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.


Lost In Everett's Hall Of Metafictional Mirrors

Feb 13, 2013

A friend of mine, with more than half a lifetime in the business of writing and a following of devoted fans, some years ago nailed a sign on the wall above his writing desk.

TELL THE [Expletive] STORY!

How I wish Percival Everett looked up every now and then from his keyboard to see a sign like this.

Everett is one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers, with over 20 works of fiction to his name, novels and stories that show us our own country at an angle just slightly tilted toward the antic. Though at first glance we don't often take his characters to be odd, his crusading hydrologists, drug-mad western lawmen, played-out baseball stars, eccentric women, nasty politicians, muddle-headed academics and inquisitive writers make up a population both slightly crazed and utterly revealing of the American dream (and nightmare).

When Everett tells these stories in a direct manner — even in novels as varied in style as the realistic Watershed and the feverish American Desert -- his work takes hold of us and won't let go.

But there's an unfortunate aspect of his aesthetic that occasionally raises its head, leading to work that seems forced and pedantic. In these books, he reveals just how deeply he's been seduced by the idea of metafiction, the modernist notion that all writing is really only about itself and that the writer should work in an ironic, self-reflective fashion. The books composed under the thrall of this longstanding (yet apparently still voguish) tendency are not his best. They tend to be mainly satirical, as in, for example, his novels Glyph and Erasure. If your taste runs to the brilliant expression of contemporary nihilism disguised as intellectual inquiry, these novels may entertain you.

In this new book, Everett, a character himself, gives us a series of encounters with his father in a nursing home, where the old man has gone to go to pieces. As the book moves along, the question of the narrator's identity constantly comes into play — is it the younger Everett who is narrating or is it the father? Or the painter or the physician, characters whom the father seems to have conjured up in a manuscript that the son seems to have appropriated?

Real, fascinating, important dramas lie buried beneath distracting passages of self-referential rhetoric: stories of adultery and abandonment, the persistence of violence in American life and time's inevitable drift away from the beginning of things toward an undesirable end. Occasionally — as when we get a thread of narrative about a lonely horse-owning narrator's encounter with a female veterinarian, or the physician character's encounter with a meth-lab family — the pages pulse with the force that Everett often makes us feel in his more traditional fiction.

But these flashes don't last. Metafictional asides and intrusions clog the flow of the story and drag down what might have been a fine novel about fathers and sons. The Everett narrator, however, doesn't see things this way. "There are no realities that are more real than others, only more privileged," says the father — or is it the son? It's all deliberately muddled.

It's never good for art when critical jargon takes precedence over narrative sense. Whether modernist or what critics today call postmodernist, this approach leaves a story gasping for air. The greatest modernists, from Joyce and Woolf onward, experiment with technique not as an end in itself — or not only so — but to find new ways to write about life, in all its breadth and depth.

Speaking through the mouth of the father, the novelist tries to laugh off such criticisms. At one point, the Everett character asks what thing in his father's career irked him the most. "Son, it was being called a postmodernist," the father answers. Elaborating, he maintains he doesn't even know what that means. "Some asshole tried to explain it to me once, said that my work was about itself and process and not about objective reality and life in the world."

"What did you say to him?" the son asks. "I asked him what he thought objective reality was," the father replies. "Then I punched him."

If only this new novel had deployed more of that punch!

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