The Paris Review Daily

This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Oology, Impostors, Sweden

July 26, 2013 | by

Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of England’s Natural History Museum at Tring, home of the world’s largest bird-egg collection, in his zebra-drawn carriage.

Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of England’s Natural History Museum at Tring, home of the world’s largest bird-egg collection.

Julian Rubinstein’s “Operation Easter,” in last week’s New Yorker, has been my breakfast reading and dinner conversation most of this week. Concerned with the obsession for collecting birds’ eggs—a mania that dates back almost to the mid-nineteenth century—the article relates lurid tales of collectors falling off cliffs in pursuit of nests, hiding amassed collections in secret compartments in their beds, and donning guises to steal eggs from a museum (the party in question pinched ten thousand eggs in some three years). When investigators from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds apprehend a suspect in his apartment, the man tells them, “Thank God you’ve come … I can’t stop.” With investigators jumping into cars, busting down doors, and engaging in two-day island-wide manhunts, this article reads more than a little like a thriller. I’d love to see Gary Oldman in a starring role when it hits the big screen. —Nicole Rudick

I can’t help seconding Sadie’s recommendation of In Love, a novella by Alfred Hayes that has just been reissued by New York Review Classics. The story of a casual love affair that becomes serious as soon it starts to fall apart, In Love harks back to a classic French tradition—what you might call the Novel of Disillusionment—perfected over a century by Constant, Flaubert, Turgenev, and Proust, among others. At the same time, in its use of one-sided dialogue, its film noir sensibility, and its evocation of New York life, this 1953 masterpiece also seems utterly modern—a culmination and a book utterly at home in its moment. —Lorin Stein

This month I had a particularly blue moment. I returned to an old favorite, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye , and then immediately afterward read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, a book that had been recommended to me several times by fellow students and professors alike. It would be difficult for me to state, with confidence, what exactly Bluets is about. The book-length essay is written in vignettes, each numbered and varying in length. Nelson begins with a captivating proposition: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” Something that began as “[a]n appreciation, an affinity” became something “more serious” and then “it became somehow personal.” I drifted easily into Nelson’s world of blue, in which she seamlessly strings together personal narratives, quotes, and facts, each poignant sketch its own bluish jewel. —Jo Stewart

A German who spent almost thirty years in the United States under false documentation–and managed to convince others he was a Rockefeller, while he was at it. A young man who conned half of New York into believing that he was Sidney Poitier’s abandoned son. And, of course, Ferdinand Demara, “the Great Impostor,” whose most spectacular feat of impersonation was masquerading as a trauma surgeon on a naval destroyer during the Korean War, being called upon to operate on fatally wounded men, speed-reading a medical textbook, and saving the lives of all those under his knife. I stumbled upon the stories of these and other pretenders on this engrossing Time list of “Top 10 Impostors” while reading about Darius McCollum, the autism-spectrum transit junkie whose love for trains, subways, and buses has put him behind bars for eighteen of his forty-eight years. McCollum hit the news yet again this week, first for an incarceration sentencing for a 2010 offense of impersonating a Trailways coach driver and taking a load of passengers from Manhattan to JFK Airport, and again the next day for the the news that he may have the chance to enter a rehabilitation program instead of serving more time. —Clare Fentress

This week, deep down the constellation of rabbit-holes opened up by a fact-checking endeavor, I found myself thoroughly enjoying an interview with Truman Capote. Though not technically a Paris Review interview—it was published in the New York Times in 1966, but conducted by our own George Plimpton—the piece contains the Review’s signature mélange of considerations of literary craft and form and indulgences in the interviewee’s idiosyncrasies. My favorite moment concerns an alleged transformation of Capote’s style, elicited by his lengthy stay in Kansas while working on In Cold Blood. Capote reveals, among other things, what appears to be an immense distaste for detachable collars. Read the full interview here. —Kate Rouhandeh

One of the key elements of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape design was the lack of right angle intersections. Besides safety precautions (with curving streets, you were able to see further ahead), Olmsted’s avoidance created more of, what he termed, private land with a public function. For Olmsted, as geographer Anne Mosher writes in her comprehensive Capital’s Utopia, “there existed in nature aesthetic and re-creative qualities that could counter the psychologically harmful aspects of city life.” This aesthetic was desirable to early planned communities, many funded by corporations (see Riverside, Illinois, and Vandergrift, Pennsylvania), the perfect compromise between private and public, between domesticity and community, and between city and country. —Justin Alvarez

This summer, I’ve been planning my trip to Sweden. Its improbability hasn’t prevented me from cooking, reading, and watching all things Swedish. Henning Mankell’s Wallander, a police drama based in Ystad, is one way I get my Swedish fix. Krister Henriksson plays the weathered inspector Kurt Wallander, who lives by the sea with his dog, listens to classical records, and solves murders. The show is beautifully filmed and written; whether you are a fan of detective shows or just looking for a high-quality television addiction, consider it highly recommended. —Emily Belshaw

Way back in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading archive, Seth Fried’s “The Adventure of the Space Traveler” has one foot in metaphor, and the other in suspicious realism. The narrator, Arnold Barington, gets catapulted into the universe’s expanse after a failed attempt to fix a communications disk at the Triumph I space station. He survives on green crackers and nutritional pink fluid (“with an aftertaste of grapefruit juice”) that are attached to the inside of his spacesuit. He recites Auden and daydreams about a Hollywood actress back on Earth. His loneliness, vast as space itself, seems to have been equally as vast even before he was yanked away (by the universe?) from all human contact. As his daydreams (interesting word choice, considering there’s no “day”) eclipse reality, one has to ask, if one’s reality is composed entirely of dreams, then is it, in fact, reality? Is reality even a valid concept outside of Earth? Is it the only concept outside of Earth? —Nikkitha Bakshani

Last night, I attended Drinks to Die For, the joint effort of the Brooklyn Historical Society and Green-Wood Cemetery to turn the historic cemetery into a beer garden. We sat on the steps of a mausoleum. We contemplated epitaphs. We went for a stroll, occasionally happening upon other meanderers holding their own Brooklyn Lagers. No words were exchanged, but our eyes would meet as if to say, “I see you are also drinking beer in a cemetery.” Don’t miss the last such evening of the summer, on August 22. —Valerie Slaughter

 

1 COMMENT

1 Comments

  1. J. D. Daniels | July 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Rubinstein’s “Operation Easter” was terrific. I am happy to see it mentioned here.

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