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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
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”