An interesting story of a heist – of a rare book, committed by college students.
By one o’clock that afternoon, the 227-year-old liberal-arts college was swarming with campus police, uniformed Lexington Police, plainclothes detectives, and forensic teams, as well as local news crews covering the developing “Transy Book Heist,” a crime that would one day be listed among the F.B.I.’s all-time most significant art-theft cases. From the facts that were available, it appeared that a team of four men, described as Caucasian, in their 20s, had stolen some of the most prized books and manuscripts in the university’s collection, and attacked a librarian in the process. The take could be more than $5 million. The thieves left no fingerprints behind, and there were almost no witnesses.
“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
It’s easy to feel as if safety has a universal definition. Freedom from want, freedom from fear—aren’t those what everyone means when they think of safety? Perhaps, but the routes through the world to that state of being are circuitous and varied. Smoke alarms, for instance, have been required in every American bedroom since 1993. We rarely think about them, except to grouse when they go off while we’re cooking. France, however, only began requiring residential smoke alarms in 2015. Switzerland, rated the safest country in the world in 2015 by one consumer-research firm, has not mandated them at all. There is not a simple, one-way progression from a state of nature to a state of safety. Even within nations, there are fundamental divisions about how we want to deal with risk.
When you immerse yourself deeply into nature, exposing yourself to discomfort and risk, you recalibrate more sensitively to unseen patterns and rhythms. You feel your own pulse and breath instilled with a peace and calmness. The rugged landscape becomes hewn differently, takes on more intimate contours. Immersed daily in the sea, swimming in all weathers, it is interesting how other aspects of your life start adjusting to this routine. Tasks are organised differently, more closely aligned to the bigger cycles of sun, moon and tides and seasonal shifts. Some call this biodynamic living, and it makes sense. It connects the unique solitude of every animate or inanimate sentience, and connects it to an expansive, interconnected universe.
It is easier to conjure the intellectual-literary atmosphere of an era when it is 30 years’ past than when it is a mere decade ago. It is hard to see 2010 right now, as we wait for time and the canon to true the lens, but I have a very clear sense-memory of revelation and exhilaration as I sped through David Mitchell’s epic-historical ghost story, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, wondering if the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson had momentarily taken possession of Haruki Murakami. Here was a reminder that the world of a novel—in this case, a very detailed rendering of an 18th-century Dutch trading post in the port of Nagasaki—can be fuller, more vivid, than our own, that it can exist as a hothouse for the reader’s moral imagination.
Ottessa Moshfegh is famous for writing about uncomfortable characters experiencing uncomfortable circumstances. When I received the press copy of her latest novel, Death in Her Hands (Penguin Press), COVID-19 was, in North America, a penumbra hovering over the early weeks of 2020. By the time I spoke with Moshfegh in early June, the world had changed—becoming, at least for many, a distinctly more uncomfortable place. The protagonist and narrator of Death in Her Hands is an older woman named Vesta Gul (her surname, perhaps tellingly, is oft mispronounced as “Ghoul”). A 72-year old widow, Vesta lives modestly in an isolated cabin in the New England woods with her dog, Charlie. At the beginning of the book, Vesta finds a note that reads: “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
When you are the moving object, and you build up momentum, stopping can be hard. I get addicted to the view over the next rise. Sometimes on a road trip I fall into a rhythm where I don’t even want to stop for gas. This used to drive my family crazy. They were always saying they were hungry, they had to go to the bathroom, and so on. I tried not to listen. Eventually, they would shout and kick the back of my seat, and I had to pull over somewhere. Then I got out and paced impatiently while they took forever, dawdling in restrooms and convenience-store aisles. When I’m in moving-object phase, I am not good to be with. For everybody’s sake, it’s better if I travel alone or with like-minded maniacs. That way I spare the innocent and make nobody crazy but myself.
I once asked the great historian Richard Southern whether he would like to have met any of the medieval saints and churchmen about whom he wrote so eloquently. He gave a cautious reply: ‘I think they probably had very bad breath.’ He may have been right about that, but it would be wrong to infer that this was something which didn’t bother them. The men and women of the Middle Ages may have had a greater aversion to unpleasant body odours than their descendants do now. If so, this was bad luck, for they were much more likely to encounter them than we are in our deodorised world
I admire those who are stable enough to keep reading essays. From now on, I vow to read only fiction. For me, the well of individual experience has run dry, the mountain been mined, the carcass picked clean. The only one to tell me the truth — about the twin agonies of bodily sickness and mental obsession, and the need to get worse before I got better — was Nathan Zuckerman. Not only does the limitation of the physical being cause depression, but the tension within the mind can make the body sicker.