5.20.2012 New York Times Digest

1. “My Car, My Sanctuary

“That the American road system is a crowning achievement of Western civilization is too little appreciated.”

2. “From Cubicles, Cry for Quiet Pierces Office Buzz

“The original rationale for the open-plan office, aside from saving space and money, was to foster communication among workers, the better to coax them to collaborate and innovate. But it turned out that too much communication sometimes had the opposite effect: a loss of privacy, plus the urgent desire to throttle one’s neighbor.”

3. “Idealistic Lawmen Taking Crime Very Personally

“What in 1955 was a progressive plea for civic reform (laced, again, by some searing violence), had become by 1973, in the context of the Miranda decision and Nixon’s law-and-order politics, a wild-eyed fantasy about an incorruptible leader who finds it necessary to subvert the law in order to save it. Unconcerned with legal niceties like search warrants and evidence, Pusser, here portrayed as a former professional wrestler, conducts his campaign of civic reform by busting up the local clip joints (and quite a few patrons) with a giant stick carved from an oak tree.”

4. “Stop. Snap. Move. Repeat for, Oh, 10 or 20 Years.

“For the first four years of the project, he worked completely alone, driven by what may have been a muse or ‘daemons,’ he’s unsure which; not even his closest friends and colleagues knew what he was up to.”

5. “Packing All the Heat a Movie Could Want

“All these guns are real.”

6. “Where Garrison Keillor Gets ‘Carried Away’

“If you hike 10 miles at night on the High Plains of North Dakota, it could change your life. And for the good.”

7. “Like the Video? I Wrote the Book

“Not long ago I wrote an essay in which I facetiously foresaw Don DeLillo’s having to sell White Noise mugs and T-shirts on his Web site to make ends meet. I had forgotten that in the 21st century any absurd dystopian fantasy or black satire you can dream up invariably turns out to be already true. I was advised that I would need to increase my presence on social media.”

8. “Let’s Go Reading in the Car

“Here’s my theory about the evolution of the book. First, God speaks the Commandments, then he writes them on a tablet (white fire on black fire, the sages say), and only later, and slowly, are they transcribed. So first comes the audiobook, then comes the e-book, and only as a last resort the barbarism of parchment and paper. With audiobooks we go back to the source.”

9. “The Voice

“The best readers don’t put so much acting into the recording that it interferes with the connection between the author and the listener.”

10. “Manageable Discontents

“Here are some reasons, I think, that Franzen’s essays do not match his fiction. While his prose is always cogent, he is not that consistently stylish a sentence writer. Essays put a different kind of pressure on the sentence, calling for more aphoristic compression and wit. His novels work best through patient accumulation of social detail and character development. By contrast, the I-character in his essays is not as strongly developed, nor as vivid. He is better able to convey moral irony by dramatizing a fictional conflict than by baldly stating his views.”

11. “Books With 140 Characters

“Here’s how it works: Every month we pick a literary genre (in March, for instance, we chose science fiction and read Neuromancer, by William Gibson, the following month) and solicit nominations. After a few days my editor and I cull through these suggestions for a shortlist of six books, which we then put up for a vote. Readers campaign for their favorites (Great Expectations is ahead?” @GatsbyGoil writes. “Didn’t we all read that in middle or high school?”), and by the end of the month we declare a winner. Books are procured – more often than not, downloaded – and the discussion begins. Conversations are organized around chapters, so no single reader reveals that Pip and Estella never actually tie the – Oops! I’ve said too much already.”

12. “Richard Ford Is a Man Who Actually Listen

“Living, it’s called living. You might call it wasting time, but I just call it living. Going bird hunting, reading books, watching the Red Sox, doing things with my wife that we wouldn’t have time to do if I was writing a book. There’s a whole lot to do once you can get out from under the yoke of working.”

13. “Making Choices in the Age of Information Overload

“If we researched every single purchase, we wouldn’t have time to make any purchases. I have better things to do with my time.”

14. “How to Enjoy Going to the Movies Again

“Moviegoing is, at its core, a social experience. The moment those lights dim and the film reel rolls, you’re no longer an individual sitting in an auditorium; you’re part of a mass of people who are connected through a shared event and the desire to be entertained and transported. In that moment, when you turn from a solitary viewer into an audience, you form a trusting and reciprocal relationship not only with the movie but also with those around you. Every person in the theater contributes to the experience. Usually, this means reverent silence. But I’d argue that there is no theater audience that contributes more to the experience of seeing a movie than one at a midnight show.”

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