Thomas Berger, the witty and eclectic novelist who reimagined the American West in the historical yarn “Little Big Man” and mastered genres ranging from detective stories to domestic farce, has died at age 89.
Berger’s literary agent, Cristina Concepcion, said Monday that he died in Nyack Hospital on July 13, just days before his 90th birthday. He had been in failing health, Concepcion said.
One of the last major authors to have served in World War II, Berger wrote more than 20 books, including the autobiographical “Rinehart” series, a “Little Big Man” sequel and “The Feud,” about warring families in a 1930s Midwest community. “The Feud” was recommended for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize by the fiction jury but was overruled by the board of directors, which awarded another Depression-era novel, William Kennedy’s “Ironweed.”
Fascinating stuff—this book is already on my Amazon wish list. I’m sure all you animal lovers out there will enjoy reading about it.
In the 17th century, Descartes described animals as automatons, a view that held sway for centuries. Today, however, a large and growing body of research makes it clear that animals have never been unthinking machines.
We now know that species from magpies to elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror, which some scientists consider a sign of self-awareness. Rats emit a form of laughter when they’re tickled. And dolphins, parrots and dogs show clear signs of distress when their companions die. Together, these and many other findings demonstrate what any devoted pet owner has probably already concluded: that animals have complex minds and rich emotional lives.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Braitman notes, “every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time.” […]
Daniel Keyes, the author of the enduring classic “Flowers for Algernon,” the fictional account of a mouse and a man whose IQs are artificially, temporarily and tragically increased, died June 15 at his home in southern Florida. He was 86.
The cause was complications from pneumonia, said his daughter Leslie Keyes.
First published in 1959 as a short story, “Flowers for Algernon” was released in novel form in 1966 and has since sold millions of copies. Generations of English students have met Charlie Gordon, the book’s narrator, through the journal entries Mr. Keyes crafted in stunted, then elegant and then again stunted prose revealing his character’s transformation.
Millions more saw “Charly,” director Ralph Nelson’s 1968 film adaptation starring Cliff Robertson in an Academy Award-winning performance, or watched the television movies and musical based on the novel. Mr. Keyes explored the human mind in several other volumes, but “Flowers for Algernon” remained his defining work.
RIP, Dear SIr.
As all my favorite Podcasts are listed, I had to Post. StarShipSofa being,, of course, the all time bestest!
Lightspeed magazine, under editor John Joseph Adams, has made a giant name for itself in recent years by publishing some of the very best science fiction in the field, with a roster of new and established talent including Seanan McGuire, Ted Chiang, Ramez Naam, Maureen F McHugh and Ken Liu. Lightspeed stories often blend the brain-candy high concepts that SF readers love with the kind of quirky humour that all geek culture adores. But there is also a dark edge and serious purpose to the sci-fi Lightspeed magazine showcases.
Since its founding in 2000 by Mary Anne Mohanraj, Strange Horizons has championed new writers in SF and broadened ideas of what the genre can achieve. Under editor-in-chief Niall Harrison the magazine has published some of the very best critical non-fiction writing about SF to be found online or off. If science fiction truly is, as the online magazine claims, “a vibrant and radical tradition of stories that can make us think … critique society … [and] offer alternatives to reality”, then Strange Horizons has done more than any other publication in the 21st century to nurture that tradition.
Podcasts burst on to the short fiction scene in the mid-2000s and now even have their own awards, the Parsecs. Escape Pod is the best known, and has published many of sci-fi’s best loved stories as audio productions. Sister publication Pseudopod is a great source of creepy horror stories, the warm, gravelly tones of host Alasdair Stuart raising him to near mythic status in sci-fi fandom. StarShipSofa’s Tony C Smith is another contender for “voice of scifi” - maybe one day they’ll go head to head?
What happens to the individual, the family and society when learning is impaired?
In today’s encore selection — the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with emotional maturity, does not fully develop in humans until they are in their mid-twenties. This may be because the prefrontal cortex, though it brings emotional balance, focus, planning and efficient action, restricts a person from the most creative aspects of learning:
“From an evolutionary perspective, one of the most striking things about human beings is our long period of immaturity. We have a much longer childhood than any other species. Why make babies so helpless for so long and thus require adults to put so much work and care into keeping their babies alive?
“Across the animal kingdom, the intelligence and flexibility of adults are correlated with the immaturity of babies. ‘Precocial’ species such as chickens rely on highly specific innate capacities adapted to one particular environmental niche, and so they mature quickly. ‘Altricial’ species (those whose offspring need [long] care and feeding by parents) rely on learning instead. Crows, for instance, can take a new object, such as a piece of wire, and work out how to turn it into a tool, but young crows depend on their parents for much longer than chickens.
“A learning strategy has many advantages, but until learning takes place, you are helpless. Evolution solves this problem with a division of labor between babies and adults. Babies get a protected time to learn about their environment, without having to actually do anything. When they grow up, they can use what they have learned to be better at surviving and reproducing — and taking care of the next generation. Fundamentally, babies are designed to learn.
author: Alison Gopnick
title: “How Babies Think”
publisher: Scientific American
date: July 2010
Read more at Delancey Place 6/14/2014
“In this unsavory circumstance, women were valued as war booty. Men were not seen in the slave trade, as they either killed themselves before capture or were murdered when apprehended. Women and children, however, might be captured as punishment against an offending tribe, such as when the Spanish carried off Apache women. In addition to inflicting emotional pain on the enemy, the Spanish anticipated the value of the captives as a trade item during peace discussions, which they assumed would materialize at some point. The women, however, had no idea how long their slavery might last or its outcome — sold off to a jobber for labor and death, given as a ‘gift’ during peace talks, exchanged for female slaves held by their captors’ foes, murdered, raped, or married.
“The French moving south and west on the Plains during the eighteenth century more than dabbled in this slave trade, as they stoked the fires of their Indian alliances. Natchitoches and its nearby fort was a trade center, where the French acknowledged the most valuable goods were horses, pelts, and slaves. The trade in female slaves allowed men on both sides of the table to enhance their commercial and diplomatic ties.
“In this swirl of several Indian tribes, Spanish administrators, and French traders, men of opposing sides cooperated in perpetuating the traffic in women, holding them in a bondage that was neither gentle nor brief. Women were an instrument to be used for the advance of masculine political and economic strategies. In the meantime, female captives changed the demographics of American slavery, forcibly held in western lands that were increasingly mythically regarded as a paradise of unfettered freedom. Such unattractive elements in western life, as this female slavery, were typically minimized or ignored.”
Excert from The American West: a Concise History by Anne M Butler
More: Delancy Place
In 10th century Japan a “pillow book” was a form of diary, a place to gather notes, lists and other scraps of paper and reflect upon them before retiring to bed. A “court lady” to the Empress used hers to depict life in the royal household, and today “The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon” is considered an invaluable record of a pampered and long-vanished Imperial court’s customs and beliefs.
Someday we may look at former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s memoir “Stress Test” the same way.
Imagine for a moment you’re Tim Geithner. You’re intelligent, competent, and hard-working. Your friends like you. Your bosses appreciate you. You’re a good family man. You worked under extraordinary pressure to save the financial system. And all you get for it is grief. Naturally you want to write a book to set the record straight.
It’s all perfectly understandable, at least from Geithner’s point of view.
“So it was by no means easy to persuade the inhabitants of seventeenth-century Europe that the purchase of news publications should be a regular commitment. It is not difficult to see why newspapers were so slow to catch on. Consumers had to be taught to want a regular fix of news, and they had to acquire the tools to understand it. This took time; the circle of those with an understanding of the world outside their own town or village expanded only slowly. For all of these reasons it would be well over a hundred years from the foundation of the first newspaper before it became an everyday part of life — and only at the end of the eighteenth century would the newspaper become a major agent of opinion-forming.”
The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself
Author: Andrew Pettegree
Publisher: Yale University Press
Copyright 2014 Andrew Pettergree
There’s a reason that we call them novels. The genre, Schmidt remarks, “takes in and takes on invention like no other literary form.” Modernity’s preeminent artistic innovation, the novel is perpetually striving to achieve the new. Its very looseness, its lack of rules and notorious difficulty of definition, is the secret of its strength. What is a novel? Almost anything that writers have attempted to convince us that it might be. Fiction has always been conspicuously porous to other forms, especially those that we refer to by the term that would seem to negate it, nonfiction: travel, history, journalism, biography, true crime—in our own day, most obviously, memoir. “Reality hunger,” to borrow the title of David Shields’s 2010 anti-novel manifesto, is hardly something new. The novel has always been a glutton for the real.
For one thing, it simply has more room than other forms (though serial television has emerged as a rival). Unconstrained by conditions of performance, it makes the most rotund Wagnerian opera, let alone the longest movie, play, or symphony, look anorexic by comparison. Schmidt remarks that the novel arose from medieval genres, with little relation to the classical tradition, but as it grew it claimed the epic goal of plenitude, the ambition to incorporate the whole of life. So many landmark novels are not only huge, they seem to seek to swallow the entire world: Don Quixote, Moby-Dick, Middlemarch, Ulysses, War and Peace (whose title might be glossed as Iliad Plus Odyssey, an epic times two), Proust’s Recherche, the titanic sociographic cycles of Balzac and Zola, the whole Joycean line of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace, who wrote a book whose title dares the adjective infinite.
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Retired police Sgt. Ron Stallworth’s story—about how he, a black undercover Colorado cop, infiltrated one of the nation’s most notorious hate groups in 1978—is one such truth. Stallworth, 61, recently released the book Black Klansman, detailing his amazing story during his early years of service.
“I was sitting in my office reading the newspaper,” Stallworth, who now lives in Utah, told The Root. “I was going through the classified section, and on this particular day there was an ad that said ‘Ku Klux Klan.’ “
It listed a post office box to send inquiries, and so he wrote a letter, identifying himself as a white man and peppering the note with racial slurs. The undercover officer, who was still in his 20s at the time, did make one crucial mistake, however: He signed the letter with his real name. He wasn’t too worried, though, since he figured the whole setup was probably a joke.
It wasn’t until he got a phone call a week later from the local KKK organizer about starting a Colorado Springs chapter that he realized how serious the ad was.