…much, much earlier.
Prospect’s poll on the world’s top public intellectuals.
The CJR interview with Suketu Mehta:
“I was a messenger between worlds. My currency was really stories.
When you go into the trains of Bombay, it’s like an Arabian Nights of stories. Everybody is telling the most incredible stories, real, unreal, surreal. So all you have to do is go to Bombay and listen and you’ll find. People are also more open about telling stories and listening to stories in Bombay than in the great cities of the West.”
Rahul Bhatia’s post on the Asiatic Library:
“There were no librarians, just filing cabinets to help you find your way around. A bit disconcerting if you think about it, especially when the secretary (of the library, as opposed to Miss Paulomi, who takes notes and files her nails all day) says to you ‘we’ve got everything,’ with an emphasis on everything. Everything? I ask, mouth slightly agape. Everything, he repeats, shutting his eyes in conclusion.
The shelves are dusty, and I find (to my delight) that books such as ‘Two days in Cairo’ or ‘A journey into the interiors of Africa’ have very few spellbound. I remove one such and it nearly falls apart, its glue having lost its stickiness. The pages are brown, with a darker brown creeping across words on some pages, and dust flies up when I flip through the book. There are shelves and more shelves full of these books. Shelves that will need a ladder, shelves that will take years to explore. I decide to join this library.”
This piece, on How Not To Do Chicklit, for the Indian blogger who’s promised me that her forthcoming chicklit epic will break all the rules–and baby, she’s going to keep that promise, judging by her blog. The Duck will tell you who she is as soon as she’s ready to tell you who she is.
In the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan writes about driving down to New Orleans with Terry and Sam:
“The Red Cross had warned Sam and Terry that it was dangerous to drive in those areas without a military escort. One of the humvees had been shot at earlier that day. But the military men up at the command centre didn’t want to escort the boys: they didn’t think it was their job. It appeared that no one had bothered to establish a chain of command between the Red Cross and the military, so the people, such as Sam and Terry, who were delivering aid were expected to take their own risks and only help people they felt they could trust.
That night, the dark in Gulfport seemed darker than the dark of anywhere else. Electricity was still only minimally available and the stars looked down with keen eyes. Terry’s gouty ankle had grown to the size of a small planet, and he slept out in the open air at the back of the truck, stretched out on a long toolbox, his leg hoisted higher than the rest of him and pointing at the stars. Sam fell asleep in the driver’s seat with the broken walkie-talkie tight in his hand.”
Freeman Dyson writes about Richard Feynman for the NYRB. It’s an erudite piece, and it’s frivolous to pick out this story, but also kind of irresistible:
“He was particularly concerned that teachers using the manuals might penalize children who came up with original ways of solving problems. This actually happened many years later when Michelle [Richard Feynman’s daughter] was in high school and was penalized for going off the beaten track to solve an algebra problem. When Feynman went to the school to complain, the teacher accused him of knowing nothing about math.”
And here’s Uma MD’s prize-winning essay on secularism (congratulations, Uma!):
“What could be left of this country’s soul when it has been dying like this, bit by bleeding bit? After such horrors, what forgiveness? And how we will be judged, not only by our children but by the children of all those who died because the State failed to act? Today, twenty-one years after the Delhi riots, it seems – as Walter Benjamin said, quoting Kafka – that oh, there is hope – an infinite amount of hope – but not for us.”
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