The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


An 'Artful' Approach To Literary Criticism

Jan 24, 2013

Ali Smith's superb new book, Artful, began as a series of talks on comparative literature that were delivered at St. Anne's College, Oxford, in January and February of last year. It must've been one hell of a show. "The second week, the students had tripled," Smith told The Independent, and by the final week you couldn't find an open seat in the back row.

It's easy to see why. These brief, acrobatic lectures, which Smith says appear in Artful "pretty much as they were delivered," perform spectacular feats of criticism. Each is as playful as it is powerful, as buoyant as it is brilliant. It's nothing for Smith to tumble, for example, from Cezanne to the Artful Dodger when she describes "literality meeting a metaphor," or for her to consider Beyonce's 2009 hit "Halo" when she grapples with the notion of liminal spaces.

But there's more going on in Artful than nimble analysis. The four lectures — "On time," "On form," "On edge," "On offer and reflection"— arrive within a haunting fictional story about love, loss and healing.

The book opens with a mourning, unnamed narrator rattling around the study of her dead lover, who has left behind a series of essays about art and literature. The narrator sits down and tries to disappear into Oliver Twist when she thinks she hears a knock at the door. "Then I looked up over the top of the open book because it sounded like someone was coming up the stairs," Smith writes. "Someone was. It was you."

It's the ghost of her lover, "covered in dust and what looked like bits of rubble," and for the rest of the book the narrator explores and reacts to his unfinished work. This clever conceit opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for Smith, and she takes full advantage of them.

Liberated from the formal confines of academia, for example, Artful can be thoroughly brainy without having to be definitive. In the "On edge" lecture, for instance, the narrator encounters this bright note on Henry James' novel The Golden Bowl in one of her lover's old essays:

"The Golden Bowl is about worth, about money, about seeing the flaw in what looks perfect, yes. But as its first chapter insists, with its repeating imagery of veils and mists and screens and shutters and the shrouding these do, The Golden Bowl will be about a more deathly flaw, a state of blindness."

Meanwhile, Artful's love story gives it flesh and blood. The narrator tenderly recalls how living with her lover was like "living in a poem or a picture, a story, a piece of music" and how she used to help him relax on sleepless nights. "Calm down, I said once," she says. "Go and do a line of Shakespeare."

In perhaps the book's most affecting moment, the narrator discovers an essay of her lover's titled "Hello my darling, how are you? I hope you are very well, are you?" It's a love letter, a request for forgiveness and a brief treatise on the late Greek film star Aliki Vougiouklaki. Here's a sample:

"Just a passing thought, to apologize if I seemed or seem harsh, I'm really sorry, and to explain why I didn't want you to see the screen — ie I wasn't really working, and I was suddenly unbelievably embarrassed in case you found out I wasn't, and even worse, that instead of working I was trawling the net for things you'd love."

Smith, a 2007 Royal Society of Literature fellow and award-winning novelist, has published four acclaimed short-story collections, and she once called the form "a total joy." So it only feels right to give the last word here to Katherine Mansfield, that modernist short-story master. Her reaction to D.H. Lawrence's novel Aaron's Rod provides a fitting tribute to what Smith has accomplished in Artful. "All the time I read this book," Mansfield wrote, "I felt it was feeding me."

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