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Geoffrey Young

GEOFFREY YOUNG is a writer living in Brooklyn.

Once Upon a Lifetime…

Stephen Tobolowsky is an actor. He is also a radio host, teacher of improv, amasser of trivia, and, one suspects, an enchanting dinner party raconteur. It is, therefore, his nature to seek story.

The Pen is Mightier

Might my handwriting reveal something about me that I don’t already know? Flipping through the pages of Philip Hensher’s Missing Ink, I was delighted to find that of the many pictorial examples given, my own hand most closely resembles Adolf Hitler’s.

Lessons in Empathy

Attack and temptation awaken in their targets a similar brand of self-revelation. In either case, something neither asked for nor pursued comes to one’s doorstep, and along with its heralding of diverse, powerful emotion is the choice of how to respond.

Speaking of Evil

Just over a month after watching CNN get pilloried by rival media for its sympathetic coverage of two convicted teenage rapists in Steubenville, Ohio, I found myself glued to the television as every media outlet filled the tense hours following the identification of the Boston marathon bombers with bland updates, vague live-video angles, pointless maps, and whatever information they could scrounge up about who these young men were.

When Darkness Isn’t Dark

David Schickler’s memoir, The Dark Path, presents a fertile, if somewhat familiar, topic: a young man torn between a call to the Catholic priesthood and a desire to plumb the rich and gritty realities of secular life, especially those involving women.

The Incidental Physicists

In The Accidental Universe, the MIT physicist and lauded novelist explores the universe in a scant collection of imaginative essays.

Joyce’s Sublime Depravity

James Joyce’s Ulysses perches atop any number of Greatest Novel lists, but sit today’s average reader down with the tome and the first few pages will ratify its current reputation as “difficult,” “weird,” or even “impenetrable.”

The Uncertainty Principle

The essayist Kent Russell had two grandfathers who made a tradition of bestowing gifts of their own military memorabilia on his birthdays while recounting their heroic exploits in World War II.

Kids Today

Among the shooters, there are commonalities—social isolation, feelings of persecution, psychotropic drug use, obsessive playing of violent video games (like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft), etc.—that experts will, in every aftermath, desperately try to collate and quantify with the hope of achieving some understanding of a phenomenon that has become appallingly familiar in our culture.

Upgrade or Retrograde?

Recently, I took my cracked and obsolete iPhone 4S to the AT&T store for a much-needed trade. I sauntered in proudly and, with no effort to modulate a note of pleased roguishness in my voice, declared to the salesperson that I wished to turn in the battle-scarred old smartphone for—how did I put it?—“Just a basic cell phone.”

Everyone’s a Critic

In May of 2012, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott penned an unfavorable critique of the Marvel blockbuster-to-be, The Avengers, citing its “bloated cynicism” and “hectic emptiness.” The pan was quickly avenged on Twitter by one of the film’s stars, Samuel L. Jackson, who suggested that Mr. Scott find a job “he can ACTUALLY do.”

The Gray Scale

The abandoned apartment building on East Tyler Street in the Barrio Buena Vida neighborhood of Brownsville, Texas, is a place of constant local conversation and consideration because of a violent crime that occurred under its roof. This is saying something.

Lasting Memory

he classical art of memory, as described by Renaissance scholar Frances Yates in her 1966 book, The Art of Memory, was “invented” by Simonides, lyric poet of ancient Greece, after the roof of a banquet hall collapsed and he, the only survivor, was able to identify the mangled corpses of his fellow revelers by the order of their arrangement around the table.

Noble Deceit

Robert Ames, the subject of Kai Bird’s forthcoming The Good Spy, was a clandestine officer for the C.I.A. in the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s.


Charles D’Ambrosio wants his essays to live. This is not to say he hopes they endure as literature, though he no doubt does, as any writer would. Rather, by investing them with a high-minded casualness of style that indulges flights, digressions, intrusions, and colloquialisms, he creates an effect whereby the reader is not absorbing the pronouncements of an authority asserting his mastery over a topic so much as hearing very eloquent off-the-cuff thoughts by an impressively perceptive friend.

Drifting Away

Al Alvarez is a poet, novelist, poker aficionado, former mountaineer, reluctant ager, and lifelong swimmer. Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal is the account of his year-round visits to the ponds of Hampstead Heath, London, as he wades into the twilight of his life.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2023

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