Selections from my readings during the past week. Major notes of Nordic culture and history; minor notes of Homerian epic, robots, and prison fiction. A dash of spelt.
“Strangler Bob,” Denis Johnson. The New Yorker (Oct. 23, 2017). Denis Johnson died in May of this year, and this is posthumously published short story. Johnson writes about troubled, morally bereft men. Dennis Haritou at 3G1B calls Strangler Bob “as perfect and satisfying a short story, a prison tale, as I’ve read.” I read Johnson’s excellent short story collection Jesus’ Son a few months ago.
The First Woman to Translate ‘The Odyssey’ Into English, by Wyatt Mason. The New York Times Magazine (Nov. 2, 2017). As this longform essay explains, there are over 60 translations of the Odyssey into English. But until recently, the translators were all men. This excellent profile of classicist Emily Wilson digs deeply into questions of translation and into what led Wilson to become the first woman to tackle the project.
Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords, by Sheelah Kolhatkar. The New Yorker (Oct. 23, 2017). The robots are coming, and there’s not much we can do about it except clean up after them. “There were ways, Tellex believed, to mitigate the effects of rising inequality without vilifying immigrants or blaming technology. ‘I’m one of the few people among my friends who regularly talks to Trump voters,’ she said. ‘There’s enough money for everyone, I keep telling them—there is. It’s just not in your pocket, it’s in the one per cent’s pocket. If only we had the right progressive tax system, this wouldn’t be such a problem. As a roboticist, I feel a responsibility to communicate this to people.'”
The social media ads Russia wanted Americans to see. Politico.com (Nov. 1, 2017). It’s like someone with multiple personalities has made an advertising campaign. One ad criticizes the LGBTQ movement, another pretends to be from “LGBT United” and touts a “Buff Bernie” coloring book (the grizzled Senator is shirtless and has washboard abs). None of the personalities seems to like Clinton very much.
Nordic Noir 101: 10 Best Books to Get to Know the Genre. Keith Rice, Signature-reads.com (Sept. 28, 2017). “For fans of crime fiction, Nordic noir represents the bleakest of the bleak, often centering on brutal crimes tinged with shocking violence. The tales invariably feature protagonists who, while possessing a generally ferocious sense of justice, are nonetheless tortured, brooding, and generally introspective.”
[Image from an illustrated edition of Homer’s epics / source.]