Timothy Farrington

  • Moonwalking with Einstein

    The world’s best memorizers, or “mental athletes” (as they insist on being called in a self-defeating bid for gravitas), can memorize the order of an entire deck of cards in thirty seconds flat or recite pi to eighty thousand digits. In his delightful Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer recounts how, after being awed by similar feats at the 2005 US Memory Championship (though the field, he later learned, is perennially weak by world standards), he decided to come back as a contestant. This was no Plimptonian lark: He spent much of a year drilling on digits and cards in his parents’ basement,

  • The Traveller’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands

    Before he was a writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor was merely a war hero, having earned his first fame from deep-cover exploits with the Greek Resistance. During World War II he hid in the rugged mountains of Crete, leading cat-and-mouse strikes against the German occupiers—experience that surely served him well a couple years later when, as he describes in his account of postwar travels in the Caribbean, The Traveller’s Tree, he ventured once again into hostile territory: the Dunghill in Kingston, Jamaica. This rickety slum, the “refuge of all the robbers and footpads and murderers of Jamaica,” was

  • Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language

    What did the Russian say to the German at the marketing conference? Something in English, most likely. As the working language of international business, science, diplomacy, and culture, English is spoken daily by millions of people whose native tongue is something else. Can the UK and the US, their linguistic influence diluted by masses of foreign speakers, keep a controlling stake in the language they popularized? Not for long, argues Robert McCrum in Globish, an engaging but uneven history of how this language became the world’s common currency.

    McCrum, an editor at the London Observer and

  • Perfecting Sound Forever

    It used to be that all music was recorded live. To cut a song in the Edison era, musicians clustered around a phonograph horn like bees pollinating a flower. The louder they played, the more the horn vibrated and the more undulating was the groove incised in the wax cylinder. If they didn’t like the result, they could try again, but editing was impossible. Eight decades later, the process had become more like an assembly line. For their album Hysteria (1987), the members of Def Leppard separately recorded not only each instrument (standard practice by then) but individual guitar notes, layering