homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about Susan Orlean

The Bounty of the Public Library

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2018

Wonderful writer Susan Orlean1 is out with a new book called The Library Book, which is specifically about a 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library and more generally a love letter to libraries. The New Yorker recently published an excerpt.

Our visits were never long enough for me — the library was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the shelves, scanning the spines of the books until something happened to catch my eye. Those trips were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I desired and what she was willing to buy me; in the library, I could have anything I wanted. On the way home, I loved having the books stacked on my lap, pressing me under their solid, warm weight, their Mylar covers sticking to my thighs. It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for; such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.

Like Orlean and probably many of you readers, I loved the library when I was a kid. Browsing the shelves, I felt like any and all knowledge was literally at my fingertips. My sister and I would each check out a mess of books, read them all in like a day and a half, and then we’d switch and read each others’ — I have read at least the first dozen of The Baby-Sitters Club books and a lot of Nancy Drew as well as all of Judy Blume’s pre-1990 oeuvre. Our family didn’t have a lot of money growing up and Orlean is spot-on with how wonderful & transformative the infinite library felt compared to the fraught retail environment of forbidden Pac-Man notepads, Bazooka Joe gum, and baseball cards.

  1. I am a little biased here (aren’t I always though?) — I designed Susan’s website back in the day…and the design is still hanging in there!

Seeking webmaster/designer for a small project

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2011

Ever since designing the site back in 2001, I’ve been the webmaster for Susan Orlean’s web site. Susan is my favorite client, but I don’t have the time to devote to the site anymore so Susan and I are looking for someone to take over. Here are some rough requirements for the position:

- The site and its administration are pretty simple; you should be comfortable with editing HTML, CSS, the Unix command line, Movable Type, SFTP, and such.

- You should possess a little bit of design sense. Your immediate task will be to flesh out the page for Susan’s upcoming book about Rin Tin Tin, so you’ll need to figure out how to fit the required content into a clean well-presented readable layout. There’s not a lot of heavy Photoshop or Illustrator work required…this is not a redesign-the-site project.

- On-going maintenance is fairly minimal…occasional text updates, new article additions, dealing with very infrequent site outages, etc. You know, good old fashioned webmastering. Your monthly time commitment for maintenance will be in the ballpark of 0-30 minutes.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact Susan with a short note about who you are, the work you do, links (not attachments!) to a portfolio or resume, that sort of thing. Make sure the subject line clearly references this project somehow. Thanks!

Algorithmic friendship and other modern phenomena

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2010

Susan Orlean catalogs the different kinds of online “friends” one might have.

The friend you sort of know, because you have friends in common and have maybe attended the same events — not together, but you’ve both ended up there because you know a lot of the same people. You perhaps would not have thought to invite this person to a small party, and yet you do include him in your wider sense of your social circle — and you now communicate with him via social media more than you ever did before such a thing existed, and you now have a surprising intimacy after years of static, unenergetic just-sort-of-knowing one another (formerly known as “an acquaintance”).

Intimate strangers

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2010

Susan Orlean writes about the lopsided intimacy of big cities and social media.

Life in Manhattan is like living inside a gigantic Twitter stream. What you get to know about people you don’t know simply by accidental adjacency is astonishing.

On donkeys, the “little pistons” of Morocco

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2009

Susan Orlean travels to Morocco to find out about donkeys for Smithsonian magazine.

The medina in Fez may well be the largest urbanized area in the world impassable to cars and trucks, where anything that a human being can’t carry or push in a handcart is conveyed by a donkey, a horse or a mule. If you need lumber and rebar to add a new room to your house in the medina, a donkey will carry it in for you. If you have a heart attack while building the new room on your house, a donkey might well serve as your ambulance and carry you out. If you realize your new room didn’t solve the overcrowding in your house and you decide to move to a bigger house, donkeys will carry your belongings and furniture from your old house to your new one. Your garbage is picked up by donkeys; your food supplies are delivered to the medina’s stores and restaurants by mule; when you decide to decamp from the tangle of the medina, donkeys might carry your luggage out or carry it back in when you decide to return. In Fez, it has always been thus, and so it will always be. No car is small enough or nimble enough to squeeze through the medina’s byways; most motorbikes cannot make it up the steep, slippery alleys. The medina is now a World Heritage site. Its roads can never be widened, and they will never be changed; the donkeys might carry in computers and flat-screen televisions and satellite dishes and video equipment, but they will never be replaced.

This is probably the most interesting thing you’ll ever read about donkeys.

Regarding Susan Orlean’s piece on Robert Lang

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2007

Regarding Susan Orlean’s piece on Robert Lang and origami from a couple of weeks ago, the New Yorker has posted a 5-minute audio slideshow of Orlean talking about the piece.

Robert Birnbaum interview with Susan Orlean. Here’s

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2006

Robert Birnbaum interview with Susan Orlean. Here’s his first interview with her from 2001.

Update: I linked to this without reading it first, something I *never* do, but now that I’ve read it, there’s really some great stuff in there about the writing process, magazines (specifically The New Yorker), and editing. And great quotes like “I’d rather work for Drunken Boat than for Time magazine, to be honest with you”. Ouch for Time magazine.

Idolspize…when you simultaneously idolize and despise someone.

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2006

Idolspize…when you simultaneously idolize and despise someone.

The NYTimes profiles Susan Orlean and John

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2006

The NYTimes profiles Susan Orlean and John Gillespie’s new house in upstate New York (audio slideshow). It looks gorgeous.

Susan Orlean attempts to answer the question

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2006

Susan Orlean attempts to answer the question about why fans at Fenway sing Sweet Caroline during the game.