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H. G. Wells’s Predictions: The Right, the Wrong and the Ugly

A lifelong student with an interest in all things, Herbert George Wells’s research gave him an insider’s view of everything from weapons to household appliances. The author proved to be at the forefront of history, even if many of his ideas weren’t actualized until decades after his death. The heat ray that Wells depicts in The War of the Worlds(1897), for example, became real in 2007, when the U.S. military debuted the Active Denial System, which weaponizes microwave radiation. Preceding modern cloning and genetic modification, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) showcases one of the first instances of human and animal engineering (although Frankenstein came much earlier). More ominously, Wells’s little-known novel The World Set Free (1913) details nuclear war and the explicit use of atomic bombs years before the Manhattan Project.

But more than just beeps, bells and pneumatic doors, the best of Wells’s novels attempt to tackle giant socio-political issues, all the while maintaining an emphasis on modern humanity’s increasingly close relationship with science and technology. He and other writers of his generation clearly envisioned the post-Victorian world as surrounded by machines and swallowed by the scientific disciplines in all their various forms, fromTaylorized work environments to pseudo-scientific caste systems.

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FLASH BOOM: EXPERIENCING THE ATOMIC BOMBING OF JAPAN THROUGH THE FILM “PIKADON”

Sixty-nine years after Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, a short animated film continues to capture the horror of the world’s first nuclear attack.

August 6, 1945: An air raid siren was not, in itself, a reason to panic. Mothers continued to breastfeed their children. Old women scrubbed their laundry. Fathers commuted to work. The manufacture of heavy war machinery could not wait. If a soldier was tying his shoes, then he finished tying his shoes. If a woman was seated on stone steps, if she was resting, then there was no reason to rush standing up. If the Americans chose to bomb the city, there was little anyone could do to stop them. Even in the event that the outmatched Japanese defenses downed a few bombers, it would likely be a very small number, and this would not prevent the Americans from burning down vast swathes of the city. Anyway, Hiroshima’s luck might hold; so far the bombers had left it alone.

Then Little Boy fell. The force of the explosion instantly leveled buildings and ruptured flesh. The incredible heat vaporized many bodies and melted others’ skin, which hung from them in drips and ribbons. Those who survived had no context for this strange new hell. They did not have a word for what had been done to them. It was not like the firebombings that had terrorized Japan’s major cities since the March 9th and 10th raids on Tokyo. The bodies of the people of Hiroshima were not only burned, but deeply changed, twisted and made strange. Many who were not immediately killed would spend the rest of their lives dying. Some lay down in the streets and waited for the end. Some would have to wait years. Others would live and remember.

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slaughterhouse90210:

“I loved the idea that looking at a painting or listening to a concerto could make you somehow “transcend” the day-in, day-out bullshit that grinds you down: how in one instant of pure attention you could draw something inside that made you forever larger.”
—Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

Both that statue and Jordan Catalano lean great.

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What a Dying Poet Taught Me

That is ‘devoting yourself fully to the art of poetry,’ not becoming unemployed and making yourself sit in front of a blank page every day, God forbid!”

So began my correspondence with my adopted mentor, the poet Denise Levertov. It was 1994, and I was a 22-year-old college graduate just embarking on a career I already detested. I had graduated with a major in accounting and a minor in philosophy, and had accepted a position with an international accounting and auditing firm in November of 1993, the fall of my senior year. But by the time I graduated, the poetry bug had bitten me hard. I wanted to leave my 60-plus-hour-a-week job of flipping through invoices, ticking and flicking, making fastidious adjustments to financial statements of companies I really didn’t give a damn about. There was very little time or energy left over for writing, and writing had become a passion.

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How Roald Dahl Prepares Us for the Hardships of Adulthood

I’ll never forget the first time I read one of Roald Dahl’s books: I was in the first grade and my friend let me borrow his battered paperback copy of Matilda. Even at a young age, I noticed the way the prose danced. I had never read anything like it before. But even more powerful than Dahl’s dazzling ability to construct musical sentences was the darkness on each page. These are the images that keep in a young mind: screaming matches, schoolyard humiliations, terrifying disciplinarians. Years later, I find myself wondering: Why was Dahl so dark?

Dahl’s books are as gilded with whimsy as they are filled with sorrow. His heroes are precocious, often lonely children whose guardians are at best neglectful and at worst horrifyingly abusive. The author, having served time as a pilot in World War II, was no stranger to human cruelty. Indeed, almost all of his novels are suffused with a kind of morbid curiosity. The B.F.G., or the “Big Friendly Giant,” features child-eating monsters with names like Fleshlumpeater and Bloodbottler, and the three villains of Fantastic Mr. Fox are the personifications of obesity, greed and evil. But this darkness in Dahl’s books serves a greater purpose.

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The Reanimation Library: A Home for Misfit Books

Of the countless obscure facts that fill the pages of the Reanimation Library's many esoteric volumes, the first that jumps to Andrew Beccone's mind is about hermaphroditic snail orgies. He slides an open copy of The Sex Lives of Animals Without Backbones across the table. Diagrammed at the center of the page is a daisy-chain of three round slugs curving over each other in flagrante delicto.

“I always think it’s funny that it’s not called something like ‘The Reproductive Strategies of Invertebrates,’” he says. “They must have just wanted to sell more copies.”

With arcane titles like Book of MonstersFlying Windmills: The Story of the Helicopterand Altered States of Awareness, there’s a certain freak-show quality to the Reanimation Library’s collection. Beccone, a 39-year-old artist, librarian and stay-at-home dad, has spent more than a decade amassing piles of discarded books, rescuing them for their visual imagery. While working as a librarian in St. Paul, Minnesota, he would scour the stacks looking for intriguing images to use in his art projects, mostly xerox-oriented prints in the vein of vintage punk posters. But most libraries, very intentionally, don’t stock the kind of outdated books he was looking for. So Beccone’s private collection grew. He’s now up to about 2,000 books, and the library is open to the public, sharing a space in Brooklyn’s Proteus Gowanus complex since 2006.

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Charles Dickens reviews John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

I read this novel on the recommendation of Mrs. Periwig, the kind if simple-hearted proprietor of a Gentlemen’s Salon of Hirsute Enhancement, where I had availed myself of the offer of a half-price beard perm and highlights, it being a Thursday and otherwise quiet.

“Now Mr. Dickens,” said Mrs. Periwig, once my facial appurtenance had received her attention and we had achieved the stage in the procedure where I was to rest and allow the chemicals to do their various forms of magic, “Perhaps I can offer you this to read while you wait? I feel sure you would enjoy it.”

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