In her short history of executioners, Stassa Edwards notes that the decision to replace “the traditional punishment” of drowning people “in a sack in a local river” was actually quite pragmatic: it was “more economical” to go with a simple beheading.
What if I were to tell you that only half of you is actually you? A new book by Ed Yong takes a look at the human body and the microbial stowaways that make up most of us: “Reader, as you read these words, trillions of microbes and quadrillions of viruses are multiplying on your face, your hands and down there in the darkness of your gut. With every breath you take, with every move you make, you are sending bacteria into the air at the rate of about 37 million per hour — your invisible aura, your personal microbial cloud. With every gram of food you eat, you swallow about a million microbes more.”
“Each one of those books is, like, several hundred pages long. So, that’s a lot of romantic anxiety and adolescent/young-adult/middle-aged angst to distill into pictures, but as far as I can tell, it’s all there: salted fish, shower-sex, alcohol-induced existential despair, the whole shebang! No reading required.” The Melville House blog, MobyLives, revisits the work of an anonymous artist who reenacted all of Karl Ove Knausgaard‘s My Struggle series using LEGOs. See also: our review of Knausgaard’s epic.
Although Of Mice and Men is an iconic novella about the Great Depression, could it be set in another era? At McSweeney’s, Thomas Scott imagines Lennie and George in Silicon Valley. “Well, we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens and a 7,000 square-foot Hacienda with a little landing pad on the top deck for a helicopter.”
Elizabeth Bishop famously exchanged letters with Robert Lowell so remarkable they were later collected and published (Words in Air). This Recording has prepared a selection of her letters to Lowell and others, including one edit focused on the year after a lover’s suicide. Pair with a meditation on the relevance of Bishop’s poetry at crucial life moments.
Joe Kubert died this week at the age of 85. Perhaps best known as the DC comics legend responsible for such characters as Sgt. Rock, Hawkman, Enemy Ace, and Tor, Kubert was also the founder of The Kubert School, the only accredited trade school for comic book artists in the country. You can check out a video of Kubert talking about digital comics over here.
The final PEN Literary Award Longlists are posted today! Check out all of the lists here. Longlisters include Angela Flournoy (whom we interviewed, and who has written a Year in Reading for us), Marilynne Robinson (who is known for her singular vision), Renata Adler (about whom we have made six possibly true observations), and David L. Ulin (whose Year in Reading is here).