“In the 1970s it circulated among Left Bank intellectuals, including Sartre and Bernard-Henri Lévy, as an aid to productive writing. In 1981 it was listed as a controlled substance in the US and in 1986, after it was scheduled under the WHO Convention on Psychotropic Substances, it was removed from prescription sale.” The London Review of Books reviews two histories about the role of drugs in the fighting of wars, Blitzed: Drugs In the Third Reich by Norman Ohler and Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare by Łukasz Kamieński Hurst. Both pay particular attention to Captagon (the name a portmanteau of “captain” and “pentagon”), a pharmaceutical that has become common throughout Eastern Europe, the Gulf States, India, and China, and by 2014 “had become a significant source of funding for all sides in Syria’s civil war.”
“If you want to be grateful for something today, be grateful for that: Ebola doesn’t fly,” according to a 2012 NYT op-ed. (Ok, so that’s not true, but you’re still probably safe.) If you (like me) have been obsessively re-watching that infected American patient walk into his hospital in Atlanta, I’d like to suggest you (I) first relax, and then indulge your (my) Ebolapocalypse fears elsewhere, e.g., a roundup of the 14 best pandemic novels according to Slate, 11 from io9, 22 from Bookshop, or all 1,000+ at Goodreads.
“After receiving a hundred of his letters, meeting him fifteen times, either at his apartment on Bilu Street or at a Tel Aviv café, and receiving too many calls from his cell phone to ever hope to return, I gave up trying to count the number of times that Yoram Kaniuk had died.” Nicole Krauss remembers her relationship with Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk, author of The Last Jew, in her obituary for The New Yorker.
“Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them.” Over at The Point, Jake Bittle considers why we collect books as opposed to simply reading them. He also points out, correctly, that books are very, very unpleasant to move, something our own Matt Seidel can confirm.
“Dibs on Darcy… You can have Wickham!“SNOOTs slander Strunk & White.New York Magazine offers an exhaustive – nigh unto Talesian – look at the marriage of Gay and Nan.For Colson Whitehead, “The Coolest Writer in America is obviously [DC Comics villain] Mr. Freeze…”…while, for luminaries at the PEN gala, it’s Mr. Doctorow.Vanity Fair on “The New Yiddishists“: “They have this idea they don’t want to be pigeonholed.” Oops.Bookslut decamps for Berlin, where she will become, presumably, Buchschlampe.For “that pleasant L.A. malaise,” see this annotated reading list.Cool old covers for sci-fi chestnuts (via The Book Bench)……and hot new covers for classics (via The Second Pass).Joseph O’Neill becomes the latest beneficiary of President Obama’s literary stimulus plan.The exclamation mark is back!!!The Esquire Fiction Contest is also back. All entries must be titled “Twenty-Ten,” “An Insurrection,” or “Never, Ever Bring This Up Again.”S.E. Hinton was literary royalty at the L.A. Times book festival.
Recommended Reading: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo collected sixteen short stories from sixteen authors among Cuba’s “Generación Año Cero” (Generation Year Zero), which is a “movement of writers who began publishing in 2000.” The anthology, which is available for free online in both English and Spanish, features illustrations from Cuban artists El Sexto and Luis Trápaga.
“Set in the 2020s and 2030s in a collapsing and crashed America, the Parables books have always seemed incredibly and disturbingly prescient—and in the wake of November 8, 2016 they now seem downright spooky, the actual and accurate history of the future.” How Octavia Butler predicted the present. See also: our consideration of Butler’s novel Kindred.
“The way Vermeer painted this wall is consistent with a photograph. It is not consistent with human vision.” In a fascinating new documentary by Penn and Teller, a digital-graphics artist spent five years building a lens, a room, and a harpsichord to figure out how.