Can a Novelist Be Too Productive? by Stephen King [New York Times] [Op-Ed]
“No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.”
President Obama’s Letter to the Editor [New York Times]
For the cover story of our Aug. 2 issue, Jim Rutenberg wrote about efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [previously], the landmark piece of legislation that cleared barriers between black voters and the ballot. The story surveyed a broad sweep of history and characters, from United States Chief Justice John Roberts to ordinary citizens like 94-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in the current North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions enacted in 2013. The magazine received an unusual volume of responses to this article, most notably from President Barack Obama.
Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”
Dayna Evans writes about Taylor Swift for Gawker: [T]he part of Taylor’s persona that doesn’t get talked about enough [is that] she is a ruthless, publicly capitalist pop star. To think of her as womanhood incarnate is to trick oneself into forgetting about “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge.” Swift isn’t here to help women—she’s here to make bank… Her plan—to be as famous and as rich as she can possibly be—is working, and by using other women as tools of her self-promotion, she is distilling feminism for her own benefit. [more inside]
When the Internet’s ‘Moderators’ Are Anything But [New York Times] The title suggests a steward of civility and decency. But online, unpaid moderators can become a force for mayhem. [more inside]
The New York Times suggests putting peas in your guacamole. Following up on a suggestion it made two years ago, the Times is offering a guacamole recipe from ABC Cocina in Union Square: a collaboration between the restaurant's chef-owner, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and his chef de cuisine, Ian Coogan, that contains green peas. The suggestion has been met with dismay from guacamole-lovers around the country, including the President himself. But it's not a political issue: in Texas, for instance, Republicans and Democrats alike agree that the New York Times shouldn't mess with guacamole.
Wanted: A Theology of Atheism by Molly Werthen [New York Times] [Op-Ed] What do people who don’t believe in God believe instead?
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen by Christopher Solomon [New York Times]
A professor’s hunch is that birds are saying much more in warning of danger than previously suspected, and that other animals have evolved to understand the signals.
In Flight [New York Times] [Interactive] En route from London to Tokyo, a pilot’s-eye view of life in the sky.
In China, Pigs Are Flying. Almost. [New York Times]
"With summer almost here, swine across China are jumping or being shoved off platforms and splashing into pools and ponds, where they bob around before paddling to shore."
Hundreds Feared Dead After Boat Filled With Migrants Capsizes in Mediterranean [New York Times]
"For the past several years, Europe has been confronted with hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving illegally from Africa and the Middle East, many of them fleeing war and poverty. Italy has been in the vanguard of rescue efforts, with its Navy and Coast Guard ships rescuing more than 130,000 people last year in a widely praised program known as Mare Nostrum."[more inside]
Once-Prized Tibetan Mastiffs Are Discarded as Fad Ends in China [New York Times]
“Then there is the Tibetan mastiff, a lumbering shepherding dog native to the Himalayan highlands that was once the must-have accouterment for status-conscious Chinese. Four years ago, a reddish-brown purebred named Big Splash sold for $1.6 million, according to news reports, though cynics said the price was probably exaggerated for marketing purposes. No reasonable buyer, self-anointed experts said at the time, would pay more than $250,000 for a premium specimen.”
The Cuddly, Fluffy, Surreal World of Angora Show Bunnies [New York Times]
With beguiling beauty — and an arduous hair-care regimen — these rabbits compete to reach the height of perfection.
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
Headgear Rule for Girls’ Lacrosse Ignites Outcry [New York Times]
Worried about the risk of serious head injuries in a sport where the players wield reinforced sticks and rifle shots with a hard, unyielding ball, Florida last month became the first state to require high school girls’ lacrosse teams to wear protective headgear.
Raising Teenagers: The Mother of All Problems by Rachel Cusk [New York Times]
Children are characters in the family story we tell — until, one day, they start telling it themselves.
Cabbies’ Street Knowledge Takes Back Seat [New York Times]
New York cabbies have long had to face a rigorous set of geography questions on the test they must pass to get a license. Now those questions have disappeared.Related: Who Needs a GPS? A New York Geography Quiz
A Giant Picture of Snow Across the United States [New York Times]
These composite satellite images compare the snow cover in February of 2013, 2014 and 2015. This year, much of the Northeast, including the New York metropolitan area and New England, received more than a foot of extra snow than in an average February.Each image is a composite of about 60 satellite pictures taken between Feb. 1 and March 5 of each year. Whiter areas indicate greater snow cover.
The most optimistic people often struggle the hardest. They can’t quite square what’s going on in the world with their beliefs, and the disparity is alarming. [slnyt]
My Saga, Part 1 By Karl Ove Knausgaard [New York Times] Following the trail of the first Europeans to set foot in America, the first of two parts. Previously. Previously. [more inside]
Lights Out in Nigeria by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [New York Times]
"LAGOS, Nigeria — WE call it light; “electricity” is too sterile a word, and “power” too stiff, for this Nigerian phenomenon that can buoy spirits and smother dreams. Whenever I have been away from home for a while, my first question upon returning is always: “How has light been?” The response, from my gateman, comes in mournful degrees of a head shake. Bad. Very bad.Previously.
A Twist in the Murder of a 97-Year-Old Man: He Was Knifed 5 Decades Ago: [New York Times]
The New York medical examiner determined that an operation after a stabbing in the 1950s led to Antonio Ciccarello’s death in September at 97. The police have opened a murder investigation.
Céline Unveils Its Latest Poster Girl: Joan Didion [New York Times]
“I don’t have any clue,” said the 80-year-old author of well-thumbed classics such as “The White Album,” “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and “The Year of Magical Thinking,” reached by telephone on Wednesday at her Upper East Side residence (where the photo, by Juergen Teller, was taken). “I have no idea.” Whose idea was this? “They got in touch with me,” Ms. Didion said, as crisp as one of Phoebe Philo’s cotton tunics."[The Céline ad featuring Joan Didion.] [more inside]
Poynter's List of the Best (and Worst) Corrections, Retractions and Apologies in Media in 2014 Previously. Previouslier.
First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
Exquisite Corpse [New York Times]
Taking their cue from the Surrealist parlor game, 15 renowned authors take turns contributing to an original short story.[more inside]
To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."
‘The Giving Tree’: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Selfishness?
Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen reconsider Shel Silverstein’s classic, published 50 years ago.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, ‘Baby Doc’ of Haiti, Dies at 63: [New York Times]
"Jean-Claude Duvalier, a former president of Haiti known as Baby Doc who ruled the country with a bloody brutality and then shocked the country anew with a sudden return from a 25-year exile in 2011, died on Saturday."
A New Yorker Faces His Phobia, One Stroke at a Time [New York Times] With Intensive Swim Lessons, a Man Attacks His Fear of Water
"Traumatized by childhood incidents, Attis Clopton was deathly afraid of water, so he attacked his phobia by enrolling in a program of swimming lessons."
Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me [New York Times]
"...airline seats are an excellent case study for the Coase Theorem. This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most. That is, I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop."
PAPER BOYS: The Dark World of Debt Collection [New York Times] In the murky world of unpaid bills, a banker and an ex-con can make a fortune — if they don’t run into too many crooks.
Mark Danner has been writing a series in the New York Review Of Books: Rumsfeld's War And Its Consequences Now
A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a sixty-nine-year-old politician and businessman—a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful—returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:[more inside]Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]
William T. Vollmann: The Self Images of a Cross-Dresser [New York Times] From a profile on William T. Vollmann, in The New York Times. The profile centers around Vollmann’s latest book, The Book of Dolores.
In a remote corner of the South China Sea, 105 nautical miles from the Philippines, lies a submerged reef the Filipinos call Ayungin. In most ways it resembles the hundreds of other reefs, islands, rock clusters and cays that collectively are called the Spratly Islands. But Ayungin is different. In the reef’s shallows there sits a forsaken ship, manned by eight Filipino troops whose job is to keep China in check... It was hard to imagine how such a forsaken place could become a flash point in a geopolitical power struggle. Jeff Himmelman (words) and Ashley Gilbertson (images). A Game of Shark and Minnow [SLNYTimes interactive, (calm) autoplaying audio]
Bearing Arms: [New York Times] Articles in this series examine the gun industry’s influence and the wide availability of firearms in America. [more inside]
"How Not To Be Alone" Author Jonathan Safran Foer touches on loneliness and empathy in an era of "iDistractions" during his commencement address at Middlebury College. (SLNYT)
"Despite her pedigree, success came slowly," the story bravely ventured. This slowness was maybe not so apparent to several thousand other 24-year-olds who want to be actresses, but who haven't even figured out how to get to a reading for Law & Order to fail at it. Tom Scocca on Nathaniel Rich, Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet, and cultural nepotism. (Related: How David Carr Became the Daddy of Girls)
The New York Times Magazine's latest issue, The Lives They Lived, is a tribute to cultural icons that have died in 2012. Adam Yauch, a.k.a MCA of the Beastie Boys, is featured on the cover. [more inside]
“This is also the limits of photography in that sense; it only goes so far in understanding what’s in front of you,”
New York Times' Lens blog: Looking at the Tangled Roots of Violence in Northern Nigeria highlights the work of Benedicte Kurzen. [more inside]
"For a few months in 1922, throngs of America’s youth — from schoolkids to shopgirls — were swept up in a leaderless pyramid scheme that promised “something for nothing” and encouraged promiscuous flirtation. These were the “Shifters.” This is their (brief) story." (NYTimes link) Previously on the flappers and flapper slang: 1, 2.
Big Data On Campus (NYTimes) “We don’t want to turn into just eHarmony,” says Michael Zimmer, assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he studies ethical dimensions of new technology. “I’m worried that we’re taking both the richness and the serendipitous aspect of courses and professors and majors — and all the things that are supposed to be university life — and instead translating it into 18 variables that spit out, ‘This is your best fit. So go over here.’ ”
Marriage may have changed, but love has not. It still makes people say crazy things. And it’s still a glue that no one has control of.
The New York Times' "Vows" column is turning 20. Lois Smith Brady revisits some of the first couples covered in the column which she has written since its inception (alone for the first decade, and as one of several writers in its second). A companion article describes how the column came about and how it (and the couples it covers) have changed over the years. [more inside]