Dylan, Slang, Tigers, Wolves, Trees

Editor’s note: Please do look in on The Browser's new video newsletter, The Viewer, edited by Abe Callard. What The Browser is to words, The Viewer is to pictures — Robert  

Murder Most Foul

Timothy Hampton | MIT Press | 3rd April 2020

Gorgeous appreciation of Murder Most Foul, Bob Dylan’s astonishing meditation on the JFK assassination. Somewhere in the song’s hinterlands are the murder ballads of the 19th century, the novels of Pynchon and Faulkner, Hamlet, American Pie and Wolfman Jack. “It matters not whether Kennedy was a good president or a bad one. His murder was most foul, and that event paved the way, in Dylan’s mind, for the process of long decay, the rootlessness and suspicion, that we have lived since then” (2,800 words)


Slanging Match

Deborah Cameron | Language, A Feminist Guide | 3rd April 2020

Are women by nature more genteel in their speech — or have men just preferred to imagine them as such? The latter. “Each generation of critics has presented young women’s slang as if it were a wholly a new phenomenon, a worrying departure from the relatively recent past when girls were allegedly ‘genuine’ and modest. As usual with verbal hygiene, there is more at stake here than language. Disapproving of girls’ slang has often been a coded expression of a deeper unease about social change” (2,230 words)


The Grandeur Of The Tiger

John Vaillant | Delancey Place | 2nd April 2020

Thrilling glimpse of the “huge physical force and quiet confidence” of Siberia’s Amur Tiger, largest of all the world's cats. “Picture the grotesquely muscled head of a pit bull and then imagine how it might look if the pit bull weighed a quarter of a ton. Add to this fangs the length of a finger backed up by rows of slicing teeth capable of cutting through the heaviest bone. Now, imagine the vehi­cle for all of this: nine feet or more from nose to tail, and three and a half feet high at the shoulder” (970 words)


Wolves Of Stanislav

Paul Auster | Literary Hub | 2nd April 2020

Paul Auster visits the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, from which his grandfather emigrated a century ago; he meets a Buddhist poet who tells him a story about the very end of the Second World War. The Jewish half of the pre-war population had been murdered. The Nazis had retreated. The Red Army was approaching. The surviving residents had “dispersed to the four winds”, leaving their city, quite literally, to the wolves — “hundreds of wolves, perhaps thousands of wolves” (3,600 words)


My Mother, The Tree

Robin Sloan | Year Of The Meteor | 2nd April 2020

Short story. Advances in neuroscience and biology allow humans to copy crude versions of their minds into trees; the trees can now communicate; they issue an ultimatum to humanity, on behalf of Nature. “Text filled my screen, a matter-of-fact statement of what was going to happen, along with a set of simple demands, all of it signed by the trees and the ferns, the sparrows and the blueberries, the elk and their fallen antlers, too. That’s how I was warned about the Great Oxygen Strike” (2,700 words)


Video: Why Blue Whales Don’t Get Cancer | Kurzgesagt. Very large animals seem immune to cancer — perhaps because their tumours get tumours of their own, and civil war ensues (8m 05s)

Audio: Josh, Chainsaw | Everything Is Alive. Interview with a chainsaw. That’s the idea, anyway. (26m 54s)

Afterthought:
”That's what children are for — that their parents may not be bored”
— Ivan Turgenev