Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable. –Walter Benjamin, “The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses”
The title of Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia equalizes its two plots: there is one about how Julia Child came to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking and thereby alter the American palate, and there is one about Julie Powell’s efforts four decades later to cook her way through Child’s cookbook. But in truth these stories aren’t remotely on the same footing.
Listen, you cannot hear the small bells rung for mass, or smell the pungent incense. No one is selling tickets at this hour; nothing is open here at the earth’s edge where sheep block the road, and torrents pour from the stony mountain. Above the shrouded dead, tar-soaked timbers with their pitched roofs sky-dive bravely toward the stratosphere. Jet-lagged, we wake to a world spilled open into white and cloudless sky.
Flowers, yellow, purple, white, the one called “stepmother,” crouch like pansies underneath the gallery floor. All day we have been driving near the sound of water, the cry of unfamiliar birds. Now we are tired. Your foot, then mine, tests the sagging steps for rot; your eye, then mine, pries through the worn keyhole. Both of us think we will never be back. Your hand, then mine, refrains from touching the carved lintel with its snakes and dragons out of fear it might dissolve, and like so many things, our faces flushed, our bodies warm from walking, just disappear into thin air.
In his first feature film, Cary Fukunaga delivers a beautiful and powerful depiction of the lives of Central Americans crossing through Mexico to the United States border. Sin Nombre (Without Name) unfolds mostly on top of trains, and it’s enriched by years of painstaking research, including Fukunaga’s own rides atop Mexican boxcars.
Along the Beaver Creek, lobelia clings to the soil, foiling its every effort to sneak into the stream, which riffles over rocks below, aerating the water that fuels the wetland where a dragonfly squints its blue, bulbous eyes, spying mosquitoes mating, then steers its body to reach their next move. Do you dare, while traipsing this trail and glancing milkweed blossoms, to covet anything your neighbor may have?
Six months later, and a mile away, on a lime-dusted field, a singular tree, its leaves shorn and humming in wind somewhere south, waits. Winter will bear a crop of snow, which will deepen with the season and wrap around the stoic oak. No one will amble by for months. Driving by, will you sing your praise purely from the road’s safe distance?
In between, where there is so much time, when inspiration won’t spread its wings and raise its crimson head,
when nothing but mud dominates the wetland, when tarnished tin is the only color the sky can muster,
what then? Will you savor the age-old scent of the now-and-not-yet, sense its tension in the toppled tree, damp and fungus festooned,
Print books remain significantly more popular than digital books, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The bad news is that the number of people who reported reading a book in any format last year was 73 percent, down from 79 percent in 2011 when Pew first started gathering data on the reading habits of America (Publishers Weekly, September 16).