Disambiguations™ for September 29, 2009
I. Richard Russo was on NPR's Morning Edition today, talking about some of his favorite office lit—including Personal Days! Listen here. (Full show here.)
II. "I don't buy it, and, more, I don't really even want it": Levi Stahl on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
III. The anatomy lesson: My favorite brainiac Meehan Crist gets to dissect, at Lapham's Quarterly:
The earliest lesson in dissection comes not from the West but from the East, in the pages of the Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Sanskrit text meant for students of the surgical arts who probably lived about six hundred years before Christ walked the streets of Galilee. It instructs its readers to find the body of a person—not too young and not too old—who has not died of poisoning or severe disease. Remove the intestines. Wrap the body in grass, hemp, or bast, the inner bark of trees. Place the wrapped figure in a cage, for protection from animals, and lower the cage into a river with a gentle current. Leave it there, bobbing in the rhythmic rush of water, “the body left to soften.” When you return a few days later, bring a brush made of grassroots, hair, and bamboo. Use the brush to remove one softened layer of the corpse at a time. “When this is done, the eye can observe every large or small, outer or inner part of the body, beginning with the skin, as each part is laid bare by the brushing.” In this way, you will travel beneath the skin and through the body to the very core, whisking away bits of bloated flesh until nothing is left, the body disappeared and your hands, empty.
IV. I also noticed, in the same issue of LQ, an essay by John Crowley:
Once last fall, world stock markets lost a trillion dollars in value in a single day, or maybe it was a week, and I found the evident impossibility of this somehow at once appalling and exhilarating. I wondered why—why it was exhilarating, that is. Was it the suggestion, the proof even, that this supposed value had not been actual at all, had been nothing, a projection, a magic trick? Why would that be exhilarating? Some of my own money was vanishing (as my wife reminded me, asking why I was laughing), and to most humans, the sense of a vast and necessary structure dissolving into thin air like Prospero’s cloud-capp’d towers might be gloom-inducing in the extreme.
Along about the same time, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was being set up for its first test run, and there was speculation that the machine could so focus the random possibilities of particle collision as to swallow up the planet and all of us with it. A mini black hole might be created, doomsayers warned, a spot of “true vacuum” that could actually draw in the entire universe at the speed of light—all matter and energy and all time and space—and leave nothing at all behind. Nothing at all.
This possibility, like the vanishing trillions of cash value, was exhilarating too, only awe-inspiring rather than appalling—godlike laughter as against demonic glee.
V. And...Columbia folk: I'm reading tomorrow...where is "Mathematics Hall"?
Getting Personal with Ed Park
Wednesday, September 30, 8PM
203 Mathematics Hall
Columbia Professor and acclaimed novelist and critic Ed Park will give a reading from his novel Personal Days, followed by an open Q&A. Personal Days, one of the Time’s top ten fiction books of 2008, was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award and the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. Park is a founding editor of The Believer magazine, former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement and a contributor to the New York Times and LA Times, among many other publications.The Columbia Review and 114 Rue de Fleurus, the writers’ house of Columbia University, are co-sponsoring the event. Attendance is open and no RSVP is required.