Ray and Joan

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Before southern California’s glorious, golden landscape was etched with eight-lane superhighways and tangles of concrete flyovers choreographing a continuous vehicular ballet; before families became enchanted with the thrill and convenience of popping TV dinners into the oven; before preservatives and GMOs allowed food in mass quantities to be processed, preserved, and transported in refrigerated trucks and served up in disposable packaging at fast-food franchises for quick consumption on the go by harried, hungry travelers, there were oranges. Millions of oranges, fragrantly punctuating thousands of acres.

-Lisa Napoli, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

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Everyone hates email. And yet we can’t stop checking it. Recent studies show that office workers dip into their inboxes on average a whopping 74 times a day and spend roughly 28 percent of their total workday on the task of reading and responding to email. What’s more, scientists have established a clear link between spending time on email and stress: the more frequently we check our email, the more frazzled we feel.

-Jocelyn K. Glei, Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done

Lincoln in the Bardo

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On our wedding day, I was forty-six, she was eighteen. Now, I know what you are thinking: older man (not thin, somewhat bald, lame in one leg, teeth of wood) exercises the marital prerogative, thereby mortifying the poor young–

But that is false.

That is exactly what I refused to do, you see.

-George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

The Virginity of Famous Men

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At the call center lodged within Clean n’ Soft’s sales and marketing department, five of us earn our livelihoods working twenty-five to forty hours per week. We have no windows in our workplace, but we do have a functioning coffee machine and an eerily glowing man-size box that, if fed the right coins, will disgorge fattening snacks like Snickers bars and Lorna Doone cookies during good weeks, waxen donuts and filling-ruining peanut chew during bad.

-Christine Sneed, “Words That Once Shocked Us,” in The Virginity of Famous Men: Stories

Desert Boys

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For a brief but memorable time I belonged to an organization at my high school called, ridiculously, the Future Farmers of the Antelope Valley.

-Chris McCormick, “The Costs and Benefits of Desert Agriculture,” in Desert Boys

This Is the Ritual

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When I think of Ireland, John-Paul Finnegan said as we stood on the deck of the ferry while it pulled out of Holyhead, I think of a limitless ignorance. And not just an ignorance, but a wallowing in ignorance, akin to the wallowing in filth of a pig or a naked, demented savage.

-Rob Doyle, “John-Paul Finnegan, Paltry Realist,” in This Is the Ritual: Stories

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

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As a gardener in a prison, I know a considerable amount about a few plants, the plants that have been in captivity along with me.

-Michelle Scott, “How I Became a Prison Gardener,” in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016 edited by Rachel Kushner

My Name Is Lucy Barton

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In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which sits so large and many-stepped on Fifth Avenue in New York, there is a section on the first floor referred to as the sculpture garden, and I must have walked past this particular sculpture many times with my husband, and with the children as they got older, me thinking only of getting food for the kids, and never really knowing what a person did in a museum of this nature where there were so many things to look at. In the middle of these needs and worries is a statue. And only recently–in the last few years–when the light was hitting it with a splendid wash, did I stop and look at it and say: Oh.

-Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel

Why Time Flies

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In the beginning, or right before that, there was no time. According to cosmologists, the universe started nearly fourteen billion years ago with a “big bang” and in an instant expanded to something closer to its current size, and it continues to expand faster than the speed of light. Before all that, though, there was nothing: no mass, no matter, no energy, no gravity, no motion, no change. No time.

-Alan Burdick, Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation

I Am Not Your Negro & So Much More

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“The film does several things. First, it makes sure Baldwin will never be forgotten. That is a victory, because people have started to push him aside. The film will circulate, and it will only bring people back to his books.That was the idea: to make sure his legacy will continue.” As both film and book, I Am Not Your Negro will undoubtedly bring many to a great American writer.

Hideo Yokoyama is one of Japan’s most popular crime novelists. Yet he regards the crime as the least interesting part of the stories he tells.” Here’s the author of Six Four.

“I have no illusions about what the impact of my withdrawal will be,” writes crime novelist Linwood Barclay (The Twenty-Three). “I don’t imagine Steve Bannon will say, ‘Whoa, Barclay’s not coming, we better rethink this.’ As one Twitter follower said to me, ‘Your call, but we’ll get along fine without you.’ I’ve no doubt. But this really wasn’t about trying to send a message. I just have to be able to look myself in the mirror.”

Quirky.

The story of the close yet volatile friendship between John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway.” Here’s a review of James McGrath Morris’s The Ambulance Drivers.

Says Paul Auster (4 3 2 1): “We think our institutions are very solid, but not necessarily, and you keep attacking them, then suddenly the foundations are going to collapse, and then we’re in for real trouble. I don’t want to go on and on about Trump and his cabinet appointments, but pretty much everyone he’s picked so far is someone who has made a career out of trying to dismantle the very agency he’s supposed to lead. So, we’re in for a very weird, weird time. The Environmental Protection Agency is there to protect the environment and if the person in charge of it doesn’t believe in it, then how can he be the head of it? This is the absurd impasse we’ve come to now, where somehow it seems legitimate to millions of people in the country to take apart everything we’ve tried to build up all these years. And for what?”

“The insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair.” Salman Rushdie‘s forthcoming novel.