- In which Justin Taylor dissects a paragraph of Sam Lipsyte’s story “This Appointment Occurs in the Past,” in the name of pedagogy: “The only higher-order claims I wish to make today are, attention to language at the molecular level is valuable in itself; second, that anyone can learn it, in or out of the classroom; and third, that once it becomes assimilated as instinct it will enhance your writing as much as your reading, irrespective of whether you ever choose to write or read this way again.”
- Witness the rise of the smarmonym, a living reflection of our passive-aggressive use of language. What is it? Any word that we’ve “ironized and de-meaninged and re-meaninged”: “Pal, which often connotes enemy … And tolerance—which, when selected as a noun, often suggests its own absence. And classy. And sincerely, whose presence in a sentence is often evidence of, you know, total insincerity. Honestly, for the same reason. Respectfully, too. And, of course, literally …
- Today in interdisciplinary skirmishes: Simon Critchley remembers his teacher Frank Cioffi, whose philosophy had scientism in its crosshairs. “His concern was with the relation between the causal explanations offered by science and the kinds of humanistic description we find, say, in the novels of Dickens or Dostoevsky, or in the sociological writings of Erving Goffman and David Riesman. His quest was to try and clarify the occasions when a scientific explanation was appropriate and when it was not, and we need instead a humanistic remark. His conviction was that our confusions about science and the humanities had wide-ranging and malign societal consequences.”
- Paper is obsolete. Paper is wasteful and silly. And pages! Pages are ridiculous. The future of books is glass. Say it with me: the future belongs to glass.
- Garth Greenwell read Michael Nava’s The Little Death, a mystery novel with a gay Latino hero from an immigrant family in California’s Central Valley: “Henry Rios is a defense attorney whose hardboiled bona fides—world-weariness, wit, a penchant for erotic entanglement—are accompanied by a hyper-attentiveness to class and a commitment to the poor. In a genre that had used queer people primarily as figures of ridicule and contempt, the Rios books offer a vista on gay lives extending from the closet-lined corridors of power to cruising parks and leather bars.”
- The Paris Review Parisians didn’t fare too well this summer in New York Media Softball League. But you know who did? The High Times. They beat us. They beat pretty much everyone. “The Bonghitters remain an industry powerhouse. They’re the defending league champions … and they’ve been blazing through opponents since forming in 1991 … For the Bonghitters, the first key to winning is showing up.” The second key is getting stoned.
- In praise of the footnote1: “Many readers, and perhaps some publishers, seem to view endnotes, indexes, and the like as gratuitous dressing—the literary equivalent of purple kale leaves at the edges of the crudités platter. You put them there to round out and dignify the main text, but they’re too raw to digest, and often stiff … Still, the back matter is not simply a garnish. Indexes open a text up. Notes are often integral to meaning, and, occasionally, they’re beautiful, too.”
- One way of arguing for the necessity of print: “Rather than stand on a street corner yelling, ‘Literature is not commodity!’ I decided to inflict a series of physical experiments on my published work, to take several copies of the new book, go at them with my hands, and see what might result. I stripped the book of its cover, bought a pouch of tobacco, tore the pages, rolled the words.”
- Among the many treasures of the Bodleian Libraries: “A bivalve locket with locks of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s hair. ‘Blessed are the eyes that saw him alive,’ an inscription reads in Latin.”
- “Metaphor is actually a fundamental constituent of language … In the seemingly literal statement ‘He’s out of sight,’ the visual field is metaphorized as a container that holds things … Ordinary language is saturated with metaphors. Our eyes point to where we’re going, so we tend to speak of future time as being ‘ahead’ of us. When things increase, they tend to go up relative to us, so we tend to speak of stocks ‘rising’ instead of getting more expensive.”
- Really, though, if humanity discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life, could we be expected to behave ourselves? “There might be happiness and celebration to mark the end of isolation, or the news might be met with a shrug. But human nature suggests it’s more probable that this discovery triggers a chain of events that lead to utter disaster. Suddenly your safe haven is threatened by an unknown ‘them.’ Your time-tested principles of governance and social order are put under pressure. Gossip, rumor, and conjecture will gnaw away at your stable home.”
1. And the endnote, too.
Book sculptures by Su Blackwell.
Seattle artist James Allen creates “Book Excavations” by cutting away layers of pages.
A cultural news roundup.
- Want to know the books Whitey Bulger would have taken to the grave?
- Paper landscapes, a tsunami of pages—this is extreme editing.
- Be Kind to Books Club. Some propaganda never gets old.
- Self-promotion knows no boundaries.
- “You can’t turn Infinite Jest into a two-hour play. You can’t put it on a conventional stage. And you can’t send your audience away without at least a small dose of pain.”
- A giant squid invades Paris in Fiona Apple’s new music video.
- R.I.P. Gitta Sereny.
- The conspiracy is alive: find a Thomas Pynchon “Trystero” near you.
- Twilight is not an acceptable nomination.
- Paging Jonathan Franzen. #OccupyGaddis begins now!
- Flannery O’Connor reads “A Good Man is Hard to Find” in a rare 1959 recording.
- What happens when you leave a group of boys around art? The sculptor Eva Rothschild finds out.