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.

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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.


These 'Great Tales Of Terror' Live Up To Their Promise

Feb 24, 2013
Originally published on February 25, 2013 11:40 am

Michael Dirda's latest book is On Conan Doyle.

When I was a boy growing up in the working-class steel town of Lorain, Ohio, I used to ride my beloved Roadmaster bicycle to the branch library. Located in the Plaza Shopping Center, this former storefront was just around the corner from the W.T. Grant's and Merit Shoes. Inside there were perhaps six small tables, a couple of reading chairs, the librarian's checkout desk, and light oak bookshelves along three walls. There can't have been more than one- or two-thousand books.

At age 12 or 13, I seldom had any particular title or author I was looking for. I just wanted something good to read. Something exciting. I never thought to ask librarians for advice, and my parents never read anything except the newspaper. Books were my own private adventure.

And I do mean adventure. As a little kid, I'd loved Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint and Tom Swift in the Caves of Nuclear Fire. But more recently I'd been devouring Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'd particularly enjoyed The Hound of the Baskervilles, in part because it was more than a little scary.

So it was probably only a matter of time before I happened upon Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser. Strangely, though, I'd never noticed the book before in the section labeled "Short Stories." Perhaps the main library had acquired a new edition and only recently sent its old copy out to this branch, in part because the binding was so worn. But shouldn't an anthology of suspenseful and spooky stories be a little shabby, falling open, as this one did, at the ominously titled "Oh, Whistle, and I"ll Come to You, My Lad"?

That story, when I read it later that evening, concerns a young academic who, on holiday at the seashore, explores some ancient ruins. There Professor Parkins unearths a metallic tube about 4 inches long; it is, in fact, an ancient whistle of some odd sort. Unfortunately, Parkins can decipher only part of the Latin inscription on his archaeological discovery, something about somebody ... coming. Later, back at his hotel room, he blows the whistle. But I should say no more.

Of course, I'd never then heard of the story's author, M.R. James, the most widely revered practitioner of classic supernatural fiction. And who were Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Arthur Machen and Saki and Algernon Blackwood? No matter. What I did recognize was a thrilling title — and there were dozens of them among these 52 stories: "The Most Dangerous Game," "Leiningen Versus the Ants," "The Horla," "Green Tea," "Casting the Runes," "The Monkey's Paw," "The Great God Pan," " 'They', " "Ancient Sorceries," "The Beckoning Fair One."

I checked out Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, and it was mine for the next three weeks. Have I yet spoken the word bliss? In the evenings after school I read one or two stories each night. Some, like Edith Wharton's "Afterward," I would only come to appreciate, well, afterward, but most were revelations. And none more so than the very last two: "The Rats in the Walls" and "The Dunwich Horror." The latter quietly opens this way:

"When a traveler in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country ... "

Who could stop reading at that point? Not I. Nor could generations of other readers, who first discovered these two H.P. Lovecraft classics — tales not of horrible imaginings but of far more horrible realizations — in "Wise and Fraser." In more recent editions of this classic anthology, Phyllis Fraser now appears as Phyllis Cerf Wagner, but nothing else has changed: It's still the same staple of the modern library it has been since 1944. Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural truly lives up to its title, for it contains thrilling and disquieting stories you will never forget — in one or two especially frightening cases, no matter how hard you try.

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