By Nathan Bierma
Content & Context
TIMELINE: JULY 2004
"There is a feeling of Eternity in youth," wrote William Hazlitt, but in the youth of tennis player Maria Sharapova, the opposite is true: life is happening in a hurry. It took just 17 years from the time she was born in Siberia for her to win Wimbledon last month. "I never, never in my life expected this to happen so fast," she said. Youth is taking a while, on the other hand, for Leonid Stadnik in the Ukranian village of Podoliantsi. Thanks to a brain operation in adolescence, reports said last month, Stadnik is over 8 feet tall and, at age 33, still growing. South African sprinter Philip Rabinowitz is still vital at age 100, and set a centenarian record with his 100-meter run in July. Vitality was the presumed reason for John Kerry's choice of running mate, and what was risked by a Chicago tourist who had a close call at the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The revitalization of Iraq seemed as elusive as it was urgent to new Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, though not for Baghdad's new Contemporary Visual Arts Society.
Francis Crick, who with James Watson unwound the mysteries of DNA, died last month at age 88. Marlon Brando, whose unforgettable roles came in such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather, died at age 80. R.W. Burchfield added over 60,000 words to the Oxford English Dictionary. Charles Sweeney dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Isabel Sanford, who starred on The Jeffersons, was the first black woman to receive an Emmy for best actress. Before millions of viewers watched his cooking show The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith was a chaplain who opened a store called the Chaplain's Pantry.
From the New York Times :
DURBAN, South Africa — At S Cemetery in Umlazi Township, Innocent Gasa's handiwork is everywhere: endless mounds of fresh red earth topped with headstones, unpainted wooden crosses, or, for the most miserable, bricks bearing a painted identifying number. Mr. Gasa has dug graves on this lumpy, unkempt, Halloween-spooky hilltop for two years now, five holes a week, 52 weeks a year, well over 500 holes in all. Which may seem peculiar, seeing as S Cemetery exhausted its last space for new graves five years ago. City records sum up its status succinctly, even dismissively: "Full." But in Durban, "full'' is a term of art. This city is being battered by an AIDS pandemic so sweeping that people are dying faster than the city can find space to bury them. And so gravediggers like Mr. Gasa are reopening existing graves—the city calls it "recycling''—and interring fresh bones atop the old ones.
NAUVOO, Illinois.—High upon a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River stands a soaring Mormon temple, the biggest building for many miles around. Closed to non-Mormons, it symbolizes the tension that has reshaped life in what was until recently a typical Midwestern town. The Mormons opened their rebuilt temple here two years ago, and since then more than half a million people, many from Utah, have come to see it. About 300 Mormons have moved here, bringing the population to 1,100. … Mormons have brought a good deal of money to Nauvoo, something that many other towns along the Mississippi River might envy. Places like Warsaw, 17 miles north, and Fort Madison, Iowa, on the other side of the river, have few apparent prospects and seem to be shriveling away. In Nauvoo, though, Mormons have restored two dozen historic buildings to give visitors a sense what life may have been like here in the 1840's. Cars, many with Utah license plates, creep in and out of a new 200-car garage.
JUNE BOOK BLOG
• "Fresh" prose paces summary of all of human history, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- From Augustine to Barth: "the roots of political theology"; and the history of the military chaplaincy, from First Things.
- Hannah Arendt's judgment about evil, from Dissent magazine.
- Serendipity in scientific discovery, from the American Scientist.
- Trotsky and the two Russian revolutions, from the Atlantic Monthly.
- How the queen became the most powerful chess piece, from the Boston Globe.
- The roots of wine-making: ancient viniculture, from the American Scientist, and feasts in history, from the New York Review of Books.
- Spain's reign in the age of the explorers, from the New York Times .
- Men's clothes in American history, from Common-place.
- How Pullman porters faced racism and opportunity, from the San Francisco Chronicle.
- How the Pentagon censors war movies, from the Boston Globe.
- Adaptation of Dante's Divine Comedy ponders paradise and parking lots, from the London Review of Books.
- Dale Peck blasts contemporary fiction for being "increasingly esoteric and exclusionary, falsely intellectual and alienating," from the New York Review of Books.
- Novel imagines Noah's family life aboard the ark, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- Like its setting in the Ganges delta, novel has "a melancholic and fragile beauty," says the Economist.
- "Cerebral satire" about a reluctant spiritual healer diagnoses health care system, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- June book blog
Nathan Bierma is editorial assistant at Books & Culture. He writes the weekly "On Language" column for the Chicago Tribune.