Iceland, Beans, Ejector seats, Education, Georges Borchardt

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Icelandic Fiction: A Family Affair

Frtida Isberg | TLS | 22nd May 2018

On the delicacy of writing naturalistic fiction in Iceland, a nation of 350,000 people where everybody is at most a fifth or sixth cousin to everybody else. “Iceland poses unusual ethical problems concerning what one can, and should, write. How does one balance the reputation of real characters against the liberty of the author? And what are the consequences in a country the size of Iceland when a writer, perhaps following the model of Karl Ove Knausgaard, exposes those around them?” (1,350 words)

The Beans Of Death

Anne Ewbank | Atlas Obscura | 25th May 2018

Why Pythagoras banned his followers from eating beans. Prior to 1492 European beans were almost all fava beans. Pythagoras may have suffered from favism, a genetic condition peculiar to the Mediterranean in which contact with fava beans can trigger anemia and eventually death. Taboos against beans were widespread in the ancient world. In Rome, “priests of Jupiter couldn’t touch or even mention beans, due to their association with death and decay” (630 words)

Back In The Saddle

Timothy Barela | Ejection Site | 1st April 1997

What it’s like to eject at 780 mph from an F-15, half-a-second before hitting the Atlantic Ocean. Captain Brian Udell survived, and eventually flew again, but “exposing his virtually unprotected body to supersonic speeds” cost him dearly. “I reached up and touched my face for the first time. It felt like a dish of Playdough. My lips were especially deformed. The blood vessels in my face had burst under the pressure of the slip stream, and my whole face was swollen. It had no definition” (3,300 words)

What’s Missing In Education

Bryan Caplan & Nassim Nicholas Taleb | Mercatus Center | 23rd May 2018

Conversation about the value of education. We need to distinguish clearly between practical skills and academic pursuits. People who will need to work for a living should acquire practical skills first; the sort of skills that you can only learn by doing. Apprenticeship is the right model. A university education, especially in the humanities, is a luxury for those who already have money. “Educational things are the product of societies that are rich, and not causative to wealth” (7,600 words)

The Life And Times Of A Literary Agent

Michael Meyer | Paris Review | 23rd May 2018

Georges Borchardt fled France after his mother was deported to Auschwitz, and set up as a literary agent in New York. His first sale was Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot”. As his reputation grew, other clients included Sartre, Duras, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault, Ionesco. “I like to edit before the writer gets suggestions from their editor, because that way if I say, ‘Take out this chapter because it’s boring’, and the editor also says that later, then maybe you will believe him or her” (5,500 words)

Video of the day Marie-Lou Desmeules: Catharsis

What to expect:

If John Waters and Andy Warhol were to collaborate on a film about psychotherapy, this might be it (4’49”)

Thought for the day

What’s real and what’s true aren’t necessarily the same
Salman Rushdie

Podcast Tenzing Norgay | Horizon Line

The life and achievements of Tenzing Norgay, co-conqueror of Everest and greatest sherpa ever
(34m 60s)

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