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Posts Tagged ‘Reddit’

Wordplay 101

May 12, 2015 | by


John Ritchie, An Expected Rise in Stocks, nineteenth century.

It’s galling to reach adulthood and realize how many things have gone over your head. That, in a single e-mail thread, you can learn both that “Staples” is a pun and that Chips Ahoy! is an allusion to “Ship ahoy.” I mean, you like to think that if someone had forced you to consider the matter for five seconds, you would have realized. But the point is that I had not realized—and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the definition of stupidity

That night, I tried to comfort myself by thinking of the plays on words I had recognized in the course of my thirty-plus years of relative sentience. U-Haul. The Beatles. Central Perk from Friends. That fish and chips shop, A Salt and Battery. Read More »

Staff Picks: Padded Panels, Pushcart Peddlers, Pommes D’Air

March 13, 2015 | by

USDA Fry Color Chart

The United States Department of Agriculture Color Standards for Frozen French Fried Potatoes.

According to Don DeLillo, he was surprised when a publisher accepted the “shaggy and overdone” first draft of his first novel, Americana. Almost fifty years—and several revisions—later, the story of Dave Bell, a disillusioned network executive who hits the road to discover America, retains a certain amount of shag. But already DeLillo’s dialogue has its own look and sound. This is speech in the age of mechanical reproduction, the reel to reel, the dictaphone, the transcript. His characters are spirits captured in stuff: “Clevenger’s paleolithic lavender Cadillac was equipped with air conditioning, deep-pile carpeting, padded instrument panel, stereo tape system and a burglar alarm. Behind the wheel he seemed a veteran jockey not at all awed by the magnificence of his own colors. He was about fifty, a small man with a neck of Playa clay traversed by wide deep ridges. Clevenger was a Texan.” The stuff itself has aged, but this only adds to the sense of magical evocation. Americana has aged into a time capsule, deep-pile carpeting and all. —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War (NYRB’s fiftieth anniversary edition) to my son every night, a few chapters at a time. It’s often the only way I can coax him out of his Harry Potter books to get ready for bed. In truth, I’m as excited as he is to read it. The tale of New York’s pushcart peddlers waging war against the monstrous, bullying trucks is droll—as are Ronni Solbert’s illustrations—but its message remains urgent; Merrill writes expansively, giving air to the intrigue, to the peddler’s personalities, and to what’s at stake for people who don’t have money or influence. When the peace-loving peddler who sleeps under his cart every night is finally driven to anger and despair—and is forced to sleep indoors for the first time in seventy years—the frustration is nearly unendurable. My son has asked me more than once if the story is real. It’s not, of course, and what a shame, but it’s an entertaining lesson on nonviolent civil disobedience, standing up for the rights and the dignity of the little guy, and how to make a sturdy peashooter. —Nicole Rudick
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Frozen Books

April 17, 2014 | by

wet books richard cubitt

Wet Books, Richard Cubitt

Someone has posted the following to Reddit:

My roommate gets distracted sometimes, and she misplaced her book in the freezer. I’m not making this up.

The pages are warped from moisture and most of them are frozen solid in a block.

How can we save the book?


Cue the Fahrenheit 451 jokes—lots of them. But there were also plenty of practical tips to help the poster with his or her wacky dilemma. These include (but are not limited to) blotting the pages with paper towels and/or rice; allowing the book to dry in a cool room so as to slow melting; rubbing the paper with vinegar to prevent mildew; and, if all else fails and the poster deems the book worth it, investing in a vacuum pump and creating an at-home distiller. Read More »

What We’re Loving: Don B., B. Dole, /u/backgrinder

March 7, 2014 | by


“How hard was it to supply archers arrows in ancient battles?” Bryson Burroughs, The Archers, 1917.

Sozzled novelists (aka, lit lit) seems to be the thing to write about lately, but it’s more fun to read great writers making fun of great writers drinking a lot. In one of his short pieces originally written for The New Yorker’s Notes and Comment section (more quotidian than Talk of the Town and funnier than Shouts and Murmurs, it’s a section I wish they’d revive), Donald Barthelme describes having received a questionnaire from Writer’s Digest that inquired about his drinking habits. Asked if he’s a light, medium, heavy, or “other” drinker, Barthelme says medium: “Light is sissy and Heavy doesn’t go down so well with Deans, Loan Officers and Publishers, and who in the world would want to be Other?” Only a few days before reading this gem, I’d discovered Niccolò Tucci’s essay on drunkenness in issue 19 of The Paris Review. Tucci starts by recounting a pop-sci study on the hangover. We’d do well to heed one of its findings: “Alcohol itself is perfectly harmless. It cannot be blamed for anything … not even for death. What kills you is malnutrition. Drinkers forget to eat. If they ate more, they could drink more. In fact, obesity kills more people than alcohol. People should eat much less.” —Nicole Rudick

Steve Jobs famously quipped, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”—which is often how I feel about the content I find on Reddit, the Internet’s ultimate rabbit hole. Mastering the abbreviated jargon can take some time, but it’s well worth the plunge; I tumbled in, head first, after The Paris Review’s recent AMA. Take, for instance, /u/backgrinder’s response to the very reasonable, if incalculably arcane, question, “How hard was it to supply arrows to archers in ancient battles?” (TL;DR: Surprisingly hard.) —Stephen Andrew Hiltner

I have Bob Dole’s voice in my head, and it’s Richard Ben Cramer’s fault. “Dole’s voice was made for the empty distance and mean wind of the prairie,” Cramer writes in What It Takes: The Way to the White House, his thousand-page opus on presidential politics, published in 1992. Cramer died last year, and I’ve been meaning to delve into this book ever since—for once, the promise of the flap copy is no exaggeration. “An American Iliad in the guise of contemporary political reportage, What It Takes penetrates the mystery at the heart of all presidential campaigns: How do presumably ordinary people acquire that mixture of ambition, stamina, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate?” In writing about it here, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew; there’s no way to convey how exhaustively researched it is, how lovingly chronicled, how immaculately well-written. All I can say is that it drove me not just to feel a deep kinship with someone like Bob Dole but to watch the entirety of a Dole debate from the eighties, and to enjoy it. Publishers always like to claim that a given work of nonfiction “reads like a novel,” and it’s so seldom true—but What It Takes has the scope, pace, style, and psychological acuity of the best fiction. —Dan Piepenbring Read More »


Because, and Other News

January 8, 2014 | by


  • The American Dialect Society—how do we join?—has voted because the word of the year. They chose because because becauseexploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use.”
  • In the Midwest, towns are living without Borders. (The defunct bookstore chain, not the metaphorical limitation.) Some independent bookstores have even cropped up in its place.
  • How did Reddit’s brilliant AMA series go from geeky to mainstream? (Did you know The Paris Review did one last year?)
  • “Of course, my definition of evil is not everybody else’s. Evil is being involved in the glamour and charm of material existence, glamour in its old Gaelic sense meaning enchantment with the look of things, rather than the soul of things.” An expansive interview with the singular Kenneth Anger.


    Should I Get an MFA? And Other Questions from Our AMA

    September 13, 2013 | by


    Earlier this week, we hosted an AMA on Reddit: all the editors clustered around Lorin’s desk, while Stephen typed, and we addressed as many queries as we could. It was fun, and exhausting, and we were delighted and impressed with the caliber of questions! Since there were a number of points that came up repeatedly, below, we are reprinting some of the most frequently-asked questions from that session.

    Do you believe that the popularity of creative writing degree programs, both graduate and undergraduate, is impacting contemporary literature positively or negatively? … As a student and writer currently debating whether to pursue the MFA route, or go on to graduate school in my chosen field of study, I would be extremely interested in your views on the matter.

    The problem with creative-writing programs is not the quality of instruction; it’s the enforced isolation with other people who are thinking, eating, and breathing the same things you are. That said, much can be learned from a good teacher, or by simply spending those two years alone with a whole lot of books.

    As a publishing/journalism industry hopeful, I’m curious about your career trajectories. How did you get where you are now? What were your entry-level jobs?

    “Clare and I are both former (Paris Review) interns. That was our entry-level job.” —Stephen

    “My first job? I was an editorial assistant at a publishing house.” —Sadie

    “I was a part-time secretary at Publishers Weekly.” —Lorin

    “Advertising.” —Justin

    “This is my entry-level job.” —Hailey

    How does the public’s taste in poetry differ now than it twenty years ago? The Paris Review had an article recently stating that there are now “an insufficiency of readers but too many people trying to get published”—how is The Paris Review combating this? Lastly, what are your pet peeves in submissions you get? For example, I work at a journal as well and my “pet peeve” is poems about pieces of obscure artwork that cannot stand alone.

    The best way to interest people in reading is to publish great writing. At least, that’s our strategy.

    Fashions change in poetry as in any other artistic endeavor; if there’s one generalization to be made, it’s that it’s harder to generalize now about truly gifted poets.

    Pet peeves: stories about hunting, stories about MFA programs (though we’ve published our share), stories that start with someone closing a car door. Read More »