Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.
Over east along the golf course a faint rug of gray spread itself across the feet of the night.
“The Jelly-Bean” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Just now I can feel that little quivering of the pen which has always foreshadowed the happy delivery of a good book. --Emile Zola
It took some doing but I finally made a white dwarf star like they’d been making out in Santa Fe. I made mine in my basement because basements are the perfect place to compress time and space. I slammed together some very high frequency energy waves and—ZAP!—a perfect miniature white dwarf. Even though it was very small for its type, no larger than a pushpin, it was extremely dense and incredibly bright. The star was so bright that you couldn’t look directly at it. Had to look above or below or off to the side and squint. One time I set myself the challenge of just staring at it for thirty seconds. Got a big headache, huge mistake.
Density was a problem too. The star was dense enough that it drew small objects towards it. Tissue paper, curtains, the tail of my cat. Of course they all burst into flames. But at the same time it wasn’t so dense that it just hovered there above my table, an object fixed in space. It wobbled this way and that, wandering the basement, knocking against the walls, the floor, the ceiling, leaving burn marks everywhere. The last straw was when it set fire to my favorite Einstein poster—the one with his tongue sticking out, his messed up hair and goofy grin. I trapped the star in a box, put a padlock on the heavy lid.
But stars are not meant to be kept in boxes.
from “Moonless” by Bryan Hurt
We stopped digging vertically in our pursuit of a life free from surveillance when we reached one mile straight down into the bosom of the earth, and began to excavate laterally. With that single perpendicular shaft the only access to our refuge, we finally felt safe from all prying eyes dominant on the panopticon surface. Now we could begin to build our surveillance-free society.
from “Thirteen Ways of Being Looked At By a Blackbird SR71” by Paul Di Filippo
On the face of it, it seemed like just another service--innovative, revolutionary, monstrous, call it whatever you want but when you came right down to it, Second Chance was the greatest economic success story of the twenty-first century. Unlike most great ideas, which tend to be quite simple, the idea behind Second Chance was a bit more complicated: Second Chance gave you the opportunity to go to one particular critical moment in your life, and instead of having to choose either one road or the other, you could continue along both.
from “Second Chance” by Etgar Keret, translated by Miriam Shlesinger
It was the third week or so since the museum had re-opened, for as you may know, we had to close down for several months last fall due to a problem with people touching the work. We had an influx of visitors who liked to feel the texture of the paint or the slopes of the sculptures and we were not equipped to deal with them.
from “Viewer, Violator” by Aimee Bender
We were paid to be cautious, to keep the slipstream of information flowing at all costs, even if it meant removing some of it from the world.
from “We Are the Olfanauts” by Deji Bryce Olukotun
Strava is a smart phone application invented by Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey, a pair of friends who were crewmates in college and missed competing with each other after they had moved to different cities. Early in 2009, they realized GPS data had become specific enough to identify climbs based on elevation and distance and that it should be possible to record people’s times and compare them. This is what Strava does. It tracks your movement. It tells you how fast and how far you ride and compares you to the rest of the world.
from “Strava” by Steven Hayward
Mr. Ukaga wanted her on the horse again.
from “Dinosaurs Went Extinct Around the Time of the First Flower” by Kelly Luce
JUDGE JUDY: So you got a cold sore. So what?
SAKSHI KARNIK: And then it began to bubble and blister and then it erupted.
JUDGE JUDY: So. What.
SAKSHI KARNIK: And there was an eye there.
from “Transcription of an Eye” by Carmen Maria Machado
A man stands alone in the black night watching a passenger train speed past. Its yellow-lighted windows are splashed with colored hats and coats; flashes of silverware and glassware; with shoulders in black jackets and bright wool sweaters; with pointed and rounded and upturned noses. Three men in hats are drinking glasses of beer. The children dunk strips of buttered toast in cocoa. An old man snores like a happy pig, his mouth open, his giant milk white teeth exposed. A young mother pulls a picture book out of her giant purse. Everybody on the train is warm with that consoling feeling of being on an adventure.
from “The Witness and the Passenger Train” by Bonnie Nadzam
They were in the living room when I came downstairs. Even I have to admit we’ve got a pretty fantastic living room, which is centered around these two absolutely amazing Chippendale sofas facing each other. I mean, my dad restores furniture for a living, and he’d done nothing but the best job on those sofas. In particular, the leather on them was like butter, which on the one hand feels especially soft but on the other hand means you sort of have to watch yourself when you sit on them, or else you’ll just like slide right off them. But anyway, my mom and dad were sitting on the one sofa and I sat down on the other one. In between the two sofas is this coffee table, which my dad always calls contemporary to the sofas--which means it was made at the same time they were, but he’s not sure who made it--and like right on top of the coffee table was a pair of underwear, and the fly was facing up, and like right on the fly were these stains. The underwear was mine, the stains were mine, too, and if I mention that I was fourteen then I don’t think I have to say anything else.
“Have a seat, Boo,” my dad said, even though I was already sitting down.
from “Making Book” by Dale Peck
|Photo by Charles Woodroof|
“The finger-talking gathering welcomes you, friend.”
from “Ether” by Zhang Ran
“Time to go in!” I said. “Time for a bath!”I totally LOL’ed over that one—and I am not, I repeat, am NOT an LOL’er. Barry’s timing is so spectacular in that passage, and many other passages all throughout the book; that’s just the one that springs immediately to mind. Speaking of timing, that’s really what Recipes for a Beautiful Life is all about. As I mentioned earlier here at the blog, I have been waiting for this book for nigh on seven years now, ever since I first read Barry’s debut, Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories, in which I rhapsodically enthused: “Later, at the Bar is less about inebriation than it is grasping at second, third and even fourth chances for better lives. This is inspiring fiction which just happens to be set in a room filled with smoke, sad songs and slurred words.” But that was seven years ago, and though I try to be a patient fanboy, I did often wonder what the hell was going on with Ms. Barry. Had she given up writing? Had she had a Life-Changing Experience (everything from cancer to lottery-winning sprang to mind) and given up writing? Had she been working on the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and making devious plans to pass it off as a “new book by Harper Lee”? As it turns out, two of those three were fairly accurate. Motherhood and quitting secure, well-paying jobs in the city and moving to upstate New York and buying an old fixer-upper (“a big, square, brick Italiante built in 1865”) and Motherhood Part 2 and struggling to write a follow-up novel to Later, at the Bar and yelling herself hoarse when bedtime for the boys rolled around—well, it all added up to a “Calgon, take me away” interstate pileup of stresses which Barry writes about with seeming effortless grace and humor in the pages of this new book. I say “effortless,” but it’s apparent when reading Recipes for a Beautiful Life that nothing comes without struggle—in her life and in ours (which is her point: “all we thought we wanted was a simple, beautiful life, but what we ended up with was a rich, messy life”). As I wrote elseweb: Recipes for a Beautiful Life is the book Rebecca Barry wrote while she was on her way to write another book–and, frankly, I think it’s the most beautiful thing that could have happened to all of us. There is more I could write about this “accidental” book—so much more, like: disastrous family vacations to the Caribbean, heartwarming family Thanksgiving dinners, helpful recipes for overworked parents (“Just-Eat-Your-!@#$!-Dinner Kale Chips”), quips about drinking (“Third snow day in a row. I need ten thousand margaritas.”), believing in yourself even when your dreams are shattering, and that breath-catching heart-stopping moment when you look out to the back porch and see your perpetual-motion son quietly eating blueberries from a cup while he watches the rain fall into the yard—and there is just no way I could pack everything I love about Barry’s book into this small space, so I’ll just say—with firmness and a little catch of emotion in my voice—you need to go discover her writing for yourself. Don’t make me reach through the internet, grab you by the collar and drag you down to a bookstore to buy Recipes for a Beautiful Life, because you know I’m currently reading a how-to manual on how to do just that very thing —
“No bath!” Dawson said.
“Come inside,” I said.
“No, Mommy!” Liam cried.
This went on for a while until finally I shouted, “Liam and Dawson, get down from that tree or I’m going to call Santa and tell him not to come to our house forever.”
Which was when a fire truck pulled up in front of our house and a tall man dressed as Santa got off the back of it. “Ho ho ho!” he said.
The company was called FicShare. The idea behind it was that people could use the content on their Kindles or iPads that their friends or family weren't using--they could stream it, like Slingbox did for TV. At the moment you were limited to a maximum of five ShareBuddies, but the plan was for up to ten. The online interface was much slicker than the regular e-reading experience, and the ultimate goal was a community of readers, sharing and recommending texts. Marginalia would be transmitted, and book chats were easy to initiate. Anderson was the editorial side of the startup. Sometimes, Anderson worried that if it really succeeded like everyone else in the company thought it would, it would destroy the reading economy.
from “Lifehack at Bar Kaminuk” by Mark Chiusano