March 31, 2009
Posted by Nick Sarno
I just came across this article about the reading habits of current college students. The tone of the article is slightly annoying, though it does contain a few gems, like, “According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the best-selling titles on college campuses are mostly about hunky vampires or Barack Obama” and, in the end, it makes a case for itself. While I think a list of bestsellers from campus bookstores is probably skewed (there are very few campus bookstores worth browsing), there is something alarming about finding the “Twilight” series making repeated visits to the top ten.
In 1969, when Alice Echols went to college, everybody she knew was reading “Soul on Ice,” Eldridge Cleaver’s new collection of essays. For Echols, who now teaches a course on the ’60s at the University of Southern California, that psychedelic time was filled with “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” “The Golden Notebook,” the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the erotic diaries of Anaïs Nin.
Forty years later, on today’s college campuses, you’re more likely to hear a werewolf howl than Allen Ginsberg, and Nin’s transgressive sexuality has been replaced by the fervent chastity of Bella Swan, the teenage heroine of Stephenie Meyer’s modern gothic “Twilight” series. It’s as though somebody stole Abbie Hoffman’s book — and a whole generation of radical lit along with it.
Last year Meyer sold more books than any other author — 22 million — and those copies weren’t all bought by middle-schoolers. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the best-selling titles on college campuses are mostly about hunky vampires or Barack Obama. Recently, Meyer and the president held six of the 10 top spots. In January, the most subversive book on the college bestseller list was “Our Dumb World,” a collection of gags from the Onion. The top title that month was “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” by J.K. Rowling. College kids’ favorite nonfiction book was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” about what makes successful individuals. And the only title that stakes a claim as a real novel for adults was Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” the choice of a million splendid book clubs.
Here we have a generation of young adults away from home for the first time, free to enjoy the most experimental period of their lives, yet they’re choosing books like 13-year-old girls — or their parents. The only specter haunting the groves of American academe seems to be suburban contentment.
March 31, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
you can read part one of this story by going here.
Part II of The Return of Sinuhe
by Naguib Mahfouz
from the collection “Voices From the Other World”
pub. Anchor Books, 1936
“My lord, the story of my flight began at the hour that you were informed of our mighty father’s death out in the Western Desert. There the Devil blinded me and evil whispers terrified me. So I threw myself into the wind, whcih blew me across deserts, villages, and rivers, until I passed the broders between damnation and madness. But in the land of exile, the name of the person whose face I had fled, and who had dazzled me with his fame, conferred honor upon me. And whenever I confronted rouble, I cast my thoughts back to Pharoah–and my cares left me. Yet I rmined lost in my wanderings, until the leader of the TOnu tribes in Amora learned of my plight, and invited me to see him.
“He was a magnificent chief who held Egypt and its subjects in all awe and affection. He spoke to me as a man of power, asking me about my homeland. I told him what I knew, while keeping the truth about myself from him. He offered me marriage to one of his daughters, and I accepted–and began to despair that I would ever again see my homeland. After a short time, I–who was raised on Pharoah’s famous chariots, and grew up in the wars of Libya and Nubia–was able to conquer all of Tonu’s enemies. From them I took prisoners, their women and goods, their weapons and spoils, and their hers, and my status rose even further. The chief appointed me the head of his armies, making me his expected successor.
“The gravest challenge that I faced was the great theif of the desert, a demonic giant–the very mention of whom frightned the bravest of me. He came to my place seeking to seize my home, my wife, and my wealth. The men, women, and children all rushed to the square to see this most ferocious example of combat between two opponents. I stood against him amid the cheers and apprehension, fighting him for a long time. Dodging a mighty blow from his axe, I launched my piercing arrow and it struck him in the neck. Fatally weakened, he fell to the ground, death rattling in his throat. From that day onward, I was the undisputed lord of the badlands.
“Then I succeeded my father-in-law after his death, ruling the tribes by sword, enforcing the traditions of the desert. And the days, season, and years passed by, one after another. My sons grew into strong men who knew nothing by the wilderness of the place for birth, life, glory, and death. Do you not see, my lord, that I suffered in my estrangement from Egypt? That I was tossed back and forth by horrors and anxieties, and was afflicted by calamities, alathough I also enjoyed love and the siring of children, reaping glory and happiness along the way. But old age and weakness finally caught up with me, and i conceded authority to my sons. Then I went home to my tent to await my passing.
“In my iscolation, heartaches assailed me, and anguish overwhelmed me, as I remembered gorgeous Egypt–the fertile playground of my childhood and youth. Desire disturbed me, and longing beckoned my heart. There appeared before my eyes scenes of the Nile and the luxuriant greenery and heavenly blue sky and the mighty pyramids and the lofty obelisks, and I feared that death would overtake me while I was in a land other than Egypt.
“So I sent a messenger to you, my lord, and my lord chose to pardon me and to recieve my hospitably. I do not wish for more than a quiet corner to live out my old age, until Sinuhe’s appointed hour comes round. Then he would be thrown into the embalming tank, and in his sarcophagus, the Book of the Dead–guide to the afterlife–would be laid. The professional women mourners of Egypt would wail over him with thier plaintive rhyming cries…”
Pharaoh listened to Sinuhe with excitement and delight. Patting his shoulder gently, he said, “Whatver you want is yours.” Then the kind summoned one of his chamberlains, who led the prince into his wing of the palace.
Just before evening, a messenger came, saying that it would please the queen if she could meet with him. Immediately, Sinuhe rose to go to her, his aged heart beating hard. Following the messenger, nervous and distracted, he muttered to himself, “O Lord! Is it possible that I will see her once again? Will she really remember me? Will she remember Sinuhe, the young prince and lover?”
He crossed the threshold of her room like a man walking in his sleep. he reached her throne in seconds. Lifting his eyes up to her, he saw the face of his companion, whose youthful bloom the years had withered. Of her former loveliness, only faint traces remained. Bowing to her inreverence, he kissed the hem of her robe. The queen then spoke to him, without concealing her astonishment, “My God, is this truly our prince Sinuhe?”
The prince smiled wihtout uttering a word. He had not yet rcovered himself, when the queen said, “My lord has told me of your converstion. I was impressed by your feats, and the harshness of your struggle, though it took me aback that you had the fortitude to leave your wife and children behind.”
“Mercy upon you, my queen,” Sinuhe replied. “What remains of my life merely lengthens my torture, while the likes of me would find it unbearable to be buried outside of dear Egypt.”
The woman lowered her gaze a moment, then raising up to him her eyes filled with dreams, she said to him tenderly, “Prince Sinuhe, you have told us your story, but do you know ours? You fled at the time that you learned of Pharoah’s death. You suspected that your rival, who had the upper hand, would not spare your life. You took off with the wind and traversed the deserts of Amora. Did you not know how your flight injured yourself and those that you love?”
Confusion showed on Sinuhe’s face, but he did not break his silence. The queen continued, “Yet how could you know that the heir apparent visited me just before your departure at the head of the campaign in Libya. He said me: ‘Princess, my heart tells me that you have chosen the man that you want. Please answer me truthfully, and I promise you just as truthfully that I will be both content and loyal. I would never break this vow.’ ”
Her majesty grew quiet. Sinuhe queried her wtih a sigh, “Were you frank with him, my queen?”
She answered by nodding her head, then her breath grew more agitated. Sinuhe, gasping from the forty-years voyage back to his early manhood, pressed her further. “And what did you tell him?”
“Will it really interest you to know my answer? After a lapse of forty years? And after your children have grown to be chiefs of the tribes of Tonu?”
His exhausted eyes flased a look of perplexity, then he said with a tremulous voice, “By the Sacred Lord, it matters to me.”
She was staring at his face with pleasure and concern, and she said, smiling, “How strange this is, O Sinuhe! But you shall have what you want. I will not hold back the answer that you should have heard forty years ago. Senwosret questioned me closely, so i told him that I would grant him whatever I had of fondness and friendship. But as for my heart…”
The queen halted for a moment, as Sinuhe again looked up, his beard twitching, shock and dismay bursting on his face. Then she resumed, “As for my heart–I am helpless to control it.”
“My Lord,” he muttered.
“yes, that is what I said to Senwosret. He bid me a moving good-bye–and swore that he would remain your brother so long as he breathed.
“But you were hasty, Sinuhe, and ran off with the wind. You strangled our high hopes, and buried our happiness alive. When the news of your vanishing came, I could lhardly believe it–I nearly died of grief. Afterward, I lived in seclusion for many long years. Then, at last, life mocked at my sorrows; the love of it freed me from the malaise of pain and despair. I was content with the king as my husband. This is my story, O Sinuhe.”
She gazed into his face to see him drop his eyes in mourning; his fingers shook with emotion. She continued to regard him with compassion and joy, and asked herself: “Could it be that the agony of our long-ago love still toys with this ancient heart, so close to its demise?”
Gillian Flynn to read at The Parlor Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 7pm
Gillian will read an excerpt from her new book Dark Places, a literary thriller about murder cults, Oklahoma tourist traps, the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, Missouri strip clubs, redheads and farming, due out on May 5th from Random Houses’ Shaye Areheart Books. Following Gillian’s 30 minute reading, she will take questions from the audience.
During her years at EW, Flynn visited the sets of films ranging from The Lord of the Rings to Jackass the Movie (the most awesome set visit ever). Gillian was also the magazine’s TV critic (best all-time show: The Wire).
Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, the literary mystery Sharp Objects, was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two Dagger Awards from Britain’s Crime Writers Association. It has been published in more than 20 countries. Movie rights have been sold; Gillian is currently writing the screenplay adaptation.
Gillian lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, and a giant black cat named Roy.
As always, the event will be recorded and published on-line for your repeated listening pleasure on iTunes and at www.theparlorreads.com
All readings take place at The Green Lantern 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor
March 30, 2009
I was working on a post about how it seems like every movie made is adapted from a book, but then I had a really weird day, so I’ll save that post for another time.
I got on the ole’ x49 today, to head down to work, and just south of the O’Hare Blue Line stop, this woman started acting all weird. She was making strange guttural sounds, and waving her hand around, and stomping her foot. I thought she was just another bus-loony. Then a man nearer where she was sitting said, “she’s having a seizure.” Well, duh, yeah, as soon as he said it, it was clear that she was not just another bus-loony, but was in fact having a seizure. The guy told the driver, who pulled the bus over, and called EMS.
By that time the seizure was over, but the woman still couldn’t quite function. Another express pulled up behind ours, and everyone got off to move to the new bus. Before the 2nd bus even pulled away, a firetruck and ambulance arrived. I have to say, it made me feel pretty good about dear Chicago. It really wasn’t more than 7 or 8 minutes before the EMTs arrived – and not 7 or 8 minutes from the time they were called, but 7 or 8 minutes from the time The Helpful Passenger first diagnosed the problem. Good on ya, Chicago.
So, fast-forward some 3 or4 hours, to about 1:45 in the afternoon. I had finished teaching and was heading back north on the x49. Guess who gets on? The woman who had the seizure! The red streak in the dark hair of a middle-aged woman is easy to remember. Plus, in case there was any doubt, she had cotton taped to the back of both hands. She seemed to be doing fine, which was nice to see.
So, she gets off the bus a few stops later, and a few stops after that, so do I. And then I start walking to job number 2. And this guy goes running past. With big floppy hair. Big floppy hair? Running? In this neighborhood? Big floppy hair? It’s… it’s… it’s… it’s BLAGO!!!
What a weird day.
P.S.: The obligitory “it’s-a-weird-day-scratch-and-win-ticket” did not win. Bummer.
–Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf
March 30, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
The Return of Sinuhe
The incredible news spread through every part of Pharoah’s palace. Every tongue told it, all easrs listened eagerly to it, and the stunned gossips repeated it–that a messenger from the land of Amorites had descended upon Egypt. He bore a letter to Pharoah from Prince Sinuhue, who had vanished without warning all of forty years before–and whose disappearance itself had wreaked havoc in the people’s minds. It was said that the prince pleaded with the king to forgive what had passed, and to permit him to retun to his native land. There he would retire in quiet isolation, awaiting the moment of his death in peace and security. No sooner had everyone recalled the hoary tale of the dispappearance of Prince Sinuhe, than they would revive the forgotten events and remember their heroes–who were now old and senile, the ravages of age carved harshly upon them.
In that distant time, the queen was but a young princess living in the palace of Pharoah Amenemhat I–a radiant rose blooming on a towering tree. Her lively body was clothed in the gown of youth and the shawl of beauty. Gentleness illuminated her spirit, her wit blazed, her intelligence gleamed. The two greatest princes of the realm were devoted to her: the then crown prince (and present king) Senwosret I and Prince Sinuhe. The two princes were the most perfect models of strength and youth, courage and wealth, affection and fidelity. Their hearts were filled with love and their souls with loyalty, until each of the two became upset with his compnaion–to the point of rage and ruthless action. When Pharoah learned that their emotional bond to each other and their sense of mutual brotherhood were about to snap, he became very anxious. He summoned the princess and–after a long discussion–he commanded her to remain in her own wing of the palace, and not to leave it.
He also sent for the two princes and said to them, with firmness and candor, “You two are but miserable, accursed victims of your own blind self-abandon in the pursuit of rashness and folly–a laughinstock among your fellow princes and a joke among the masses. The sages have said that a person does not merit the divine term ‘human’ until he is able to govern his lusts and his passions. have you not behaved like dumb beasts and love-struck idiots? You should know that the princess is still confused between the two of you–and will remain confused until her heart is inspired to make a choice. But I call upon you to renounce your rivalry in an iron-bound agreement that you may not break. Furthermore, you will be satisfied with her decision, whatever it may be, and you will not bear anything toward your brother but fondness and loyalty–both inwardly and outwardly. Now, are you finished with this business?
His tone did not leave room for hesitation. The two princes bowed their heads in silence, as Pharoah bid them swear to their pact and shake hands. This they did–then left with the purest of intentions.
It happened during this time that unrest and rebellion broke out among the tribes of Libya. Pharoah dispatched troops to chastise them, led by Prince Senwosret, the heir apparent, who chose Prince Sinuhe to command a brigade. The army clashed with the Libyans at several places, besetting them until they turned their backs and fled. The two princes displayedthe kind of boldness and bravery befitting their characters. They were perhas about to end their mission when the heir apparent suddenly announced the death of his father, King Amenemhat I. When this greivous news reached Prince Sinuhe, it seemed to have stirred his doubts as to what the new king might intend toward him. Suspicion swept over him and drove him to despair–so he melted away without warning, as though he had been swallowed by the sands of the desert.
Rumors abounded about Sinuhe’s fate. Some said that he had fled to one of the farawy villages. Others held that he had killed himself out of desparation over life and love. The stoires about him proliferated for quite a long time. But eventually, the tongues grew tired of them, consigning them to the tombs of oblivion under the rubble of time. Darkness enveloped them for forty years–until at last came that messenger from the land of the Amorites carrying Prince Sinuhe’s letter–awakening the inattentive, and reminding the forgetful.
King Snewosret looked at the letter over and over again with disbeliving eyes. He consulted the queen, now in her sixty-fifth year, on the affair. They agreed to send messengers bearing precious gifts to Prince Sinuhe in Amora, inviting him to come to Egypt safely, and with honor.
Pharoah’s messengers traversed the northern deserts, carrying the royal gifts straight to the land of the Amorites. THen they returned, accompanied by a venerable old man of seventy-five years. Passing the pyramids, his limbs trembled, and his eyes were darkened by a cloud of distress.He was in bedouin attire–a coarse woolen robe with sandals. A sword scabbard girded his waist; a long white beard flowed down over his chest. ALmost nothing remained to show that he was an Egyptian raised in the palace of Memphis, except that when the sailors’ song of the Nile reached his ears, his eyes bbecame violently dreamy, his parched lips quivered, his breath beat violently in his breast–and he wept. The messengers knew nothing but that the old man threw himself down on the bank of the river and kissed it with ardor, as though he were kissing the cheek of a sweetheart from whom he had long been parted.
They brought him to the Pharoah’s palace. He came into the presense of King Senwosret I, who was seated before him, and said, “May the Lord bless you, O exalted king, for forgiving me–and for graciously allowing me to return to the sacred soil of Egypt.”
Pharoah looked at him closely with obvious amazement, and said, his voice rising, “Is that really you? Are you my brother and the companion of my childhoo and youth–Prince Sinuhe?”
“Before you, my lord, is what the desert and forty years have done to Prince Sinuhe.”
Shaking his head, the king drew hisbrother toward him with tenderness and respect , and asked, “What did the Lord do with you during all these forty years?”
The prince pulled himself up straight in his seat and began to tell his tale.
….to be continued….
(the rest of this story will be posted tomorrow at 2 p.m.)
March 29, 2009
posted by Kaitlyn Miller
Food as Art
Bento is a single-serving take-out or homecooked meal common in Japanese cuisine. Generally, they consist of rice, meat or fish and pickled or cooked vegetables. Bentos have been a part of the Japanese culture for a vast part of their history, dating back to the Kamakara period (1185-1333). Even today, modern Japanese homemakers are known to spend considerable amounts of time and energy producing an appealing lunch.
Being an American, bentos are something that I’m not very familiar with. I was amazed when I came across a popular blog created by Pikko titled “Adventures in Bentomaking.” Pikko is a mom who decided to create this blog in an effort to show the public what bento was. Some of her most impressive bentos include images that are drawn from popular culture. Your browser may not support display of this image.
This particular bento box features the character Ben from the popular TV show Lost. Everything included in this work of art is edible and actually something that she eats as her lunch. She meticulously spent four hours constructing each part of the scene and lays out the process in the blog so that the reader can to take a stab at making it. The creations on the blog are pretty remarkable and definitely display food as art.
March 28, 2009
Posted by Nick Sarno
You have been teaching at a boys’ school for three years. You teach geometry. You describe circles and points and parallel lines. The boys like you because you have a boy’s smile. You draw circles on the board with vigor, using your forearm as the circle’s diameter. You execute the circle rapidly, with manic speed, supposing that your diameter might be less affected by human error if you describe its bounds as quickly as possible.
The effort makes your blond hair come loose and cling to the inspired damp on your forehead.
Despite your best efforts the circles you perform are always imperfect. This makes you sad. And as the inconsistent curvature of your formal circles persists your sleep has become similarly arduous. Your sadness has been deepening. You are disappointed in your lack of improvement.
One day you catch Simon Dobbs with a Playboy during an exam. You take the magazine away without saying anything; the room continues to scribble in the interim, furtive and beady eyes peering up to discover consequence. Your pupils scratch bare lead on paper. You remain impassive, flipping through the glossy pages of April, and turning the magazine for appraisal when perpendicularity demands. now you think of chicks. The bell rings and the boys shuffle toward the door, dropping tests on your desk before making their way outside.
You cough. Your cough is an ice breaker. “Mr. Dobbs, I’d like to speak with you a moment if you wouldn’t mind.”
Simon Dobbs puts his test on the desk. He is staring at the ground with hot cheeks.
“Look at me.”
“You must keep these two things separate. This is geometry,” you point to the circle you had described. For a moment its imperfections distract. You blink. “This is geometry,” you say again, pointing this time to the desk. “Geometry is not to be muddled by this.” You put the Playboy on the desk in front of the boy. “Vice versa. Do you understand? Vice Versa.”
“You don’t. You don’t understand yet, but,” you shrug boyishly, “maybe you will. I bet you might.”
“I hope so,” says Dobbs.
“You will. Here,” you gesture to the glossy. “It’s yours. Take it.” As an afterthought, you add, “I really like that spread. I thought it was pretty good.”