Nine years ago, I answered an ad on Craigslist and was hired by artist Jana Leo de Blas. Jana was a tiny woman of indeterminable age with a dandelion puff of hair. I arrived at her bright, high-ceilinged studio in the old I.S.C.P. building in midtown Manhattan; she had built a platform in the middle of the room. I climbed the few steps, settled at the desk with my laptop and coffee and tried to remember some poetry to quote in case I choked. That morning was the start of a weekend of open studios, but Jana wanted to be sure we didn’t limit ourselves to visiting art fans, so [...]
"Description of a village lottery. The entire town of about 300 people assembles in the village square where the time-honored ritual is observed. First all the heads of families draw slips of paper out of a box. Bill Hutchinson gets a certain slip after which his entire family draws slips. His wife, Tessie gets one with a black mark on it. The villagers surround her and start throwing stones at her, while she screams, 'It isn't fair.'" —Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" was published in the New Yorker on this day in 1948. Jackson biographer Ruth Franklin goes over some of the responses.
On June 6th, David Adjmi's play 3-C opened Off-Broadway, and the same day, he received a cease-and-desist letter. Without legal counsel, he felt compelled to agree that the run of the play could not be extended—and that it would never be performed again. In this open letter, a group of playwrights, theater professionals and performers explain why this is so wrong.
Playwright David Adjmi, whose play 3-C just closed a run at Rattlestick Theatre, has received a threatening "Protest Letter" from the law firm of Kenyon & Kenyon, which represents DLT Entertainment, the owners of the long defunct TV sitcom "Three's Company." The letter accuses him of [...]
If you are an old person who takes drugs, or a preschool age child who doesn't take drugs, or anybody else, really, you might enjoy this video for a song from J Mascis' new, mostly-acoustic solo album. I've been enjoying the video, the song and the rest of the album a lot lately. J Mascis is a longtime favorite of mine, and I've been fairly stunned by how excellent he and his band Dinosaur Jr. have been since the original line-up reunited in 2007—nineteen years after recording the classic Bug, which was the first album of theirs that I got. It's just been announced that they'll be [...]
Busy Connecticut lady and Bush administration enthusiast Maggie McGirr, who is famous (to me) for writing letters to the editor, is still on her game! The proud owner of dozens of published letters to the editor of the Times struck gold with this one today. It's actually very good: "What remains a mystery to me is the behavior of the cellphone user when his phone goes off in a place where it is unwelcome – in a concert or theater performance, for example. He gropes frantically through all his belongings as if he has no recollection of having brought it and therefore no idea where it [...]
Dan Horton, a friend and former colleague of mine, works on tugboats out of the New York Harbor for a living. Two weeks ago, he flew down to Louisiana to take a job on a barge unloading crude oil from the skimmer boats that clean the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. There's limited computer access on board; crew are only allowed to send and receive one email a day. Dan has been sending letters home to his girlfriend, Lori, who has been passing them along to friends and family, and now, with their permission, I'll pass them along to you. -Dave Bry
There's a rather remarkable letter in the current London Review of Books concerning the treatment of Britain's mentally ill. It begins this way: I have been in and out of NHS mental hospitals for more than forty years. The first, following a suicide attempt, was Bethlem Royal, the old Bedlam, by then moved to a huge semi-rural site near Beckenham. On arrival my first feeling was of immense relief; I was in a safe place and didn't have to worry any more. One almost never saw a psychiatrist; 'treatment' consisted of tranquillisers that kept one calm and anti-depressants that did nothing at all; this was in the days before Prozac. [...]
A reader writes: "what is the long game here????" He refers to this letter, in the New York Review of Books, from Janet Malcolm, to Francine Prose, regarding Rebecca West's views on Charlotte Brontë. (You got that? ARE YOU SURE.) Malcolm criticizes Rebecca West's views on Brontë, but finishes: "Prose’s condescending words about Nora Ephron’s brilliant elliptical essays are similarly puzzling."
How did this come to pass? To what end was this written? Was this an impulsive blog comment of a letter? I too would be moved to defend Nora Ephron, but perhaps not to the extent of dashing off a letter. Or was this a tip [...]
The English alphabet has ever been the center of the American literary universe — the letters of Whitman, of Edith Wharton, of every poorly-spelled happy hour chalkboard in Greenwich Village — and though the legendary set of graphemes has lost a little edge and a lot of grime what with all the crazy texting the kids do today, it is still creative fodder for countless contemporary writers, even the ones who have figured out that if you do graphic novels you have to write like 75% less.
As you may have heard, one of the alphabet's most legendary letters, Q, recently announced that since he was only appreciated in Scrabble [...]
Part of a two-week series on the pull of bad influences in our lives and in the culture.
The word “blackmail” has deceit written all over it. Nine letters to connote all the dirtiness and manipulation that comes with the threat of disclosure. But when you think of "blackmail," do you picture, well, mail? Confidential missives that threaten to enter the wrong hands? I’m always reminded of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Purloined Letter," where the narrative winds to follow the possible locations of an incriminating letter. In daytime soaps and murder mysteries, blackmail regularly happens through the transfer of mail. As we know, letters are by nature compromising—not only [...]
They say blog commenters are the worst people ever. But "they" have never worked at a magazine or newspaper. Here's New York magazine columnist Will Leitch's snailmail correspondence today.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
Charles Schumer, April 27, 2010.
The New Yorker gets mail about its review of Jonathan Safran Foer's vegetarian book. Including someone who said he was writing from the parking lot of a slaughterhouse: "I wonder if Foer has ever visited, or considered the impact of, a thousand-acre soybean monoculture. We have demanded cheap food, and so we have received cheap, destructive food production. Second, vegetarian moralism denies an essential fact of living: death. Everything dies, and not always in its due time." The great beyond eagerly waits for all forms of meat, including the writing kind of meat!
We were a little slow getting to a dissection of Malcolm Gladwell's latest piece over here, because, well, we are like the old times, we like to carefully weigh our opinions before publishing. (Just joshing!) But the U.S. mail and the letters desk is even slower, so it took until today's New Yorker for their letter pages to be dominated by people trashing Gladwell for the application of his ideas, for his understanding of history and, naturally, about the basketball.
Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.
On February 28, 1933, the Reichstag Fire Decree gave Adolf Hitler the emergency powers he needed to suspend civil liberties, and the Nazi party wasted no time targeting political opponents.1
Carl von Ossietzky was arrested by the special police that very morning. It was not the first time the editor-in-chief of Die Weltbühne (The World Stage), the voice of leftist intellectuals, had been in a [...]
So I keep hearing about how the Post Office wants to not deliver the U.S. Mail on Saturdays, but nobody's doing anything about it because of Congress or whatever, but personally I am in favor of not getting any U.S. Mail on Saturdays if that sacrifice meant we (as in, The People) would be keeping the U.S. Mail flowing the rest of the week. It's important to have the U.S. Mail out there on the street. Think about it, right now we have potentially vital agents in the War on Freedom out in the neighborhood most days of the week, patrolling. They walk right up to your house [...]
We're a tad tardy to this one but that only seems appropriate given the circumstances. From the letters page of the May 10th London Review of Books:
"I have just seen Brian Harrison’s 1986 review of my book Victorian Lives (LRB, 19 June 1986). He says my sources were not typical of contemporary prisoners; that I paint too bleak a picture of their experience; and do not recognise the ‘Victorian activism’ of the reformed prison. He is wrong on all three counts.
Philip Priestley Wells, Somerset"
1. I 2. J 3. L 4. P 5. O 6. Q
Dan Horton, a friend and former colleague, works on tugboats out of the New York Harbor for a living. Two weeks ago, he flew down to Louisiana to take a job on a barge unloading crude oil from the skimmer boats that clean the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Crew are only allowed to send and receive one email a day; his girlfriend, Lori, passes along his daily email to friends and family. With their permission, we're passing them along to you. -Dave Bry
So there was a thing that happened in this corner of the Internet over the last week or so and people said some stuff and then some other people said some stuff back and then a lot of people said a lot of things about it and there were letters exchanged and the like? You know what I'm talking about. Anyway, here are a few additional responses.