I read a lot, and things always remind me of other things, so here are some recent readings and the memories of other things they triggered.
In the New York Times, John Schwartz and Kevin Sack provide an in-depth look at how Jean Lafitte, a small fishing village in Louisiana, is threatened by the rising, shifting tides of the Mississippi Delta, as politics, engineering, commerce, and conservation intermingle to create both problems and solutions. This article was given its own separate section in the Sunday paper, with large double-page layouts, but it is even better online. Pair this with an article from 1987: “The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel.” That sentence is from John McPhee’s classic New Yorker article about that other channel, “Atchafalaya,” which is also collected in his excellent book, “The Control of Nature.” The Atchafalaya is Cajun country, where my uncle and cousins lived, so I know how it’s pronounced, uh-CHAFF-uh-Lie-uh.
This recent article by Joshua Rothman goes deep into copiers: “Why Paper Jams Persist” looks at the journey of the sheets of paper in modern copiers, as they are rolled, flown, blown, sucked, charged, heated, and stacked at speeds up to 150 pages per minute. Pair this with another classic, David Owen’s 2004 book “Copies in Seconds,” the story of Chester Carlson and the birth of Xerox. But why do we copy so much? Weren’t computers going to provide us with the paperless office? Consider reading Edward Tenner’s great book, “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences.”
As we approach the centennial of the Russian Revolution, another recent NY Times article sent Karl Ove Knausgaard on “A Literary Road Trip Into the Heart of Russia,” in which he explores a rural area almost untouched for the last century. This amazing photo is by Lynsey Addario, showing a 102-year-old woman holding a photo of her husband, who died in the war in 1943. Pair this with the always wonderful Ian Frazier, who has visited Russia many times and wonders “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?” in the Smithsonian. Frazier wrote a book about his earlier journeys exploring the Eastern wilds in a van, “Travels in Siberia,” which reminds me of my two other posts on this subject: the most exciting nonfiction book I’ve ever read, John Vaillant’s “The Tiger,” and another about the story of the Siberian woodsman Dersu Uzala.