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.


Fiction Truer Than Fact: A Haunting Autobiographical Novel

Jan 20, 2013
Originally published on January 21, 2013 1:28 pm

Sarah Manguso's latest book is called The Guardians.

I like autobiographies that approach their subjects insidiously. My favorite ones begin as a study of someone or something else. Then, partway through, the author realizes he's the subject. And my very favorite autobiographies are the ones, in all their particularity, that might as well be about me — or you, or anyone.

Sylvia grew from an autobiographical essay into a novella subtitled A Fictional Memoir. I feel perversely unconcerned about whether the story is true. The account begins in 1960, when after five years of graduate school in literature, Leonard Michaels, the narrator/author, returns to New York, his hometown, without a Ph.D. — "or any idea what I'd do, only a desire to write stories." He visits a friend's apartment and meets her roommate, freshly bathed, combing her wet hair:

"The brush swept down and ripped free until, abruptly, she quit brushing, stepped into the living room, dropped onto the couch, leaned back against the brick wall, and went totally limp. Then, from behind long black bangs, her eyes moved, looked at me. The question of what to do with my life was resolved for the next four years."

The woman is Sylvia Bloch, indeed the name of the author's first wife, described in the book as "abnormally bright" but prone to violent rages, "like a madwoman imitating a college student." She will slash her wrists just deeply enough to show some blood when Leonard returns home from visiting with his parents. I can't take my eyes off that much trouble.

Leonard presents the compulsive love affair alongside his own compulsive record of it. He trumpets the autobiographer's credo: "Ringing with anguish, exceedingly awake, I forced myself to rethink the fight, moment by moment, writing it all down in the cold room as Sylvia slept. It was my way of knowing, if nothing else, that this was really happening."

Excerpts from his journal interrupt the running text every now and then, but neither the main account nor its interruptions seem any more or less true than the other.

Reading about someone else's indulgent, solipsistic young love affair is boring unless its insights are bright enough to illumine the confusion and shame of one's own. For that, Leonard Michaels is one of the best. Whatever trouble you want to find, it's all been found before. Fear, ignorance, certainty, uncertainty, lust — ah, the draughts of youth.

Despite my lurid attraction to Sylvia and Leonard's dovetailing insatiabilities, it's his prose that pleases me the most. His sentences are sobering, instructive, gnomic, terrifying and emotionally authentic. I believe it's what we call "style," but the writing isn't merely stylish; it's vital.

Though the book contains more rumination than plot, the ending is as shocking as that of any thriller. In the final paragraph Leonard dreams of a dead Sylvia waking from a slab in a morgue: "My need was the only reality, more real than death." In the end, her madness becomes contagious, though in its new host it more closely resembles hope.

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