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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)
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”