Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
No reason to mince words here: With this eruptive debut novel, Lee Durkee, a Mississippian who has tended bar in Vermont for the past 15 years, has just kicked in the door of Southern literature. Or maybe that splintered door belongs to American lit; it’s getting harder and harder to tell them apart these days, what with the great Cormac gone cowboy and the rest of Faulkner’s chillen fumbling around the strip malls. Durkee’s publisher is likening him to John Irving, and while that comparison is understandable — for one, the novel features a fatal baseball snafu reminiscent of Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” — it is by far too epidermal. Durkee writes with the verve of a young Philip Roth or Thomas McGuane:
Dangerously thin, dressed in a pleated black dancer’s skirt with black leotards below and tight black ribbed shirt above, Amber appeared torn between death and disco.
The cop was squinting at the Polaroids so intently that it appeared the developing process was of telepathic origin.
But, even more than these, Durkee calls to mind the early Barry Hannah — rattling his lingual sabers, jitterbugging on the edge of absurdity, lobbing lit firecrackers at his startled audience. “Rides of the Midway” is a manic, sloshed, whiny, fizzy, horny, noisome and wondrous novel.
Set in the ’70s in the skankier, preacher-riddled portions of south Mississippi, the action begins when 10-year-old Noel Weatherspoon, playing Little League ball for the Standard Oil Red Sox, shatters the collarbone of the opposing catcher and sends the poor tyke into a coma. This collision, however haphazard and incidental, launches the decade-long spiritual unraveling that constitutes the bulk of Durkee’s story: Noel plunges headlong into drugs, pornography, voyeurism, sex with a watermelon (leading, it begs mention, to a family supper worthy of the Portnoys), mercy killing, more drugs, vandalism, adultery and so on.
It’s an extravagantly hedonistic spiral, to be sure, but not one wholly nihilistic; underpinning the novel’s deft and toothsome hilarity is Noel’s hopped-up and half-witted grab for theological autonomy, a Baudelairean effort to escape the prepackaged salvation championed by his Billy Graham look-alike stepfather and church-soaked community and to find God — or, less concretely, whatever designer propels this “darkly spinning” world — on none but his own terms. Noel’s effort is a vital, almost-involuntary one, as vital and involuntary as this coarsely graceful novel feels — as vital and involuntary, that is, as the truest art.
Jonathan Miles, a contributing editor at Men's Journal, writes regularly for Salon Books.More Jonathan Miles.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.