10/26/2009 9:53:00 AM
Sometimes a piece of nonfiction rolls around that, without even meaning to, puts in vivid perspective just how unwriterly a fair bit of nonfiction (especially memoir) can be. In the Fall 2009 issue of Ruminate, April Schimdt’s “40 Days” is just that piece—a captivating, expertly crafted story about intimacy, marriage, and faith, made searing by the periodic remembrance that it’s not a work of fiction.
Image by Hammer51012, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/21/2009 5:02:06 PM
We Utne Reader editors love a good, geeky style row. (Recent disputes: Should Google, when used as a verb, be capitalized? Should we the titles of online publications be roman or italic?) And when we’re hashing things out, we tap every resource at our disposal: dictionaries, our awesome copy editor (hi Lynn!), published precedents, and, of course, stylebooks like the AP and Chicago guides.
Well, in that last category, there’s a new kid in town: Fake AP Stylebook, now up and running on Twitter, happy to irreverently answer your most irreverent style questions. The feed looks to be only about a day old, so who’s to say how long it’ll last—or if it’ll entirely go off the rails. For the time being, it’s definitely good for a nerdy if slightly off-color chuckle. Some highlights:
-- Use ‘sick!’ in brackets as an editorial comment on something awesome. Ex: ‘Apes with flamethrowers [sick!] burned the police station.’
-- Use quotation marks to express skepticism: Cher’s “Farewell Tour,” Creed’s “Best Album,” Jay Leno’s “comedy.”
-- @jason1749: We suspect you mean “teh.” The popularity of “the” will fade as the Internet fad passes and we return to teletypes.
Source: Fake AP Stylebook
10/20/2009 4:15:39 PM
Just in time for sounding extra-smart when discussing health care, Merrill Perlman dissects the finer points of how to correctly use insure, assure, and ensure for Columbia Journalism Review’s Language Corner. Allowing for the fluidity of English (and subtle, disputed uses), Perlman still manages to boil down general proper rules into one illustrative sentence: “In Washington, legislators are trying to ‘assure’ their constituents that they are working to ‘ensure’ that any new health-care bill will ‘insure’ them.”
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
10/19/2009 9:01:18 AM
“For environmental, business, and political organizations alike, the term that has come to stand for the hope of the natural world is ‘sustainable,’ ” Curtis White writes in Tin House. “But you would be mistaken if you assumed that the point of sustainability was to change our ways.” In the essay that follows, an excerpt from his latest book The Barbaric Heart, White offers a vivid critique of the mainstream response to the environmental crisis.
At the core of our problems, White argues, is something he calls the Barbaric Heart—visible in the ways that our culture considers violence a virtue—and its fundamental discord with the professed values of sustainability. He writes:
The artful (if ruthless) use of violence is obviously something that we admire in those sectors of the culture that we most associate with success: athletics, the military, entertainment (especially that arena of the armchair warrior, Grand Theft Auto), the frightening world of financial markets (where, as the Economist put it, there are “barbarians at the vaults”), and the rapacious world we blandly call real estate development. . . .
The idea that we can “move mountains” is an expression of admiration. When it is done with mammoth machines provided by the Caterpillar Company of Peoria, Illinois, it is also a form of violence (as the sheered mountain tops of West Virginia confirm).
To any complaints about the disheartening destruction and injustice that comes with such power, the Barbaric Heart need only reply: the strong have always dominated the weak and then instructed them. That is how great civilizations have always been made, from the ancient Egyptians to the British in India to Karl Rove and George Bush.
It’s a whirling, complicated critique—but wholly worth reading. Tin House also followed up with White in a delightful e-mail interview.
Source: Tin House
10/15/2009 12:34:35 PM
Nearly everyone knows the adage don’t kiss and tell—but what if we ought to apply the humble ethos to books? Writing for The Walrus, Adam Sternbergh argues that reading is a supremely intimate act, singular among the arts in the way that writers “hijack” our minds.
“Consider something even as silly and modest as this article,” Sternbergh writes. “I’m in your head right now. You have graciously allowed me to slip inside the private sphere of your consciousness, if only for a few minutes. . . . This is very different from how we experience any other kind of art: No matter how much you enjoy a painting or revel in a symphony, there’s not a sense that the painter has hijacked your eyes or the composer has hijacked your ears.”
Thus, Sternbergh concludes: “So if reading—in this sense of pleasurable invasion—is a sexual experience, then the book club is the equivalent of a locker room. It’s the place where we gather to swap and compare notes after the fact, clumsily recounting the deed in a way that can’t help but undermine and cheapen the very experience we’ve gathered to celebrate.”
Is it a sign of how far solitude has fled from our socially-networked culture that reading a book, adoring it, and not trying to explain why to anyone . . . sounds like quite a clandestine thrill?
Source: The Walrus
Image by Stephen Brace, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/12/2009 2:42:58 PM
William Patrick Tandy, editor of the zine Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore, recounts a recent night he lay awake in bed listening to the all-too-familiar sound of gunshots ringing out in his neighborhood. A frequent reader of the police blotter, Tandy notes that single gunshots are relatively common and go unreported, but on this particular night, he ruminates on an even more unsettling experience:
“I counted 10 shots that night before drifting off to sleep, none of which were accounted for in the following week’s blotter—not for 9:53 or four or any other time. Nor were the splotches of crimson that staggered up the sidewalk from the adjacent alley the next morning, steadily eroding in size before vanishing entirely a few doors down, like the ruins of some long-forgotten culture…”
Source: Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore! (article not available online)
10/9/2009 6:44:47 PM
On Thursday, excited children in classrooms around the world came together to read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, hoping to set a new world record for the largest simultaneous reading experience. The kids were participating in this year’s Read for the Record event, which set the record in 2008 when 700,000 children teamed up to read the classic Don Freeman book Corduroy (the final count for this year isn't in yet).
The folks at Chronicle Books (who know a thing or two about children’s lit) joined the fun by visiting Bay Area elementary schools, where they read from oversized versions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and took in some of that youthful enthusiasm for reading. Here’s an adorable video from their visit to San Francisco’s Bret Harte Elementary School:
Source: Chronicle Books blog
10/5/2009 10:59:44 AM
You know that funny little red thing on the top of a rooster’s head? It’s called a cockscomb, and as Francine Segan recounts for Gastronomica, it’s very tasty:
What are these morsels that look like the fingers of a doll-sized woolen globe? . . . We take a taste. The spikes are slightly gelatinous, with hints of delicate frog-leg flavor. “Delicious” is the consensus.
Segan stumbles upon this rare ingredient on a trip to the Piedmont region of northern Italy, where cockscomb is a vital ingredient in a stew known as la finanziera, a 200-year-old dish that also utilizes a rooster’s wattles and testicles (among many other ingredients). The cockscomb seems to be the star of the show, though, which makes sense given the amount of work that goes into its preparation:
Cleaning the cockscombs, which have a thick outer skin loaded with feathers, is a labor-intensive task. The feathers are plucked, and any tiny strays are burned off with a flame. The cockscombs are then washed, blanched, and soaked in lemon juice to loosen the tough skin. The entire staff, even the busboys, gathers around the kitchen table every Wednesday to peel off this outer layer. “You have to handle the crests gently, like a beautiful woman, so as not to ruin the pretty tips,” Chef Beppe laughs.
The article isn't available online, but if you're up for a cockscomb adventure, track down the Summer 2009 issue of Gastronomica—Segan includes two recipes (including one for la finanziera) at the end of the piece.
Image by Tennessee Wanderer, licensed under Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!