Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘books of this arbitrary length of time

Thursday Links!

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* The big story in academia yesterday was the eleventh-hour preemptive firing of Steven Salaita from UIUC (which according to reports may have cost him his tenure at Virginia Tech as well). Especially disturbing in all this is the participation of former AAUP president Cary Nelson, on the side of the firing. Some commentary from Corey Robin, Claire Potter, Philip Weiss, and Electronic Intifada. A statement for the Illinois AAUP. A petition.

* Delayed gratification watch: This week I finally cracked and read Chris Ware’s Building Stories after nearly two years of anticipation. So great. I can’t wait to teach it. I may write more about this later, but for now I can tell you that my arbitrary path through the book told a beautiful story that began with the couple’s fateful move to Englewood and drifted backwards in time, Ulysses-like, to the day the couple met, before culminating in a quietly nostalgic trip to the eponymous building as it stood about to be torn down. So great. My friend Jacob’s review. “I Hoped That the Book Would Just Be Fun”: A Brief Interview with Chris Ware.

* Call for applications: Wisconsin Poet Laureate.

* Oak Creek, Two Years After the Sikh Mass Murder.

* On adjuncts and wildcat strikes.

* I was born too early: N.Y.U. to Add a Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design.

* I was born too late: MIT looking into paying professors by the word.

* College rankings, 1911. Class III! How dare they. #impeachTaft

* The conservative plan to destroy higher education by capturing accreditation.

* UMass-Dartmouth to Pay $1.2-Million to Professor in Discrimination Case.

* Voter Fraud Literally Less Likely Than Being Hit By Lightning.

* The country’s largest environmental group is profiting from oil drilling.

* NYPD sadly forced to arrest its critics.

Medical Workers Say NYPD Cops Beat Man Shackled In A Stretcher. It Is Time We Treat Police Brutality as a National Crisis.

The CIA Must Tell the Truth About My Rendition At 12 Years Old.

“America is always losing its innocence,” Perlstein tells me, caught between the men who say we never lost it, and those who counterfeit its coming back again.

* State’s rights we can believe in: New Jersey drivers may be able to ignore other states’ speed cameras.

* Netflix Says Arrested Development Season 5 Is ‘Just a Matter of When.’

* Maria Bamford and the Hard Work of Acting Normal.

Porn production plummets in Los Angeles.

* How Marvel Conquered Hollywood.

The Lost Projects of Dan Harmon. In addition to Building Stories, I also cracked this week and finally started watching Rick and Morty. Now, granted, it’s no Building Stories — but it’s pretty good!

* The New Inquiry‘s “Mourning” issue is out today and has some really nice essays I think I’ll be using in the second go of my Cultural Preservation course next spring.

Why Civilization: Beyond Earth Is The Hottest New Space Strategy Game.

Disney Is Really Building A Star Wars Theme Park.

* Ethics vs Bioethics.

You Are Given An Unlimited Supply Of Something. The One Catch? The Next Person Sets A Condition.

* Wikipedia’s monkey selfie ruling is a travesty for the world’s monkey artists.

* Apparently Kid for President.

* Now we see the violence inherent in the system: Insurance Company Pays Elderly Man’s Workman’s Comp Settlement With $21,000 in Coins.

* Department of diminishing returns: The British Office: The Movie.

* And the kind of headline where I really don’t want any details: NASA: New “impossible” engine works, could change space travel forever. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning…

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A New Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time: Yellow Blue Tibia

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It’s been a long while since I had a Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time, but Adam Roberts’s Yellow Blue Tibia really is as good as they say, maybe better. I may have to structure part of the introduction or conclusion to my dissertation around it.

I’d say more, but perhaps it’s best if you go in cold.

The Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time: The Devil in the White City

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A book has finally usurped Chris Ware for the coveted Gerry Canavan Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time prize. The second BotALoT winner is Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, which magically appeared on my shelf just an hour after a friend told me it had replaced Hyperspace as his favorite nonfiction book. (I think Patrick and Casey gave it to me, but it could have been my mother or someone else. Whoever it was, thank you. You are awesome.)

I used to say that Kafka invented the 20th century. Now I know he invented only half of it — the other half was invented for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The book follows two parallel tracks that together seem to define the history of the last hundred years. The first is the story of the fair itself, how a group of architects and innovators created stunning and unprecedented structures in just two years, inventing along the way half the infrastructure we now take for granted. This is the formative myth of the twentieth century writ large: the myth of progress.

The other narrative line is the story of perhaps the first instance of that classic twentieth-century American archetype, the serial killer.

It’s a truly fantastic book.

Ruin Your Life: Draw Cartoons! And Doom Yourself to Decades of Isolation, Solipsism, and Utter Social Disregard

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I don’t usually do a “Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time”-style pick, but Chris Ware’s new book (The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Rainy Day Saturday Afternoon Fun Book) absolutely is the Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time. It’s gorgeous and beautiful and deep and subtle and timely and evocative and true and funny and very sad and all those things. Every page* is perfect. It’s the single best thing (in any medium) that I’ve looked at in recent memory.

I’m really in love with the book, and possibly also with Chris Ware, and despite the Library’s rather pricey nature (the one drawback), if you’ve bothered to read the post this far I’m certain you will be too. Salon’s review last month is much more eloquent than I can manage this morning, so I’ll just say it’s really, really, really good and leave it at that.

(And the aforementioned, unrepentant excellence of The Acme Novelty Library goes to show just how jumping-the-gun wrong that silly New Yorker article I linked to the other day was, already proclaiming the Essential Mediocrity of Contemporary Comics and The Inevitable Death of the Medium and such. I’m not convinced. Call The Acme Novelty Library Defense Exhibit A.)

Here is the image from the book referenced in the post title, which incidentally you can no longer buy prints of from Buenaventura Press but can still occasionally from eBay. More spellbinding images from The Acme Novelty Library can be peeped at the Chris Ware exhibition at the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago. The image at left, a self-portrait, was shamelessly stolen from this Austin Chronicle profile of Ware. I really have no way to work in this previously-linked French Documentary on Chris Ware, but it’s also very good. Wikipedia continues to exist.

Speaking obliquely of Jimmy Corrigan, I’m teaching it for the first time in my Intro to Lit class in a few weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes. I suspect it will go well. I’m excited.


* Some of the text-ad pages are frankly too texty for my tastes, and I couldn’t get the much-lauded glow-in-the-dark map of the constellations to work with my eyes last night. I couldn’t make any shapes out. (Maybe if I had given my eyes more time to adjust to the darkness. Or maybe I’m suffering from glow-in-the-dark-blindness. Or just run-of-the-mill blindness.) But these are minor, infinitesimal criticisms, applying to about five pages in the whole book, if that. Please ignore this footnote**.
** Seriously, get the book.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 15, 2005 at 2:50 pm