- In Selkirk, Scotland, a man has found a previously unseen Sherlock Holmes story in his attic. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle apparently wrote it around 1904 to help raise funds for a new bridge. “It is believed the story—about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk—is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over eighty years ago.”
- Why is To Kill a Mockingbird so beloved? Probably just because everyone was forced to read it growing up—in reality, it’s a “white-trash gothic” that infantilizes blacks and demonizes poor whites: “The central struggle in To Kill a Mockingbird involves class, not race. The book’s theme is the class war within the white South between the noble gentry and the depraved poor. In a clever twist, thanks to the community’s racism the white underclass villain wins in court, but the gentry hero enjoys revenge at the end, thanks to a killing that is covered up by the local sheriff.”
- While we’re at it, we’ve made a mess of Huck Finn, too: “We persistently misread Twain’s messages on race and children for a simple reason: Americans still subscribe to many of the same myths and prejudices as their nineteenth-century ancestors. Twain’s novel is not a hymn to the carefree pleasures of a rustic childhood; it’s a barbed critique of precisely the sort of standardized education that has now led to the book’s adoption in countless classrooms … Common readings of the book are now trapped in the same sanctimonious clichés that Twain both punctured and perpetuated.”
- How quickly is our spoken language changing, and how many of those changes should be reflected in print? “There is a natural problem, found the world over: how quickly to allow writing to adapt to changes in the spoken language? If spelling were adapted to pronunciation, the result would be a radical and destabilizing break with centuries of tradition … English-speakers are stuck with an archaic and anarchic system. Liberties with grammar—making the written language look like the spoken one—should be few and cautious. Giving the written language a little room to change, but not too much, is the only way to enjoy the best of both stability and vitality.”
- Ta-Nehisi Coates remembers David Carr, who was his boss at the Washington City Paper: “David—recovering crack addict, recovering alcoholic, ex-cocaine dealer, lymphoma survivor, beautiful writer, gorgeous human—knew something about how a life of fucking up burrows itself into the bones of knuckleheads, and it changes there, transmutes into an abiding shame, a gnawing fear which likely dogs the reformed knucklehead right into the grave. Perhaps that fear could be turned into something beautiful. Perhaps a young journalist could pull power from that fear, could write from it … ”
On Monday, the Times’s David Carr had a gloomy prognosis for the fate of print newspapers. He wrote,
It’s a measure of the basic problem that many people haven’t cared or noticed as their hometown newspapers have reduced staffing, days of circulation, delivery and coverage. Will they notice or care when those newspapers go away altogether? I’m not optimistic about that.
Carr and many others are alive to the societal, artistic, and human implications of this loss. All this aside, it means lost jobs. You don’t need me to say that, or to belabor the passing of an era. These things are too huge to contemplate.
So you start thinking about the stupid things. The oblong bags newspapers come in. What will people use to clean up after their dogs? Where will they get rubber bands? Will “train-style” folding become a lost art? And what about Silly Putty?
Silly Putty can’t really be called a major casualty in this overhaul, but it is something that will be decisively rendered extinct. It’s a retro toy now—if you can even call something which was so obviously the byproduct of industrial experimentation a “toy”—but with the death of the newspaper, one of its primary functions (if you can call it a function) will be nullified.
Silly Putty should be placed in a time capsule immediately on grounds of sheer weirdness. Try explaining it to an alien: “It’s putty, but it’s … silly. It’s sort of flesh-colored. It has a really distinctive chemical smell. It stretches, and snaps, and turns into a puddle. If you roll it up, it bounces like a ball. Oh, and it picks up newsprint. Then it gets really grubby and you keep it in a plastic egg, forever.” If Silly Putty’s origins are clear enough—it was a World War II–era attempt to address rubber shortages—its ability to transfer newsprint is more mysterious. How did someone figure this out? And how did anyone decide it was a selling point? Read More
There was some trouble in paradise on the Ethan Allen Express. More than a few people around me were cursing the indifferent Wi-Fi as they desperately tried to remain tethered to the grid. Behind me, a passenger made serial phone calls in a mind-erasing loud voice. “I’m on the train!” he would always begin … We are all on that train, the one that left print behind, the one where we are constantly in real time, where we know a little about everything and nothing about anything, really. And there is no quiet car.
If you’re the Times’s senior media reporter, you need to stay connected 24/7, even when you’re on a leisurely train ride up the Hudson Valley.
But if you’re Joe Smartphone, always shouting “I’m on the train!” into your Samsung Galaxy S5, locking gazes with its oracular high-res screen straight from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie, here’s a tip. Power down and join the quiet car of the mind—the one that print didn’t leave behind—with a joint subscription to The Paris Review and The London Review of Books.
The Paris Review brings you the best new fiction, poetry, and interviews; The London Review of Books publishes the best cultural essays and long-form journalism. Now, for a limited time, you can get them both for one low price, anywhere in the world.
As David Carr reported in today’s New York Times, The Paris Review is partnering with The Atavist to bring you an app worthy of the magazine, with complete issues, rare archival material, our entire interview series … and (natch) the Paris Review Daily. Starting late this summer, you’ll be able to read us on your iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or Sony Reader.
Foreign readers, take heart! For four decades we’ve been looking for a cheap and timely way to get the Review to our fans abroad. Soon, whether you’re in Melbourne or Milan, you’ll be able to read our stories, interviews, and poems at the same moment as everyone else.
Lovers of print, you take heart, too! Even those of us who hold no brief for gizmos will want to check out this app—for hard-to-find back issues, special anthologies, plus audio and video of your favorite writers. This is stuff we can only bring you digitally—and stuff nobody else can bring you.
I am buying Christopher Johnson’s Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little after reading Dwight Garner’s review in the New York Times. Johnson is a branding consultant (he worked at Lexicon Branding, a firm that has invented names such as Blackberry and Powerbook). “‘Feminine’ brand names,” he writes, “like Chanel, are often iambs; ‘masculine’ ones, like Black & Decker, tend to be trochees.” —Thessaly La Force
In an effort to reclaim my childhood, I dug up Edward Gorey’s The Epiplectic Bicycle: “It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday. Embley and Yewbert were hitting one another with croquet mallets.” Need I say more? —Eli Mandel
I picked up Sara Wheeler’s The Magnetic North for a brief respite from the city heat, but now I’m itching to hitch a ride on an ice breaker, wrangle up some reindeer, and embark upon that great milky abyss, the Arctic circle. —Mackenzie Beer
I just saw the documentary Page One, which was described to me as an “inside look at the production of The New York Times.” Really, it’s more of a riveting love letter to journalism. David Carr, the media columnist on whom the film focuses, is humorous, gritty, and lovable—exactly my idea of the perfect newspaperman. —Sophie Haigney
The winners of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton bad-sentence contest outdid themselves. My favorite: “As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.” —Sadie Stein
In anticipation of John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook, I’ve been paging through I Send You This Cadmium Red, a book of correspondence between Berger and the artist John Christie. Their first letter is a painted square of color—the eponymous color, of course—which leads them to exchanges on everything from the blue of Yves Klein to the blue of Matisse. The accumulation is a monument to friendship, art, and the art of letter writing. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
Continuum took two things that I love—music writing and books that fit in my back pocket—and put them together to make a series that is my favorite thing ever. I plan to get through all eighty-three books, each of which contains a critical discussion of one classic album. Up first for me was Nas’s Illmatic. Up next? Maybe My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea. —Cody Wiewandt
If book reviews could kill. Slate has three golden rules for reviewing. —Ali Pechman
Just in case anyone forgot, Splitsider reminds us of the sexual shenanigans on Friends. —C. W.
Watch all nine minutes of this video, where the life of a baby humpback whale is saved after it becomes dangerously entangled in a nylon fishing net. —T. L.
Every summer the good people at Oxford Classics sponsor a reading group in the Reading Room at Bryant Park. I joined them this week to discuss New Grub Street (1891), George Gissing’s novel about freelancers who haunt the British Museum. What I remembered—what everyone remembers—is the scary depiction of writer’s block. (George Orwell: “To a professional writer it is … an upsetting and demoralizing book, because it deals, among other things, with that much-dreaded occupational disease, sterility.”) What I noticed this time was the love story between Jasper Milvain, a slick young critic on the make, and shy, scholarly Marian Yule, the nicest, toughest, smartest person in the book. —Lorin Stein
Galleys of the two-volume Letters of T. S. Eliot just landed on my desk. And everyone who’s anyone is here: Ezra Pound, Lytton Strachey, Edmund Wilson, and Conrad Aiken, but also Wyndham Lewis, Jacques Riviere, and James Joyce. How disarming, though, to see a letter addressed to Bertrand Russell as “Dear Bertie” and signed “Affectionately, Tom.” —Nicole Rudick
I had the chance to do a Q & A with Carmela Ciuraru this week, the author of Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms. The book is a series of portraits of literary figures throughout history—the Brontes, George Eliot, O. Henry, Georges Simenon—who for one reason or another adopted pseudonyms. It’s fascinating—and, incidentally, piqued my interest in an author I hadn’t read, Fernando Pessoa. —Sadie Stein
Aaron Sorkin and David Carr talk about cocaine, journalism, and The New York Times. —Thessaly La Force
New Directions Pearls are small books on large topics: Fitzgerald on booze, Garcia Lorca on duende, Borges’s Everything and Nothing. The books are about the size of postcard, which means they fit in your back pocket and can also be used as fans or as bookmarks for bigger books. Right now I’m reading Joseph Roth’s The Leviathan, a longish short story about the coral merchant Nissen Piczenik and his holiday in Odessa. It’s a gem. —Robyn Creswell
Molly Lambert takes on Kanye West over at Grantland and produces this glorious footnote: “Almost all classic West Coast rap is about being the world’s worst boyfriend. Too Short and Eazy-E would not be very good boyfriends.” —Cody Wiewandt
I reread From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I remembered even less well than Grub Street, but which brought to mind David Grann’s piece on Peter Paul Biro. —L. S.
Tom Bissell reviews the video game L. A. Noire. —T. L.
Because you can’t watch this too many times and, well, it’s Friday. —Peter Conroy