Alcibiades, Dance, Sand, Ambulances, Harold Brodkey


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A Lover and a Fighter

Peter Thonemann | Literary Review | 6th July 2018

Although an “insolent young monster”, Alcibiades somehow managed to be idolised in ancient Athens. “Like Byron, he clearly had that indefinable something”. He crashes “blind drunk” into the last scene of Plato’s Symposium. He wipes out the Spartan navy. “On the face of it, the man was utterly insufferable. Born in around 450 BC into one of the oldest and richest families of ancient Athens, Alcibiades was the only Old Etonian (as it were) to play a leading role in late-fifth-century radical democracy” (1,037 words)

Really Techno

Julia Bell | White Review | 6th June 2018

Out dancing at the Berghain nightclub in Berlin. “I’m not here to take drugs, or get drunk, I’m not really looking to hook up; in fact, if you dance too close to me I’ll probably move. I’m here as a 45-year-old woman, to be on my own, surrounded by techno music played on one of the best sound systems in the world. This is primarily a queer club. And you can’t really pretend to be queer. Perhaps it’s something you can become, but mostly it’s something you just are” (4,300 words)

Stolen Beaches

Neil Tweedie | Guardian | 1st July 2018

The world is running short of sand. Smugglers are stealing beaches and dredging islands to meet demand from the construction industry, which uses 30-40bn tonnes of building aggregate each year, half of which is sand — enough to build a wall 27m high and 27m wide around the Equator. It has to be the right kind of sand; desert sand is too smooth. Dubai shipped sand from Australia to build the Burj Khalifa. Singapore has used imported sand to increase its land area by 20% (2,670 words)

A Real Emergency

Elizabeth Rosen | Hazlitt | 27th June 2018

Life as an ambulance-crew paramedic. “A series of laws prevents me from ‘patient abandonment’, which is what it’s legally called if I were to sit down with her and say: ‘Honey, you’ve called us nine times in the last four days. You got kicked out of the emergency room this morning for spitting on a nurse. You got kicked out of your last shelter for fighting a guard. You don’t even have a medical complaint. The emergency room is supposed to be for people who are dying, you know, faster than you'” (2,250 words)

Yesterday’s Genius

Michael LaPointe | Brick | 29th May 2018

Harold Brodkey was touted as “the most promising writer in America” when he signed a contract for a first novel with Random House in 1964. The New Yorker published his stories. Gordon Lish compared him to Shakespeare, others to Proust. But when Brodkey’s vast novel finally appeared in 1991 it was universally panned. Now he is all but forgotten. It is hard to think of a reputation so completely unmade. “Harold’s talent was large, but his ego was colossal, and it did him in” (24,600 words)

Video of the day WernAcular

What to expect:

“Your film, too, can be narrated by Werner Herzog. Bring more drama, and more truth, into cinema” (2’28”)

Thought for the day

The true sign of genius is posthumous productivity
J.W. von Goethe

Podcast The Greatest Impostor | Grift

Maria Konnikova on Ferdinand Demara, who impersonated doctors, scientists, engineers and academics for 50 years
(36m 12s)

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