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Traces of Bicycle History on the Land

In the later part of the nineteenth century, American bicyclists were explorers, cycling through both charted and uncharted territory. These wheelmen and wheelwomen became keen observers of suburban and rural landscapes, and left copious records of their journeys—in travel narratives, journalism, maps, photographs, illustrations. They were also instrumental in the construction of roads and paths (“wheelways”)—building them, funding them, and lobbying legislators for them.

Landscape, John Stilgoe tells us, is a noun. From the old Frisian language (once spoken in coastal parts of the Netherlands and Germany), it meant shoveled land: landschop. Sixteenth-century Englishmen misheard or mispronounced this as landskep, which became landskip, then landscape, designating the surface of the earth shaped for human habitation.

The Art of Policymaking in India

In December 2009, the economist Kaushik Basu left the rarefied world of academic research for the nuts and bolts of policymaking. Appointed by the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, to be chief economic adviser (CEA) to the Government of India, Basu—a theorist, with special interest in development economics, and a professor of economics at Cornell University—discovered the complexity of applying economic models to the real world. Effective policymaking, Basu learned, integrates technical knowledge with political awareness.

Essays and Fictions

As any good magician or psychoanalyst knows, it’s the deliberate chalking of a particular square that allows for the discovery of personal order and private mythology.
—from The Irresponsible Magician

Affections for the Moving Image

In this book, Laura Marks examines one of the world’s most impressive, and affecting, bodies of independent and experimental cinema from the last twenty-five years: film and video works from the Arabic-speaking world. Some of these works’ creative strategies are shared by filmmakers around the world; others arise from the particular economic, social, political, and historical circumstances of Arab countries, whose urgency, Marks argues, seems to demand experiment and invention.

A Comedy

Originally published in 1997, Resentment was the first in Gary Indiana’s now-classic trilogy (followed in 1999 by Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story and in 2003 by Depraved Indifference) chronicling the more-or-less permanent state of “depraved indifference” that characterized American life at the millennium’s end.

The management of sexuality has been sewn into the campus. Sex has its own administrative unit. It is a bureaucratic progression.
—from Campus Sex, Campus Security

The Well-Dressed Wound is Derek McCormack’s play script “séance”: a fashion show by the dead for the living. In the depths of the Civil War, in a theater in P. T. Barnum’s American Museum on Broadway, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln participate in a staged spiritualistic rite. But the medium conducting them has invited along another being: the Devil, disguised as twentieth-century French fashionista Martin Margiela (aka “King Faggot”).

The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water

How did branded bottles of water insinuate themselves into our daily lives? Why did water become an economic good—no longer a common resource but a commercial product, in industry parlance a “fast moving consumer good,” or FMCG? Plastic Water examines the processes behind this transformation. It goes beyond the usual political and environmental critiques of bottled water to investigate its multiplicity, examining a bottle of water’s simultaneous existence as, among other things, a product, personal health resource, object of boycotts, and part of accumulating waste matter.

Long before the invention of musical notation, and long before that of the phonograph, the written word was unrivaled as a medium of the human voice. In The Ancient Phonograph, Shane Butler searches for traces of voices before Edison, reconstructing a series of ancient soundscapes from Aristotle to Augustine. Here the real voices of tragic actors, ambitious orators, and singing emperors blend with the imagined voices of lovesick nymphs, tormented heroes, and angry gods.

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