curses, but he is also morbidly attracted to the aberrant intellect, the mind of the outsider.” Del Toro locates Poe as the American conduit for European strains of Gothicism and romanticism, letting loose the fears of the Old World upon the New.

But viewing the emergence of the American Gothic as a transatlantic phenomenon misses more homegrown explorations into the bizarre. A century before H.P. Lovecraft (inspired by Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables) depicted New England as a realm of terror and dread, Nathaniel Hawthorne was on the case, mining the region’s history for insights into the mind’s darker corners. Chiefly remembered today for The Scarlet Letter, that bane of high school curricula, Hawthorne’s highest achievements are actually found in his short stories. There, he examines the supposed innocence of the early American character, finding the darkness that lies beneath.

What Gets Lost As Little Leagues Get Smaller, by Nicholas Dawidoff, New Yorker

Travel sports seem of our time, not simply in their aspirational striving to purchase an edge, to get ahead, but in the way they create inequity and separation within the culture. Most people don’t have thousands of dollars to invest season after season in a nine-year-old third baseman. On a municipal level, most towns cannot compete with the lush facilities of the travel enterprises, which are often situated in wealthy white suburbs.

Book Review: Reading Like An Australian Writer, NewSouth Books, by Erich Mayer, ArtsHub

One is struck by the humility of these essayists. They all share a respectful though not hagiographic approach to the work of others; perhaps this is one of the reasons for their own successes. Australian writing has come a long way and this collection is a fitting tribute to that achievement as well as a stepping stone to further heights.

The Year We Battled Covid, Revisited, by Sonali Deraniyagala, New York Times

What happened? Our response to catastrophe is often bewilderment. This past year, much of the world found itself in a daze as an unknown virus appeared, rushed through countries and continents, and killed more than three and a half million people. Sixteen years ago, in another moment of earth-shattering destruction — the Indian Ocean tsunami — my family was taken from me, and I still find myself stunned. While our personal confusion about these unimaginable events will always linger, we are grateful for the clarity that comes from trying to comprehend the larger story.

Lawrence Wright’s “The Plague Year” is his testament to the year of Covid in America. The book chronicles what happened when, as he says, “the coronavirus slipped in on cat’s paws.” And it disentangles the country’s failure to properly respond to the pandemic — how was it possible that more than half a million people perished in the country with the most powerful economy in the world?

In Quantum Physics, Everything Is Relative, by Anil Ananthaswamy, New York Times

For many decades now, the mysteries of our quantum underworld have at times been confused with the other conundrum that confronts us, the nature of consciousness. But in “Helgoland,” the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli tackles both the quantum realm and the ways it helps us make sense of the mind with refreshing clarity and without hand-wavy mystery-mongering.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Where Gender-Neutral Pronouns Come From, by Michael Waters, The Atlantic

On a frigid January day, Ella Flagg Young—the first woman to serve as superintendent of the Chicago public-school system—took the stage in front of a room of school principals and announced that she had come up with a new solution to an old problem. “I have simply solved a need that has been long impending,” she said. “The English language is in need of a personal pronoun of the third person, singular number, that will indicate both sexes and will thus eliminate our present awkwardness of speech.” Instead of he or she, or his or her, Young proposed that schools adopt a version that blended the two: he’er, his’er, and him’er.

It was 1912, and Young’s idea drew gasps from the principals, according to newspaper reports from the time. When Young used his’er in a sentence, one shouted, “Wh-what was that? We don’t quite understand what that was you said.”

Last Meals, by Brent Cunningham, Lapham's Quarterly

The last meal offers an irresistible blend of food, death, and crime that drives a commercial and voyeuristic cottage industry. Studiofeast, an invitation-only supper club in New York City, hosts an annual event based on the best responses to the question, “You’re about to die, what’s your last meal?” There are books and magazine articles and art projects that address, among other things, what celebrity chefs—like Mario Batali and Marcus Samuelsson—would have for their last meals, or what the famous and the infamous ate before dying.

These Stories Dance Deftly Between America And Cameroon, by Martha Anne Toll, NPR

Walking On Cowrie Shells, Nana Nkweti's debut book of short stories, walks an impressive tightrope between laugh-out-loud comedy and breathtaking profundity. A Cameroonian American, Nkweti is a Caine Prize finalist and alumna of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her book covers a range of subjects and geography, all within a brief 180 pages, illustrated with occasional photographs and drawings that amplify the stories.

New Yorkers By Craig Taylor Review – The Big Apple Cut To The Core, by Alexander Larman, The Guardian

In 2011, the Canadian author and oral historian Craig Taylor published a series of verbatim interviews with citizens from all walks of life for a book whose aim was to build a kaleidoscopic portrait of the city. Now, nearly a decade on, he has visited New York and taken the same approach. But its residents live in a more fearful age, in the shadow of Trump, BLM protests and a global pandemic. Taylor wrote the book between 2014 and 2020, and even in these six years the city changed significantly. The world depicted here can be a harsh and bleak one, but not without humanity and wit, which Taylor captures superbly.

Nocturne, by Wanda Coleman, The Guardian

my tongue has grown strong and hard

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The World’s Northernmost Town Is Changing Dramatically, by Gloria Dickie, Scientific American

Mark Sabbatini first noticed the cracks in his apartment's concrete walls in 2014. It had been six years since he moved to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far out in the Barents Sea, about halfway between Norway's northern tip and the North Pole. He was an itinerant American writer drawn by promises of an open, international society—and jazz music. Every winter the community of Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost town at 78 degrees North latitude, holds a jazz festival to liven up the perpetual darkness. Residents, university students, tourists and visiting scientists mingle in music halls, clinking champagne glasses to melodious tones as winds howl through the surrounding mountains. On his first visit Sabbatini had arrived just in time for the festivities. Svalbard, he says, instantly felt like home. “It was like when you look across the room and spot somebody and fall in love.”

But fissures were now appearing in the relationship. Sabbatini worried the apartment cracks were caused by a leaky roof; it had been raining more than usual. Then he realized the building's concrete foundation was buckling. Fractures slithered up the stairwells and defaced the building's beige exterior. The next year tenants discovered that part of a cooling system underneath the building, meant to help keep the permafrost ground frozen and stable during warm spells, was faltering. “And we were getting a lot of warm spells,” Sabbatini says. Suddenly, on a February afternoon in 2016, town officials ordered the occupants to evacuate, afraid the building could collapse. Sabbatini and 29 others had only a few hours to pack and get out.

When Missing People Don’t Want To Be Found: ‘I’d Removed Myself To Push The World Away’, by Francisco Garcia, The Guardian

When she didn’t turn up to meet a friend in London the next day, alarm bells started ringing. Within hours there were hundreds of tweets about her, describing her, detailing her last known movements, and asking for information.

But Esther hadn’t planned to become a missing person. She just wanted a break, and had taken herself somewhere else to get some space. “In my eyes, people were missing from me,” she told me last summer. “I’d removed myself from everything, to try to push the world away.”

The Real Threat To The Empire Of English, by Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

There is just one threat to English as the world’s lingua franca, and it is not Mandarin. It is not even the (overrated) potential of translation technologies. It is the language’s own descent into bullshit.

Bookseller’s Love Story In Wartime Paris Shows Past Is Never Behind Us, by Sridhar Balan, Deccan Chronicle

Everyone has a story and sometimes this story is made up of several stories culminating in one major narrative. This narrative is what we tell ourselves and so often that we believe it. Not only does it promote a perception of ourselves but more importantly, it’s how we want others to perceive us. This narrative not only shapes our self-concept but also helps us in approaching relationships, situations and decision-making.

Charlotte Foret, the main protagonist in our story has such a narrative. It helps her and her young Vivi to survive not only the latter stages of the war but also lead a more fulfilling life after liberation.

Love Rides The Q Train In This Supernaturally Sweet Romance, by Kamrun Nesa, NPR

One Last Stop is an electrifying romance that synapses into the dreamy "Hot Person Summer" kind of story you wish you were a part of. McQuiston is leading the charge for inclusive happy-ever-afters, radiant with joy and toe-curling passion, and bursting with the creative range to make anything from electricity to social activism sound sexy.

All Things Great And Small, by Priyamvada Natarajan, New York Review of Books

Three new books examine our current understanding of matter’s origin and qualities, and chronicle our continuing quest to probe beyond atoms.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Stephen Mangan: ‘Whenever I Considered Writing, I Thought: “What Right Do You Have?”’, by Hadley Freeman, The Guardian

While the book’s structure bears echoes of classic children’s novels, thematically it does something very different. The death of at least one parent is as common a trope in children’s literature as fairy godmothers. “It makes sense, because you have to give the kids agency, and it’s part of the fantasy,” Mangan says. But in Escape the Rooms, the death of Jack’s mother doesn’t free him: it traps him in emotional stasis, and the rooms, it quickly becomes clear, represent moving through the grieving process.

An Argentinean Novel Spins Countless Stories From A Bicycle Wheel, by Kamil Ahsan, NPR

Coincidences are ceaseless in César Aira's The Divorce, a 2008 novel with a new English translation by Chris Andrews. The coincidences and the rambunctious absurdism are nothing new to Aira's readers, but rarely before has the author seemed so purposeful. "Let us take advantage of this frozen moment to sketch in the spatial and temporal background," our narrator says towards the end of the novel. The frozen moment is the moment the water falls on Enrique as he holds his bicycle, "from whose spinning stories are born."

Sorrow And Bliss By Meg Mason Review – Tender, Huge-hearted Comedy, by Clare Clark, The Guardian

Mason pulls off something extraordinary in this huge-hearted novel, alchemising an unbearable anguish into something tender and hilarious and redemptive and wise, without ever undermining its gravity or diminishing its pain.

Review: 'Diary Of A Young Naturalist,' By Dara McAnulty, by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

"Diary of a Young Naturalist" is a remarkable book, the most moving memoir I have read in years. Now 17, Dara wrote it when he was 14, and his knowledge at such a young age amazed me — not just his understanding of the natural world, which is immense, but of literature (feeling the "peaty cold" of a bog pond reminds him of a Seamus Heaney poem), of Irish history and legends, of music and politics. His writing is clear and honest, laced with analogies from nature. (A goshawk chick "looks like an autumn forest rolled in the first snows of winter.")

Running At Night, by Donna M. Davis, The RavensPerch

Gravity seems to pull less,
and feet drift above asphalt.

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Tyranny Of Time, by Joe Zadeh, Noema

Academic studies explored how our emotions (such as pandemic-induced grief and anxiety) could be distorting our perception of time. Or maybe it was just because we weren’t moving around and experiencing much change. After all, time is change, as Aristotle thought — what is changeless is timeless. But rarely did the clock itself come into question — the very thing we use to measure time, the drumbeat against which we defined “weird” distortions. The clock continued to log its rigid seconds, minutes and hours, utterly unaware of the global crisis that was taking place. It was stable, correct, neutral and absolute.

But what makes us wrong and the clock right? “For most people, the last class they had devoted to clocks and time was early in primary school,” Kevin Birth, a professor of anthropology at the City University of New York who has been studying clocks for more than 30 years, told me recently. “There’s this thing that is central to our entire society, that’s built into all of our electronics. And we’re wandering around with an early primary school level of knowledge about it.”

In Praise Of Small Menus, by Rachel Sugar, GrubStreet

The first New York City restaurant I fell in love with served only one thing. I had not known this was a possibility. I had never encountered a restaurant that did not require me to make any decisions at all. Here is how it worked: You showed up at dinnertime. You got dinner. You didn’t have to take responsibility for your choices, because there were no choices. I felt like a very sophisticated baby. What I mean is, it was perfect.

The Pillow, by Emma Duffing, The Smart Set

When I was little, about eight years old, I found comfort in body pillows. Sleeping next to one made me feel safe: no monsters could get to me while I slept. After my parents bought me my first body pillow, I decided I wanted more so that I could build a fortress in my bed and hide from all the unknown evils lurking in the shadows of my room. My grandparents thought the idea of little Emma surrounded by pillows taller than her was hilarious, so they bought me two more. My armor was finally complete.

Tokyo Redux By David Peace Review – An Astonishing Conclusion To The Trilogy, by Tanjil Rashid, The Guardian

Many novels are hyped as “polyphonic”, but Peace’s now complete Tokyo trilogy truly is, brilliantly summoning forth multiple voices in the soundscape of a city gripped by seismic change.

Revisiting An Unchanged Venice, by Deb Caletti, The Millions

Just as it is when you are there in person, Italy, and Venice itself, was a feast for the senses and a tonic for the spirit. Those timeless buildings, the water flowing for centuries, all of the words—written on ancient manuscripts, typed on pages, sung from a balcony—were reminders of an ageless truth: human beings have suffered, but human beings have endured.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Et Tu, Brute?, by Jonathan Meades, Literary Review

In times like these we have to rue that Britain has only a paltry tradition of political assassination. This, I’d propose, is not a mark of civilisation but of timidity and the eschewal of realpolitik. To overcome our squeamishness, we might gainfully study this breathless race through two thousand years of special pollarding, which might have been more aptly named ‘Assassination: A Handbook’, for it is, among much else, an inventory of means and methods: blades, blunt objects, poisons and toxins, guns and ammo, shots from motorcycles, bombs, defenestration and plump cushions.

Sinéad O'Connor Isn't Looking For Sympathy With Her New Memoir, Just A Little Truth, by Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

Sinéad O’Connor has written a memoir called “Rememberings,” and if you think you know what to expect, you’d best brush up on your Yeats.

A Day With New York’s Bird Paramedics, by Victoria Bekiempis, Curbed

Just after 6 a.m. on a recent Monday, Calista McRae is in downtown Manhattan, walking a digressive loop through the morning mist from 4 World Trade Center to 1 World Trade Center to Brookfield Place and back around. McRae is 34, with a springy and fast step, and she will repeat this journey until 9 a.m. and return nearly every day during the spring and fall bird-migration seasons. She’s carrying two shopping bags, the larger of which is a FreshDirect tote printed with images of fruit and the phrase “This Summer, Life Is Peachy.” As we walk, we hear a little rustle coming from the big bag. “That’s a good sound,” she says.

McRae is one of about 30 New York City Audubon volunteers who search for injured and dead birds in the city’s commercial centers. They are part of the group’s Project Safe Flight, tallying injuries and fatalities and documenting particularly dangerous spots. In doing so, McRae and others rescue birds that have collided with tall buildings’ reflective glass surfaces — tending to the injured, scooping up the dead. A few minutes earlier she had come across a black-and-white warbler on the ground, stunned but alive, and that’s the source of the noise in her tote. She’d gently put it into its own tiny brown-paper bag — smaller than a lunch baggie — and then closed it with a miniature black binder clip. “The bags are breathable,” she explained. The little paper bags are then put into a larger paper bag and stowed in the FreshDirect tote to minimize shock and stress. Rustling means a bird is weirded out by the bag, but weirded out means alive, McRae said.

The Great Wings Rush, by Josh Dzieza, The Verge

It was March 2020, and restaurants across the country were shutting down, setting up takeout windows, or doing whatever they could to absorb the shock of COVID. But it was Chuck E. Cheese, of all places, that had the foresight and steely clarity to see not just what the new era required, but what it permitted. With much of America suddenly interacting with restaurants through delivery apps, the food industry had been transformed into e-commerce, and the arcade better known for its ball pits than its food was free to invent a new identity: “Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings.”

'The Kissing Bug' Challenges Which Diseases Matter — And Why, by Kristen Martin, NPR

Hernández's book The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation's Neglect of a Deadly Disease weaves together family memoir and investigative journalism to come to terms with the disease that ultimately killed her aunt. Through piecing together her own family's story, the history of Chagas, and the stories of other patients' illnesses, Hernández raises damning questions about which infectious diseases get attention and whom we believe to be deserving of care.

On The Fringe By Michael D Gordin Review – Why Pseudoscience Is Here To Stay, by PD Smith, The Guardian

The label of pseudoscience has been applied to everything from ufology and eugenics to the pursuit of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster (or cryptozoology, to use its scientific name). What do we mean by pseudoscience and why in our techno-scientific age are such fringe ideas still so prevalent? These are the questions Gordin seeks to answer in this brief (some 128 pages) yet fascinating book.

The Listening, by Ed Roberson, New York Times

We always think we are
listening from a distance —

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

X Is The Best Letter In The Alphabet, by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, New York Times

We live in a time when so much of our language feels insufficient to describe the complicated world in which we find ourselves. It feels right to be named with something definitive that also marks what is unknown — a destination that will, like all of us, necessarily and always evolve.

‘Who Are We Performing For?’: Will McPhail On The Strange Art Of Small Talk, by Elle Hunt, The Guardian

McPhail has built a whole career on examining the minutiae of human interactions with fond exasperation and impish humour, the kinds of autopilot-patter we all deploy to smooth our passage through life. As a regular cartoonist for the New Yorker, McPhail pokes gentle fun at social conventions and the ludicrousness of following them when, in the end, we’re all going to die anyway.

A Lucid, Literary Illustration Of The Complex, Beautiful Work Of Memory, by Parul Sehgal, New York Times

How can traumatic flashbacks of this sort override reality and erode our hard-won insights? Why do they feel as if they are occurring in the present? What neural processes make this possible? How does any memory, good or bad, cause us to re-experience events and emotions?

These questions provoked O’Keane’s roving, riverine inquiry into memory, experience, the brain — and how these elements come together to produce a self.

A Book About Absorbing What We Love Until It Transforms Us, by Nina Maclaughlin, New York Times

The book, a powerful, bewitching blend of memoir and literary investigation, centers on this search, and is as much about what she doesn’t find as what she does. Ni Ghriofa is deeply attuned to the gaps, silences and mysteries in women’s lives, and the book reveals, perhaps above all else, how we absorb what we love — a child, a lover, a poem — and how it changes us from the inside out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Behind The Painstaking Process Of Creating Chinese Computer Fonts, by Tom Mullaney, MIT Technology Review

The core problem that designers faced was translating between two radically different ways of writing Chinese: the hand-drawn character, produced with pen or brush, and the bitmap glyph, produced with an array of pixels arranged on two axes. Designers had to decide how (and whether) they were going to try to re-create certain orthographic features of handwritten Chinese, such as entrance strokes, stroke tapering, and exit strokes.

How The World Ran Out Of Everything, by Niraj Chokshi, New York Times

But the tumultuous events of the past year have challenged the merits of paring inventories, while reinvigorating concerns that some industries have gone too far, leaving them vulnerable to disruption. As the pandemic has hampered factory operations and sown chaos in global shipping, many economies around the world have been bedeviled by shortages of a vast range of goods — from electronics to lumber to clothing.

In a time of extraordinary upheaval in the global economy, Just In Time is running late.

As Venice Floods, A Lush, Malice-Infused Mystery Unfolds, by Sarah Lyall, New York Times

A good-luck talisman that mysteriously vanishes; manuscript pages that may or may not have been deliberately flung into the canal; floods that threaten to swallow streets and people, in a city under siege; a touch of literary theft — all these figure in “Palace of the Drowned.” It takes some patience to remain inside the fevered mind of Frankie, with its daily questioning of its own sanity, but the wait is worth it. When you learn the truth at the end, you’ll want to go back and rethink everything you read before.

Breaking Out Of Prison With A Ouija Board And Some Clever Tricks, by Chris Jennings, New York Times

Going all the way back to the stratagems of Odysseus, certain war stories draw their fascination from the breathtaking cleverness occasionally sparked by the will to survive. “The Confidence Men,” Margalit Fox’s riveting account of two British officers who sprang themselves from an Ottoman prison camp during World War I using a Ouija board, sleight of hand, feigned madness and vast stores of creativity, is such a tale. Like the “Odyssey,” Fox’s book is less about war than the winding path home.