The Great Spy’s Dream

I asked Patrick if there was anything particularly useful he could pass on to me “about the CIA.” “The first thing to remember is that nobody connected to the Agency calls it the CIA. It’s plain CIA.”

—Harry Mathews, My Life in CIA. 

The Splashy Debut Novel is Dead—Or Is It?

Are the big publishing houses using independent presses as a farm league to scout for talent, and exiting the market for big-gamble debuts? James McGirk reports.

The Metropolitan Trilogy

After writing a spate of reasonably successful—and very autobiographical—novels, James Ellroy and Martin Amis took the cities surrounding them and used them as test beds, experimenting with new voices and forms and populating this familiar terrain with doppelgangers and villains and foils and sexual obsessions.

Moore, OK Tornado Reporting Credits (i.e. not bylines)

16 Minutes

Tornado-Ravaged Moore Takes First Steps to Recovery

Wrenching Decisions as Tornado Flattens School

Constitutional Crisis

This Land Press cover

Cherokee Nation has what seems to be an unusual fixation with lawyers and writing—at least for an outsider looking in. Cherokee museums are dense with detail about treaties, newspapers, and literacy.

Inside the Abattoir

Chevideco, the Belgian horse meat conglomerate, touts a single story in its press section: a taste test held at a west London home was arranged by Sir Peter Bazalgette, who writes a column for the Financial Times and chairs Britain’s Arts Council.

Remembering Life in Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s Futuristic Desert Utopia

In 1998, James McGirk spent five weeks living and working in Arcosanti, a desert community built in the 1970s that attempts to use ornate architectural planning to help create a harmonious society. Its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Paolo Soleri, passed away this week at age 93; McGirk remembers his experiences at the location and his interactions with Soleri.

The game of (not) life

There is no better analogy for contemporary art than Conway’s Game of Life. This is not the same thing as The Game of Life, which is played on a board and simulates the education and subsequent useful employment of a human being. Conway’s Game of Life is a math game, an evolution simulator simple enough to be played on a checkerboard, but most often encountered on a computer. In the game, three rules govern whether or not an individual “cell” lives, dies or reproduces.

Destination: Oklahoma

Going West is an adventure. Maybe not as much as was when you had to take a covered wagon and float across the Mississippi and shoot bison along the way for food, but still, it’s a thrill. My wife and I decided we’d had enough of New York City. She’d been there almost fifteen years, I’d been there ten, and as ostensible creatives it seemed foolish to work 90 hours a week before we even began our “real work.”

A Battered Bag of Memories

Strangers calling on a Friday night don’t often bring good news. My wife begged me not to pick up. A tiny voice asked if he was speaking to James Brandon McGirk. I told him he was. “A James Brandon McGirk who was born in London in 1979?” Yes, I replied. Yes, I am. Who’s calling? “A Concerned Citizen was his reply…