- If you were a rake headed to Philly in the 1840s, you wanted to have this pocket guide with you—it lists all the brothels in town, with some helpful editorializing about each. “None but gentlemen visit this Paradise of Love,” one description says. Another: “Beware of this house, stranger, as you would the sting of a viper.”
- A list of the one hundred most popular books on Facebook contains exactly zero surprises.
- From a new documentary on Susan Sontag: “She sat me down on her bed … and ran through the argument of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. She must have been fifteen.”
- “We all have bodies; we all wear clothes; we all have reflections that vex us; we all exist in dynamic relationship to our communities, and fashion is a medium for testing or strengthening those bonds … anyone who diminishes the significance of that is carrying water for the patriarchy, deferring reflexively to those thousands of years of human history when men got to decide what was frivolous or not. You know what’s frivolous? Fantasy football.”
- In 1932, Einstein endorsed a psychic. And she endorsed him: “Dr. Einstein is indeed the most remarkable personality I have ever contacted [sic]. And his aura is just sublime—pure blue electric sparks, instead of color. It was just like talking to God.” And so Einstein’s credibility as a scientist came under fire: “Now he is the tamest lion in the intellectual zoo. He goes everywhere. He attends picture openings with the regularity and aplomb of Clark Gable. He is at all the public dinners.”
For a while after college, one of my husband Joe’s best friends worked at a used books–and-CDs store in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we all grew up. It was called McKay but everyone called it McKay’s—a tiny but somehow crucial distinction—and it was a wonderland of dog-eared pages and scratched ninety-two-cent discs and ineffable smells of humanity. Michael was always bringing home strange treasures that he’d eventually sell back for the exact amount he’d paid, but sometimes things would be too good not to hold onto. One summer Joe’s birthday merited a particularly special gift: a slim black paperback with a creased cover bearing a photo of a goateed man staring out from the center of a pink orb. Flaming rainbows flanked him on either side, and rays of light shot out from underneath his likeness. If anyone ever warranted such a wonder of post-midcentury graphic design, it was surely this man, Doc Anderson, who was, as his book cover proclaimed in yellow caps, THE MAN WHO SEES TOMORROW.
The book was published in 1970, its spine proclaiming it a “Paperback Library Occult Original” (retail price: seventy-five cents). It’s part biography and part defensive exegesis of Anderson’s psychic pronouncements, all researched and compiled by Robert E. Smith, which seems to be a pseudonym for one Warren B. Smith, who penned dozens of books on paranormal and cryptozoological subjects during his decades-long career. (A sampling from his bibliography: Let’s Face Facts About Flying Saucers, 1967; Strange Abominable Snowmen, 1970, Lost Cities of the Ancients—Unearthed!, 1976; and, inexplicably, The Sensual Male, 1971.)