What does it mean to be cool? According to scholar Joel Dinerstein, it means a person who conveys “relaxed intensity.” Using this definition, Dinerstein and Frank Goodyear III curated a photography exhibition of “American Cool” at National Portrait Gallery. The portraits feature everyone from Joan Didion to David Byrne.
Science now confirms what’s long been suspected by people related to theater kids: “the quality of a performance does not drive the amount of applause an audience gives.”
The Empathy Exams, a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, gets its title from a piece about medical acting that was published in The Believer. On the Harper’s blog, you can read an interview with Jamison, who calls her collection “a refusal to choose between these approaches — criticism, confession, journalism.” (Michelle Huneven interviewed Jamison for The Millions a couple of years ago.)
“Do you know the philosopher Slavoj Žižek?” asks John Jeremiah Sullivan in his interview for the LA Review of Books. “He has this thing about love, the evil of love, and he says, I really don’t like love, because what love says is: I pick you out from everything, and I’m going to give you special attention, meaning that everything else is denigrated, and he says there’s something a little evil in that, and in the same way I think that there something a little philistine about lists.”
Out this week: Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang; Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta; The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet; New People by Danzy Senna; Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah; and White Plains by Gordon Lish. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
In random-but-awesome news, Geoff Manaugh‘s BLDGBLOG reports on a new project by Dutch earth scientists to piece together what they’re calling an “atlas of the underworld.” Using CT scans to visualize “invisible landscape features—the ghostly remains of entire continents—hidden inside the planet,” the project will reveal a surface within earth’s surface. See also: our review of Where You Are, an anthology of sixteen alternative maps by a range of artists and writers including Geoff Dyer, Valeria Luiselli, and Leanne Shapton.