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The man has tried, of course; we’ve gotten patches of narrative around all the important issues—the economy, the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror (a.k.a. the Undiebomber)—but I’ve yet to hear anything that excites that part of my brain which loves, which craves the symmetries the pleasures of well-told tale. Just this past Tuesday we saw the consequences for the President of not having a real story to draw upon. In Massachusetts, the President was faced with an insurgent Republican candidate who was telling a story that should have been familiar to the Commander-in-Chief: the story of an upstart outsider with energy and ideas, who was going to shake things up, etc. The President tried to help Martha Coakely by campaigning, but since his Administration doesn’t seem to do story he couldn’t lend her one. He could only show up as himself, and that clearly was not enough. A man cannot withstand a story, even if the man is remarkable and the story is simple. The story always wins. –“One Year: Storyteller-in-Chief,” Junot Díaz, The New Yorker
Last summer, Louis Menand tabulated that there were 822 creative writing programs. Consider this for a moment: If those programs admit even 5 to 10 new students per year, then they will cumulatively produce some 60,000 new writers in the coming decade. Yet the average literary magazine now prints fewer than 1,500 copies. In short, no one is reading all this newly produced literature—not even the writers themselves. And with that in mind, writers have become less and less interested in reaching out to readers—and less and less encouraged by their teachers to try. –“The Death of Fiction?” by Ted Genoways, Mother Jones
Ten thousand U.S. servicemembers are now on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Ten thousand U.S. troops providing security from lawlessness and looters and adding muscle to rescue and recovery efforts. Surely their arrival will help Haitians sleep sounder these nights. (By the end of the week, another 6,000 will be helping, too.) But ten thousand is also half the number of soldiers dispatched by Washington to Haiti in 2001 when Jean Bertrand Aristide needed support as he was forging a new chance at Haiti’s revival. Three years later, when he failed to deliver, it was a U.S. Air Force jet that flew the once popular, ever populist, but increasingly despotic president to Africa with instructions to not come back. Aristide then was not up against a task as large as the one that confronts his country today. Aristide today only weeps and begs to be returned to help his homeland. –“God Hearts Haiti,” Elizabeth Kiem, The Morning News
News that is not Haiti, nor health care;
also: chickenlicker apprehended;
and this important headline: “Infant sealed in concrete by a Brooklyn couple charged with enslaving hooker mom was beaten to death”;
Wikipedia on immurement (see also Poe, E. A.);
bones of granddaughter of Alfred the Great discovered (via)
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature