CULTURE

Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

When we get there

Now that Pittsburgh has washed the soot from its buildings and reinvented itself for the 21st century, it is often easy to forget that our fair city was once a coal town, sitting atopone of the oldest and richest mineral deposits in the world.

Song of Canonsburg

The bustling borough of Canonsburg, 20 miles due south of Pittsburgh, was incorporated Feb. 22, 1802, on what Mother always called George Birthington’s Washday. Yes, it was a bit disrespectful. But so was Mother. And so, for that matter, was George.

The Oldest Trick in the Book

With an estimated 2,000 new and reissued titles entering the book market each week, no one can read everything. Now, thanks to Pierre Bayard, a French critic and psychoanalyst, no one actually has to read anything. The author of How to Talk About Books One Hasn’t Read? (Comment Parler des…

Song of Lawrenceville

As a child growing up in Pittsburgh in the ‘50s, I thought that Lawrenceville was named for our mayor and that the soldier statue at Butler and 34th Street was David L. Lawrence as a young man.

Who is That Guy, Anyway?

Collecting is an addictive passion. My wife and I collect architect-​designed chairs, carved and inlaid wood items, textiles, bakelite dress clips, pre-​Revolutionary maps of New England, miniature hats and, perhaps the strangest, glass swizzle sticks with a Pittsburgh provenance.

Almost Human

Who says you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?! In his new book, “Almost Human: Making Robots Think,” Lee Gutkind, the guru of creative nonfiction, does just that; using his literary skills to transform prosaic material about machines into an exuberant celebration of human creativity.

From the Outside In

Pittsburgh has always left vivid impressions on the mind of the outsider. For some reason, however, visiting writers have been less kind to Pittsburgh than visiting artists.

Song of Weirton

We talk about living in the Tri-​State Area, figuratively. The “we” in Weirton live in it literally. My waitress at Mario’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street is a fine example: She’s wearing a black-​and-​gold, No. 7 Roethlisberger jersey as she serves up the boss’s home-​and-​handmade spaghetti, while a poster behind…

Which Came First?

It is almost invisible now, a ghost of a building squatting in the shade of looming hemlocks at the edge of the highway. Though it’s now rundown and overgrown, the brooding brilliance of the place endures. You still can see its crisp, horizontal lines formed by the distinctive, rough-​hewn rocks,…

Wine tips from the Heinz-​Kerry cellar

With her easy tact and predisposition to agree, she might be a diplomat or a counselor — if it weren’t for the one-​liners that slip out, almost as if they’re sneaking up on her, and the highly contagious laughs that follow.

The Lay of the Land

Have you ever stopped to ponder to what extent anatomy — or more correctly, topography — is destiny in the historical development and popular perception of Pittsburgh? Martin Aurand has. In an ambitious, new publication from the University of Pittsburgh Press titled “The Spectator and the Topographical City,” he endeavors…

Andy’s Not the Only One

Sometimes when trying to assess the importance of any one artist, I am reduced to playing the auction trick. What’s it worth? People who have pooh-​poohed Andy Warhol think twice when they hear one of his paintings sells for $14 million. It may be the wrong road to art appreciation,…

Full-​Court Press

Ten bucks says you didn’t know that Pittsburgh is a hotbed of small press activity.

Song of the South Side Slopes

If you went any higher, you’d need a harp. Yard Way on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes is only about half a dozen blocks long, one would say. One would say that if it were in another city. In Pittsburgh, one would be more apt to say it’s half a dozen…

Shadows on a Wall

The increasingly popular genre of creative nonfiction has taken a new turn with the publication of “Shadows on a Wall: Juan O’Gorman and the Mural at Patzcuaro” by Hilary Masters (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005, $24.95). This book-​length essay combines fact and fiction with artistic metaphor, autobiography and imaginative technique…
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