This week’s installment is a grab bag, offering both comedy (a courtroom debate over what exactly a copying machine is) and tragedy (the tsunami in Japan). These stories’ styles also vary wildly, ranging from a non-narrative yet suspenseful investigation into the killing of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor to an unsettlingly intimate encounter with cave art.
“America’s Ancient Cave Art” by John Jeremiah Sullivan on Slate – excerpted from the Paris Review (via @longreads). “The tunnels got lower, narrower. Our faces were inches from the cave walls. We encountered weird paddlehanded creatures with long wavy arms. I began to feel that I was inside a hallucination, not that I was hallucinating myself – I was working very hard, in that cramped space, to write down Jan’s few cryptic remarks – but that I was experiencing someone else’s dream, which had been engineered for me, or rather not for me but for some other, very different people to progress through. It may have been shamanic. There’s a spring in that cave, Simek said, that can start to sound like voices, after you’ve been in there for a while.”
“The Sleeping Cure” from Stephen Metcalf in New York magazine (via @longreads). “The doctor was a middle-aged man with a low-slung, do-si-do voice, cowled eyelids, and a silver Cross pen poised above a yellow legal pad. I regarded him as little more than an agent of my parents, and so, aside from a twice-weekly deconstruction of Hubie Brown’s Knicks, refused to engage him. What followed was an old-fashioned Freudian face-off: I sat in a stone-cold silence that he declined to break, a magisterial reticence no doubt meant to open a crawlway to my unconscious mind. We were all but motionless in an all-but-airless room, repaying each other’s muteness in kind. It’s no wonder what eventually happened. The doctor fell asleep.”
“Identifying photocopy machine poses problem for Cuyahoga County official” from the staff of The Cleveland Plain Dealer (via @TheBrowser). Think of it as a one-act nonfiction play excerpted from a court transcript.
“Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder’s office, has the Recorder’s office had photocopying machines?
Marburger: Any photocopying machine?
Patterson: When you say ‘photocopying machine,’ what do you mean?”
“Mike Tyson Moves to the Suburbs” by Daphne Merkin in the New York Times Magazine. “One of the few links between his tumultuous past and his more tranquil present are his homing pigeons. He has been raising them since he was a picked-on fat little kid with glasses growing up in some of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods – first Bedford Stuyvesant, then Brownsville – with an alcoholic, promiscuous mother given to violent outbursts, which included scalding a boyfriend with boiling water. (‘He had a tough mother,” recalls David Malone, a childhood friend. “We knew to stay away from her.’)”
“Spy Games” by Scott Horton in Foreign Policy. “If you wanted to identify the low point of U.S.-Pakistan relations, a good place to start would be Jan. 27 of this year. In heavy midday traffic, an American named Raymond A. Davis stopped his white Honda Civic at a light in Lahore’s Qurtaba Chowk neighborhood, drew a Glock pistol, and fired 10 rounds at two young Pakistani men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad, killing both of them. Davis then attempted to flee the scene but was apprehended by regional police when a car in the road ahead of him stalled. Those facts are the sum total of what U.S. and Pakistani officials have been able to agree on in the six weeks since the incident occurred and Davis, a muscular young former Special Forces officer who, it has since emerged, was working as a CIA contractor, became the center of a diplomatic crisis. The other details have been spun so aggressively by so many different parties that you could assemble a subcontinental ‘Rashomon’ out of them.”
“Aftershocks” by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker. “Kicked up from the seabed, the tsunami amplified in size and slowed in speed as it moved into the shallows beside the Japanese coastline, and by the time it touched land it was a wall of water, black and smooth. It was as tall in places as a three-story building, moving at fifty miles per hour. It flicked fishing trawlers over seawalls, crunched them against bridges. It sent fleets of cars and trucks hurtling from parking lots, and turned homes into chips of wood and tile, before heading deeper into Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures across a span of six miles. Rampaging through former farming and fishing villages, and the cosmopolitan city of Sendai, the wave slowed, but remained too fast for most people to outrun on foot.”[Image of photocopier courtesy of Flickr member Pneff; used under a Creative Commons license.]