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.


New World, Old Evil In Tracy Chevalier's 'Runaway'

Jan 17, 2013
Originally published on January 17, 2013 9:35 pm

Tracy Chevalier's 1999 masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was a tour de force, revealing the painter Vermeer through the eyes of his 16-year-old maid. A publishing sensation, the novel set the pattern for Chevalier's subsequent work: meticulously researched historical fiction, filled with gritty detail yet rendered in luminous prose.

An American, Chevalier has lived in London for decades, and her first six books are all set in Europe. But her seventh novel, The Last Runaway, crosses the Atlantic along with her English protagonist, a young Quaker named Honor Bright.

The year is 1850, and Honor has just been jilted by her fiance, so she decides to join her sister Grace, who is emigrating to Ohio. Grace is engaged to marry Adam Cox, a fellow English Quaker who has opened a dry goods store in Oberlin, a small but flourishing Quaker community.

But the sisters' plans go awry. On the overland journey to Ohio, Grace dies of yellow fever; a grieving Honor buries her sister en route. Honor finally arrives at the home of her intended brother-in-law, but their unorthodox living arrangement soon raises consternation among her co-religionists. Bowing to social pressure, Honor quickly marries Jack Haymaker, a local farmer, and begins a life under the iron rule of her mother-in-law, Judith, a Quaker elder.

Ohio in 1850 was a sparsely settled frontier. The reader experiences this uncouth New World through Honor's shocked English eyes. Women drink whiskey and shoot snakes; men spit tobacco in the street. Most troubling of all is the reality of slavery. Ohio isn't a slave state, but it serves as a major route in the Underground Railroad, and runaways regularly cross the Haymakers' property. The Haymakers refuse to offer them food or shelter, or to hide them when the local slave hunter comes to track them down — behavior that horrifies Honor.

From its very inception, the Society of Friends championed human equality and opposed slavery. In both America and England, Quakers were key figures in the abolitionist movement. But if the Haymakers helped runaways, they could be imprisoned and lose their farm. As Honor discovers, it's one thing to profess moral ideals and quite another thing to live by them.

Unlike the Haymakers, Honor can't look away from the plight of enslaved African-Americans. She decides to act.

Up until this point, Honor has been like a parcel, transported from one location to the next. But now her American adventure finally begins. Behind her husband's back, she becomes part of the Underground Railroad. When her family uncovers her secret, they give her an ultimatum: Either she stops helping escapees, or she'll be shunned from the community. By this time, Honor is heavily pregnant and her options seem to be running out. Will she be forced to join the ranks of runaways?

For a novel exploring such explosive themes, The Last Runaway is a quiet, contemplative read, mirroring the demeanor of its Quaker heroine. It might be too quiet for some readers. Much of the narrative is devoted to lengthy descriptions of Honor quilting and performing other homely domestic tasks. These scenes can become rather ponderous.

But I was deeply moved by Chevalier's evocations of how Honor's spirituality drives her every choice. According to Quaker belief, a divine inner light resides within every human being, no matter how bad they might seem on the outside. Viewing the characters through Honor's eyes, the reader catches flashes of light even in the slave hunter, Donovan, whose infatuation with Honor seems to bring him to the brink of reform. The runaways also come vividly to life as human beings filled with warmth and complexity. I only wish Chevalier had breathed more life into Honor's husband and mother-in-law, who seem flat and wooden.

Still, The Last Runaway is beautifully written and offers much for the reader to savor. Honor's story serves as a powerful testament to the force of conscience and the difference that just one inspired individual can make.

Mary Sharratt lives in Lancashire, England. Her most recent book is Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen.

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