The Wednesday Five


NASA Genius Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson (98) is one the genius mathematician women who inspired the book, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, which then inspired the upcoming movie about their lives, Hidden Figures. Johnson is now poised to see a new generation recognize her accomplishments. Last year, in fact, President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When asked about her persistence in the 1950s to be part of an all-male meeting at NASA, Ms. Johnson shared, “Well, I don’t ever wait for something. I remember asking the question, ‘Is there a law?’ And he said, ‘Let her go.’ It was easier than arguing.”

In a fabulous profile in Vanity Fair and an equally fabulous portrait by Annie Leibowitz, the writer Charles Bolden wrote of Johnson:

With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth.

Read the article at Vanity Fair.



Elena Ferrante: “Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey”

Recently, the Italian journalist Claudio Gatti published an article on the New York Review of Books’ website declaring he had unmasked the “real” Elena Ferrante, the Italian author who has received worldwide fame for the quartet of Neapolitan novels, but who has also guarded her identity fiercely. Well, the internet, writers, fellow journalists and Ferrante fans were not pleased. The outcry over the unmasking, writes Constance Grady in Vox, included the following criticism: “The New Inquiry called the article a violation, and a desecration.” The New Republic called it perverse.” Jezebel called it grandiose and cruel, asking, “What the hell, guys?” And the Times Literary Supplement concluded, brutally, that Gatti’s piece was not an important work of journalism: intellectually, ethically or artistically.

This week in The New York Times, Elaine Blair pondered whether Ferrante’s own book, “Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey,” a collection of press interviews, editorial correspondence and other ephemera, contained some of the more revealing information about who the author is:

Ferrante often points out that readers don’t need authors to explain the work. But by participating in all of these interviews, Ferrante notably retained the ability to comment on her work and regularly did. (Her discussion of her books and her artistic influences makes for some of the most absorbing parts of “Frantumaglia.” Her exchanges with Martone about his screenplay for “Troubling Love,” in which she offers deep interpretations of the book’s narrator, Delia, are particularly interesting, as is a letter to the Italian magazine Indice in which she quotes excised passages from her first two books and explains why she ended up cutting them.)

Read more at The New York Times.



TEDWomen 2016

Last week,  TEDWomen 2016 opened in San Francisco where women and their ideas — on everything from race to nuclear weapons to philanthropy and time management — were center stage. Although the videos of the women’s incredible talks aren’t ready yet, the bloggers were in full form, documenting the 5 sessions of incredible talks. Here is the wrap up.


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