How often do you pass a vending machine? Well, Grenoble, France has added a new kind of vending machine to their streets—one that prints short stories. The future of the short story is doing alright, it seems.
Imagine how many volunteer hours you could log if volunteering was as easy as playing a game of FarmVille or watching a video on YouTube. Now it is, thanks to Ben Rigby and the other folks at Sparked (formerly The Extraordinaries). Sparked directs you to challenges suited to your skills and interests submitted by nonprofits around the country and the world who need help with brainstorming, copy editing, IT, translations, marketing, fund-raising, and more. Now you can volunteer without leaving your desk.
Christopher Higgs was teaching Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, and one of his students was inspired to make a mixtape featuring “the twisted, crusty, and often sublime characters found within the novel.” (The book, by the way, was one of my selections for Year in Reading last year.)
Allan Gurganus commemorates the 100th anniversary of his teacher and friend John Cheever’s birth. “Cheever, now unfairly known as the gloomy, sodden satyr of suburbia,” Gurganus writes, “was at least rarely gloomy. Fact is he was more fun per minute than is legal in a nation this Republican.”
James Gleick talks to one of the software engineers behind autocorrect, that “impish god” responsible for turning our ids to I’ds and moviestars to Natalie Portmanteaus. In response, Jen Doll wonders whether we love to hate autocorrect “because when it messes up we’re happily reminded that phones and computers are not actually smarter than people.”
For The Brooklyn Rail, John Ashbery answers some questions about writing in French, crushes on boys, and the presence of “it.” As he puts it, “I’m sort of notorious for my use of the pronoun ‘it’ without explaining what it means, which somehow never seemed a problem to me.”
“It is early August. A black man is shot by a white policeman. And the effect on the community is of “a lit match in a tin of gasoline.” No, this is not Ferguson, MO.” Laila Lalami reports for NPR on rereading James Baldwin‘s Notes of a Native Son in the context of Ferguson. Pair with Teju Cole‘s essay in The New Yorker about rereading Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village.”