New York Review of Books Daily boosts literature on Internet
The New York Review of Books, outside of its semi-monthly print and online magazine, offers an excellent article each day on its Web site.
Ranging from politics and social commentary to views on literature, art and culture, the NYR Daily articles give a more personal perspective than the magazine's book reviews. From autobiographical essays to trenchant reflections on current issues, the pieces in tandem are like a separate digital journal, a small but welcome effort to raise the Internet's literary standards.
Recently, the NYR Daily has published former New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg's thoughts on the Victorian critic and artist John Ruskin, Garry Wills' account of his growing dismay during his academic career at how qualified women were denied professorships, and Daphne Merkin's recollections of New York's literary life.
Klinkenborg looks back on his deep involvement with Ruskin's life and work, prompted by the current exhibit, "Onto This Last: 200 Years of John Ruskin," at the Yale Center for British Art.
As a young staff member at New York City's Morgan Library, Klinkenborg fell under the spell of Ruskin's landmark books "Modern Painters," "The Stones of Venice" and "The Seven Lamps of Architecture." An early environmentalist and a pioneer of aesthetics, Ruskin was also a reactionary who opposed Darwin and a misogynist disgusted by women's bodies. Klinkenborg ponders how Ruskin's dualities echo in our times.
Wills in his autobiographical piece "How I Learned to Fight the Patriarchy" recalls with anger and regret how American universities discriminated against women with outstanding scholarly credentials. He recalls resigning from a leadership position because male members of his department refused to even interview a distinguished female scholar. Male professors opposed to women were often the most mediocre in their fields, Wills recalls. His personal growth into a champion of women's equality is a story worth emulating.
Merkin in eulogizing her late friends James Atlas and Barbara Probst Solomon looks back on the vanished world of New York intellectuals. The article's centerpiece is her memories of a party given by Diana Trilling, at which she encountered Philip Roth, George Plimpton and other literary figures, many now forgotten.
She praises Atlas, the first biographer of Saul Bellow, for breaking the bonds of literary politics. Championing Solomon's forgotten novels, she calls for a revival of her work.
Emmylou Harris shares love, music with Atlanta fans
Emmylou Harris gave adoring fans a generous helping of beloved songs Sunday night in a performance at Atlanta's Symphony Hall.
Now white-haired like many of those in the audience, the 72-year-old Harris kept the love flowing. Her energy remains high, her voice glorious.
Harris upheld the protest-song tradition with a searing anthem about Emmitt Till's murder in Mississippi, and a number honoring a Nashville program that matches foster children with pet animals.
With her band tautly ranging from rockabilly to bluegrass to old-time mountain laments, Harris thrilled the crowd with favorites like "Together Again," "Green Pastures" and "Pancho and Lefty."
She honored her early muse and partner Gram Parsons with "Las Vegas" and "Wheels," leaving Parsons fans longing for a few more songs from "Grevious Angel," "GP" or "The Gilded Palace of Sin."
Along with a heart-tugging encore of her own "Boulder to Birmingham," Harris presented an anthology of American songwriters, from James Taylor to Don Williams. Her signature performance of Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers" mirrored the life experience of the many aging hipsters present.
She closed the show with a rousing cover of Neil Young's "Long May You Run," raising our hopes of carrying on.
Feeling paranoid on Peachtree Street? It might be those cameras watching you
Welcome South, (Big) Brother.
Atlanta is a global city after all, at least when it comes to spying on its citizens and visitors. Henry Grady's "brave and beautiful city" ranks 10th in the world in public street surveillance, with nearly 11,000 security cameras watching the sidewalks, according to a recent AJC article.
With 15.6 cameras per 1,000 residents, Atlanta ia the only American city to make the top 10 list, according to the Comparitech report. Eight of the top surveillance cities are in China, which holds the top five spots. London, with 58 cameras per 1,000 residents, ranks sixth. Chongqing, in central China, is the world's top snoop, with 158 cameras per 1,000 people.
Years ago, Atlanta aspired to be an international city. Little did we know it would be for video surveillance.
Go to a strip club, the giant eye will see you. Tipsy after too many drinks at lunch? Surprise, you're on candid camera. Starting a new relationship? The camera knows. Those 11,000 unblinking eyes will see what books or magazines you've purchased.
Notoriously repressive Singapore and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates rank below Atlanta. Perhaps Atlanta can hold on to the camera-security lead as the UAB's Dubai's airport closes in on Hartsfield-Jackson as the world's busiest.
City police keeping watch on the city's streets from monitors in the Loudermilk Visual Intregration Center downtown say the prying on Peachtree reduces crime. But the ACLU says the watching handcuffs personal freedom.
If you're going to see the Falcons or Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, enjoy the game. The city will be watching you.
Farewell, Ray Jenkins
Ray Jenkins' reporting for small-town Southern newspapers brought major changes.
Jenkins, who wrote the local story that led to a landmark Supreme Court decision that broadened newspapers' First Amendment protections, died at age 89 Oct. 24 at his home in Baltimore from heart failure complications, according to obituaries in The New York Times and Washington Post.
Early in his career, Jenkins wrote stories for the Columbus, Ga., Ledger's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of criminal activities in Phenix City, Ala.
As a 24-year-old reporter for the Ledger fresh out of the University of Georgia, Jenkins was given the uncoveted Phenix City beat. Across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Phenix City lured Fort Benning soldiers and poor farmers to its gambling dens, nightclubs and prostitution houses. Gen. George Patton ordered his tanks to the 12th Street Bridge connecting the two cities, and threatened to blow Phenix City away.
Public outrage and demand for a crackdown reached the breaking point in 1953 when Democratic Attorney General nominee Albert Patterson was assassinated outside of his law office in Phenix City after making a campaign pledge to clean up the town. Stories by Jenkins and other reporters and Ledger editorials led to the prosecution of 144 people involved in Phenix City's criminal activities.
As city editor of Montgomery's now vanished Alabama Journal, Jenkins made a bigger impact with a small story about a New York Times ad seeking contributions for a Martin Luther King defense fund. The ad made several minor mistakes in calling out Alabama officials' attempts to derail the civil rights movement.
Although unnamed in the ad, several Alabama officials sued the Times, claiming libel. In the landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision, the Supreme Court ruled that public officials have to prove "actual malice" to win libel damages from a newspaper.
Jenkins later served in President Carter's press office and as the Baltimore Evening Sun's editorial page director. Like its fellow afternoon newspaper the Alabama Journal, the Baltimore Evening Sun is no longer in operation.
With more and more newspapers on the endangered list, vital reporting such as Jenkins produced is threatened. And with courts turning more conservative during the Trump administration, the First Amendment protections established by Times v. Sullivan are also under fire.
Farewell, Ernest Gaines
Many writers look back from exile at their origins. Ernest Gaines was different. To tell the stories of the illiterate, impoverished black people he knew growing up in rural Pointe Coupee Parish, he had to return to his native Louisiana.
Gaines, who gained international recognition for his books about his small plot of earth, died in his sleep Tuesday at his childhood home. The revered Louisiana author was 86.
As a child, he worked in the fields among people a few generations removed from slavery. From his meager schooling, he'd learned to read and write, and composed letters for his co-workers and family members.
Along with many other blacks fleeing the South's racial violence, he moved to California as a young man. For the first time, he found himself free to read in a public library, and discovered Turgenev and other 19th century Russian novelists.
Loving the bohemian life of San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State, then received a prestigious Stegner fellowship to study writing at Stanford. The voices he knew in childhood remained with him.
Struggling in California to finish a book based on the strict, wheelchair-confined aunt who raised him, Gaines returned to Louisiana at the height of the civil rights movement. Back in Louisiana, he gained a clear vision of the plantation life he knew growing up and quickly finished "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," his breakthrough novel.
Tracing how history echoed in a life of quiet dignity, the book gave the world one of its most enduring characters, a woman raised in slavery who lived to 101 and saw the changes of the 1960s. Cecily Tyson gave a memorable performance as Miss Jane Pittman in a TV movie that won nine Emmy Awards.
Gaines further drew upon his memories of the black community in "A Gathering of Old Men," "A Lesson Before Dying" and other lauded books. He received a MacArthur "genius grant," and traveled the world. He always returned to his childhood home close to a body of water known as False River that had once been part of the Mississippi.
A genial, warm-hearted man who spoke with Louisiana's French-inflected cadences, Gaines revealed how the love of family and community overcame bitterness.