“Baker is such a wonderful prose stylist that he could probably get away with publishing his diary—which, for epic stretches, is what Substitute feels like.” Over at The Nation, Evan Kindley reviews Nicholson Baker‘s latest, a 700-plus-page non-fiction exploration of substitute teaching. Spoiler: it’s not as sexy as Baker’s other work. If it’s the sex you want, see our primer on Baker’s novels; also immensely entertaining, our interview with the author from 2013.
For two weeks last summer, Colin Dickey sailed around the coast of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. On one occasion, his voyage was stalled by heavy fog, and his group was obligated to anchor near Amsterdamøya. As one does, he used the occasion to ruminate about scurvy – or “polar night disease” – which claimed the lives of many sailors buried in the area’s graves.
Ever since the advent of modern neuroscience, the language of the brain scientist has entered our common vocabulary. Words and phrases like “synapse,” “chemical imbalance” and “hardwired” point to its relevance in contemporary culture. At Page-Turner, a look at how cognitive language and our notion of attention affects the way we think about fiction and music, with particular reference to On Beauty by Zadie Smith and Orfeo by Richard Powers.
“Think of landscape. Think of how elements come to be attached to one another, how it’s impossible to separate the road from the field, the field from the tree, the tree from the water, the water from the sky. We cannot attribute natural features to the lines we design just as we cannot attribute natural causes to those dying as they try to cross them.” For Tin House, Portuguese writer Susana Moreira Marques meditates on the concept of borders and Wolf Böwig’s photography project, “Borders and Beyond.”
“A month ago, I touched a lock of Sylvia Plath’s hair.” At Tin House, Emma Komlos-Hrobsky examines the relationship between the late poet and her fans.
In which Jami Attenberg (whose forthcoming The Middlesteins made it to our big 2012 second half books preview) discusses the outright mockery of Jeffrey Eugenides’s pseudo-famous vest in the web advertising campaign (which–full disclosure–also ran on The Millions) for Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing: “Hit Me with Your Vest Shot.”