Puppets Are Doing Just Fine, and Other News


On the Shelf

Look at ’em go!


  • One fun thing you can do with art is: use it to tell people what assholes they are. This is easy to try, but hard to master. Shahak Shapira, an Israeli-German writer, has the knack for it; his “YOLOCAUST” project publically shames anyone who’s ignorant enough to take a selfie at the Holocaust memorial. Alicia Eler writes, “He simply manipulated the original selfies at the memorial to include actual photos of Nazi crimes, which range from piles of dead bodies to pictures of starving people jailed in concentration camp bunks. The seamless Photoshopping job was what really made this project click. Upon visiting, which launched mid-January, you’d find various people’s selfies at the Holocaust memorial. However, if you moved your mouse over them, the once-joyful images transformed into the Photoshopped ones of Nazi death camps. Within one week of launching, the page was visited by 2.5 million people, and all twelve people Shapira featured in the project had taken their photos off of social media and also apologized … The artist invited the people in the pictures to contact him asking that he take their pictures down, simply by e-mailing [email protected].”

  • Reading Henry Green, Sarah Nicole Prickett teases out the horror he felt for himself, and—bonus!—she quotes his choice advice for lovers: “Henry Green would have said that he was not a genius. Woolf was a genius. Green did however have a genius loci, and his locus was nothing less than the deep, the inexplicable void, which for him was the self. Thank God he didn’t master this domain. There are enough good novels with relatable, memorable characters, characters who remind us of ourselves. It’s uneasier reading Green, who does the same thing by reminding us of no one. I said you would fall in love with him, but I forgot to tell you how, in 1955, he described the act. ‘A man who falls in love is a sick man, he has a kind of what used to be called green sickness,’ he wrote. As for love, it is ‘a human misfortune cultivated by novelists. It is the horror we feel of ourselves, that is of being alone with ourselves, which draws us to love, but this love should happen only once, and never be repeated, if we have … learnt our lesson, which is that we are, all and each one of us, always and always alone.’ ”
  • Meanwhile, Richard Brody revisits Philip Roth’s fearful counterfactual: “The Plot Against America dramatizes the American character as vast, manifold, and inchoate; it can use its prodigious and uninhibited energy for good or for evil, and it shifts under the sudden force of unforeseeable events. The shifts and pivots of the American nation at large are also those of each individual American. The grand political stage and the intimate life are inseparable; identity itself is inextricable from the currents of history. The novel’s mighty psychological weight rests upon a terrifyingly delicate balance of circumstances that depend on whims of chance.”
  • Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow was many things, and one of them, Jeffrey Severs argues, is a savage parody of Seattle’s 1962 Century 21 Exhibition, which represented to Pynchon everything wrong with our idea of the future. Tim Appelo explains, “Pynchon blended the Fair with Nazi Germany. Both Century 21 and the novel’s setting—a combination of Germany 1945 and a nuclear apocalypse—were billed as Cities of the Future. Jet City, as Seattle was known thanks to Boeing, became Pynchon’s Rocket City, an ‘oppressive realm of performance, spectacle and exhibitions,’ Severs notes, with monorail-like elevated trains and a mad photographer who is ‘a habitué of mercury fumes,’ like Mad Hatters and switch-crazed nuke launchers. Rocket City has a flame-topped tower (like the Space Needle’s natural gas flame in ’62), with an observation deck looking out on Seattle weather ‘washed and darkening cloud sheets … a magnificent sky, marble carried to a wildness of white billow and candescence.’ Its futuristically fast elevator combines the Needle with the Bubbleator, whose operators, like the novel’s, were all tall, striking females.”