I fell in love with Shirley Hazzard in 1980, when her great book Transit of Venus came out. I was completely dazzled by the beauty and authority of her writing, and by the effortless way she created this world.
The novel opens with a description of a storm. The air is charged with unthinkable violence, a sense of atmospheric threat which will recur throughout the book:
There are a lot of fascinating details hiding below the surface in the world of color. For instance, scientists once thought the average color of the entire universe was turquoise — until they recalculated and realized it was beige.
In Japan, you wait at a stoplight until it turns from red to blue, even though it's the same green color as American stoplights.
And in World War II, the British painted a whole flotilla of warships pinkish-purple so they'd blend in with the sky at dusk and confuse the Germans. That's right — pink warships.
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show featured a fearless flying squirrel and his slow-witted moose sidekick. They did battle with two scheming but incompetent Soviet spies named Boris and Natasha.
The cartoon is an American classic, beloved for a wry sense of humor that appeals to kids and their parents. It originally aired from 1959 until 1964, but has been in syndication ever since, most recently on the Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
Mike Doughty spent the 1990s as the gravel-voiced frontman for Soul Coughing. Fusing elements of pop, jazz, hip-hop and house music, the band had a sound all its own — but Doughty says he was never satisfied with it.