The Rest Is History

Cleaning up Yellowstone, the secrets of Lord Byron, and getting liberated in the 1970s.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, June 10, 2016


 Visitors feed a bear from a garbage cart in Yellowstone National Park, c. 1872–1918. National Park Service.

• Is The Price of Salt, a romantic novel written by Patricia Highsmith, really so different from the author’s other work? “Among people who know the novel at all, it’s a commonplace that this one is ‘different’ from other Highsmith fiction. I disagree. It’s true that no one gets bludgeoned or garroted in The Price of Salt, but once one starts looking, one can’t help but notice sinister touches throughout—enough to give the work a peculiarly sickly cast.” (Bookforum)

• Building a sexual utopia in 1970s California. (Atlas Obscura)

• Byron’s lost memoirs: “The story goes that three of his closest friends (his publisher, John Murray; his fellow celebrity poet, Thomas Moore; and his companion since his Cambridge days, John Cam Hobhouse), together with lawyers representing Byron’s half-sister and his widow, decided that the manuscript was so scandalous, so unsuitable for public consumption, that it would ruin Byron’s reputation forever. Gathered in Murray’s drawing room in Albemarle Street, they ripped up the pages and tossed them into the fire. The incident is often described as the greatest crime in literary ­history. It has certainly served to fuel curiosity and conjecture about Byron’s personal life for another couple of centuries. What was the damning secret his friends needed to protect? Domestic abuse? Sodomy? Incest? Probably all three, we imagine.” (The Times Literary Supplement)

• Grading books: an exercise in futility? (The New Republic)

• How the National Park Service learned to care for its lands: “At the inception of the national parks, visiting them was a pretty high-impact affair. At Yellowstone and Yosemite in the 1880s, tourists and their guides and hoteliers hunted wild animals for food and sport, cut down trees for firewood and construction materials, and chipped souvenirs off the natural waterworks of Mammoth Hot Springs. Unequipped with today’s ecological knowhow, the rangers weren’t much better. In the 1920s they trapped and shot wolves, cougars, and coyotes in a misguided attempt to restore populations of deer and elk that had themselves been shot out.” (Signature

• Downloading hi-res images from art museums: harder than it looks! (Hyperallergic)