A Short Excerpt from Coconut Oil

Here is a very short excerpt from the “Wintertide” chapter of “Coconut Oil.” Oh, and the jouissance of the creamy oil’s single flavor savors of favor, in the bath, kitchen, by the four-poster or berth, for dry skin, diaper rash, or when the dark knells for thee. No need to refrigerate. Oil squeaky hinges, refurbish…

On hasty writing and reading

I was struck by Louis Menand’s comment in his review of Douglas Brinkley’s biography of Walter Cronkite (New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012), that “…’Cronkite’ (HarperCollins), is long and hastily written… (88).” I wasn’t surprised, though, for US culture is Menand’s turf, and his own output, if the measurement means anything, is dwarfed by…

On The New Yorker On Twitter; or, Drink, Memory

This week, The New Yorker, on Twitter, is sponsoring a tweet-fest, calling on followers to tweet their all-time favorite New Yorker piece. My first response was a tongue-in-cheek, “The Cartoons”! I’ve been reading the New Yorker, a weekly, for over 40 years, but these days when I intone the magic words, “Speak, Memory,” I often…

Hybrid Reading and “Sex and the vote”

Newspapers are dying, but as they slide into immateriality, they’re looking for ways to merge into Internet traffic. Regular columnists are forced to blog to establish stronger and closer connections with their audiences. No doubt many regular columnists are already longing for the days when they had the highway to themselves. Blogging, of course, invites…

“Off with their heads!” Rhetorical Images of Heads of States

“Off with their heads!” shouts Carroll’s Queen in Wonderland. Just so, Platon has beheaded them all in “Portraits of Power,” in the December 7 New Yorker. The head of state is not a whole person, but a symbol, but of what? “The king is an erection of the body politic,” Norman O. Brown says in…

Caleb Crain and Becker-Posner Print Their Blogs

As we watch the coming of the end of books and the disappearance of newspapers, we note an increase in electronic self-publishing, blogs the obvious pedestrian example, but then, in an interesting twist, we see blogs subsequently published in more traditional print copy format. Two recent and noteworthy examples illustrate: Caleb Crain’s The Wreck of the…

Double Shot, Hold the Book

The end of books is closer than we thought. A short article in today’s Christian Science Monitor discusses a private high school that has replaced the books in its library with a $12,000 espresso machine, three sports bar like TVs, Kindles with e-books, and laptops. Apparently, the old, hard copy books were not being checked out and…

Bio-Lego-Land: Building a Better Body thru Metaphor

In the September 28, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, we meet synthetic bio-Lego-boys Drew Endy and Rob Carlson: “Some of my best work has come together in my mind’s eye accompanied by what I swear was an audible click, ” Carlson tells New Yorker’s Michael Specter, who says Endy has never forgotten “…the secret…

Jane Kramer tosses a toad to Montaigne

Jane Kramer tosses a lit toad into Montaigne’s lap – sitting in his tower, surrounded by his books, like nothing else in Tennessee: “He would have loved Google” (p. 40). Would Montaigne have loved Google, which, according to Nicholas Carr, is making us stupid? Certainly, Montaigne was a blogger, his “hits” count initially limited by the…

Where jazz and literature get encaged

The 2009 Believer music issue (July/August 09) arrived yesterday, and there’s a perceptive interview with jazz guitarist Pat Martino: “BLVR: What do you think jazz’s place in American culture is today?” “PM: The only thing I can be definitive with is an example. Take the students of jazz in our conservatories and universities. They’re studying…

Kicking E. B. White When He’s Down

To a neighborly inquiry, yes, we saw the vicious attack on the venerable E. B. White, first in the Chronicle, then, with several bystanders jumping on for a kick or two, in the Times. We first became aware of Pullum at Emdashes, where, we thought, Martin Schneider – omitting needless words – handled the matter…

Distance of First Person Plural

For some time we’ve been thinking of addressing the blog’s use of the first person plural. Are we a group blog, or command central for some multiple personality? Are we looking for safety in number? At St. Anthony’s in the early sixties we lined up outdoors in front of our classrooms following recess, shortest in the front to tallest…