“What I didn’t know then was that these decorations evolved from the Jewish menora, the Hebrew festival of lights. I don’t think my mother knew that either, but if she did she never mentioned it. And I certainly never contemplated the resemblance of a sleigh to a cradle. A sleigh is basically a very large cradle.” Mary Ruefle on Christmas trees.
“To say that late Victorian poetry is bleak would be akin to remarking that Wilkie Collins had a decent knack for plotting a novel. These poems are freighted with Gothic overtones, and it is not uncommon for some supernatural phenomenon to intrude upon what had started out as a seemingly harmless quatrain. We often encounter Death himself—or the Devil—who is something of a literary celebrity for the decadent poets. But what marks the best of these poems is that the outré is in service to something that we can think of as more desperate, and, wouldn’t you know, human.” Over at The Boston Review, an online-only essay looking at the peculiarities of Victorian decadent poetry.
“To age is to understand that the powers of total recovery are gone, are no longer anticipated (except by those who, having lost their marbles, no longer know what to anticipate).” The epistolary legacy of writers such as Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, and Elizabeth Bishop offers invaluable insight into the process of growing older, writes Robert Fay for The Atlantic. See also our own Lydia Kiesling on the narrative possibilities of leaked emails.
“In the first few days of ‘publicly’ reading the book, I only received quizzical stares and saw people putting glasses on or slouching in their seats to better read the cover. It just so happened that it wasn’t until Black History Month that those silent stares turned into vocal encounters and my light commuter reading turned into a bit of a social experiment.” Recommended reading: Lauren A. White’s experience of reading How To Be Black in public.
Betty Wants In and the Melbourne Skydive Centre have been churning out some simply amazing footage of sky divers, parachutists, and base jumpers. Check out their latest installment, Experience Freedom, and be blown away. (Previously: Experience Human Flight, Experience Zero Gravity.)
“‘There’s no success like failure,’ Bob Dylan once sang – but he couldn’t have envisaged the international notoriety that bad art would achieve in the digital age. Mark O’Connell’s Epic Fail gleefully hops genres and centuries in a quest to understand our obsession with lameness. Clever, profound, bitingly funny, it’s a brilliant analysis from one of the smartest new critics around.” — Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies