Rock biographies, particularly of bands, are an odd subgenre. With an individual singer or instrumentalist, the narrative may take any of the traditional “hero” arcs (rags to riches, unappreciated innovator’s ultimate triumph, temptation/fall and — usually — redemption, etc.), but the story of a hydra-headed rock band must adopt a more amorphous approach.
For those who haven’t seen the show, Grimm starts from the premise that all the supernatural beings in the tales by the Brothers Grimm were real creatures. In the pilot, young Portland (Oregon) homicide detective, Nick Burkhardt, learned from his dying aunt that he is a direct descendant of the Grimm Brothers. His forebears were not just storytellers, they were hunters. The Grimm bloodline enables Nick to perceive the many “wesen” (the German word for “creatures,” pronounced “vayzen”) among us through their human disguises, and he has a responsibility to protect the human race from the dangerous ones.
There’s plenty about Monroe, of course — her perpetual lateness to the set, her entourage (especially acting coach Paula Strasberg’s hovering and kibitzing), nervous visits from hubby Arthur Miller because of her pregnancy with a child that would miscarry, and so on. She overdosed on sleeping pills the first week of shooting. And apparently she could be very inconsistent about nailing her lines.
What’s remarkable about her is that she shares her story with the class simply, with a kind of wonder and interest, as if it were not her own. In fact, Thassa finds delight, awe, and beauty in almost everything: her journal entries and stories charm everyone in the class, as does her person: “she shouldn’t even be pretty, except for the conspiracy of delight rounding her cheeks.” She seems perpetually happy! How can it be?
The 19th century science known as phrenology — which posited that the human skull conforms to the shape of the brain within, which in turn expresses in physical form one’s innate moral and intellectual faculties (crudely, that by feeling the shape of a person’s head you could tell whether he or she had great intellectual or creative powers, or was more likely a criminal) — had a brief but rich heyday. It influenced the thought and writings of the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and especially Walt Whitman, as well as scientists and physicians of the time.
Most of the narratives are first-person accounts by Mary, so readers get to know her very well. She is a strong, resourceful, intelligent, and fascinating character in her own right. Sometimes, she can seem a little too perfect: she speaks ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (from her theology studies), French and German, and manages to pick up a good speaking ability in Arabic and Hindi during their adventures overseas. Her throwing arm has deadly accuracy, and on occasion she uses it to great effect with knives, darts, or just rocks. She is a great picker of locks.
“I think most scholars tend to trust the First Folio more than anything else, not because of the materials that went into it, in terms of what papers did they have on hand, but because it was [the actors] Heminge and Condell. Because it’s the only two people that were directly involved in the productions, that have ever taken part in pulling together an edition of Shakespeare’s works, and so it’s their presence as much as any identifiable set of documents that made the Folio so important to scholars. They’re all we have in terms of eyewitness editing.”
Not quite a century ago, on August 29, 1911, thousands of people began flocking to the Louvre (among them, Franz Kafka and his friend Max Brod) to gaze at a blank space on a wall. The 49-acre Louvre – still the largest museum in the world today – had been closed for most of the preceding week for the investigation of a singular occurrence: the most famous painting in the world had disappeared from that blank spot.
“For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out forever—including the jug—there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave.”
But Pearce knows more fundamental rethinking will be necessary to keep our species going. “The worst twentieth-century crime of urban planners was to design cities around cars.” We have to transform cityscapes “to make the car … irrelevant,” he writes. “We simply have to give up flying as much as possible.” He thinks the dangers of nuclear power have been “overblown,” and admits coal may be necessary to tide us over, if we can effectively bury its emissions.
These books are indeed a kind of witty parlor game, certainly. But though Bayard occasionally gallops into the high alpine meadows of literary and psychoanalytic theory, he still sticks closely to the text he’s given. And though he probably doesn’t believe half of what he’s saying, it does pass the logical plausibility test.
The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, informally known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a span of ocean between California and Hawaii the size of Texas, where floats a Sargasso Sea of trash consisting of 90 percent plastic.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is sort of an extended wake for its subject. There’s very little biographical narrative per se; instead, the book compiles a massive array of anecdotes, memories, and opinions from dozens upon dozens of the people who knew him, from engineers, girlfriends, and backing musicians to a fairly astounding variety of celebrities who spent time with Zevon.