August 24, 2016 | by Vanessa Davis
August 24, 2016 | by Clay Byars
Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago.
In my high school creative-writing class, one day a week was set aside for reading, our choice of material. The hippieish teacher guided those choices, but almost anything worked. It was here, because of her, that I first encountered Alan Watts, specifically his essay collection This Is It. All I remember about the book itself is my teacher dreamily commenting on the title. I picked up a copy because it was short, and because the subtitle—and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience—spoke to me. The idea seemed “cool”—Watts was a forerunner of the counterculture movement—but I must have been too busy with the eternity of high school to focus my attention.
I was in college when I was in a car accident that tore a nerve in my shoulder. A botched surgery to repair it severed an artery and released a blood clot that, a week later, caused a massive stroke that left me locked inside my body. I couldn’t move or speak, and the doctors said I would be paralyzed from the eyes down for the rest of my life. Read More »
August 24, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in occasions for self-satisfaction: a new study suggests that readers of literary fiction have an improved understanding of other people’s emotions, which doesn’t explain why that guy reading Shalimar the Clown on the train was such a jerk to me. “Academics David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from the New School for Social Research in New York, put more than 1,000 participants through the ‘author recognition test,’ which measured exposure to fiction by asking respondents to identify writers they recognized from a list … Those who had recognized more literary fiction authors in the list were better at inferring others’ feelings, a faculty known as theory of mind.” (People have gotten very excited about this on Twitter, but no one seems to have reached the article’s devastating conclusion: “ ‘It doesn’t mean you can give Don DeLillo to an autistic child and they’ll be fine.’ ”)
August 23, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
Is Kanye’s McDonald’s poem a parable of class struggle?
When I wrote in May about the seriocomic implications of a Burger King Spa opening in Helsinki, I thought I’d pegged the most extraordinary fast-food story of the year. Reader, I blew it. In the past month alone, McDonald’s has opened a “McDonald’s of the Future” in Saint Joseph, Missouri, luring customers to their purportedly healthier, Chipotlified restaurant by promising all-you-can-eat fries; BK has debuted the “Whopperito,” a burger-burrito hybrid that fits in your cup holder; and KFC has sold two thousand bottles of fried-chicken-scented SPF 30 sunscreen. For any writer hoping to capture the texture of our greasy-fingered moment, the ineffable Sturm und Drang of life in a world where Denny’s believes the ideal male body is a stack of flapjacks, the outlook is grim. As Philip Roth wrote, American reality “stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents.” And he said that before Chicken Fries were a thing.
But Philip Roth is no Kanye West, and Kanye West won’t just sit there while actuality outdoes his talents—heaven forfend. Instead, Kanye West has published a poem about Mickey D’s in Boys Don’t Cry, a one-off zine from Frank Ocean. It goes like this: Read More »
August 23, 2016 | by The Paris Review
This is it, people: the final week to get a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. (Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.)
We’re also nearing the end of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself (or your friends, children, or pets) reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. And we’re sure we needn’t remind you that anyone or anything can be made to read—even unnervingly lifelike statues of non-Western cartoon characters.
Now get yourself a joint subscription, head outdoors, and hashtag your way to victory.
August 23, 2016 | by Witold Rybczynski
A brief history of chairs.
There is a pivotal early scene in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia in which T. E. Lawrence and his superior, Colonel Brighton, visit the desert encampment of Prince Faisal, a leader of the Arab Revolt. The royal tent is spartan yet luxurious, patterned woven cloths hang from the low ceiling, a large brass samovar gleams in the candlelight, the ground is covered with a rich carpet. There is no furniture; the men sit on the carpet. Brighton, in his tailored uniform, polished Sam Browne belt, and riding boots, looks distinctly ill at ease with his legs awkwardly stretched out in front of him. Lawrence, a lieutenant and less formally dressed, appears slightly more comfortable, with his legs folded to one side. The prince, attired in a dark robe and a white ghutrah, reclines on a pile of sheepskins, while his colleague Sherif Ali leans casually against a tent pole. The various postures cinematically underline a central point: the relaxed Bedouins are at home in this place—the desert—while the stiff English colonel is an interloper. Lawrence is somewhere in between.
The world is divided into people who sit on the floor and those who sit on chairs. In a classic study of human posture around the world, the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes identified no fewer than a hundred common sitting positions. “At least a fourth of mankind habitually takes the load off its feet by crouching in a deep squat, both at rest and at work,” he observed. Deep squatting is favored by people in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is almost as common. Many South Asians cook, dine, work, and relax in that position. Certain Native American tribes in the Southwest, as well as Melanesians, customarily sit on the floor with legs stretched straight out or crossed at the ankles. Sitting with the legs folded to one side—Lawrence’s position above—is described by Hewes as a predominantly female posture in many tribal societies. Read More »