The 113th anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s birthday was last Thursday, but the author lives on in America’s cultural memory thanks to the title of his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Unfortunately, the titular phrase seems to be taken at face value by many people these days, and that can lead to some groan-worthy invocations. A newly-minted Tumblr blog illustrates the point.
Did Gollum have a vitamin D deficiency? In the Medical Journal of Australia, Joseph A. Hopkinson and Nicholas S. Hopkinson posit that the Lord of the Rings saga could've been prevented had the inhabitants of Middle Earth just gotten a little more sunlight. "Systematic textual analysis of The Hobbit supports our initial hypothesis that the triumph of good over evil may be assisted to some extent by the poor diet and lack of sunlight experienced by the evil characters."
If you're a professor or mentor, it's the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson's recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. "He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends." Even if the government didn't like Whitman's work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne's essay on the power of Whitman's poetry.
New this week: Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda, Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine, and, available for the first time ever as ebooks, Roberto Bolaño's masterpieces 2666 and The Savage Detectives. There are many, many more anticipated books on offer in our big second-half preview, published this week.
Over at Aeon, Alana Massey writes about memory and how the internet archives personal data. In her own words, “Because the archiving technology captures only snapshots of a site at a given time, results might not be an exact replica of the site as it was. As I learned from the fragments of our site, things such as embedded media might be missing and scripts are unlikely to work. After all, a toy boat is hardly its former self after a lifetime at the bottom of the sea. No matter how intact an archive, it can never fully reconstruct the texture and completeness of the original memory.”
Chris Rose laments the erosion of his former employer, New Orleans’s Times-Picayune, in the pages of Oxford American’s New South Journalism issue. Meanwhile, James Pogue discusses the art of fact-checking, which he says “has recently become a voguish topic among the New Yorker-reading and NPR-listening set.” This is of course to say nothing of the London Review of Books-reading set across the pond as well, much less the Onion-reading set located far and wide.