Posts Tagged ‘new yorker’

Photo: Julie Van Stappen, National Park Service
Apostle Islands sea caves

Winter seems to be hanging on, so it’s not too late to blog about the Apostle Islands and the sea caves in winter.

My husband and I visited the Apostle Islands 16 years ago, almost to the day. We stayed in a pleasant B&B that had a waitress who, my husband recalls, acted like one’s sojourn there “was the experience you had been waiting for your whole life.” We drove around and tried to keep warm. I’m looking at a pottery pitcher with an apple on it that we bought in a little shop.

At the New Yorker, Siobhan Bohnacker introduces a slide show on the sea caves, calling them “Cathedrals of Ice.”

“This past February, thanks to an unusually cold winter, the sea caves along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, in northern Wisconsin, were accessible by foot for the first time in five years. Visitors were able to walk two miles over the thick ice of Lake Superior to see the ice formations that run up the coastline. Erin Brethauer, a photographer living in North Carolina, visited …

“Describing the trek to the caves, Brethauer told me, ‘A steady stream of people cut a colorful line on the horizon. More than a hundred and thirty-eight thousand people visited the ice caves this winter, up from twelve thousand seven hundred in 2009.’ …

“The shorelines along the Apostle Islands have been slowly shaped by the movement of the water of Lake Superior, and by its annual freezing and thawing. Sea caves, which resemble honeycombs, are sculpted in the course of centuries by waves breaking onto cliffs. This impact creates what are called reëntrants, or angular cavities that tunnel into cliffs. When reëntrants join behind the cliff face, sea caves result. When water is trapped in the caves and cavities, and freezes, dramatic ice formations occur.

“Brethauer said, ‘We were struck by the size and coloring of the ice along the coastline. Some ice was a pale blue, while other formations were yellow or reddish, depending on the sediment the water collected when it was freezing. … I loved watching how people interacted with the caves and ice, climbing or taking pictures. They provided such scale and added to your feeling of wonder. And then, stepping inside one of the caves, looking up, and listening to the silence or the ricochet of sound, it felt like being in a cathedral.’ ”

Check out the slide show at the New Yorker, here.

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I love Amtrak, and I love writing, but I don’t think I am ever going to do an Amtrak Artist Residency, so I am passing along the info so you can apply. It sounds like fun. Just glimpsing the exposed backs of houses along the tracks with their hints of the private lives lived in them is inspiration for a ream of stories.

William Grimes writes for the NY Times blog ArtBeat, “The wheels have begun moving on Amtrak’s plan to offer writers a rolling residency aboard their trains. … Up to 24 writers, chosen from a pool of applicants, will be given a round-trip ticket on a long-distance train, including a private sleeper-car room with a bed, a desk, and electrical outlets. …

“The idea was born in December when the novelist Alexander Chee, in an interview with the magazine PEN America, casually mentioned his love for writing on trains, and added, jokingly, ‘I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.’

“When Jessica Gross, a writer in New York, echoed the sentiment on Twitter, Amtrak arranged for her to do a trial residency on the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago. She agreed.

“Her account of the trip, ‘Writing the Lake Shore Limited,’ published by The Paris Review in February, grabbed the attention of The Wire, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. Soon after, Amtrak decided to turn the trial run into a full-fledged program.” More on when and how to apply.

Even before that series of events, there was the Whistlestop Arts Train, you know. I blogged about the rolling public art project by Doug Aitken last July, here.

Trains for dreaming. Holiday model train layout at Amtrak’s South Station, Boston.


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When I was little, I liked to look at the cartoons in my parents’ New Yorker, and the ads, too if the pictures were interesting.

I loved the old ads for the Philadelphia Bulletin, in which one skinny, anxious guy in black, like a modern day Cassandra, tried to get people’s attention about something going wrong. Cassandra’s fate was to see the future and never be believed. His was never to be heard.

Usually what he saw was something that had me worried, too, like a shark coming onto the beach. I really couldn’t understand why all those beachgoers were reading the paper instead of paying better attention. On some level, I sensed that the ad might not hit its mark: it might make people wary of reading the Bulletin and maybe getting eaten by a shark.

My husband remembers those ads, too, and when we were reminiscing about them in a restaurant Saturday, he did some Googling and turned up the artist’s name and the cartoon below.

The cartoonist was Richard Decker. Wikipedia writes about him here.

From his obit: “Mr. Decker worked nearly four decades as a contract cartoonist at the New Yorker, starting with the magazine in 1929 and becoming well-known on its pages for his detailed cartoons and lush washes. …

“Those cartoons Mr. Decker crafted that did not appear in the New Yorker often found their way into such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Look, Colliers and Playboy.

“And over the years, he also did illustrations for advertising campaigns. Among the best known was a 28-year Philadelphia Bulletin series, which ran until the 1960s, that centered on the slogan, ‘In Philadelphia, nearly everybody reads the Bulletin.’ A major feature of the campaign was ‘Mr. Nearly’ – the only man around not reading the paper.” Decker’s full obit is here.

The cartoon character Mr Nearly is no more. But I can’t help hoping that sometime before his demise, someone heard his warnings.

Photo from the University of Pennsylvania

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About a year ago we had the great pleasure of attending a panel discussion featuring Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. We took our seats at the New Yorker magazine’s lecture series, and because I had read his novel Snow, I was expecting someone quite dour and grim.

Instead he was hugely entertaining and funny as he talked about literature and his latest project, creating a museum to replicate one he had invented for his 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence.

Writes Gareth Harris in the September 2010 Art Newspaper, “Turkey’s most famous living novelist is holding a pair of dentures in a room packed with ephemera reflecting everyday Turkish life of the past three decades. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006 and author of My Name is Red (1998) and Snow (2002), is standing among a sea of objects—sewing machines, clocks, soda-bottle tops, buttons, lottery tickets, china dogs, birdcages, cigarette lighters and false teeth—that will soon go on display in The Museum of Innocence, a four-storey building in the Çukurcuma neighbourhood, central Istanbul. This venue, not just a chamber of curiosities, is the real-life incarnation of the museum painstakingly assembled and detailed in his book The Museum of Innocence (2008).”

I expect that, for someone who has read the novel, the museum experience will be both delightful and unnerving. I know I felt delighted and unnerved years ago after reading a nonfiction book about a Rhode Island community and then trying to reconcile the characters who had seemed so real with the people who had been described. Storybook characters coming to life. At first the real people seem shadows. Then as you get to know them, the storybook characters become the shadows, superficially imagined imitations.

April 30, 2012, update here.

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Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

—Adam Zagajewski (Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh.)
Published in the New Yorker, September 24, 2011

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