When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
Over-confident people enter into our lives in many forms: military planners, Wall Street investors, that chick shouting *NSYNC into the mic at the back of the bar. Daniel Kahneman's new book Thinking, Fast and Slow, deals with this phenomenon of human nature. Read an excerpt here.
"Our Aesthetic Categories, though, argues on behalf of aesthetic experiences that aren’t quite so awe-inspiring or rare. Sitting before your computers or walking the streets of your town, you don’t encounter beautiful things as frequently as you do interesting, momentarily arresting ones—and as for the sublime, when was the last time you experienced catharsis? Instead, [Sianne] Ngai considers our 'minor' aesthetic experiences, the ones that make up our day." In the era of adorkable and nerd chic, Slate looks at Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting.
Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood has been dropped from one New Jersey school's syllabus due to "some words and language that seemed to be inappropriate as far as the parents and some of the kids were concerned." His publisher A. A. Knopf has issued a statement in response.
"Riordan’s books prompt an uneasy interrogation of the premise underlying the 'so long as they’re reading' side of the debate—at least among those of us who want to share Neil Gaiman’s optimistic view that all reading is good reading, and yet find ourselves by disposition closer to the Tim Parks end of the spectrum, worried that those books on our children’s shelves that offer easy gratification are crowding out the different pleasures that may be offered by less grabby volumes." In an essay for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead considers questions about what children should be reading through the lens of the Percy Jackson series.
Another hip-hip for long-form journalism. George Packer's piece in the New Yorker on Richard Holbrooke and the Af-Pak War reminds one that some things -- complicated geopolitical matters, for example -- must be explored at length. Subscribers can read the full article in the digital edition here. Short of that, read Packer's assessment of the McChrystal Report on his blog.