Time-Lapse Auroras over Norway

A little Enya-ish, but still so cool.  Via Astronomy Picture of the Day:


Best Little Bookstore in Trinidad

Whenever I land in a new country, one of the first places I go is the bookstore. These often turn out to be little more than glorified stationary shops, but it’s still always interesting to see what kinds of printed matter the local market can bear.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find obscure titles and maps and bits of research that aren’t available anywhere else.

So not long ago, when I was in Trinidad doing some research, I headed up the Western Main Road in St. James, then turned toward the Long Circular Mall, near which I stumbled into The Reader’s Bookshop. The interior was warm and the selection of books showed they were chosen by someone who truly knew what they were doing:  A fine section of Caribbean authors, as well as lots of international titles you might not expect to find in Trinidad, or many places for that matter, like The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman,  The Accordionist’s Son by Bernardo Atxaga,  and Kockroach by Tyler Knox.

I meant to stop in, then move on. But the owner was a young guy named Chris Mendes, and we started talking about books by Joshua Ferris and Zadie Smith, and I stood around paging through Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget and a Best American Magazine Writing Anthology and other books while he waited on customers. I ended up staying for hours. A few days later I came back and spent the better part of the day talking books, drinking beer and hanging out.

Leaving Trinidad, I realized that this colored my whole impression of the country, not just because of the map Chris gave me, and all the help with my research. But because as long as The Reader’s Bookshop is there, I know there will be a kind of haven, an island within and island, and a place where that will always feel a little like a home far away from home.

[Footnote:  Sadly, of 2013 the Reader’s Bookshop is closed.  Chris Mendes, meanwhile, is currently working on his first book.]

Joshua Foer on How to Remember Everything

“When Joshua Foer showed up at the ­U.S. Memory Championships in 2005, he thought  he was going to write a quirky story about some brainy oddballs with impressive memories. He didn’t suspect that this venture would introduce him to the complexities of mnemonic devices, teach him some ancient history and lead him to uncover his own mental prowess. He returned the following year as a top contender.

While researching Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Foer learned that becoming a grand master of memory requires accomplishing several seemingly impossible objectives. You have to remember the order of 10 shuffled decks of playing cards in less than an hour, 1,000 digits in the same amount of time, and one shuffled deck in less than two minutes. The winner takes home a trophy and a ticket to the World Memory Championships in London.”

Read the rest.

Profile Writing at The Loft’s Creative Nonfiction Conference

This month, on March 12, I’ll be teaching a class at The Loft’s Creative Nonfiction Conference called In Profile: The Art of Writing Life.  We’ll look at work by Elizabeth Gilbert, Michael Paterniti, Bill Bryson and others who have worked in one of the richest veins of narrative nonfiction.  Besides that, there are lots of other great classes. Sign up here!