We are thrilled to have published John Mandel's short story collection. John has a knack for making the mundane feel magical and the hidden feel familiar. But what's even more compelling about John is that day to day interactions with him are as wonderfully jarring as his stories. For example, he send me this story recently:
I [John] heard myself invoking the word “interesting." Suddenly, after a lifetime of using the word when I regard something whose meaning slips and slides, something which seems to promise meaning but eludes it, I thought, what do I mean? I did the etymology - from the Latin, “It is between” - “To be between."
This meant to me that when we come upon something that seems to have meaning, when we sense the potential for meaning, we’re drawn, seduced, to dive “between” its elements, where we think we can pick up a trail of bread crumbs to it’s meaning – we’re “interested”. We wonder about it, we become the author of the meaning of the thing, whether or not we think we’re correct, and there seems to be a physical pleasure to it. Part of the brain is excited, it feels good. The state of wonder feels good.
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And so, in pursuit of a state of wonder that feels good, I offer a few other bits and pieces that John has sent over that he finds "interesting." May you be drawn, seduced, and willing to dive "in between" along with him...
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A tenth-century grand vizier of Persia took his entire library with him wherever he went. The 117,000-volume library was carried by 400 camels, in alphabetical order, in a train over a mile long. All of the camel-herders were librarians.
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Interviewer: What was wrong with the third person voice?
Barry Hannah: In my case, third person just led to too much wisdom I hadn’t earned. And I like the first person- just a guy blasting through with the little he knows. In third person you’d best be aware of the monotone in it and the temptations toward false wisdom and cleverness. First person is where you can be more interesting as a fool, and I find this often leads to the more delightful expedition. You don’t have to be much but a stumbling fool. The wisdom there is more precious than in the sage overview, which in many writers makes me nearly puke. I’m also wary of the glibness that third person invites.
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The Vietnamese language has no subjunctive case: no should have, would have, could have. As a result, because there is no sense that something else could have happened, of an alternative past, no “if only..,” there is no sense of regret to the Vietnamese speaker. Without the language to describe it, it can’t be conceived.
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"A man's subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour." -- P.G. Wodehouse