Dr. Lewis Dartnell is the author of The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch. Full Bio
THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED.
A particularly virulent strain of avian flu finally breached the species barrier and hopped successfully to human hosts, or was deliberately released in an act of bioterrorism. The contagion spread devastatingly quickly in the modern age of high-density cities and intercontinental air travel, and killed a large proportion of the global population before any effective immunization or even quarantine orders could be implemented.
Or tensions between India and Pakistan reached the breaking point and a border dispute escalated beyond all rational limits, culminating in the use of nuclear weapons. The warheads’ distinctive electromagnetic pulses were detected by defense surveillance in China and triggered a round of preemptive launches against the United States, which in turn spurred retaliatory strikes by America and its allies in Europe and Israel. Major cities worldwide were reduced to jagged plains of radioactive glass. The enormous volumes of dust and ash injected into the atmosphere reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, causing a decades-long nuclear winter, the collapse of agriculture, and global famine.
Or the event was entirely beyond human control. A rocky asteroid, only around a mile across, slammed into the Earth and fatally changed atmospheric conditions. More…
Simon Wroe is a freelance journalist, former chef, and author of Chop Chop. Full Bio
They arrive in pairs most weeks, blushing like schoolgirls in the kitchen heat.
Their eyes follow you around the room.
Their tongues loll rudely from their mouths.
Their snouts are rough from rooting.
When you hold one and feel the hair and fat and clammy skin of it you wonder how different a person’s head would feel dead in your hands. Sometimes when you pick one up from the peach paper your fingers get stuck in its nostrils, like a bowling ball. Sometimes you can still feel old boogers up there. A strange feeling, that this head must have been alive once, because only a living thing could produce something as useless as snot.
I’ve heard in fancy places they lather the snouts up and give them a gentleman’s shave with a cutthroat razor. Most kitchens use a blowtorch and burn the hair. It gives off a dark smell, which maybe the fancy places won’t stand for. We throw ours onto the burners and turn them with tongs until their eyes melt. Then we wrap them in a cloth and carry them over to the sink and wash the char off. We do it gently, like an apology. Ramilov, in one of his letters, says that’s what all cooking is: a smart apology for a savage act. More…
Sarah Churchwell is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby. Full Bio
Sarah Churchwell, professor of American literature at the University of East Anglia and author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, stops by Stanford Radio’s “Entitled Opinions” to discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby. Listen to the interview here or download the podcast here.
Ben Tarnoff is the author of A Counterfeiter’s Paradise and The Bohemians. Full Bio
Ben Tarnoff’s book The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature tells the amazing story of the lectures that made him a superstar in this excerpt on Salon. Mark Twain was broke, tired of being a freelancer, and bored in California. One trip and some lectures changed everything…
When the Ajax made its second voyage in March 1866, Mark Twain was on board. He had persuaded the editors of the prestigious Sacramento Union to pay him to write correspondence from the islands. The trip came at an opportune time: Twain had been getting sick of California and the indigent, itinerant life he led there. Despite the success of his jumping frog story, he remained a poor freelancer. “I am tired being a beggar,” he wrote his brother, “tired being chained to this accursed homeless desert.” In Hawaii he hoped to find a new world to explore, and the chance to capitalize on his recent triumph. More…
Jon Mooallem, author of Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America, on bears, President Theodore Roosevelt, and how storytelling affects conservation:
In 1902, bears in the United States were symbols of all the dangers of the frontier. Bears were called “murderers” for their tendency to attack livestock, and they were being systematically killed by the federal government. That was, until President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to Mississippi on a hunting trip. Roosevelt had finished for the day, but when the party’s dogs cornered a bear, a well-meaning member of the party clocked it on the head, tied it to a tree and called for Roosevelt to come shoot it. But when Roosevelt saw this female bear—dazed, injured and all tied up—he refused. “He felt that would go against his code as a sportsman to shoot it,” says journalist Jon Mooallem. More…
Find out about the books we have slated for Summer 14, with excerpts and more available at the links below:
Award-wining chef Dan Barber moves beyond “farm to table” to offer a revolutionary new way of eating in The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.
Drawing on startling new evidence from the mapping of the genome, Nicholas Wade brings us an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.
From John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, bestselling authors of The Right Nation, comes The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, a visionary argument that our current crisis in government is nothing less than the fourth radical transition in the history of the nation-state. More…