- Javier Marías can think of seven reasons not to write novels, and only one reason to write them. (Fortunately, the one is pretty good.)
- A 540-year-old book—the first to be printed in English—has sold at auction for more than a million pounds. “The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye is a version of a French book written around 1463 … The story is an epic romance which portrays the heroes of Greek mythology as chivalric figures.”
- “I do own a pair of unusual books that I treasure … they are collections of poems, written by Howard Moss, poetry editor of The New Yorker from 1948 to 1987. They originally belonged to the poet May Swenson (1913–1989), who has been a favorite of mine since I stumbled on her “Half Sun, Half Sleep” in high school … Each is heavily underlined, in both pencil and ink—an emphatic, and ugly, green ink, seemingly more suited for some censorious schoolmistress than for Swenson, a nicely calibrated nature poet. Still, I take great pleasure in her scarring underscorings and in her occasional approving check mark or cryptic annotation.”
- The Supreme Court has refused to hear an “emergency petition” from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s heirs, who are seeking “indefinite copyright protection” for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
- In which the novelist Scott Cheshire, an ex–Jehovah’s Witness, visits the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn: “I felt like throwing up, so I headed for the men’s room to pull myself together, pressed my face against the cold metal towel dispenser, and fainted.”
Here’s how I fell in love with the Supreme Court: riding a Boston city bus, earbuds in, listening to the justices’ voices. As the court debated a Chicago loitering law—a law that allowed the police to arrest not only gang members but anyone with them for lingering with “no apparent purpose” in a public place—I stared out the window at the people passing on the street. It felt provocative to overlay a high-minded argument about society on top of society as it actually existed, and I wondered whether I would hear any of my world reflected back at me from the court. Then Justice David Souter spoke, forcefully. “I’m still bothered by the seemingly open-ended possibilities of determining what is or is not an apparent purpose,” he said. “Some people, for example, with nothing better to do like to sit and watch, or stand and watch, the cars go by. That’s a purpose.” I was hooked.
Here’s how you might fall in love with the Supreme Court: sitting in a dark theater, watching two actors facing one another in desk chairs on a minimally dressed stage, reenacting an oral argument. This is Arguendo, a new play from Elevator Repair Service, still being developed in workshop but presented in four early performances on May 17 and 18 at a sixty-seat black-box theater in Brooklyn. Elevator Repair Service is best known for Gatz, a theatrical endurance test in which F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is performed in its entirety over the course of six hours. Arguendo, only forty minutes long in its present incarnation, rewards a different kind of persistence. It challenges its audience to enter in the middle of a conversation—after written briefs are filed but before an opinion has been issued—ignorant of the law, of legal language, and of the justices. We are asked to ride out that ignorance with the promise that it will yield to wisdom and delight.