Prufrock: GPS Spoofing, George Washington and His Horse, and a Life of Diana Trilling

Reviews and News:

George Washington on the dance floor and on horseback: “Riding With George gently confronts the marble, ossified immensity of the historical George Washington and strives to reveal the human side of America’s most legendary figure. Author Philip G. Smucker’s affable tour of the haunts of our first president succeeds rather well at this daunting task… By emphasizing the social and recreational pastimes at which Washington excelled — notably, dancing and horsemanship (and its relative, fox-hunting) — the book connects those activities with Washington’s astonishing career. In those public displays, Washington modestly yet unmistakably showcased his mastery and sheer physical grace, which reinforced his leadership as a general and a politician.”

Why has Freud endured? “Freud’s scientific reputation has plummeted over the past generation. Medical authorities have broadly recognized the faulty empirical scaffolding of psychoanalysis and its reliance on outmoded biological models. Mainstream American psychologists moved on decades ago. Yet, confoundingly, Freud ‘is destined to remain among us as the most influential of 20th-century sages.’” Or so claims Frederick Crews.

Why does the value of Bitcoin continue to rise?

First use of GPS misdirection documented: “On 22 June, the US Maritime Administration filed a seemingly bland incident report. The master of a ship off the Russian port of Novorossiysk had discovered his GPS put him in the wrong spot – more than 32 kilometres inland, at Gelendzhik Airport. After checking the navigation equipment was working properly, the captain contacted other nearby ships. Their AIS traces – signals from the automatic identification system used to track vessels – placed them all at the same airport. At least 20 ships were affected.”

A life of Diana Trilling: “Diana made it her business to tell off anyone who criticized her Lionel or tried to seduce him. He remained aloof from her battles with others, encouraging his wife’s writing career, to be sure, but ignoring the disrespect that his colleagues of both sexes showed to her. Lionel Trilling was a consummate diplomat, rarely wishing to offend anyone, which made Diana’s attacks seem all more shrill. He only showed his anger at Diana herself. He would go into rages, she reports, and blame her for just about anything and everything. Why did she put up with it? Her own answer, as Natalie Robins reports, is that after the rages subsided, the couple resumed their intense working relationship. How intense? Diana was fond of saying that Lionel taught her to think, and she taught him how to write.”

The future of print: “News and current affairs magazines are becoming more popular—but celebrity, gossip and fashion publications are still struggling.”

Essay of the Day:

In The London Review of Books, Jonathan Raban, who has written very little since suffering a stroke in 2011, returns to print with a memory visiting his grandmother in wartime England:

“When my mother had enough petrol coupons, we’d drive to Granny’s house in Sheringham, a long ride of nearly twenty miles. The narrow, twisting road ran past Little Snoring and on to Holt, where we often stopped to break the journey and look in shop windows. Then, from a wooded ridge, the land below us was rimmed with the mysterious sea. Here my mother switched the engine off and let AUP 595 coast downhill. For a mile or more, there was just the sound of the wind, the rustle of tyres on gravel, the creaking of the chassis, as the car submitted to the gravitational pull of Granny’s house. My mother had enlisted as an ambulance driver early in the war and never missed an opportunity to save petrol. She allowed the car to come almost to a standstill before switching the ignition back on and letting out the clutch, so that it restarted with a series of bone-shaking jerks and a roar. Or it didn’t. When it stalled at the bottom of the hill, my mother would get out and, to ‘save the battery’, effortfully swing the crank handle.

“Granny’s house stood several streets short of the sea, up a sloping cul-de-sac. Past the gate, one had to climb a crazy-paving path flanked on either side by a rock garden of lavender and alpine plants. With its small bow-windowed drawing room at the front and whitewashed pebbledash, the house, I see now, was a very modest example of 1930s suburban bijou, but then I thought it grand and magical. Granny in the doorway, looking slightly top-heavy with her bosomy torso balanced on girlishly slender legs, dogs yapping behind her, smelled of eau de cologne and cigarettes. In every room there were open boxes of cork-tipped Craven A’s, the cigarettes nestling, close-packed, in their pillar-box red containers with the black cat logo. To me, Granny’s cigarettes were a sign of extraordinary opulence in the wartime world of shortages and rations.

“On these visits, my mother would accept a cigarette when Granny offered, but anyone could see that she was an amateur smoker, breathing in and puffing out between coughs. Granny, though, was a professional: she could convey deep meditation with a drag, dismiss an argument with an exhalation, draw a protective veil of smoke around herself and deliver an oracular remark from behind it, extinguish a conversation and a cigarette in one gesture. She was a study in the rhetoric of smoking. She also had the fascinating knack of blowing smoke rings, for me only, when she was in the mood.

“She had just turned fifty. Every expedition to see her was a treat for me, if a rather scary one, for Granny was the first person I knew to maintain a visible disconnect between what she said and how she really felt. Extravagant daily labour went into her appearance – the greying permed hair, the rouge and powder, the scent, the afternoon rests taken in her darkened bedroom, from which she emerged freshly dressed and in a new and unpredictable mood, along with her dogs, a pair of miniature Yorkshire terriers named Timmy and Charles who slept at her feet. Granny was a creature of artifice, and though she was always smiling, one couldn’t trust her smiles because there was often something wicked to be glimpsed behind them.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Kamokuna Lava Ocean

Poem: Terese Coe, “Idomeni”

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This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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