The unwritten rules of steampunk declare that in every steampunk story, the Hindenburg never caught fire, the world never lost its desire for blimp travel and the skies are dotted with hot air balloons and zeppelins. As it happens, this element of the genre stems from old utopian narratives, many of which depicted a future of widespread balloon travel. At Salon, Kyle Minor reviews the audiobook of a new history of the hot air balloon, written by Richard Holmes, that shows how the rise of air travel changed the world’s imaginative territory.
Eve Bowen takes a trip to “Gorey Preserved,” an exhibition of “nearly every edition of every work published by [Edward] Gorey, in addition to illustrations for dust jackets and magazines, etchings, posters, and design ephemera,” on display at Columbia University until August 10th. Those unable to attend need not fret—Bowen walk readers through a history of the prolific illustrator’s work and includes plenty of links to his drawings online.
“While others … have explored the more serious contexts of online humor, particularly when it tilts into the grim and mean, in Epic Fail [Mark] O’Connell makes a useful addition to what I’ll refer to as Lulz Studies by attempting to put this variety of Schadenfreude in cultural-historical perspective.”
This is a fantastic piece on W. H. Auden, “The Murder of Lidice”, and the importance of the ideological and political contexts of war. Joanna Bourke writes, “the flood of poems [after the Lidice massacre] actually served to draw attention away from the people of Lidice and towards the swollen sensibilities of the poets and their readers.”
Earlier this month, I wrote about Louis Menand’s recent New Yorker piece about The Life of Saul Bellow, a new biography of the Nobel laureate by Zachary Leader. Now, in the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan reads the book. Sample quote: “Bellow’s community was his subject and his subject was his voice.”
You can’t write about Robert Lowell without writing about mental illness — the poet went through many stretches of mania and psychosis in his life. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reads a “medico-biography” of Lowell, which takes a full measure of his lifelong illness and its consequences.