- Flush your antidepressants, fire your therapist, and deaccession your self-help library: Cervantes is the only mood elevator you need. “Eduardo Guerrero, head of Mexico’s prisons system, told Radio Imagen that when El Chapo was recaptured earlier this month after escaping six months ago, ‘he arrived depressed, and more than depressed, tired—tired of being on the run.’ In the last few days, said Guerrero, the prisoner had been given a copy of Don Quixote to read, ‘because we believe it is an excellent book, and we have to start giving him such notions.’ ”
- In the late eighties, Lex Kaplen launched Wigwag, an ambitious magazine that lasted for only fifteen issues, perhaps because of its unlikely name or its strange agenda: “The Wigwag office was in SoHo, on Spring Street, downstairs from a place where a man dealt in geological survey maps, two blocks from the Spring Street Natural. Lex set the tone for the office. His favorite outfit was Bermuda shorts and a cardigan sweater … Wigwag was a general-interest magazine that included some of the same kinds of things that The New Yorker ran—reporting, fiction, columns on the arts—along with quirkier features: a bedtime story, a map contributed by a reader (‘Dogs of Westhampton, Mass.’), a Family Tree of, say, TV sitcom writers or celebrity hairdressers. Its heart was a section called Letters from Home, in which writers from towns big and small (Baltimore; Dripping Springs, Texas) kept readers abreast of the local goings on.” The theme for one issue was polka dots.
- The best way to remember Clarence Reid, the R & B rabble-rouser better known as Blowfly, is to read a few of his song titles: “My Baby Keeps Farting in My Face,” “Electronic Pussy Sucker,” “Shitting on the Dock of the Bay,” “Spermy Night in Georgia” … you get the picture. Reid died last week at seventy-six. “In both his parodies and his original compositions, Mr. Reid was lascivious but good-natured. Even at his most extreme, there was nothing harsh about him. While his songs painted him as a libertine and rascal, in real life he was religious—he had memorized the Bible, Mr. Bowker said—and rarely drank or did drugs … As Blowfly, Mr. Reid created an implicitly radical counternarrative to the more polite strains of soul that were popular at the time.”
- If you want your very own National Magazine Award, it’s time to start being systematic. Just follow a few simple steps and that handsome copper elephant statuette can be yours, all yours! You’ll want to go long (no fewer than 6,500 words) and stick to the past tense. Write in the second person and try not to cuss too much …
- Or you can liquidate some of that capital you’ve got tied up in Andy Warhol. Most of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of Warhol artworks just lying around the house, quietly skyrocketing in value. The time to sell is now, and the man to see is Geoff Hargadon, who operates a storefront in Boston called Cash for Your Warhol. “Hargadon, a financial planner by day, has been pretending to buy Warhols since 2009, when the recession spawned an influx of bandit signs promising ‘Cash for Your Home’ and ‘Cash for Your Gold.’ Fascinated by the sheer bluntness of the signs, Hargadon started collecting them. At some point, while thinking about markets left untapped, ‘the phrase [Cash for Your Warhol] just popped into my head,’ he says. He set up a hotline (617-553-1103), designed his own line of signs, stickers and billboards, and stuck them all over major cities from Kentucky to Pennsylvania.”
Pop Chart Lab, whose laudable ambition is “to render all of human experience in chart form,” is offering a print consisting of twenty-nine first sentences from novels, including one of my favorites, from David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress: “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” Of course, a print comprised of nothing but text would be not much of a print at all, so Pop Chart Lab has done us the favor of diagramming every sentence according to the Reed-Kellogg System, color coded and all. Plotting out the beginning of Don Quixote is, as you can see, complicated.
As a pedagogical device, sentence diagrams have fallen out of fashion; I never had to draw them (if that’s even the right verb) in school, nor was I made to study any grammar beyond the rudimentary parts of speech. This makes me feel like a fraud whenever I pretend to be a grammarian, as I often do. In fact, before today, I’d never heard of the Reed-Kellogg System; it sounds to me like a proprietary method for processing and packaging cornflakes.
Actually, it dates back to 1877, when it was invented by two men with great names, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg. Though the Don Quixote sample is intimidating, diagramming sentences turns out to be fairly intuitive. (“And fun!” adds a sad, sorry voice in my head.) You begin with the base, a horizontal line; write the subject on the left and the predicate on the right, separated by a vertical bar. Then separate the verb and its object with another mark—if you have a direct object, use a vertical line, and if you have a predicate noun (had to look that up) or an adjective (that one I knew), use a backslash. Modifiers of the subject, predicate, or object “dangle below the base.” Read More
A cultural news roundup.
- Just where are Cervantes’s bones?
- Maurice Sendak’s new book, Bumble-Ardy.
- Is this the worst sentence of the year?
- The Man Booker Prize longlist is announced; it’s eclectic! The shortlist comes out in September.
- Let’s not forget the Not Booker Prize.
- This artist fought George Lucas, and won.
- “Award-winning science-fiction writer Alastair Reynolds is to delve into the past of Doctor Who in a new novel that sees the Time Lord in his Jon Pertwee incarnation taking on the Master.”
- And that’s not all: “new” Mickey Spillanes!
- After twelve years, Whit Stillman has a new film. Damsels in Distress, starring Greta Gerwig, will close the Venice Film Festival.
- “In an industry that has been upended by the growth of e-books, publishers are moving against convention by pushing paperbacks into publication earlier than usual, sometimes less than six months after they appeared in hardcover.”
- Grace Coddington sells her memoir for seven figures to Random House.
- Moist and other repulsive words.