This week saw the release of Vanishing Point, Vol. II: Songs of the Living and Dying. You may recall my earlier mention of the Vanishing Point project, which was recently borne out of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. This time around, the publication boasts a redesigned appearance, and it features articles and essays about midwifery in Mali, the intersections between poetry and cinema, and a view of Walden Pond that you’ve never seen before — all presented with accompany visual material, and all produced by university students. This is outstanding stuff, and it’s well worth your time.
In the Prospect, an essay on anesthesia, 3D printing, teleportation, LSD, and other thought experiments on self-awareness. Also, this line: “If the spectrum of selfhood begins with the roundworm, surely it ends with Proust.”
Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
“Whenever I tried to invent a character or a situation, I felt a stab of guilt. I could hear my teacher’s quavering voice saying, Write what you know! Why had she insisted on this so vociferously?” Writing class mantras are easy to impart but they are also easily misinterpreted. A.X. Ahmad, author of The Last Taxi Ride and The Caretaker, learns this truth the hard way as he tries to become a writer following a personal upheaval. Pair with Ahmad’s Millions essay on “The Thriller, Reinvented.”
Luke Epplin examines the life and legacy of Stan “The Man” Musial, who died last week. In particular Epplin takes issue with how well-intentioned biographers have, over the years, “effectively turned Musial into a cardboard cutout, a bygone era’s one-dimensional paragon of constancy, stability, community fealty, and humility, devoid of the temperamental shadings that humanize public figures.”