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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn’

Hunting John Wilkes Booth’s Diary, and Other News

June 11, 2014 | by

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Booth ca. 1865. His diary may be in an abandoned tunnel in Brooklyn.

  • Knausgaard responds to his newfound celebrity
  • … and the French shrug at that celebrity. “Knausgaard gives us one striking example of what looks again like a very French phenomenon … The list of French books in the same vein of meticulous self-analysis is nearly infinite … Let’s hope that Knausgaard’s unexpected success will make them rethink their hasty judgment and consider the French production with fresh eyes.”
  • Is John Wilkes Booth’s diary in a forgotten Brooklyn subway tunnel?
  • The complex, semitragic history of Entertainment Weekly and ent-fo, i.e., “entertainment information”: “The plan was highly digestible reviews intended to keep the bourgeoisie in touch … They wanted to assist ‘the aging baby boomer who still wants to be plugged in,’ using a scale (A to F) that reflected the ‘universal experience’ of school grades. If you read EW, the logic went, you were saving yourself from your own bad decisions: The magazine’s pitch for subscribers even asked potential readers to weigh the $50-dollar yearly rate against ‘the cost of a bad evening’s entertainment.’”
  • Commentators in the nineteenth century argued that chess, being so addictive, would turn our nation’s youths into bloodthirsty maniacs: “The great interest taken in this warlike game—the importance attached to a victory—and the disgrace attending defeat, are exemplified in numerous instances … It is said, that the Devil, in order to make poor Job lose his patience, had only to engage him at a game at Chess.”

 

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Contaminated

June 6, 2014 | by

Getting back on the skateboard.

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Not long ago I went to lunch with a gracious, well-intentioned editor who was not, I quickly realized, interested in publishing my book, the worst possible pitch for which is: “It’s a middle-grade novel about peak oil.” Having tabled my hopes like a used napkin, somewhere between the Lebanese tea and the shaved fennel, the editor asked what I’d rather be doing with my days, “in an ideal world.” I was surrounded by sandwich-eating professionals and suffocating, psychically, at the thought of being one: that’s when I remembered kickflips.

I’d given up skateboarding when I was fifteen, after breaking my wrist—I hadn’t been on a board since. When, shortly after graduating high school, an acquaintance of mine went pro, the specter of his early success strengthened my resolve not to skate: Why confront my talentlessness when it was more easily avoided? But at lunch that day I realized I was thirty years old and viscerally hating myself for matching the workaday worst of Lower Manhattan in my light-blue button-up and tan oxfords.

So I started to skate again, taking mostly to a ten-block loop in Brooklyn that I call the Greenpoint Skate Lab, a toxic hat-tip to the ecological impact tours that roll through the Lab while I’m there most Saturdays. It’s a deeply unhappy spot, physically and psychically—haunted by the same oil spill (“three times worse than Exxon Valdez”) that, at home, a few blocks away, I only ever remember after having drunk from the bathroom faucet. As a reflective-vested guide explained to a small, inexplicable crowd on one of my first days out, a drunk driver once crashed through the barricade on Apollo Street where it dead ends next to the BP oil refinery. The car dove nose-first into the shallows of Newtown Creek. The water was so contaminated with oil that it was on fire for days. Read More »

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Candy Crush

June 2, 2014 | by

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Photo: Evan Amos, via Wikimedia Commons

My brother was one of those kids who loved camp. He started young, went for years, and, when he was older, returned as a counselor. During the school year, he and his friends would periodically meet up at an Outback Steakhouse in Midtown. He still attends the weddings of those friends.

There was one kid in his bunk who was the camp outcast: a physically uncoordinated know-it-all who, in the grand tradition of nerds, managed to maintain an inviolate sense of wounded superiority. His response, when taunted, was to say—with an irony that was surely intended to be devastating—“You’re so kind.” You can imagine how effective this was.

I guess my brother was nice to him, in an offhand sort of way. Maybe he just wasn’t actively cruel. All I know is, when we went up there on family visiting day, this kid wouldn’t leave him alone. Mostly he stood around, nearby. But several times he appeared at my brother’s shoulder and held out a hand, silently proffering candy: Airheads, Pop Rocks, those long, flat Jolly Ranchers. While I found the whole thing kind of weird, my brother seemed to take it as his due. Read More »

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Hey, That’s My Snare Drum!

May 15, 2014 | by

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This drum is mine.

Last week, the Times recognized a new trend in vigilantism: do-it-yourself iPhone recovery. When someone finds his phone stolen, he uses the phone’s GPS to locate the thief; the resulting confrontations usually end peacefully, with the phone restored to its rightful owner and the thief shuffling off into the night, cowed and shamed. In one especially rousing case, a man rustled up the thief using OkCupid:

He lured the thief to his Brooklyn apartment building by posing as a woman and flirting with him on the dating service.

When the thief arrived with a bottle of wine, expecting to meet “Jennifer,” Mr. Nirenberg went up behind him, hammer at his side. He slapped a $20 bill on the thief, to mollify him and compensate him for his time and wine, and demanded the phone. The thief handed it over and slunk away.

Instead of giving that man the key to the city, the fuzz have advised against this kind of justice. Of course they have: no one likes to feel redundant. In the supercilious words of an LAPD spokesman, “It’s just a phone … Let police officers take care of it. We have backup, guns, radio, jackets—all that stuff civilians don’t have.” As if LA’s finest would, in their eminent wisdom, break out the flak jackets and heavy artillery to liberate your telephone.

I’m here to tell you: you can be your own authority. Read More »

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Maude

May 6, 2014 | by

Feline as memento mori.
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Franz Marc, Kater auf gelbem Kissen, 1912

I was in New York for a book talk, staying at a friend’s house in an industrial area of Brooklyn, when I awoke to a sound somewhere between a teakettle’s whistle and the creak of an ancient floorboard: my friend’s cat, Maude, meowing piteously at the edge of the bed. She was tiny, the color of ivory, with half crescent moons for claws and bright green, bloodshot eyes.

I’d been warned that Maude meowed in the mornings when she wanted the faucet turned on—she drank from the tub—so I walked to the bathroom and twisted the spout until cold water trickled down. Maude leapt into the tub and began lapping away, her tongue bright as chewing gum. I went about my slow morning routine: coffee, Twitter, fussing with hair, scrutiny of encroaching crow’s-feet, etc.

It was noon by the time I was ready to leave, and I returned to the bedroom for my laptop. There, in the middle of the white room, on the white bedspread, was the white cat, covered in blood. It seeped out from her in clouds, watery and pale red like a nightmare sky. But when I bent over and touched her she was still breathing, alert, looking at me with those science-fiction eyes. Read More »

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Tonight: Rachel Kushner and James Wood

February 11, 2014 | by

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Photo: Lucy Raven

Tonight at seven, Rachel Kushner launches the paperback edition of her wonderful novel The Flamethrowers—she’ll be in conversation with The New Yorker’s James Wood at the Powerhouse Arena, in Dumbo. (Note to the uninitiated: it’s a bookstore, not an arena, though it would be something to live in a world where a Kushner/Wood bill could sell out Madison Square Garden.)

As we mentioned briefly yesterday, The Flamethrowers is one of eight books to have been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world. Its aim? “To celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.” Kushner is in good company: the other nominees are Anne Carson, Amity Gaige, Jane Gardam, Kent Haruf, Eimear McBride, Sergio de la Pava, and George Saunders. The winner will be announced on March 10; we wish her the best of luck.

But perhaps these recent developments aren’t enough to slake your Kushnerphilia. Should this be the case, we recommend her short story “Blanks,” excerpted from The Flamethrowers in our Winter 2012 issue. Or, from that same issue, the collection of art and photography she curated—images that inspired the novel. Or her interview with Jesse Barron, published on the Daily last year.

You can also read James Wood’s acute review of The Flamethrowers, published last year in The New Yorker—a fitting appetizer for his conversation with Kushner tonight.

 

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