Most institutions that become an essential part of a local culture build up a collection of curios over the years. They collect as much evidence as they can of their proximity to major events. At the New York Public Library, for example, you can find a letter opener whose handle is made from the paw of Charles Dickens’s dead cat. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
What if the next crisis to hit the headlines brings an end to the world as we know it? It’s a mind-bending thing to contemplate, but it’s what our own Emily St. John Mandel tackles in Station Eleven, which made it up to the final five of last year’s National Book Awards. On a new episode of The Takeaway, Emily talks about the novel, exploring what’s left when civilization withers away. You could also read our interview with Emily about the book.
The Sagrada Família, which Antoni Gaudí began designing in 1883, is due to be completed in 2026. Recently, 60 Minutes aired a feature on the masterpiece envisioned by “God’s architect,” and a new video depicts the work still be done, as well as what the church will look like when it’s finally completed. You can also take a virtual tour of the interior as well.
“During various periods of my life I have succumbed to the siren call of sleeping pills. It is hard to resist their promise: one tablet, and your night will be purged. Your brain may be in overdrive, its receptors working away, hungrily awaiting more images and information, but like a computer it is forced into another mode. Yet the little white disks with a dent down the middle are no panacea; whenever I take one of these thought guillotines I feel trapped in a grey zone, seesawing between mid and shallow slumber, mind and body dulled but not of their own accord.” A lifelong insomniac recounts her long struggle with the illness.
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.