--Dave Eggers, An Interview with Dave EggersSaying no is so fucking boring.
--Adam Gopnik, Why We Use CookbooksWhen you start to cook, as when you begin to live, you think that the point is to improve the technique until you end up with something perfect, and that the reason you haven’t been able to break the cycle of desire and disillusion is that you haven’t yet mastered the rules. Then you grow up, and you learn that that’s the game.
On the subject of mistakes, it is--for some reason--making me sad that I have to get rid of all of these silly, superficial text messages on my old phone. And because I am feeling melancholy and perhaps a bit spiteful, I would just like to say: when you said "you remind me of bread pudding" it meant nothing then and even less now.
--Leah Hager Cohen, Alice Munro's Object LessonsThe Germans must have a term for it. Doppelgedanken, perhaps: the sensation, when reading, that your own mind is giving birth to the words as they appear on the page. Such is the ego that in these rare instances you wonder, “How could the author have known what I was thinking?”
--The Secret Political Reach of The FamilyGROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?
SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.
And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.
GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?
SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.
SHARLET: And some of the, really the core rhetoric of The Family is this idea that most of us misread the New Testament, that Christ's message - the bottom line of Christ's message wasn't really about love or mercy or justice or forgiveness. It was about power. So Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe they're more conservative, they're going to say Billy Graham. And Coe likes to give in answer: Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. And he will say - he's quick to say these are evil men, but they understood power. And that message recurs again, and again, and again in The Family.
Have I been living under a rock? How have I never heard of this group before? This is a terrifying interview; give it a listen if you get the chance.
--Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of LossThey had a self-righteousness common to many Indian women of the English-speaking upper-educated, went out to mimosa brunches, ate their Dadi's roti with adept fingers, donned a sari or smacked on elastic shorts for aerobics, could say "Namaste, Kusum Auntie, aayiye, baethiye, khayie!" as easily as "Shit!" They took to short hair quickly, were eager for Western-style romance, and happy for a traditional ceremony with lots of jewelry...They considered themselves to be uniquely positioned to lecture everyone on a variety of topics: accounting professors on accounting, Vermonters on the fall foliage, Indians on America, Americans on India, Indians on India, Americans on America. They were poised; they were impressive; in the United States, where luckily it was still assumed that Indian women were downtrodden, they were lauded as extraordinary--which had the unfortunate result of making them even more of what they already were.
--Blake Wilson, Stray Questions for: Roberto Bolaño?! [via Boyland]
Monica Maristain: Have you shed one tear about the widespread criticism you’ve drawn from your enemies?Roberto Bolaño: Lots and lots. Every time I read that someone has spoken badly of me I begin to cry, I drag myself across the floor, I scratch myself, I stop writing indefinitely, I lose my appetite, I smoke less, I engage in sport, I go for walks on the edge of the sea, which by the way is less than 30 meters from my house and I ask the seagulls, whose ancestors ate the fish who ate Ulysses: Why me? Why? I’ve done you no harm.
Writing this felt really good. I like this whole online evaluation thing--it gives me enough time to write what I want to write.Dr. Cherry has structured this class so that he does as little teaching as possible. At the beginning of the quarter, he split us up into small groups. Within these groups, we were expected to teach ourselves--Dr. Cherry rarely lectured or taught in any way. He would assign homework, then tell us to review the homework with our groups during the next class period. Within the small groups, we felt very lost--it seemed backwards to do homework on a topic and then "learn" about it afterward. Throughout the quarter, we felt as if we were the blind leading the blind. We were never allowed to see the correct answers to our homework, so we never knew if we were teaching ourselves correctly. Our homework was graded for participation only--we never got any feedback on it, not even a check mark to show us that he was looking at it. Therefore, "learning" in this class was sort of a ridiculous idea. We were never, ever shown whether what we were doing was correct. Though the material we were learning did not lend itself well to multiple choice questions, he gave us multiple choice quizzes and tests--because, I'm guessing, he does not have to do any grading if we are filling out scan-trons. As a result, the quiz and test questions were fairly confusing. Like with the homework, we never got any quizzes or tests back. I have never been in a class before where my grade has been so mysterious.
I would not have felt so helpless in this class if I thought I could talk to Dr. Cherry about my performance. Unfortunately, Dr. Cherry was the least approachable professor I've ever had. He seemed to take offense when students asked questions and held evident grudges against students who asked to see a key for the homework or a quiz grade. At the beginning of the quarter, he made jokey remarks about a "sense of humor" being the only prerequisite for the class, but I am finding it difficult to have a sense of humor about my tuition going toward this man's paycheck. I honestly cannot think of a single thing Dr. Cherry actually did in this class, other than show up in Denney twice a week. He did not lecture, did not grade anything, and did not make tests or quizzes (they were obviously recycled from previous years). What, then, is Ohio State paying him to do? This professor was a waste of my time.
--Ethan Canin, We are Nighttime TravelersWe take steps the length of table forks. Francine holds my elbow. I have mean secrets and small dreams, no plans greater than where to buy groceries and what rhymes to read next...
In the kitchen--with mugs of tea and Nutella-on-apples and a story being told aloud--it was a peaceful evening.
My eight-year-old son, Joel, comes into my office to ask if there's a worse swearword than fuck. "No," I say.
There's a silence. "You're lying," he says.
"There's none worse than fuck," I say.
Joel narrows his eyes. "I know you're lying," he says. He leaves the room.
--John Williams, The Oy of Cooking about this bookHe doesn’t have time to mention Singer, but he compares himself to Kafka, quotes Derrida (more than once), and mistakes graphic design for profundity. One chapter begins with the boldfaced words “Speechlessness / Influence / Speechlessness / Influence” densely repeated for five whole pages. There are times when you can almost hear Foer thinking: Yes, these arguments have been made dozens of times before, but they’ve never been made in this font.
--Shel Silverstein, Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back"Don't be silly," said the hunter. "Who ever heard of a lion giving up. Lions don't give up, lions fight to the end. Lions eat up hunters! So I must shoot you now and make you into a nice rug and put you in front of my fireplace and on cold winter evenings I will sit on you and toast marshmallows."
"Well, my goodness, you don't have to shoot me," said the young lion. "I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows," said the young lion.
"You what?" said the hunter.
"Well," said the young lion, "to be absolutely honest with you, I don't know if I really love marshmallows or not because I've never tasted one, but I love most things and I love the sound of the word marshmallow and if they taste just like they sound--mmmmmmmmmmmmm!--I just know I will love them."
--Susan Beyer and Lothar Gorris, Interview with Umberto Eco (via Luke's Commonplace)
SPIEGEL: You include a nice list by the French philosopher Roland Barthes in your new book, "The Vertigo of Lists." He lists the things he loves and the things he doesn't love. He loves salad, cinnamon, cheese and spices. He doesn't love bikers, women in long pants, geraniums, strawberries and the harpsichord. What about you?
Eco: I would be a fool to answer that; it would mean pinning myself down. I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot.
I loved our kitchen before, but now that we've made one of the walls a chalkboard, I love it even more. Also, my room! My room that actually looks like a room now instead of just a temporary living space.
There are times in the apartment when, facing certain disaster (oh no oh no oh no) and feeling completely dumbfounded (what to do what to do what to do), I call for Kt. She follows my thin, panicky voice and (thank you thank you thank you) saves me every time.
--Texas City Disaster, WikipediaAt 9:12, the ammonium nitrate reached an explosive threshold of 850°F. The vessel then detonated, causing great destruction and damage throughout the port. The tremendous blast sent a 15-foot tidal wave surging over nearly 100 miles of the Texas shoreline, leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land, and sunk virtually every ship within the harbor. Two airplanes flying in the area were incinerated. A chain reaction caused an explosion on board the High Flyer and ignited refineries on the waterfront, destroying the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and several explosive facilities. Falling bales of burning twine added to the damage while the Grandcamp's anchor was hurled across the city. Sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings sheared off, forcing both out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to their knees, windows were shattered in Houston, Texas, 40 miles away. People felt the shock 250 miles away in Louisiana. The explosion blew almost 6,350 tons of the ship's steel into the air, some at supersonic speed. Official casualty estimates came to a total of 567, but many victims were burned to ashes or literally blown to bits, and the official total is believed to be an underestimate. The entire volunteer fire department of Texas City was killed in the initial explosion, and with the fires raging, first responders from other areas were unable to reach the site of the disaster.
In history today we talked about systemic failures; the world is a crazy sad place sometimes.
--Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman"You know what I'm going to do right after we eat?" she said. "I'm going to take a hot-water bottle and go right back to bed and maybe I'll get my strength back and feel like doing something."
That was what she nearly always said she was going to do, but she always announced it as if it was an idea that had just occurred to her, a hopeful decision.