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November 15, 2004
[books] Dark Star of LA Noir — long profile of James Ellroy‘For many, his ostensibly shocking claim that he had “figured out how I could use my mother’s death, reduce it to sound-bites and sell books”, might have seen him tagged simply as a grotesque opportunist. But then, in a bravely imaginative departure, he complicated matters further by addressing head-on the nature of that exploitation in his ground-breaking 1996 book My Dark Places, which was part memoir and part, ultimately doomed, attempt to identify her killer, who has never been identified. The more one finds out about the man, the more his title of the essay in which he claims novels are mislabelled autobiography makes sense: he called it “Where I Get My Weird Shit”.’
November 12, 2004
[quote] Kurt Vonnegut Quotes‘I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.’
November 6, 2004
[books] Another interview with Neal Stephenson‘I do think that those who devote their lives to studying science or to building new technologies learn certain habits of thought. They derive satisfaction from finding new truths, or doing things in a way that is more elegant. Perhaps this could be considered spiritual. It is a way of confirming over and over again that the universe makes sense and follows orderly laws, which a religiously significant assertion.’
November 2, 2004
[politics] More Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail — long interview with Hunter S. Thompson

‘Hunter S Thompson is not regarded as one of world journalism’s easier subjects. […] It’s a combination of things, really: the ubiquitous firearms and narcotics; his nocturnal regime and sudden mood swings. I first encountered him in the early 1990s when I was working for another newspaper which had decided to send him to join the Royal press corps for the Highland Games. I met Thompson at Gatwick, at 6am. He lit his hash pipe while we were still in sight of the customs hall and insisted on being driven to Smithfield Market for whisky. When we reached his hotel, he barricaded himself in his suite for 36 hours, then fled back to Aspen in the middle of the night. His subsequent faxes referred to me as an “evil treacherous dingbat” and a “weird limey freak”. “In a strange way,” says Ralph Steadman, “insults are Hunter’s way of articulating affection.”‘

November 1, 2004
[reading] Pattern Recognition [Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US] … ‘There must always be room for coincidence, Win had maintained. When there’s not, you’re probably well into apophenia, each thing then perceived as part of an overarching pattern of conspiracy. And while comforting yourself with the symmetry of it all, he’d believed, you stood all too real a chance of missing the genuine threat, which was invariably less symmetrical, less perfect. But which he always, she knew, took for granted was there.’
October 31, 2004
[politics] You Ask The Questions — PJ O’Rourke‘Q: Is Tony Blair Bush’s puppet, poodle or fig leaf? A: Tony Blair is your Bush, or Clinton, or Kerry. He is your first really American politician: he has a great facility for baffle-gab; he gets intrigued with all sorts of complex ideas without really thinking them through; and he attempts to be all things to all people at all times. I think George does care what Tony thinks. They are the only two people on the same page about international intervention by Western powers…’
October 26, 2004
Human Nature — audio download of Malcolm Gladwell exploring ‘…why we can’t trust people’s opinions — because we don’t have the language to express our feelings. His examples include the story of New Coke and how Coke’s market research misled them, and the development of Herman-Miller’s Aeron chair, the best-selling chair in the history of office chairs, which succeeded in spite of research that suggested it would fail.’
October 21, 2004
[politics] Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004 — Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in Rolling Stone …

‘Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for — but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him. You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs.’

[books] Neal Stephenson interviewed by Slashdot. On the Singularity: ‘I have a personal mental block as far as the Singularity prediction is concerned. My thoughts are more in line with those of Jaron Lanier, who points out that while hardware might be getting faster all the time, software is shit (I am paraphrasing his argument). And without software to do something useful with all that hardware, the hardware’s nothing more than a really complicated space heater.’
September 20, 2004
[books] Dark Rider — interview and update on Stephen King‘King still plays guitar and sings. For the past decade he has played in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a writers’ band featuring Miami Herald humourist Dave Barry, novelists Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Turow and Amy Tan, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Once they went on tour with Warren Zevon, who insisted King sing his tune, “Werewolves of London”. “I was shy to do it because he wrote the song. He took me aside and said: ‘It would be the apex of my career’, and he was not kidding. So I did it.” It’s a song for a horror writer to sing, with a memorable howling chorus, “Aah-woo, werewolves of London”, and such couplets as, “He’s the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent”.’
September 6, 2004
[books] The Science of Fiction — Philip Pullman on science and fiction … ‘There’s no abstract human who will always behave in the same way – except in economics, where every human being is assumed to be rational and selfish to exactly the same degree as every other. No wonder it was called the Dismal Science.’
August 17, 2004
[blog] Blog Interrupted — the Washington Post gets the inside story on Washingtonienne‘Jessica and her friend slid onto stools in the cool dimness of Bullfeathers, a popular Capitol Hill watering hole. Jessica ordered a Southern Comfort. It was the middle of the afternoon on May 18. “What happened to you today?” the bartender asked. “I got fired. I lost my boyfriend and my job, and it’s my birthday,” Jessica remembers telling him. “How did you get fired?” the bartender wanted to know. “I wrote an X-rated blog,” Jessica said. The bartender looked puzzled. “What’s a blog?” he asked.’
August 15, 2004
[books] A Code for Dark Times — Jonathan Freedland on the Da Vinci Code. ‘…perhaps there is a simpler yearning this book meets; the same desire nurtured by Pullman and the Harry Potter series, both of which found large adult audiences, and the forthcoming sorcerers’ tale, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which hopes to do the same. It is that even grown-ups want to believe in magic. The 21st century may be replete with technology that can do everything and science that can explain everything, but human beings seem to crave the mysterious and miraculous, the forever out-of-reach.’
August 9, 2004
[comics] Michael Chabon’s Keynote Speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards‘Children did not abandon comics; comics, in their drive to attain respect and artistic accomplishment, abandoned children. And for a long time we as lovers and partisans of comics were afraid, after so many long years of struggle and hard work and incremental gains, to pick up that old jar of greasy kid stuff again, and risk undoing it all. Comics have always been an arriviste art form, and all upstarts are to some degree ashamed of their beginnings. But frankly, I don’t think that’s what’s going on in comics anymore. Now, I think, we have simply lost the habit of telling stories to children. And how sad is that?’
August 4, 2004
[lists] List of the Top 10 Fictional Detectives — from Mark Billingham … ‘I first encountered [Sherlock Holmes] through an eccentric maths teacher who would read The Speckled Band and other Conan Doyle adventures to us instead of teaching fractions. He also used to balance chairs on his chin, but that’s another story. I’m still fond of Holmes to this day, especially now that I can see him as the crazed, controlling junkie that he clearly was.’
July 26, 2004
[comics] State of the Art — Charlie Higson reviews McSweeney’s 13: The Comics Issue … ‘Why does the novel maintain its exalted status as the pinacle of human achievement? Any idiot can write one: you just need patience and a massive ego. It seems extraordinary, when we are surrounded by so much visual information, when we rely on the visual to tell us so much, and the lines between comics, films, advertising, TV and computers are becoming so blurred, that comics should still be considered trivial in some quarters.’
July 14, 2004
[quotes] Sally Emerson’s top 10 books of quotations‘One test of excellence when judging a collection of quotations is finding something intriguing every time you open a page. For instance: “Everything goes wrong for a government which is going wrong” – Richard Crossman, Diaries, Dec 1 1986.’
July 13, 2004
[blog] The Guardian’s New Media Top 10 includes Belle De Jour … ‘And sneaking in at number 10, anonymous call girl blogger Belle de Jour, who sparked a ludicrous media guessing game over her identity that led to a book deal for the author, makes the list as a representative of the millions of online bloggers and the year that blogging went overground.’
July 12, 2004
[blog] Belle De Jour: Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl — BDJ’s novel has aquired a synopsis over at Amazon: ‘Belle de Jour is the diary of a London call-girl. The author will remain anonymous, but she’s from a nice middle-class family, in her late twenties, writing a phD who writes about her rather unusual job with humour, affection and honesty. This isn’t a salacious catalogue of sexual encounters, rather it’s the unfolding story of her life: the difficulties in juggling her very understanding boyfriend with her profession; the question of what to wear to work; the problems associated with managing pubic topiary and the often hilarious hypocrisies she bears witness to every day. And of course, there’s the odd sexual encounter thrown in for good measure… It’s witty, compelling, educative and oddly moving. Belle is a twenty-first century Moll Flanders who will appeal to women because of her honesty and guts, and to men because she lifts the lid on what call girls are really thinking…’
June 24, 2004
[books] The Condensed Bill Clinton — Slate reads Clinton’s autobio ‘My Life’ so we don’t have to… ‘Page 197: “I was so exhausted I fell asleep while the stripper was dancing and the goat head was looking up at me.” Look it up for yourself.’
May 27, 2004
[books] Notes from a Talk by Malcolm Gladwell — comments from the author of the Tipping Point. ‘…he says that the bias should be in editing information, not in adding more information.’
May 13, 2004
[books] Masquerade And The Mysteries of Kit Williams — All about the puzzle book Masquerade, Golden Rabbits and Kit Williams. From the Faq: ‘It’s true in that the person who won didn’t actually solve the book’s master riddle, but instead used ancillary clues and personal information about Kit to determine the burial place.’
May 9, 2004
[crime] David Peace’s Top 10 British True-Crime Books‘Crimes happen in actual, specific places at actual, specific times to actual, specific people. Crimes, their victims and their perpetrators, sadly define the times in which we live. There is no puzzle, only pain. No humour, only horror. The following 10 books seek to understand the crimes they document through the context and circumstances of the places and the times in which they occurred.’
April 19, 2004
[book] Page 23, Sentence 5 Meme … [via Feeling Listless]

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

‘THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON for accepting that Satan exists is that Jesus clearly believed in him.’ — Satan Unmasked (Overcoming the Jezebel Spirit) by Colin Dye.
April 16, 2004
[books] Clearing Up The Confusion — Neal Stephenson on his new book The Confusion. On Isaac Newton: ‘…the gist of it seems to be that Newton was trying to achieve some specific goals with alchemy. Some of those goals might have been religious, but many were clearly scientific. As a scientist, he knew that he could only explain so much with the tools that he was using, and that to advance beyond that point he was going to need a different toolbox. He recognized that a lot of alchemy was nonsense, but he thought that by going about it in a systematic and rational way he’d be able to solve some scientific problems. He would have rejected the label of magician because it might have had dark connotations to him.’ [via yoz]
April 13, 2004
[blog] The Diary of a Nobody — George and Weedon Grossmith’s fictional diary of Charles Pooter converted into a blog … ‘Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see — because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’ — why my diary should not be interesting.’ [via As Above]
April 5, 2004
[books] Amazon World — amusing user reviews from Amazon.com. Moby Dick: ‘I am quite the fan of stories which involve man eating sea creatures, such as Jaws. Moby Dick is nothing compared to such classics, I fear. In fact, it is boring with a capital B. What is the whales motivation? You dont know. There is no suspense, and I find the idea of people hunting whales offensive. Offensive with a capital O. Whales are lovely, peaceful creatures and that is why their slaughter has been outlawed. This book makes whales seem like demonic, murderous creatures of doom. Such a thing should not be read to a child, for it preaches that animal cruelty is ok. Never before have seen such an abundance of immoralality! I am offended! I feel as if my brainards are going to freeze over and crumble like spoiled peanut brittle. Take my word for it, dont read this book’ [via Kottke’s Remaindered Links]
April 2, 2004
[book] Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg — one of the New Yorker Articles that formed the basis for Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point … [via Sashinka]

‘Once, in the mid-fifties, on a whim, Lois took the train to New York to attend the World Science Fiction Convention and there she met a young writer by the name of Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke took a shine to Lois, and next time he was in Chicago he called her up. “He was at a pay phone,” Lois recalls. “He said, ‘Is there anyone in Chicago I should meet?’ I told him to come over to my house.” Lois has a throaty voice, baked hard by half a century of nicotine, and she pauses between sentences to give herself the opportunity for a quick puff. Even when she’s not smoking, she pauses anyway, as if to keep in practice. “I called Bob Hughes, one of the people who wrote for my paper.” Pause. “I said, ‘Do you know anyone in Chicago interested in talking to Arthur Clarke?’ He said, ‘Yeah, Isaac Asimov is in town. And this guy Robert, Robert…Robert Heinlein.’ So they all came over and sat in my study.” Pause. “Then they called over to me and they said, ‘Lois’ — I can’t remember the word they used. They had some word for me. It was something about how I was the kind of person who brings people together.” This is in some ways the archetypal Lois Weisberg story.’

March 23, 2004
[macs] Douglas Adams’s Mac IIfx — vintage Mac collector finds a Mac IIfx which used to belong to DNA‘I popped an ethernet card in the IIfx, mounted an AppleShare volume and ran Norton Utilities to recover the files onto the server. The results? I recovered hundreds of documents relating to Jane Belson’s professional work and precisely two that bear the hand of Douglas Adams. I doubt whether the copyright lawyers would chase me for publishing his Idiots Guide to using a Mac but you wouldn’t be thanking me either. For now at least, the draft of a TV sketch called Brief Re-encounter is strictly for my personal enjoyment.’
March 17, 2004
[books] Digital Utopia and its Flaws — Cory Doctorow interview by R. U. Sirius… ‘I think that we all have urges toward deviance in some ways. I mean, not in the kind of leather-and-chains sense but in the traditional sociological sense … being a little bit weird. I think the only reason in fact that it mostly appears that we’re all doing the same thing is because we don’t look hard enough. We have the assumption that all the people in the nightclub dancing to the band are all doing the same thing. But I think when you look closely you find that there are all kinds of differences. I think that every single one of us is an edge case.’
March 10, 2004
[bdj] The Web Diary, the Book Deal and the very Happy Hooker [Password] — major article in the Times covering Belle De Jour’s Book Deal and the questions about authenticity and identity which surround the Blog … ‘So what does Belle look like? “It was simply nice to see that she wasn’t Toby Young,” jokes her editor Helen Garnons-Williams, relating their first meeting.’
March 7, 2004
[tea] Douglas Adam’s Guide to making a good cup of tea‘The socially correct way of pouring tea is to put the milk in after the tea. Social correctness has traditionally had nothing whatever to do with reason, logic or physics. In fact, in England it is generally considered socially incorrect to know stuff or think about things. It’s worth bearing this in mind when visiting.’ [thanks Stu]
March 6, 2004
[tea] A Nice Cup of Tea — George Orwell’s guide to making a cup of tea. ‘…one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.’
March 4, 2004
[quote] Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72: ‘On page 39 of California Living magazine I found a hand-lettered ad from the McDonald’s Hamburger Corporation, one of Nixon’s big contributors in the ’72 presidential campaign: PRESS ON, it said. NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN TAKE THE PLACE OF PERSISTENCE. TALENT WILL NOT: NOTHING IS MORE COMMON THAN UNSUCESSFUL MEN WITH TALENT. GENIUS WILL NOT: UNREWARDED GENIUS IS ALMOST A PROVERB. EDUCATION ALONE WILL NOT: THE WORLD IS FULL OF EDUCATED DERELICTS. PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ALONE ARE OMNIPOTENT. I read it several times before I grasped the full meaning.’
February 26, 2004
[bdj] The Times covers Belle De Jour’s recently announced Book Deal‘Belle de Jour, the internet’s most talked-about web diary, has a book deal. According to Publisher’s Marketplace, the London call girl, who may or may not be a literary name masquerading as a high-class hooker, has inked a deal with Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion to turn her anonymous tales of love-for-money into a manuscript due for delivery in August. The film rights are also being frantically contested. Which begs the question: what happens when her parents find out?’
February 14, 2004
[books] Fight Club Quotes‘You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.’
December 11, 2003
[books] His Bright Materials — another article about Philip Pullman … ‘I saw the first preview [of the His Dark Materials Play], playing to a packed Olivier Theatre. It is a beautiful production, the daemons of the novels criss-crossing the stage with shafts of light, tissue paper creations lit from the inside. Afterwards, people filed out past the tired-looking man in red socks, sitting with his wife. Pullman looked emotionally stunned, his face showing the impact of watching his words brought to life with the full might of the Olivier’s huge chunks of stage which can be raised and lowered and wheeled round at the director’s will.’
December 10, 2003
[blogger] Jerry Pournelle claims he created ‘The Original Blog’: ‘I can make some claim to this being The Original Blog and Daybook. I certainly started keeping a day book well before most, and long before the term ‘blog’ or Web Log was invented. I note that a Google Search on Blog doesn’t show me, at least not in the first 10 or so pages, but then I long insisted I don’t “blog” because I find the word ugly. But I have a fair amount of traffic and a quality readership, so I can hardly complain.’

(update) How Jerry Pournelle Got Kicked Off The ARPANET — bit of ‘Net pre-history … [thanks Phil]

*:login pourne
That account has been temporarily turned off.
Reason:
Think of it as evolution in action.

November 30, 2003
[books] The Daemon King — profile of Philip Pullman‘His powerful trilogy touches on the great issues common to all human imagination. Eternal oppositions such as love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, truth and lies, courage and cowardice are common themes in the experience of his main characters. In epic style, these leave the security of home in the quest of something far greater than themselves whatever the danger – a plot as old as Beowulf, but as resonant as ever. Stories have always had the capacity to show us the best as well as the worst of ourselves.’
November 26, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#8): The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams …

‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has-or rather had-a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. ‘

November 20, 2003
[retro-games] Masters of their Universe — extract from Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford about the creation of the computer game Elite‘In 1982, popularised science hadn’t yet risen above the horizon in Britain as a cultural phenomenon. No chaos theory as a universal reference point; not much evolutionary biology, since Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould were only then beginning to make their mark on public consciousness; no cosmology deployed à la Stephen Hawking as a modern replacement for religious truths. In particular, computing in its DIY phase didn’t resonate as it would later. You wouldn’t have found French literary theorists writing about cyberspace in 1982, any more than they’d have written about household plumbing. Computers weren’t glamorous. The result of all this was that what Braben and Bell achieved together while they were at Cambridge was, effectively, invisible.’
November 11, 2003
[books] A Writer’s Life — an interview with Iain Banks‘At 14, he wrote his first novel, The Hungarian Lift Jet, which he wrote in pencil on a series of jotters. “The idea,” he tells me, “is that Hungary has invented this radical lift jet” – a sort of hovering warplane – “and the secret service had nicked it. It was just an excuse for vast amounts of mayhem. It all ended badly. Everybody died.” Meanwhile, Banks was developing “a really bad pun habit”. Pun habit? “Well,” says Banks, “say you’re describing a chandelier. You would have a character who was drinking shandy and leered at somebody. It’s that bad, I’m afraid.”‘
November 10, 2003
[books] You Ask The Questions — Philip Pullman‘Q: Do you crave adventure? A: No. On the contrary, I crave dullness and routine – that’s when I work best. What I would really like is a fairly long period of imprisonment, in a reasonably comfortable prison with a good library. That would keep the outside world at bay. I have no desire to be out on the ocean again. It would give me inspiration, but I’ve got plenty of that. What I don’t have is time.’
October 24, 2003
[comics] Philip Pullman interviews Art Spiegelman at the ICA on the 4th. November …. ‘Best known for the Holocaust narrative, Maus, Spiegelman is also co-founder and editor of the avant-garde comics magazine, RAW, and edits Little Lit, a series of comics anthologies for children. He is currently working on an opera, Drawn to Death about the history of comics, and has recently published a series In the Shadow of No Towers in several papers and magazines.’
October 22, 2003
[comics] Behind The Masks — Philip Pullman on Art Spiegelman’s Maus [Buy: UK | US]…

‘Maus does have a profound and unfailing “strangeness”, to use Bloom’s term. Part of this is due to the depiction of Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and so forth. This is what jolts most people who come to it for the first time, and still jolts me after several readings. It is such a risky artistic strategy, because it implies a form of essentialism that many readers will find suspect. Cats kill mice because they are cats, and that’s what cats do. But is it in the nature of Germans, as Germans, to kill Jews?

The question hangs over the whole work, and is never answered directly. Instead we are reminded by the plot itself that this classification into different species was precisely how the human race was then regarded by those who had the power to order things; and the question is finally dispelled by the gradual gentle insistence that these characters might look like mice, or cats, or pigs, but what they are is people. They have the complexity and the surprisingness of human beings, and human beings are capable of anything.’

October 15, 2003
[blog] Feeling Listless — Unmemorable Book Openings (#1): Star Fighters by Robert E. Miles‘The forces of the Dark Empire seemed to be irresistible: its black star fleets ranged far and wide, extinguishing the light of freedom in galaxy after galaxy, creating in this manner the mightiest empire ever known among the stars.’
October 10, 2003
[books] Thomas Pynchon to do a guest voice in the Simpsons … [via Boing Boing]

‘Al Jean: We have a show coming up where Marge writes a novel and gets endorsements from writers playing themselves, including Tom Clancy, Thomas Pynchon-

IGN DVD: How did you get him?

Al Jean: We got him. (laughs) He was really nice.

IGN DVD: Oh well of course, he’s not seen, right?

Al Jean: He’s wearing a paper bag over his head, but it is his voice.’

October 9, 2003
[books] The Source of the Modern World — Glenn Reynolds interviews Neal Stephenson … ‘I do think that society has a craving, hardwired in somehow, to have a few people, no more than a couple of dozen maybe, who are universally famous, people like J. Lo or Britney Spears. However, once you get beyond that level, I think it is going to be a kind of highly fragmented, focused kind of fame. It makes for interesting situations. I’m sitting in a Marriott outside of Ypsilanti right now, and there’s a dental convention here. I’m totally anonymous. I can get a drink in the bar, go down to the restaurant, whatever and nobody will recognize me. But if I went to a science fiction convention, I’d be famous in those confines and I’d probably be recognized if I went anywhere.’ [via Fimoculous]
October 5, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#7): The Eye in the Pyramid by Shea and Wilson …

‘It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton. On April 1, the world’s great powers came closer to nuclear war than ever before, all because of an obscure island named Fernando Poo. By the time international affairs returned to their normal cold-war level, some wits were calling it the most tasteless April Fool’s joke in history. I happen to know all the details about what happened, but I have no idea how to recount them in a manner that will make sense to most readers. For instance, I am not even sure who I am, and my embarrassment on that matter mates me wonder if you will believe anything I reveal. Worse yet, I am at the moment very conscious of a squirrel – in Central Park, just off Sixty-eighth Street, in New York City – that is leaping from one tree to another, and I think that happens on the night of April 23 (or is it the morning of April 24?), but fitting the squirrel together with Fernando Poo is, for the present, beyond my powers. I beg your tolerance.’

October 2, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#6): The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker …

‘At almost one o’clock I entered the lobby of the building where I worked and turned toward the escalators, carrying a black Penguin paperback and a small white CVS bag, its receipt stapled over the top. The escalators rose toward the mezzanine, where my office was. They were the free-standing kind: a pair of integral signs swooping upward between the two floors they served without struts or piers to bear any intermediate weight. On sunny days like this one, a temporary, steeper escalator of daylight, formed by intersections of the lobby’s towering volumes of marble and glass, met the real escalators just above their middle point, spreading into a needly area of shine where it fell against their brushed-steel side-panels, and adding long glossy highlights to each of the black rubber handrails which wavered slightly as the handrails slid on their tracks, like the radians of black luster that ride the undulating outer edge of an LP.’