Year in Reading alum Maria Popova of Brain Pickings writes her first book review for The New York Times on Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall, a Harvard cosmologist. Randall proposes ”that a thin disk of dark matter in the plane of the Milky Way triggered a minor perturbation in deep space that caused the major earthly catastrophe that decimated the dinosaurs.” Jenny Hendrix writes about modern-day extinction for The Millions.
Graduation season is upon us, and college students across the nation are listening to esteemed commencement speakers. Some get treated to the likes of Bill Watterson, Jon Stewart, or Barbara Kingsolver. (I got to listen to The Rock.) In the thrill of the moment, it feels like it hardly matters who’s at the podium. One wonders if audiences really grasp the material in these speeches right away, or if the speaker’s words only become clear later on. Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s iconic Kenyon address in 2005, our own Kevin Hartnett tried to find out.
“As much as I claimed that I read for my own edification, it was a lie. The books I was most drawn to were those that were loved by someone in my life. Reading them, I thought, would teach me all I needed to know about them—nice and safe, from a distance. Reading them with one hand, it was easy to have the other keep them at arm’s length.” Romy Sugden writes for The Oyster Review about trying to connect with her estranged father by reading John le Carré‘s A Perfect Spy.
Does love “crack [your] sternum open” or is love like the “mystery of water and a star?” Is your soul “an empty carousel at sunset?” Are you an only child? I ask because these – along with several other questions – will help Farrar, Straus, and Giroux determine once and for all: “Which Poet Are You?”
“Like reading, love works in roughly the same way every time, but the details of any given case are irreducibly particular, and it’s in the details that everything happens.” Lidija Haas on Elif Batuman’s debut novel, The Idiot. (You could also read our review by Virginia Marshall.)
On August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Also, Franz Kafka went swimming. Moreover, the Metamorphosis author mentioned both events in his diary, writing simply and strangely that “Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon.” Was this odd phrasing intentional or a sign of the author’s self-absorption? In an article for Open Letters Monthly, Robert Minto reads all three volumes of Reiner Stach’s new biography.