Joe Gould’s Teeth

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For a long time, Joe Gould thought he was going blind. This was before he lost his teeth and years before he lost the history of the world he’d been writing in hundreds of dime-store composition notebooks, their black covers mottled like the pelt of a speckled goat, their white pages lined with thin blue veins.

-Jill Lepore, Joe Gould’s Teeth

Ross Macdonald

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It was August, and it shouldn’t have been raining. Perhaps rain was too strong a word for the drizzle that blurred the landscape and kept my windshield wipers going. I was driving south, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

-Ross Macdonald, “The Far Side of the Dollar,” in Three Novels of the Early 1960s

The Heavenly Table

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In 1917, just as another hellish August was starting to come to an end along the border that divides Georgia and Alabama, Pearl Jewett awakened his sons before dawn one morning with a guttural bark that sounded more animal than man.

-Donald Ray Pollock, The Heavenly Table: A Novel

Truevine

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The story seemed so crazy, many didn’t believe it at first, black or white.

But for a century, it was whispered and handed down in the segregated black communities of Roanoke, the regional city hub about thirty miles from Truevine. Worried parents would tell their children to stick together when they left home to see a circus, festival, or fair.

-Beth Macy, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South

Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be

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Noir is a French word meaning dark. It’s used to identify a certain type of grim fiction or film. Don’t let the French name fool you. There’s plenty of noir right here in East Texas, though it’s mixed with southern gothic and western and all manner of stuff: it’s a gumbo boiled in hell. I know. I’m from East Texas. I’ve seen it. I’ve written about it. Weird as some of it is, fictionalized as the work is, it comes from a wellspring of true events you just can’t make up.

-Joe R. Lansdale, Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be

Barkskins & Much More

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“By drilling deep into the woods that enabled this country to conquer the world, [Annie] Proulx [in Barkskins] has laid out the whole history of American capitalism and its rapacious destruction of the land.

“‘I don’t want to do this,’ Lezley McSpadden said, standing in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, in midtown. She was about to start a two-day press tour to promote Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, which interweaves her story with that of her son Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.”

Bald-headed thriller writers!

“There’s a precise and oddly cheering irony in the fact that In the Shadow of Frankenstein: Tales of the Modern Prometheus is itself a revived corpse of a long-dead thing.”

The Power Broker at 40.

 

 

Weapons of Math Destruction

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Big Data has plenty of evangelists, but I’m not one of them. This book will focus sharply on the damage inflicted by WMDs and the injustice they perpetuate. We will explore harmful examples that affect people at critical life moments: going to college, borrowing money, getting sentenced to prison, or finding and holding a job. All of these life domains are increasingly controlled by secret models wielding arbitrary punishments.

Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.

-Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

An Abbreviated Life

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I had friends whose families owned cosmic Park Avenue apartments and country houses in the Hamptons. When I visited them, what I envied was not their properties, but a chance to spend time in a home without conflict. I had friends whose families lived in walk-ups on narrow streets in darkened neighborhoods and whose bedroom windows faced brick walls. When I visited them, what I envied was a chance to spend time in a home without feeling on edge. Serenity was affluence. Consistency was opulence.

-Ariel Leve, An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir

In the Cafe of Lost Youth

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There were two entrances to the cafe, but she always opted for the narrower one hidden in the shadows. She always chose the same table at the back of the little room. At first she didn’t speak to anyone, then she got to know the regulars of the Conde, most of whom were about our age, I’d say between nineteen and twenty-five years old. She sometimes sat at their tables, but most of the time she was faithful to her spot, way at the back.

-Patrick Modiano, In the Cafe of Lost Youth

Bush

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George W. Bush’s legacy was a nation impoverished by debt, besieged by doubt, struggling with the aftereffects of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and deeply engaged in military conflicts of our own choosing. His tin ear for traditional conservative values, his sanctimonious religiosity, his support for Guantanamo, CIA “renditions,” and government snooping have eroded public trust in the United States at home and abroad. For eight years Bush made the decisions that put the United States on a collision course with reality. To argue that by taking the actions he did, the president kept America safe is meretricious: the type of post hoc ergo propter hoc analysis that could justify any action, regardless of its impropriety. The fact is, the threat of terrorism that faces the United States is in many respects a direct result of  Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

-Jean Edward Smith, Bush