Pranksters & Much More


“Pranks can be simple: the Czech author Jaroslav Hašek used to put on a white coat, walk into a library and shout, ‘Everybody out!’ Dutifully the readers would leave. Or they can be extremely complicated: Banksy made a batch of fake banknotes featuring the head of Lady Di rather than the Queen. They were so convincing that people started to accept them without checking.” Here‘s Pranksters.

“I discovered the poetry of Diane Wakoski when I was about 15, when I knew very little about poetry or its trends and schools. Stumbling into a thrift store near Hollywood Boulevard, I was just a fucked up kid, high as a kite, scrounging a spare 50 cents for a book. That book was Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch and it changed my life; I opened it and found myself.” Here.

“Generating fear in the populace may be an excellent way to bolster state power, but it’s a lousy substitute for actual information and realistic assessment of the challenges a nation faces.” Here‘s a review of Phantom Terror.

“I once thought of Julia’s ghost as a joke and an anecdote,” writes journalist Hannah Nordhaus (American Ghost). “Now I consider it a gift. It lured me into a past I would have never known. So of course I believe in ghosts. I believe in the power of the past.” Here.

This paradoxical, irritating, overbearing, brilliant Marxist whose love life would shame a Casanova, and whose intellectual praxis suggests that after Shakespeare he is one of the greatest theatrical thinkers and playwrights.” Here‘s Brecht.

“Killing people like this, even when an intended target is hit, [Andrew] Cockburn writes, is a dark area: is this sniping, an element of declared warfare, or is it assassination — once illegal, now murkier than Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River before it burst into flames, just as this tactic may. Executive Order 11905 (1976) states that ‘no employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.’” Here‘s a review of Andrew Cockburn’s Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.


Years later, long since fully grown and each of them enmeshed in his own particular form of unhappiness, none of Arthur Friedland’s sons could recall whose idea it had actually been to go to the hypnotist that afternoon.

-Daniel Kehlmann, F: A Novel


The Match Girl and the Heiress

I cannot say with certainty how and when they met, but I do know that Muriel Lester and Nellie Dowell loved one another.

-Seth Koven, The Match Girl and the Heiress


Young Skins

This was a summer night about a thousand years ago and myself and my cousin Matteen Judge were driving round and round and round the deserted oval green of Grove Park estate, waiting to see what we would see.

-Colin Barrett, “Bait,” in Young Skins: Stories


The Moral Arc

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether people are serious when they make preposterous claims, or are just riling up their fellow believers. For example, a British politician noted, “Since the passage of the Marriage [same-sex couples] Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods.” Blaming God’s anger at gay people for bad weather is nothing new. It’s an American tradition: after every tornado of hurricane, at least one religious wingnut points the finger at same-sex coupling as the reason for God’s liquid wrath. Apparently hurricanes are God’s way of teaching humanity, once again, that straight sex is the only kind of which the Almighty approves.

-Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom


The Body Keeps the Score

As human beings we belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from our relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), and the violence and betrayal in our own lives. But traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations. They also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even on our biology and immune systems.

-Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma


Our Only World

On the day of the bombing in Boston, The New York Times printed an op-ed piece by a human being who had been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than eleven years, uncharged and of course untried.

-Wendell Berry, “The Commerce of Violence,” in Our Only World: Ten Essays

Our Kids & More

“If we can begin to think of these poor kids as our kids, we would not sleep for a second before we figured out how to help them,” says Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis). Here‘s one of the year’s most important books.

Says Lawrence Wright (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief): It is really interesting to understand why people are drawn in to the church. What do they get out of it and why do they stay? If you can understand that, in reference to a belief system that most people regard as very bizarre and has a reputation for being incredibly vindictive and litigious, then you might understand other social and religious and political movements that arise and take very good, kind, idealistic, intelligent, skeptical people and turn them into people they wouldn’t otherwise recognize.” Here.

“The trouble comes when people can interpret any religious text to mean whatever they want. ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ gives you permission to physically abuse your child. The notion that one can pray for healing is taken to its illogical end to where you can pray instead of giving modern medical advances a chance to work.” Here‘s Paul Offit (Bad Faith).

“An epic American tragedy.” Here‘s a review of Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel A Little Life.

My Sunshine Away

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk on Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot.

-M.O. Walsh, My Sunshine Away: A Novel


The Big Seven

Sunderson must have been about ten and was burning up with fever from strep throat and still had to go to Sunday morning Lutheran service.

-Jim Harrison, The Big Seven