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Double Negative; Classified Info; Air Pollution, In a Positive Light

Very Short List delivers one excellent item to your inbox, daily: Books, films, music, web-things, and dispatches on science and technology. Today, see revealing portraits of today’s lonelyhearts, discover the benefits of air pollution, and read a bold new novel about postracial America.

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VERY SHORT LIST

Double negative
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Invisible Man Erasure
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FICTION
I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Percival Everett’s audacious new novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, is narrated by a young man named Not Sidney Poitier, who happens to look exactly like Sidney Poitier. And like Everett’s 2002 novel Erasure, it’s a tour de force.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier begins as a coming-of-age story. Midway through, it turns into a domestic comedy — a latter-day update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. And here’s where the novel gets really interesting: If Everett’s writing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, then Not Sidney Poitier is, in fact, Sidney Poitier. But who was Sidney Poitier if not a reflection of everything that America once wanted its black men to be? And conversely, if Sidney Poitier himself wasn’t quite Sidney Poitier, who is Not Sidney Poitier supposed to be? These aren’t academic questions:Everett’s echo chamber is full of feeling, and it says a great deal about our nominally postracial America. It’s also very, very funny.

BUY I Am Not Sidney Poitier (Graywolf; paperback; 272 pages)

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VSL:WEB

Classified info
Mary Ellen Mark Plato's Retreat Craigslist
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PHOTO PROJECT
Mark Andrew’s “de-classified”

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The recent spate of CRAIGSLIST KILLER headlines makes Mark Andrew’s already-interesting photo essay “de-classified” even more compelling.

A few months ago, Andrew began responding to personal ads, asking the placers if they’d sit for a photograph. To his surprise, many did: He has snapped 50-plus pix to date. Here’s a 67-year-old man who’s in the market for a rich, attractive woman — with a gambling habit. There’s a man and woman who are searching for another couple; given that they’re naked, we assume they aren’t looking for gin-rummy opponents. And as for the 42-year-old man who’s clutching a photo of Marilyn Monroe and seeking the perfect woman — well, we wish him the best of luck.

CHECK OUT Mark Andrew’s “de-classified”

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VSL:SCIENCE

Air pollution, in a positive light
Ocean Acidification Eating the Sun Clean Coal
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PAPER
Plants prefer polluted skies

According to a new paper by researchers at the University of Exeter, a certain amount of air pollution may actually be good for the planet.

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Atmospheric particles — such as the emissions of coal-fueled power plants — scatter the sun’s UV rays. Less light reaches the earth (some is reflected back into space), but the light that does reach us falls in more diffuse patterns, with more light hitting the leaves of plants at the bottom of forest canopies. The end result is more botanical growth and a nearly 25 percent increase in “global plant productivity,” which removes carbon from the atmosphere. Paradoxically, then, our desire to limit greenhouse gases may result in a marked decrease in air quality.

READ “A Little Air Pollution Boosts Vegetation’s Carbon Uptake”

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