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This is one of the most anticipated publishing events of all time, and curiousity has been building. Even inside Random House, only a half dozen employees have been allowed to read The Lost Symbol in its entirety. The book remains so deeply under wraps that we’ve agreed to keep our stockpile under 24-hour-guard in its own chain-link enclosure, with two locks requiring two separate people for entry. –“Dear Da Vinci Code fans,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com (via)
Lorrie Moore on the writing life–see also: review of Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, by Jonathan Dee, in the September Harper’s (subscribers only);
Benjamin Moser discusses his new book on the Leonard Lopate Show;
Helen DeWitt on being purchased secondhand;
Ireland bans samurai swords
Letters written by [T.S.] Eliot when he was a publisher at Faber & Faber reveal for the first time how he risked the wrath of the British authorities to bring out Nightwood, one of the first lesbian novels ever written. Previously unseen correspondence to be displayed at the British Library shows that Eliot thought the 1936 book, by Djuna Barnes, was “the last big thing to be done in our time.” Later diary excerpts from Ted Hughes in the 1960s refer to the poet as “the Guru-in-chief”, describing the older Eliot as a “father figure.” Eliot’s letters to his three-year-old godson, descriptions of his role as a fire warden during the Blitz and stories about his wartime problems with paper and ink shortages all paint a striking new image of a man with a benevolent, compassionate side. –“Eliot Revealed as Defender of Lesbian Fiction,” Paul Bignell, the Independent (via)
IKEA seating for book-lovers;
New International Version to become New New International Version;
Ben & Jerry’s gay new ice cream;
Sarah Palin, according to Levi Johnston: “I want to just take this money and quit being governor”;
13 percent of Wikipedians are women
RS: Apolitical is a political position, yes, and a dreary one. The choice by a lot of young writers to hide out among dinky, dainty, and even trivial topics—I see it as, at its best, an attempt by young white guys to be anti-hegemonic, unimposing. It relinquishes power—but it also relinquishes the possibility of being engaged with the really interesting and urgent affairs of our time, at least as a writer. The challenge is how can you not be the moralizing, grandstanding beast of the baby boomers but not render yourself totally ineffectual and—the word that comes to mind is miniature. How can you write about the obscure things that give you pleasure with a style flexible enough to come round to look at more urgent matters? Humor matters here, and self-awareness, and the language of persuasion and inclusion rather than hectoring and sermonizing. You don’t have to be a preacher to talk about what matters, and you don’t have to drop the pleasures of style. If you can be passionate about, say, Russian dictionary entries from the early nineteenth century, can you work your way up to the reconstruction of New Orleans? And can you retain some of the elegance and some of the pleasure when you look at big, pressing topics? I think you can. It’s what I’ve tried to do. I still think the revolution is to make the world safe for poetry, meandering, for the frail and vulnerable, the rare and obscure, the impractical and local and small, and I feel that we’ve lost if we don’t practice and celebrate them now, instead of waiting for some ’60s never-neverland of after-the-revolution. And we’ve lost the revolution if we relinquish our full possibilities and powers. –“Rebecca Solnit,” The Believer
From Harper’s: read “News From Nowhere: Iceland’s polite dystopia” and “Detroit Arcadia: Exploring the post-American landscape” by Rebecca Solnit
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”