Last November, New York Review Books published Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey: My Own Life. Aubrey, who died in 1697, is remembered for his Brief Lives, a collection of short biographies with a candor and color that enlarged the possibilities of the genre. Scurr has assembled an “autobiography” for Aubrey from remnants of his letters, manuscripts, and books, setting his sensitivities against the turmoil of Restoration-era England. He emerges as an empathetic, surprisingly modern figure. Below, Lucas Adams illustrates some of his favorite entries from My Own Life.
- George Saunders is the first to win the new £40,000 Folio Prize.
- Joe McGinniss is dead, at seventy-one.
- Illustrations from international editions of Don Quixote published in the quixotic sixties.
- “As a teenager, I thought I was the only person who revered Geek Love … Years later, when I was an editor at The Paris Review, I wrote to Dunn, and we became occasional pen pals.”
- Stonehenge may have been a “prehistoric glockenspiel”; it’s made of “lithophones, or rocks that produce notes when struck.”
- “His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces.”
A late-night note-to-self scribbled on the flyleaf of Rosemary Hill’s Stonehenge: “Why are you enraged by the idea of progress?” This short work of intellectual history—tracing theories of the megaliths from the seventeenth century to Spinal Tap—will have you reaching for the pencil on your own nightstand. It goes to the heart of English archaeology, architecture, religion, poetry, and politics, as various generations of eccentrics and savants struggle with the evidence of deep human time. By the end of the book, Stonehenge is more mysterious than ever, and so are the people who built it. In the words of David St. Hubbins, “No one knows who they were … or what they were doing.” —Lorin Stein
Christine Schutt’s forthcoming novel, Prosperous Friends, is a story about marriage and sex and time in roughly the sense that Wheat Field with Cypress is a picture of a tree. Which is to say that execution is Schutt’s genius: I read her slowly, almost aurally, not out of any confusion or even by conscious choice but because her prose is the kind of euphonic I wish I could hum. —Samuel Fox