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.


A New Focus On An Old Image In 'Mary Coin'

Mar 7, 2013

Do you remember those school assignments where you were asked to make up a story based on a picture? With Mary Coin, Marisa Silver looks long and hard at an image that has been seared into our nation's consciousness — Dorothea Lange's iconic Depression-era photograph "Migrant Mother" — and compassionately imagines the lives behind it. The result is a fresh angle on the Great Depression and a lesson in learning how to really look and see.

Silver anchors her novel with research into Lange and her migrant subject, Florence Owens Thompson. But by renaming her photographer Vera Dare and her destitute itinerant farmer Mary Coin, she slips the constraints of facts, freeing herself to create her own remarkable, quietly heroic yet very human characters.

But the real triumph of Silver's novel — which follows The God of War (2008) and her second story collection, Alone With You (2010), both of which feature contemporary settings — is its structural composition. Although it spans 91 years, between 1920 and 2011, Mary Coin is as expertly cropped and framed as a fine photographic print. Silver deftly braids Mary and Vera's stories with that of a social historian named Walker Dodge, whose name, of course, evokes Walker Evans, another photographer who put a face on the Depression with his haunting portrait of sunken-cheeked Allie Mae Burroughs. After Dodge's father dies in 2010, he returns home to Porter, Calif., to pack up the farmhouse that has been in his family for 130 years. During his "slow, careful excavation through time," he confronts a family mystery.

While this mystery is a driving force in Mary Coin, the book's backbone is its magnificently resolute title character. Raised in Tahlequah, Okla., by her tough, widowed Cherokee mother, Mary marries her boyfriend at age 17. They hit the road in search of scant, grueling work, first in sawmills, then picking cotton and fruit. Mary is aware that "spitting out children like melon pits" — six in short order — may not be wise, but she never regards her children as a mistake. "[S]he thought of them," Silver writes, "as a fist held up to fate," and raises them on hard truths and harder labor, fiercely proud that they all earn high school diplomas and decent jobs.

Mary's ferocious maternal devotion extends to her seventh child, an illegitimate son born after her husband's early death. This unfortunate babe is at her breast when photographer Vera Dare, documenting the destitute conditions of migrant workers for the government, catches them stranded in their ragged tent by their broken-down car in Nipomo, Calif., in 1936. Vera is no slouch in the steely resolve department herself: A survivor of childhood polio and a miserable marriage to a philandering artist, she struggles with the guilt of having to board out her two sons in order to keep working.

Silver enhances her moving exploration of extraordinary fortitude with inquiries into what it means to focus deeply. Walker instructs his college students, "Seeing is about being brave enough to say: This unimportant image or piece of information that no one cares about? Well, there is a story here, too, and I'm going to find out what it is." As Walker puts together the pieces of his father George's life, we are reminded of another George urgently connecting the dots — Seurat, at least as he is portrayed in Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George.

When Vera contemplates the legacy of her most famous photograph, she realizes that its power lay in its unforced point of view and lack of didacticism: "The picture had been effective because every single person who looked at it had to decide whose side he was on." She also reflects on how the camera asserts a subject's significance and steals it at the same time: "It looked at you and then turned away." The act of photography, she concludes, is more complicated than love, sex and children. "Or maybe it was the exact expression of those complications," which, among other things, "included intimacy and distance, holding and turning away."

The same can be said for the best and most penetrating fiction, including Mary Coin.

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