The Art of Doodling, the Problem with Boys, and How Rap Invaded Russia

Check out this fun, short excerpt from Scrawl, a collection of doodles: “‘Everyone is a collector in one way or another,’ the English-teacher-turned-art-dealer David Schulson would tell his children. ‘Everyone has the impulse to collect.’ What Schulson didn’t say is that the impulse to collect often contains within it another: the drive to keep, to hoard, to hold on. Schulson spent his weekends trolling New York’s flea markets for oddities, searching for the stories behind strange objects, and though he often sold what he found, he couldn’t bring himself to part with some of his most treasured discoveries. Over the course of his career, he amassed arguably the most impressive private collection of drawings, scribbles, and autographs in the world. The book Scrawl: An A to Z of Famous Doodles showcases this trove of miscellany for the first time.”

The story of Charleston’s architecture: “Learned amateur architecture in our country antedates our republic. From the builders of early manor and plantation houses, who followed the latest pattern books shipped from England, to celebrated amateurs such as Gabriel Manigault of Charleston and Thomas Jefferson, Americans with limited or no professional education in drafting or engineering have fancied themselves architects in the European tradition, erecting along the way some of the most celebrated buildings and, in ensemble, towns in the country. In and around Charleston, South Carolina, a vestige—or perhaps a revival—of that practice continues today. Witold Rybczynski, an emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, in his latest book, Charleston Fancy, engagingly tells the story of a group of like-minded friends whose understanding, curiosity, and whimsy fit squarely within this very American tradition.”

Sam Leith reviews Thomas Harris’s Cari Mora: “It has been 13 years since Thomas Harris published a novel, and the last time he published one without Hannibal Lecter in it was 1974. So, ‘hotly anticipated’ is probably the phrase. The good news for readers of Cari Mora is that Hannibal is here in spirit if not in person. This is a very peculiar book, lavishly ridiculous in almost every respect and fully committed to the gothic extremes of human cruelty: just camp enough to skirt charges of outright porno-sadism. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it is. But, as I say, it’s also mad as a badger. The way I found myself describing it to a friend is as Dr. Fischer of Geneva retold by Carl Hiaasen and shot by Tobe Hooper.”

How rap invaded Russia: “On a recent Friday night, the rapper Big Baby Tape rushed onstage at a packed club in this ancient town near Moscow to launch a 32-date tour. The crowd, mostly teenagers, shouted his name ecstatically, jumping and bouncing off each other as the punchy, bass-heavy music began to play.”

A strong wind could cause Notre Dame’s walls to collapse, according to a structural assessment following the April 15th fire: “The collapse of a part of the vaults has severely reduced the safety of its structural system, which, in the case of a Gothic cathedral, does not rely on the heavy mass of the walls, as in classical architecture, but on discharging weight through clustered columns, external flying buttresses and counter-supports—a structural ‘exoskeleton’ that until now has been extremely effective and resilient.  Paolo Vannucci, a mechanical engineer at the University of Versailles, has modelled the engineering of the structure and shown that the walls of Notre Dame could collapse under the pressure of wind speeds higher than 90km per hour, while before the fire they could withstand winds of up to 220km per hour.”

The Knight Foundation gives $1.7 million to PBS NewsHour for arts coverage: “Supported by a $1.7 million gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, PBS NewsHour said it will expand its broadcast and digital arts reporting initiative, Canvas . . . Canvas has relaunched its Twitter account and created a new Facebook group, allowing viewers to interact with one another and discuss programming. These platforms, along with the new website, will provide opportunities for NewsHour to use augmented reality and other technologies in its presentations of artworks.”

A Reader Recommends: Robert Rogers recommends Peace by Gene Wolfe. Here’s why: Wolfe is “very well-regarded in the science-fiction/fantasy world, in particular for his Book of the New Sun tetralogy, and more generally for his multi-layered works that address themes of identity and memory (readers must grapple with his famously less-than-100%-reliable narrators), faith and redemption (Wolfe was a devout Catholic), and the nature & future of humanity. That said, while addressing those themes, Peace is a departure from his overt sci-fi work. It’s difficult to describe without giving away details and themes that are better realized gradually: at first glance, it presents itself as the episodic, rambling, memoir of an old man looking back on his upbringing, his family life, and his eventual rise to prominence and wealth within his small Midwestern hometown. But gradually, the stories our narrator shares with us, and the stories-within-those stories, and the fairy tales and fables told by characters within those stories, hint at what his life looks like underneath the surface narrative. As tends to be the case with a lot of Wolfe’s work, I finished my first reading, pondered a bit, and in short order began reading it again.” Thanks, Robert!

Essay of the Day:

In Commentary, Naomi Schaefer Riley writes that something is “going wrong with American boys today,” but it’s not what Michael Reichert thinks it is in his new book, How to Raise a Boy:

“In the worlds of both work and education, boys are falling behind. They make up a shrinking proportion of college graduates. According to recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘nearly 36 percent of women born in the years 1980–84 had earned a bachelor’s degree by age 31, compared with 28 percent of men.’ And things look even more bleak for men in the workforce. According to research by scholars such as Nicholas Eberstadt, the employment ratio is worse today than it was at the tail end of the Great Depression, with more than 7 million able-bodied men now sitting around playing video games instead of doing anything productive.

“Reichert’s list of symptoms looks different. He writes: ‘In addition to compulsive risk taking, inattention, and conduct problems, boys lag behind girls in the social and behavioral skills that facilitate success in schools…. Boys are far more likely than girls to act in ways that increase the risk of disease, injury, and death to themselves and others: They carry weapons more often, engage in physical fights more often, wear seat belts less often, drive drunk more frequently, have more unprotected sex, and use alcohol or drugs more often before sex.’

“Will it surprise readers to find that boys are more likely to get into fights or carry weapons? Are we to take it as a sign of a contemporary crisis that they are more likely to risk injury? These are the observations of a man who attributes the characteristics of boys to nurture rather than nature.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Edinburgh 

Poem: Anton Yakovlev, “The Informant”

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Author: Micah Mattix

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