On the Shelf
March 11, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- George Saunders is the first to win the new £40,000 Folio Prize.
- Joe McGinniss is dead, at seventy-one.
- Illustrations from international editions of Don Quixote published in the quixotic sixties.
- “As a teenager, I thought I was the only person who revered Geek Love … Years later, when I was an editor at The Paris Review, I wrote to Dunn, and we became occasional pen pals.”
- Stonehenge may have been a “prehistoric glockenspiel”; it’s made of “lithophones, or rocks that produce notes when struck.”
- “His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces.”
March 10, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Writing advice for children: “If you can get inside the creepy, disgusting mind of a monster you will really scare your reader.”
- For more than a century, the Times has seldom passed up an opportunity to discuss the monocle: “Monocles used to be gimmicky … but now people realize they are useful with menus and theater programs.”
- Thirty cult films you must see, including Sharktopus: “the tale of a genetically engineered half shark, half octopus who wreaks havoc at the beach.”
- At last, a quantum leap in airship technology—the new Airlander can stay aloft for three weeks, and is, despite its bulbous bloat, pretty handsome to behold.
- Silence is now a luxury product. “The fiercely defended philosophy of the quiet car is spreading.”
March 7, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Because completion is for rubes—twelve books that end in the middle of a
- A new app promises to help you speed-read. The technology is compelling, even if its name, Spritz, reminds one of cheap perfume and poolside wine cocktails.
- Remembering, or simply remembering to notice, the arches of New York: “These structures were also marvels of artistic engineering, combining intricate brickwork with functional arrays of vaults and pillars, all leading to a kind of Mediterranean dreamworld of colonnades.”
- “Britain’s best loved writers and storytellers have transformed themselves into the characters they most loved as children.” There’s Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and, perhaps best of all, there’s Malorie Blackman as the Wicked Witch of the West.
- “Everything about the Vikings was designed to stress their individuality … They were a bit like today’s punks or Hell’s Angels.”
March 6, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Sherwin B. Nuland, the author of How We Die, is dead.
- In Los Angeles, a group of ghost hunters are chasing the dead.
- The punk ethos of the Lower East Side is dead.
- The Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch died in 1731, but his deathly sketches still haunt us today: “not only did he exalt the human anatomy as a wondrous product of creation, but he presented himself as a veritable artist of death.”
- On the eastern seaboard, the hemlock is dying out. Though the tree bears only a superficial resemblance to the plant that killed Socrates, “it seems impossible to separate the hemlock tree from the hemlock plant’s poison, for a poet to keep the death of Socrates out of the picture—for death is in the forest, especially a hemlock forest, especially now.”
March 5, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- “What does the term ‘successful writer’ mean to you?” (Sample answers from writers at AWP: “Joy,” “$ and Happiness,” “Having a great publicist.”)
- “The list in our time (‘28 Places To See Before You Die,’ or else what?) makes its fantastical claim that order exists, that order can be known … but this is not true.” TPR contributor J. D. Daniels rallies against listicles in a piece we’re pleased to include in this listicle.
- Today in juxtaposition: an artist superimposes Canaletto’s paintings of Venice and London against modern Google Street View photos of the cities.
- Uncelebrated and yet indispensable: New York City voiceover artists. “You’re background, you’re furniture. You provide atmosphere. But let’s face it, you’re not important.”
- “I’m just a normal guy … But where I go to work each day just might surprise you … Sorry. Didn’t mean to do that. It’s one of the risks of the trade, I guess. I write headlines for Upworthy.”
March 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Who owns the moon? It could be you! (It’s probably not you.)
- The National Enquirer’s sixties covers show how the language of scandal has evolved—what used to pass as odious is now just sort of quaint. “I’M A SLOB. I Burp & Slurp in Public,” says one headline. The horror.
- Brian Eno has chosen twenty essential books for saving civilization; I’ve read zero of them.
- “I thought at the time it was really bad luck to survive. I really wanted to die with them.” An interview with a kamikaze pilot.
- The surreal world of prison portraiture: “visitation rooms of penitentiaries have backdrops where friends and family can get pictures taken of/with the inmate … Often, these backgrounds are idyllic landscapes that offer the inmate a moment to emotionally escape their sentence.”