Sunday 12.1.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness

“Joy is trivialized if we do not first intentionally acknowledge the pain and wreckage of the world.”

2. How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City

“The New York Times has explored the company’s impact in one American community: greater Baltimore.”

3. Latin Dictionary’s Journey: A to Zythum in 125 Years (and Counting)

“When German researchers began working on a new Latin dictionary in the 1890s, they thought they might finish in 15 or 20 years. In the 125 years since, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (T.L.L.) has seen the fall of an empire, two world wars and the division and reunification of Germany. In the meantime, they are up to the letter R.”

4. For Deaf Fans, Bucks News Is Now Loud and Clear

“Closed captioning is not always an effective form of communication, especially as captions do not capture emotion, inflection or tone. Interpreters, though, can convey all the nuance that captions miss.”

5. Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism

“She says the state has been an underappreciated driver of growth and innovation.”

6. A Better Social Media World Is Waiting for Us

“Facebook and Twitter are slowly imploding. And before they’re finally dead, we need to think about what the future will be like after social media so we can prepare for what comes next.”

7. Why Progressive Candidates Should Invoke Conservative Values

“The most effective candidate in a national election would combine the most popular feature of the Democratic Party, progressive economic policies, with the most popular feature of the Republican Party: the invocation of conservative ideology and values like patriotism, family and the ‘American dream.’”

8. City Malaise, Cured by a Cloud Forest?

“Now I recommend a trip into nature — or even just a hobby requiring fresh air and a bit of discovery — to everyone I know. It has done something different for me than yoga, experimenting with psychedelics or talk therapy, which while helpful, never allowed me to ‘break clear away, once in a while,’ as John Muir put it, to ‘wash your spirit clean.’”

9. Don’t Blame Tech Bros for the Housing Crisis

“We look to Big Tech to solve the housing crisis, when the solution involves things only government — and voters — can do, like changing land use rules and tax laws. And tech’s billions will mean little if homeowners continue to oppose new development.”

10. Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom

“On the internet, clout is a social currency that can be used to obtain just about anything. Rack up enough while you’re young, and doors everywhere begin to open. College recruiters notice you. Job opportunities and internships come your way. Your social status among peers rises, money flows in.”

11. Giving Suburban Wildlife a Lift

“While humans are pushing into wildlife territory more and more, some of them are also becoming more aware of, and attuned to, the wildlife in their backyards.”

12. The Streaming Era Has Finally Arrived. Everything Is About to Change.

“There are 271 online video services available in the United States.”

13. The Great Streaming Space-Time Warp Is Coming

“So many of the ways that we’re used to experiencing TV are artifacts of technology and business. September became TV’s New Year because that was when the new car models came out. TV episodes developed their multi-act structure to make room for commercials. Weekly schedules were set because you had to broadcast shows to everyone at once (a practice we may someday look back upon as a medieval ritual, like baking your bread in the village communal oven).”

14. What Is the Meaning of Sacred Texts?

“Armstrong argues in her magisterial new book, The Lost Art of Scripture, that Scripture shouldn’t be interpreted literally or rigidly from a pulpit or in a library. She argues that Scripture is flexible, evolving, contextual and more like performance art than a book.”

15. Two Authors Explore the Persistence of Religious Feeling

“How have we, in contemporary culture, come to separate religion from what we think of as ordinary, secular life? How was that artificial separation made for the first time?”

16. The Evil Repercussions of the American Revolution

“For the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants, who did not give a damn about a civil war in British North America or the ideas and ideals that inspired it, the American Revolution was a disaster.”

17. Architecture’s Most Irredeemable Cad

“Let’s get one thing straight. Wright was a cad.”

18. What Tweets and Emojis Did to the Novel

“The scroll and the ideogram died out because of their simplicity, only to have been revived for that reason. The scroll is a frictionless waterfall on the screen. And while an entire alphabet of ideograms would be unusably bulky, a handful of key ones, scattered into our language, condense thousands of complicated reactions into a few dozen universal symbols.”

19. ‘I Think This Guy Is, Like, Passed Out in His Tesla’

“These videos are magnetic not just because of the eerie images they contain, but also because, watching them, we can’t actually be sure what we’re seeing. Is this danger or safety or both at once?”

20. Talk: Pete Townshend

“What we were hoping to do was to create a system by which we gathered in order to hear music that in some way served the spiritual needs of the audience. It didn’t work out that way. We abandoned our parents’ church, and we haven’t replaced it with anything solid and substantial. But I do still believe in it.”

21. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’

“‘Fool Us’ is … an island of civility and generosity in our cruel, contentious and otherwise debased times.”

22. Truth Hurts

“In its piercing tone and operatic overstatement, Jagged Little Pill remains a wonderfully transparent document of a young woman’s emotions, of her passion, of her capacity for catharsis. If her tone was singular then, it isn’t anymore. We live in a moment when women are fed up, openly, much of the time. Morissette’s register no longer sounds histrionic — it’s descriptive of a mood many of us recognize.”

23. Adam Sandler’s Everlasting Shtick

“Sandler makes movies for people to watch when they’re tired from work, or stoned, or 13. And over the years, as he has garnered control, the most recessive traits of his filmmaking style have begun to combine in more flagrant disorder.”

24. Does Who You Are at 7 Determine Who You Are at 63?

“To spend time with a child is to dwell under the terms of an uneasy truce between the possibility of the present and the inevitability of the future. Our deepest hope for the children we love is that they will enjoy the liberties of an open-ended destiny, that their desires will be given the free play they deserve, that the circumstances of their birth and upbringing will be felt as opportunities rather than encumbrances; our greatest fear is that they will feel thwarted by forces beyond their control. At the same time, we can’t help poring over their faces and gestures for any signals of eventuality — the trace hints and betrayals of what will emerge in time as their character, their plot, their fate. And what we project forward for the children in our midst can rarely be disentangled from what we project backward for ourselves.”

Sunday 11.24.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Why Gratitude Is Wasted on Thanksgiving

“We’re supposed to gather, support one another and relax on that fourth Thursday of November. Yet on the other 364 days of the year — the ones when you might feel lonely, stressed at work, tempted to dishonesty or stinginess — pausing to cultivate a sense of gratitude can make a big difference.”

2. How Juul Hooked a Generation on Nicotine

“The company began hiring consultants to identify social media influencers with large followings on Instagram and Twitter to promote Juul. It pushed hashtags like #juul and #vaporized that the influencers used while showing images of themselves or other young people doing tricks with the device.”

3. Combating School Intolerance

“Given the rise in school shootings tied to far-right extremism, teachers — like law enforcement officials and parents — now face the difficult task of trying to identify which students risk being radicalized.”

4. Veterans Join Airlines in Pushback Against Conduct Unbecoming a Support Dog

“Some veterans and service dog organizations say the overuse of untrained dogs, pigs, rodents and amphibians — and, at least once, a small sloth — as emotional support companions has made it difficult for veterans to get acceptance for their properly trained service animals on airplanes and beyond.”

5. Imagine Being on Trial With Exonerating Evidence Trapped on Your Phone

“Law enforcement agencies get a new investigative technique — fingerprinting, DNA analysis, breathalyzer tests — and those representing the accused struggle to play catch-up. Developing the new technical expertise necessary to adequately defend their clients is a challenge. Not only do public defenders tend to be underfunded, law enforcement can monopolize the experts in the field and forbid them from working for the defense.”

6. Go Ahead, Eat Your Feelings

“Eating emotionally, which conventional wisdom says is dysfunctional and even pathological, is actually just a normal part of being human. We don’t turn to food in response to negative feelings because we’re broken or out of control, or because food is addictive. We do it because it’s one of many ways in which we (even the most balanced eaters) cope, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty harmless one.”

7. Our National Parks Are in Trouble

“Our parks were intended as havens from the stresses of the modern world and places where the nation’s natural and historic legacies would be preserved. But the world continues to close in on them.”

8. Social Media and the Populist Moment

“What’s wrong with conservatism has as much to do with old-media forces like talk radio and cable news, plus real-world isolation and disconnection, as it does with QAnon.”

9. The Life and Death of the Local Hardware Store

“Here we can see how an ideology of convenience is reshaping the economy. Ordering things like tape or bolts online is rarely cheaper or faster than popping down to the local hardware store — not to mention the wasteful packaging — but many of us do it anyhow. Clicking on a product from the comfort of your couch seems more convenient — and that impression of ease can have more influence on our behavior than better service, quicker acquisition and lower prices.”

10. The Real Cost of Tweeting About My Kids

“We wanted one kind of control, and didn’t reckon with the fact that we’d have to pay for it with another kind. We wanted to be able to interact with other people entirely in our own time, with people who make no demands on us. We wanted entry and exit to be painless. We understood from the start that this form of socializing — like an affair without physical contact — was shallower than the other, more demanding kind. We were prepared to accept that trade-off, but failed to grasp that we were trading away more than depth. We were also trading away a kind of control.”

11. Is There Anything We Can All Agree On? Yes: Dolly Parton

“A generation that’s grown up with Snapchat-filtered selfies and pop feminism seems to have an innate understanding that artifice doesn’t negate authenticity, or that a penchant for towering wigs and acrylic nails doesn’t prevent someone from being a songwriting genius.”

12. Inside the War for California’s Cannabis Churches

“Lawyers for cannabis churches are arguing that marijuana is a sacrament that must be dispensed by religious institutions to ensure that the sourcing and the blessing of the product meets their standards.”

13. The Men’s Cardigan Makes a Comeback

“The cardigan is as every bit as bad as you make it.”

14. How to Rebrand a Country

“Conflict and strife have receded, with infrastructure rebuilt and economies recovering. And through a combination of marketing, social media and development — and with the fading associations of discord that come with the passage of time — these three countries are now booming tourist destinations, topping travel rankings, bucket lists and flooding Instagram feeds.”

15. By the Book: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

“I wish more people would write from the point of view of tiny, witty animals.”

16. The Moms of TikTok Are Deeply Corny — and Gloriously Free

“Extreme ideologies tend to come full circle to adjoin their opposites, which is perhaps how we find ourselves in this era of relaxed, high-rise jeans and a surprising number of moms trending on TikTok.”

17. ‘Queen & Slim’ Could Be One of the Great Love Stories of All Time — if You Let It

“Lately I have come to the conclusion, and you may disagree, that pretty much every experience we have moves us either toward life or away from it. There are some things that suck the life out of you, that make you feel smaller and less human, that alienate you from yourself; they calcify your fear and carve a monument out of your emptiness. Then there are those that bring you closer to life, that grow in you the desire to create, to nurture, to see beautiful things and become them. This is the love that increases your attachment to people and animals, makes you smile at children or go outside to see the moon. Every experience is either life-affirming or life-denying.”

18. The Mister Rogers No One Saw

“If you make him out to be a saint, people might not know how hard he worked.”

Sunday 11.17.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Apocalypse Got You Down? Maybe This Will Help

“Live like the crisis is urgent. Embrace the pain, but don’t stop there. Seek out a spiritual path to forge gratitude, compassion and acceptance, because operating out of denial, anger or fear only hurts us in the end.”

2. How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims

“Authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years.”

3. How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0

“A New York Times analysis of data compiled by Capital IQ shows no statistically meaningful relationship between the size of the tax cut that companies and industries received and the investments they made. If anything, the companies that received the biggest tax cuts increased their capital investment by less, on average, than companies that got smaller cuts.”

4. In Prime Time, Two Versions of Impeachment for a Divided Nation

“You choose your reality by the paper to which you subscribe, or the channel which you watch.”

5. Nestlé Says It Can Be Virtuous and Profitable. Is That Even Possible?

“Mr. Huizinga of Foodwatch said corporations were unlikely to ever voluntarily stop selling their most profitable items.”

6. The End of Babies

“It seems clear that what we have come to think of as ‘late capitalism’ — that is, not just the economic system, but all its attendant inequalities, indignities, opportunities and absurdities — has become hostile to reproduction. Around the world, economic, social and environmental conditions function as a diffuse, barely perceptible contraceptive.”

7. What Quakers Can Teach Us About the Politics of Pronouns

“The Quaker use of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ continued as a protest against the sinfulness of English grammar for more than 200 years.”

8. How a City Fought Runaway Capitalism and Won

“The dollar store has supplanted the grocery store as the place where many Americans buy their food.”

9. Comedian Hospitalized for Depression. Hilarity Ensues.

“Every depressed person has a clandestine self.”

10. Hasan Minhaj’s Week

“One of the things I’ve always tried to avoid is the endless scroll that is the news. What I love about a physical newspaper is that there’s a finite amount of news. I love turning to the Opinion page and being like: These are the eight opinions. That’s it. Whereas with Twitter, the opinions never end.”

11. This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad

“He is a history enthusiast. He is an information enthusiast. He is an enthusiasm enthusiast. At one point, I can’t remember why, he recited the Preamble to the Constitution.”

12. Degas, (Creepy) Superfan

“It turns out that today’s age of superfandom — wherein the selfie has replaced the autograph, and TV audiences mount petitions against plotlines — has roots in the theatrical milieu of the dawn of industrial capitalism.”

13. Jim Sullivan, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Mystery That Remains Stubbornly Unsolved

“Various theories began to spread, involving the Mafia, the police and extraterrestrials. Barbara Sullivan took solace in the idea that her husband was abducted by aliens; it was easier, perhaps, than some of the alternatives.”

14. Can FaZe Clan Build a Billion-Dollar Business?

“Sure, you died, but it looked cool.”

15. Trash Is Their Treasure

“You are baptized into compost.”

16. Cult of the Literary Sad Woman

“Calling a woman ‘vulnerable’ in relation to her writing was a way of praising her not for her artistry but for her exposure — for her willingness to make her fragility a public commodity.”

17. By the Book: Randall Munroe

“I feel like books are like cameras — the best book is always the one you have with you.”

18. When James Baldwin Squared Off Against William F. Buckley Jr.

“Baldwin adopted the tone of a preacher — ‘a kind of Jeremiah,’ as he put it — who wants to readjust his audience’s ‘system of reality.’ He tries to get them to imagine the black American experience from the inside.”

19. Is Meritocracy to Blame for Our Yawning Class Divide?

“Far from solving economic inequality, higher education is one of the central forces driving our yawning class divide.”

20. What Will Become of It Now?

“Arguably the most bracing reality about the internet today is that, after years of pretending that ‘the internet’ means the same thing to all people everywhere, that fiction has finally become impossible to sustain.”

21. A Clean Internet If You Can Pay

“Today’s internet is full of premium subscriptions, walled gardens and virtual V.I.P. rooms, all of which promise a cleaner, more pleasant experience than their free counterparts.”

22. Big Tech Isn’t Going Anywhere

“The tech giants, in becoming tech superpowers, have been growing in every direction beneath our feet, becoming tangled in ways that we cannot easily see and, together, improvising a new world order that is increasingly hard to route around, or to escape. To use the internet, in 2019, is to engage to some degree with the handful of private entities that control it. To start an internet company is to submit to one or many of them from the start. We, and the rest of the internet between us and them, are but subjects on the surface of a planet they’ve fully colonized and terraformed. Unfortunately for us, theirs are empires we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for them, they’re also stuck with one another.”

23. China’s Internet Is Flowering

“As WeChat grew, it made more and more sense for various public health care, education and transportation services to piggyback on the platform, either as official accounts or miniprograms. And in the Chinese political system, where a state directive can cut through the protests of any particular corporation or individual, implementation was more straightforward. The result — a deeply integrated and extremely useful WeChat internet — is one that is difficult to imagine in a democratic West.”

24. Even Nobodies Have Fans Now

“Parasocial relationships are, by definition, one-sided, but like normal friendships, they can deepen over time, enriched by the frequent and dependable appearance of the charming persona on the television set. Podcasts, with their own unique set of formal quirks, are perhaps even better poised to foment this kind of bond.”

25. What Do Teens Learn Online Today?

“Being a depressed kid alone in your room is not what it used to be.”

Sunday 11.10.2019 New York Times Digest

1. How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

“It’s already here. And it is going to get worse. A lot worse.”

2. Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way

“The first thing people need to understand is that any system that allows you to share photos and videos is absolutely infested with child sexual abuse.”

3. Inside Football’s Campaign to Save the Game

“Nationally, high school participation in 11-man football has fallen more than 10 percent since 2009.”

4. If People Were Paid by Ability, Inequality Would Plummet

“The skills that really matter in the workplace are much more evenly distributed than many people assume. Most low-wage workers are underpaid relative to their measured intelligence and personality traits, and many of the highest-paid professionals — including doctors, lawyers and financial managers — are overpaid according to the same metrics.”

5. Early Motherhood Has Always Been Miserable

“As economic production moved outside the home, the immediate family became a separate unit, independent of its neighbors. By the early 19th century, what historians call ‘the cult of true womanhood’ emerged. That was the notion that men faced the gritty, morally suspect outside world of moneymaking and politics, while morally superior women kept home and family pure.”

6. Women of a Certain Age

“During the Eisenhower presidency, unless they had to take a job for economic reasons, women became stay-at-home moms in the suburbs and many, like my own mother, were bored to tears.”

7. The ‘Lost Cause’ That Built Jim Crow

“Whatever the terms of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Grant at Appomattox, the Confederacy didn’t die in April 1865; it simply morphed.”

8. The Restrained Genius of a Joe Pesci Performance

“Though he has been largely written off as a character actor, one who only could play variations on squawking wiseguys like Tommy, his career has long begged for reappraisal.”

9. Life After Prison, on YouTube

“She’s a lot like other creators in the lifestyle category, except that in addition to sharing beauty tips, wedding-day memories and unboxing videos, she also talks candidly about life behind bars and the process of re-entry.”

10. Your Body Is a Wonderland

“This cluster of interdependent 37.2 trillion cells is all we’ve got — at least until we upload our brains into the cloud. And on the whole, it’s pretty remarkable.”

11. Who Let the Trolls In?

“The optimism of social media’s creators has been overshadowed by the cynicism of the vicious propaganda spewed on their platforms.”

12. How to Set Up a Shell Company

“For anonymity, set up your company in Nevada, Delaware or Wyoming; it can be done in 10 to 40 minutes, and for as little as $200.”

Some Sort of Orientation

“You shouldn’t feel upset that I haven’t seen the Star Wars films; I hardly see any films. I read. I see two, three, maybe four films per year … Sometimes I see things that are completely against my cultural nature. I was raised with Latin and Ancient Greek and poetry from Greek antiquity, but sometimes, just to see the world I live in, I watch ‘WrestleMania’ … You have to know what a good amount of the population is watching. Do not underestimate the Kardashians. As vulgar as they may be, it doesn’t matter that much, but you have to find some sort of orientation. As I always say, the poet must not close his eyes, must not avert them.”

Werner Herzog, Variety, November 2019

Time Will Do the Rest

“Let the currents move beneath you. Powers will shift. Enemies can vanish. Do what you can do to stay alive. Time will do the rest.”

—Luke Evans’s character in Anna(2019), directed by Luc Besson, who is admittedly “problematic” (Outlaw Vern explains in his review), but I liked it and this line

Sunday 11.3.2019 New York Times Digest

1. It’s the End of California as We Know It

“Our whole way of life is built on a series of myths — the myth of endless space, endless fuel, endless water, endless optimism, endless outward reach and endless free parking. One by one, those myths are bursting into flame. We are running out of land, housing, water, road space and now electricity.”

2. The Twitter Presidency: In Trump’s Twitter Feed: Conspiracy-Mongers, Racists and Spies + Reshaping the White House + What Happens When Ordinary People End Up in Trump’s Tweets

“When Donald Trump entered office, Twitter was a political tool that had helped get him elected and a digital howitzer that he relished firing. The Times examined how, in the year since, he has fully integrated the social media platform into the very fabric of his administration.”

3. How Adam Neumann of WeWork Failed Up

“He benefited from a frenetic, nonstop energy, and silly as it may sound, there’s no question that Mr. Neumann’s good hair and looks helped his cause. At 6 feet 5, he had a physical presence that could dominate a room.”

4. Inside the Debate Between Netflix and Big Theater Chains Over The Irishman

“If he had made The Irishman under the auspices of a traditional Hollywood studio, it would have been business as usual, and the film would most likely be playing at a theater near you. But Paramount declined, because of the hefty budget for the decades-spanning film.”

5. The Glorious Return of Funk

“Funk has always been a socio-political philosophy as much as a sound, and as it crests on the radio, at bars, clubs, house parties and in our popular consciousness, we should pay attention to the meanings we derive from it.”

6. The Government Protects Our Food and Cars. Why Not Our Data?

“Why are Americans protected from hazardous laptops, fitness trackers and smartphones — but not when hazardous apps on our devices expose and exploit our personal information?”

7. The Christian Case for Climate Action

“If we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.”

8. The Happy, Healthy Capitalists of Switzerland

“The real lesson of Swiss success is that the stark choice offered by many politicians — between private enterprise and social welfare — is a false one. A pragmatic country can have a business-friendly environment alongside social equality, if it gets the balance right.”

9. These 7 Million Young People Can Beat Trump + To Beat Trump, Focus on His Corruption + Democrats Can Still Seize the Center + Can Democrats Compete With Trump’s Twitter Feed?

“How to beat Trump in 2020. Four opinion writers show the way.”

10. The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success

“Nunchi, despite being as old as Korean civilization itself, is extraordinarily suited for modern life because it requires speed and adaptability. All you need are your eyes and your ears. And — this is the hard part — a quiet mind.”

11. I Love Housework. Let Me Explain.

“I approach these chores like a spiritual discipline, on par with fasting and prayer. There’s something about the careful consideration required to do them well that puts me at ease.”

12. In Defense of Perfect Instagram Moments

“This is the paradox women face on social media: Share enough highs to seem well adjusted but not braggy, share enough lows to seem down to earth but not suicidal, and share enough unfiltered moments to seem human but not unattractive.”

13. How Many Christmas Movies Is Too Many Christmas Movies?

“Hallmark channels have increased their annual Christmas movie count by 20 percent since 2017, but Lifetime has more than quadrupled its output in the last two years and Netflix has doubled its in that same time.”

14. Tales From the Teenage Cancel Culture

“We all do cringey things and make dumb mistakes and whatever. But social media’s existence has brought that into a place where people can take something you did back then and make it who you are now.”

15. Those People We Tried to Cancel? They’re All Hanging Out Together

“… a unique emerging class of people — journalists, academics, opinion writers — canceled for bad, conservative or offensive opinions. As it happens, cancellation is bringing many of them together.”

16. As Men Are Canceled, So Too Their Magazine Subscriptions

“Even Playboy, mired in identity crisis since dial-up modems, is suddenly woke.”

17. The End of Friendly Generational Relations

“‘Ok boomer’ has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them.”

18. Where Jaws, the Ride, Lives Forever

“Thanks to park archivists like Mr. Alvey, no theme park truly disappears anymore. The Jaws clip is just one in the thriving genre of ‘last-ride’ videos, in which the final moments of amusement park attractions are chronicled for posterity.”

19. The Parks That Made the Man Who Made Central Park

“In surveying various landscapes, Olmsted was drawn to the natural style of the English country garden over the more formal, geometric look of French estates. For Olmsted, an effective park was not unlike a good parlor trick in its ability to transport city dwellers from their noisy, crowded surroundings to a man-made Eden.”

20. An Inventor’s Life That Was Incandescent Any Way You Look at It

“Few biographers, however, possess the narrative talents of Edmund Morris. His ability to set a scene, the words aligned in sweet rhythmic cadence, is damn near intoxicating.”

21. By the Book: André Aciman

“I love reading on the subway. It’s a habit I picked up when I first moved to New York in 1968. I had a 40-minute commute from my apartment on the Upper West Side to Lehman College in the Bronx. This is how I read all of Pascal (arguably the most intelligent writer ever) and the complete plays of Racine. To this day, you won’t spot me on the subway without some sort of reading material. Usually a book, or pages from something I’m writing. I know the M.T.A. gets a bad rap from time to time, but my concentration is the closest it will ever get to perfect on a New York City subway. So they must be doing something right.”

22. The Life and Work of Susan Sontag

“By 1968 Sontag had very nearly become an international symbol of intellectual celebrity at its most accomplished. It mattered too that she was a beautiful woman in a time when her beauty and her sex qualified her for the exotic position of ‘the brilliant exception,’ always a figure held in extravagant regard. It’s hard not to wonder if Sontag’s rise to fame would have been as great had she simply been a pleasant-looking man.”