Gatsby, Super Mario, Alan Bennett, Foundlings, Afrikaners, Zarafa

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

H.L. Mencken Reviews The Great Gatsby

H.L. Mencken | Chicago Tribune | 13th May 1925

“Scott Fitzgerald’s new novel, The Great Gatsby, is in form no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that. This story is obviously unimportant. What ails it, fundamentally, is the plain fact that it is simply a story — that Fitzgerald seems to be far more interested in maintaining its suspense than in getting under the skins of its people. Only Gatsby himself genuinely lives and breathes. The rest are mere marionettes — often astonishingly lifelike, but nevertheless not quite alive” (1,450 words)

How Super Mario Conquered The World

Economist | 20th December 2016

Mario made his debut in Donkey Kong, a stopgap game commissioned after Nintendo’s failed attempt to clone Space Invaders in 1980. The character was initially called Jumpman. But Minoru Arakawa, boss of Nintendo in America, wanted a more memorable name. “Around that time, Mr Arakawa was visited at Nintendo’s warehouse outside Seattle by an irate landlord demanding prompt payment. He was called Mario Segale, and he had a moustache. Thus does destiny call” (Metered paywall) (2,500 words)

2016 Diary

Alan Bennett | London Review Of Books | 21st December 2016

“17th September: Edward Albee dies. We met once, I think in 1972, when we were seated at the same table at the Evening Standard awards lunch. I was struck by how stylish and Ivy League he was (like Woody Allen, who wore similarly dapper outfits then), slim and neat in a look I always fancied. More striking was that Albee was there in company with his male partner, which was still a bold step in 1972 and only the second time I had come across such an open avowal of a gay relationship” (4,100 words)

The Baby In The Plastic Bag

Bernt Jakob Oksnes | Dagbladet | 16th October 2016

Epic nine-part investigation into the abandonment of a near-dead baby in an Oslo churchyard. “Tor Schou Nilsen inches closer. The plastic bag is stained with blood. He leans down, grasps one of the handles and realises that there is yet another carrier bag inside the first, its handles knotted together. As he works to untie the knot, muffled whimpers can be heard from within. As Tor glances inside the bag, he beholds what lies within. It’s a human being. A living newborn baby, blue with cold” (18,000 words)

Volk Tales

R.W. Johnson | Literary Review | 5th December 2016

Review of Bridge over Blood River by Kajsa Norman, on the condition of Afrikaners in past and present-day South Africa. “Afrikaner nationalism successfully turned a poor, rural people into a largely prosperous middle class in an unequalled feat of collective social mobility. The National Party was part reactionary racist party but also part labour party, empowering poor whites. It was by far Africa’s most successful nationalist party, which is why the ANC tries so hard to emulate it today” (1,300 words)

Beautiful Animal Of The King

Elena Passarello | Paris Review | 20th December 2016

When King Charles X of France asked fellow-rulers for additions to his new Jardin des Plantes in 1824, Egypt’s Pasha Muhammad Ali found him a baby giraffe in Ethiopia. Thus began the first leg of Zarafa’s three-year-long, four-thousand-mile journey to her new king. After crossing to Marseilles by sea she walked 550 miles to Paris wearing a huge two-piece waxed-taffeta raincoat with a mounted guard, two sheep, three milk cows, three footmen, and one scientist in attendance (1,500 words)

Video of the day: The Twelve Days Of Christmas

What to expect:

Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrestles with an embarrassment of partridges, pear-trees etc. PG-13 language (7’59”)

Thought for the day

The function of vice is to keep virtue within reasonable bounds
Samuel Butler

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