Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’
September 12, 2011 | by Caleb Crain
Soderbergh’s movie is scored to a similar drumbeat of numbers. Five dead in London. Three dead in Tokyo. Eighty-nine thousand cases worldwide. Eight million cases worldwide. The human mind can’t really make emotional sense of such numbers, of course, and for that Soderbergh turns to interwoven vignettes of the sort familiar from movies like Traffic and Crash. With such dismaying material, the artist’s challenge is how to make it real but not too real. If the deaths seem too real, sorrow will overwhelm viewers. (This is probably why John Lithgow’s performance of Alzheimer’s is so halfhearted in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If anyone in your family has ever had Alzheimer’s, the last thing you want to see in a sci-fi romp is realism.) Read More »
August 30, 2011 | by Chris Flynn
Most dust jackets list only literary accomplishments, but I’ve always been a fan of offbeat author bios. So I asked some of my favorite writers to describe their early jobs.
Darin Strauss: I worked freelance at The Aspen Times as a nightlife correspondent: seven hundred words for fifty bucks, an article a month. Then I thought, Hey dummy, you published with The Aspen Times, you should go to New York and write for their Times! It didn’t work out. I lived with my parents on Long Island and delivered Chinese food. To avoid the embarrassment of being seen doing this, I took a gig at a restaurant two towns over. My first day, a girl opens her door to me, and it’s someone I went to summer camp with. “Darin,” she says, somehow unsurprised to find me on her doorstep. “Good timing. Come in, I just ordered Chinese food.” I told her I knew, I knew.
I finally got a job at a financial technology newsletter, where I wrote stories with openings like: “Morgan Stanley is reported to be buying the Telerate trading platform to replace its Thomson real-time, turning from Unix to tcb/ip servers, with four hundred real-time end users.” I never bothered to learn what any of that meant; I wanted to keep my mind free for fiction. I was going to write, write, write. I thought I’d be fired instantly. When my boss said, “Telerate’s TIB is in trouble with its real-time market data platform—find out if data delivery is ... ,” I didn’t know whom to call, what to ask, even what I was supposed to do if I found out. Some kind woman gave me a list of questions to ask, and some numbers to call. Three years I worked there, interviewing people without a clue what I was asking.
Deb Olin Unferth: In Birmingham, Alabama, I taught “self-esteem” in the Department of Family Services waiting room, where four or five hundred people showed up at seven in the morning and waited for hours—sometimes six, seven hours—for their appointments to get food stamps, or to sign up for welfare, or to meet with their caseworker about the children who had been removed from their homes and placed in foster care. My main activity was to get them to play self-esteem bingo. I handed out blank cards, and people were supposed to write adjectives that described them in the spaces. I provided a sample list: “beautiful,” “smart,” “funny.” I’d call out the words and when someone said, “Bingo,” I’d read their card aloud and say, “Now does she have a good self-esteem or a bad self-esteem?” and whoever didn’t completely hate me by that time would chirp, “Good self-esteem!” And I’d give the winner a tiny cheap notebook and say, “Here’s a place for you to write your hopes and dreams.”
July 29, 2011 | by The Paris Review
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.
March 10, 2011 | by Daniel Okrent
This is the second installment of Okrent’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
Rubenfeld hasn’t sent anything soaring over the wrong river recently, but he does have Al Jolson singing to a swing band accompaniment about ten years before swing came into vogue. The book is extremely fast-paced and well-plotted, but if you hold it up next to one particular book set in a similar time, and similarly dependent on the imagined lives of real historical figures, it’s paler than a bedsheet. The book I have in mind, of course, is E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, and I say of course because if you were alive and literate in 1975, you’ve read it. I don’t think there’s a novel that has evoked such universal enthusiasm in the years since. Doctorow already had a minor reputation, but this single book was like a comet screaming across the cosmos, the subject of cover stories, lengthy reviews, talk-show discussions, et cetera, for weeks and weeks. I want to read it again.
Tonight, the Prazak Quartet at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Four Czechs, former classmates at the Prague conservatory, playing Beethoven, Janacek, and Schubert with an earthy quality not so common among American chamber groups. Weill might be the most beautiful music room in New York, its proportions ideal, its acoustics excellent (especially in the tiny balcony), each of its glowing chandeliers an especially opulent grace note. I just wish it weren’t named after the donor who made it possible. Sandy Weill has been extraordinarily generous with New York institutions and should get credit for that, but one suspects he’s more interested in credit than in music. The only time I’ve ever seen him at Carnegie—whose board he chaired for years—was at a black-tie fund-raising gala. In his truly egregious autobiography, with its peacocking title and subtitle (The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy), he mentions exactly two pieces of music over the course of 544 pages: “Happy Birthday,” and the title song from Oklahoma!
Excuse the digression. Lovely room, stirring music, great evening. Could have done without the ridiculous “15 bite hot dog” at the Brooklyn Diner before the concert, but that was my own fault.
March 9, 2011 | by Daniel Okrent
In just three weeks, I’ve discovered the best way to ruin Sunday morning coffee is to read the New York Times Book Review—not because I don’t like the reviews, or the reviewers, or the choice of books (although I could, on any given Sunday, kvetch about each of those). My problem is the continuing metastasis of the best-seller lists—hardcover, mass paperback, trade paperback, kids books, advice, et cetera, now joined by e-books as a separate category. Where once the lists took up a single page of the Book Review, they now spill over page after page, every inch they consume necessarily taking away space that could be devoted to ... reviews. Maybe the proliferation of lists is an act of spite directed at publishers who have cut their advertising budgets so radically that the accompanying editorial space is already disappearing.
My wife and I went downtown to the Mesa Grill, where I hadn’t been for fifteen years, to meet friends for lunch before a matinee performance of Three Sisters at the Classic Stage Company. Mesa is about as authentically Mexican as this production was authentically Chekhovian—which is to say, not nearly enough. Some excellent actors (especially Juliet Rylance, as Irina) nonetheless managed to triumph over a peculiar, modernizing translation that placed contemporary idioms into the mouths of turn-of-the-last-century characters. If you’re going to use modern speech rhythms and colloquialisms—which is certainly a plausible, if peculiar, option—then why put all the characters in nineteenth-century clothing, in a nineteenth-century house? Still, it was well-acted Chekhov, and that’s good enough for me.
Dinner afterward in Brooklyn, at the home of poet Vijay Seshadri and his wife, Suzanne. Vijay is a spectacular talker, able to bounce from the most recondite literary subjects to Eastern theology to pot-roast recipes without pausing for a comma. The pot roast was damn good, too. Among the other guests was Mark Strand, who is much too tall and handsome for his own good. But at least he’s old.
Picked up Michael Steinberg’s For the Love of Music, which came in the mail from my Minneapolis pen pal, Katie McCurry. A couple of years ago, Katie sent me an incredibly nice fan e-mail about a book I’d published six years earlier, and we’ve been writing to each other ever since. She’s a big music fan, and Steinberg—a past master of program notes for orchestras across the country—was one of her heroes. I see why: The opening piece, about how he fell in love with music as a child, is especially strong. The fact that it was Disney’s Fantasia that pulled him in makes me feel less dorky for having myself been seduced by the William Tell Overture. The association I made between classical music and the Lone Ranger’s gallop across the twelve-inch screen of our black-and-white Zenith was so firmly embedded in my eight-year-old skull that when my mother told me she was going to a concert featuring the Robert Shaw Chorale, I heard corral—and thought the concert would consist of an orchestra accompanying horse tricks.
This week’s subway reading is The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld. Rubenfeld is better known as a Yale law professor than as a novelist, and of late even better known as the husband of Tiger Mom Amy Chua. I picked the book up because of the incredible review in the daily New York Times (“Tremendous follow-up to his 2006 novel, Interpretation of Murder ... This novel is great”). I may put it down if I encounter another egregious clam like this one, on page twelve: “To their right rose up incomprehensibly tall skyscrapers. To their left, the Brooklyn Bridge soared over the Hudson.” Astonishing.
November 28, 2010 | by The Paris Review
Most accounts of turkeys in literature describe the process of hunting or cooking them (Teddy Roosevelt’s sketch of stalking the “peevish piou-piou! of the sleepy birds” is rather lovely, even though the turkeys don't live beyond the next page). In 1978, however, Donald Barthelme reinvigorated the genre with a grumpy but dead-on essay expressing his annoyance at this "mockery of a holiday.” This year’s new discovery dates from 1982, when Jim Nollman recorded his musical collaboration with a large flock of the delicious birds on Playing Music with Animals: Interspecies Communication of Jim Nollman with 300 Turkeys, 12 Wolves and 20 Orcas (America Folkways, of course). The feathered singers join Nollman for a rendition of “Froggy Went a-Courting.” Nollman’s aim? To “[ride] the shared musical energy without aggravating the turkeys.” Make it part of your holiday tradition. —Nicole Rudick
It is never too late to see a movie you should have seen years ago, like L’Avventura. I think there is something to be said for seeing a great thing so late. It feels like being rescued. That’s what I saw this week, as well as two beautiful films by Philippe Garrel, J’entends plus la guitare and Baisers de secours (both introduced by our own diarist Richard Brody), plus Godard’s 1980 bummer Every Man for Himself, plus Alain Cavalier’s charming melodrama Le Combat dans l’ile, all about a fun-loving Parisienne who discovers that her weak-willed industrialist husband is secretly a member of a terrorist cell, and Le Amiche, and the first three films of Terence Malick. Yes, I’ve been out sick this week and have read not one submission. May Monica Vitti forgive me. May Monica Vittii forgive us all. —Lorin Stein
If the Thanksgiving holiday hasn’t made you want to swear off eating altogether and fast in the middle of a spa in the California desert, then try the beautiful, bold, and hefty Essential New York Times Cookbook, edited by the fabulous Amanda Hesser, who cooked (and updated) each and every recipe in this 932-page book. —Thessaly La Force