#Resistance Twitter Star Seth Abramson Wants to Turn His Threads Into a Book

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Over the past two years, New Hampshire professor and writer Seth Abramson has cultivated a #resistance Twitter following of more than 500,000 by posting lengthy threads prognosticating about the direction of the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

And now, following in the footsteps of other #resistance heroes, he’s looking to leverage his Twitter fame to get into a new line of business. In his case, he’s shopping a book.

“People have been blindsided by the Trump phenomenon,” explained Aram Sinnreich, a media studies professor at American University. “They need an explanation to help them deal” with the current political climate, he added. And so popular pundits look to cash in on that need.

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V.S. Naipaul Was a Great Author Though Not Such a Great Man

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“The lives of writers,” said V.S. Naipaul in 1994, “are a legitimate subject of inquiry, and the truth should not be skimped.” So let’s not skimp.

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, who died Saturday at his home in London six days before his 86th birthday, was “the greatest living writer in the English language.” So thought another V.S.—Pritchett—in 1980. His productivity was amazing: from his first book, a novel, The Mystic Masseur (1957), to his last, The Masques of Africa, a nonfiction work (2010), more than 30 volumes of fiction, essays, memoirs, and, for want of a more precise word, travel books.

He was also selfish, petty, snobbish, jealous of other writers, and utterly lacking in personal loyalty. In support of all this, there was the treatment of his first wife, Patricia Hale, who read and edited all his manuscripts. When she was undergoing treatment for the breast cancer that would kill her within two years, Hale found out that Naipaul had frequented prostitutes—and found out by reading an interview he gave to The New Yorker. “It could be said that I killed her,” he said later, “I feel a little bit that way.” (To be fair, Naipaul rededicated a reprint of his third novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, to her.)

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The Real Message Of Hemingway’s ‘New’ Story

The publication of Ernest Hemingway’s 1956 short story, “A Room on the Garden Side,” in the current issue of The Strand Magazine, a literary quarterly, has generated widespread interest. Until now “A Room on the Garden Side” was available only through the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

“A Room on the Garden Side” is a find for anyone interested in Hemingway, but what is surprising about the story, which is set during World War II, is how much it speaks to the present moment when America’s obligations to other nations, especially our European allies, have been thrown into question by the Trump administration.

The turning point in “A Room on the Garden Side” comes when Robert, the story’s narrator and a Hemingway stand-in who, like Hemingway, is called “Papa,” explains why he is engaged in combat that he might easily avoid. Robert’s explanation for the obligation he feels to take part in the war reflects the life he has chosen for himself, and the art of “A Room on the Garden Side” lies in the way we are gradually brought to identify with Robert.

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Cheesy Wrestling in the Shadow of Patsy Cline’s Honky Tonk

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The Troubadour Bar and Lounge was famed as the last honky-tonk bar in the Virginias, and it loomed so high in the Blue Ridge Mountains above Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, that returning to town always felt like landing back on earth.

One night, making the trip myself, I paused at the intersection with Washington Street, Berkeley Springs’ main drag. There was a gas station to my left, which doubled as the welcome sign for anyone coming off the mountain to rejoin civilization. Across the street was the town’s hippie-styled restaurant, specializing in veggie wraps and barbecue ribs. To the right of its brown facade, a narrow, nondescript driveway entrance fell off out of view. I’d never even noticed it during my dozens of stops at this exact spot, but now, right at the cusp of sundown, I could see that a hazy light was shining in the distance, back farther than I would’ve thought that driveway could go. I drove across the street and entered.

The narrow road opened into a series of small parking lots that led up to a wide white steel barn. That’s where the light was coming from: two flood lamps beamed above the tall doors and some vividly well-lit party was underway inside. I parked amid huge pickup trucks and dented sedans and joined a loose flow of multigenerational families toward the yellow-white glow.

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How Washington Wound Up Screwing Over Native Americans

It took eight long years of war to establish the 13 American colonies as an independent nation. Whether the American experiment would flourish in its early years depended far more than we commonly recognize on the new republic’s ability to establish viable relationships with several powerful Indian confederacies west of the Allegheny Mountains that formed the great frontier. These polities stood directly in the path of American civilization’s inexorable march westward across the continent that the founding fathers understood to be the new nation’s destiny. 

The future of America, President George Washington believed deep in his bones, lay in the west, not in its transatlantic relationships. Diplomacy with the Indians probably occupied more of the first president’s time and energy than any other issue during his first term. Indian chiefs and their retinues were frequent dinner guests at the president’s residence. Washington assiduously respected Native American diplomatic protocol by engaging in gift exchange and smoking a long-stemmed pipe with his guests in a sacred commitment to speak truth in conference negotiations, and to honor pledges made.

As Colin G. Calloway makes clear in his provocative and deeply researched new book, The Indian World of George Washington, the task of negotiating these arrangements was exceedingly complicated. Many of these tribes had fought with the British during the Revolution. The Brits had ceded the enormous territory between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1783), but the Indians were not about to relinquish vast swaths of their homelands to the victors just because London had thrown in the towel. The Indians west of the frontier had not suffered military defeat; nor did the Treaty of Paris reflect the realities of military strength beyond the Ohio River.

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How Psalm 137 Inspired Frederick Douglass

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By David W. Stowe, Professor of English and Religious Studies, Michigan State University

On the anniversary of America’s independence, the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass made a biblical Psalm—Psalm 137—best known for its opening line, “By the Rivers of Babylon,” a centerpiece of his most famous speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass told the audience at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, that for a free black like himself, being expected to celebrate American independence was akin to the Judean captives being mockingly coerced to perform songs in praise of Jerusalem.

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How Classic Rock Turned Into a Film Noir Nightmare

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The 1995 death of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia was a shock to me, but no surprise. He was 53 and made a good run, I thought back then, considering his hard living.

Dying at 53 is not a good run. Whether heart attack or heroin, that’s a bad run.

Garcia went early. Now with Prince, Petty, Bowie, Allman and more, final appearances by Classic Rock’s once-large midnight gang are speeding up. Their peers see the Facebook tributes; let’s not talk falsely now, they know the hour’s getting late.

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What Trump Could Learn From Freud’s Daughter About Parentless Kids

Seventy-five years ago in the midst of World War II, Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, and her close friend, Dorothy Burlingham, published their classic study, War and Children, documenting the impact that separating children from their parents had during a time when England was under attack from Nazi Germany.

Freud and Burlingham knew their subject firsthand. They had been directing the Hampstead War Nurseries, which provided children, many of whom had lost their homes to German bombs, with residential care and comparative safety.

Today, thanks to the Trump administration’s policy of criminally prosecuting asylum-seeking adult immigrants who do not cross into the United States legally and separating them from their children, Freud and Burlingham’s study of children in crisis has become relevant in ways its authors never could have imagined in 1943.

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Steven Brill: Trump Didn’t Break It but Can’t Fix It Either

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Journalist Steven Brill’s new book about how the country got into some of its biggest and most vexing problems in the last half-century and how we’re on the verge of fixing many of them is surprisingly optimistic in a very 2018, through-the-looking-glass sort of way.

We do have big things to fix—healthcare, financial regulation, hyper-partisanship, crumbling infrastructure. But none of this—neither the causes nor the solutions—has anything to do with Donald Trump. Well, almost none of it.

“The only way he plays into the book,” Brill said in the single mention of Trump in a 45-minute interview, “is that the 50-year story explains how 46 percent of the electorate was frustrated enough and scattered the right way in the right Electoral College states to elect him.”

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James Clapper: Kim Jong Un Is a God in North Korea

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That December [1984] the Air Force published the names of those nominated for promotion to brigadier general, and I was on the list. I was shocked. My parents and family were very proud, and Sue and Andy got ready to move again. I anticipated returning to the Pentagon as the deputy to the Air Force assistant chief of staff for intelligence, since that position was vacant, but then we got a second surprise: The Air Force was assigning me to be chief of intelligence for US forces in South Korea. My first thought was an old saying I’d heard from my dad: “There are four things in life you want to avoid: pyorrhea, diarrhea, gonorrhea, and Korea,” but I learned just how little influence brigadier general selects have over their destinies.

I reported to Seoul in June 1985 and quickly discovered the obvious— although the position in South Korea was designated for an Air Force officer, it was a job much better suited to an Army officer. It was a humbling experience as a new brigadier general to ask my team of Army colonels to mentor me on things like how to properly roll up the sleeves on my camouflage battle dress uniform. They also helped with Army slang and terminology used around the post, where initially I was almost as lost as I had been when I first reported to Tan Son Nhut Air Base as a lieutenant. I found that I was not just the senior intelligence officer for US forces, but also the deputy to a Korean Air Force two-star in the US–South Korea Combined Forces Command, someone who knew very little about intelligence and was looking to me for guidance. Fortunately, both of the Republic of Korea (ROK) generals whom I served as deputy were capable, smart, and easy to work with, and we eventually found our way.

My “big boss,” Commander of US Forces Korea, Army four-star general Bill Livsey, had been a lieutenant platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division during the Korean War and dug in on the front line when the armistice took effect on July 27, 1953. He knew his business and suffered no fools. He was salty, and in the tradition of General George Patton, excelled at colorful profanity when the occasion called for it. On day one, he made it very clear that the Korean War had never formally ended, the 1953 armistice was just a cease-fire agreement, and North Korea could, and would, invade the South if given the opportunity. From that premise, he gave me his very clear expectations for intelligence. He demanded forty-eight hours of warning ahead of a North Korean attack to give him time to activate the operations plan for the defense of the peninsula and to evacuate all US dependents in South Korea. And because taking those irrevocable actions would have huge diplomatic consequences for the United States and major political implications for the ROK, Livsey required a forty-eight-hour “unambiguous” warning—we had to know for certain that an attack was imminent, and not a bluff or a feint. General Livsey was not one for subtle nuance.

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Gonzo Reporter Says at Least Trump Makes the End of America Entertaining

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For the majority of America, the country is falling apart under Donald Trump. For the minority, the slice that elected Trump, it was falling apart under Barack Obama. 

They’re both right, according to the reporter who chronicled America for most of the past decade. And who had more than a little fun with the ride into hell.

The case is made in the new book, Sh*tshow!: The Country’s Collapsing . . . and the Ratings Are Great, by Charlie LeDuff. LeDuff, 52, may be America’s last great gonzo reporter, who stomped across the country in American flag cowboy boots for as national correspondent for Fox TV. His show was called The Americans and the book is about them, namely the people on the bottom and the people on the top screwing them.

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Michael Smerconish Makes the Case for Bold Moderation

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In our polarized world of “cable carnival shoutfest” and intransigent partisanship, Michael Smerconish is an increasingly exotic and refreshing voice. A prominent Sirius XM radio and CNN television host, he has been a regular contributor to the Daily News from November 2001 until 2007 and after that, a Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper columnist until the present day. Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right is Smerconish’s seventh book. It brings together a representative selection from the 1,047 columns he has written over the past 17 years that cover politics, profiles, life, and miscellanea.

A good number of these columns have stood the test of time. A few others Smerconish probably wishes he had never written. The columns he has included in this book are reprinted here as they appeared in the original form, with an afterword from the author that provides, in his own words, “an update on facts and feelings.” They make for enjoyable reading and remind us that journalism properly practiced requires a good deal of nerve, honesty, and insight, along with openness to dialogue and the determination not to live in a bubble.

Smerconish’s columns offer a representative slice of 21st century American life with all its ups and down, real heroes, and controversial characters. He writes with plain words and communicates his feelings in a straightforward manner. We get to meet here not only the likes of David Duke and Rush Limbaugh but also the sober voices of Arlen Specter, Tim Russert, and Jack Kemp. An inveterate admirer of Ronald Reagan, who he met in his youth, Smerconish does not shy away from applauding, when necessary, the rhetorical skills of President Obama. Nor does he avoid taking to task one of the politicians he respects, Senator John McCain, for failing to put forth an inspiring vision for the country in 2008.

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Jake Tapper and Other Novelists/Anchorpersons as Seen on TV

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You ever notice that “As Seen on TV” sticker that manufacturers put on products like belly-busting exercise equipment or detergents that remove the worst kinds of stain? I never got that.

The gizmos and gadgets they are pitching may be super. But just because someone ran an ad on TV about some device that is supposedly the greatest thing since the Veg-O-Matic or the Pocket Fisherman only tells me the advertiser had enough seed money for the ad. If you ask me, the same is true for authors who exploit their television fame to write and market a book.

As much as you might love the amusing star of some sitcom or the beautiful or hunky local news anchor, do you have any guarantee that a book they write will be worth your time and money? In general, no, but if you follow some simple rules, you may have an enjoyable experience in buying a memoir, a diet book, or a novel that you hope will unearth unknown facts about your fan favorite.

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Stephen King Laments Donald Trump’s ‘Poverty of Thought’

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It’s a terrifying time for democracy, not only in the predictable pockets of repression around the world but right here at home in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

That was the sobering, indeed disturbing, message of Tuesday night’s PEN Literary Gala at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where horror virtuoso Stephen King and dystopian storyteller Margaret Atwood, along with movie star Morgan Freeman, sounded the alarm to a celeb-studded, black-tie crowd of nearly 1,000.

People who write books—and, just as important, people who read them—“are the crucial counterweight to those who are close-minded and mean-spirited,” King told dinner-goers sitting precariously under the museum’s 21,000-pound, 94-foot-long giant blue whale suspended from the ceiling; they included Malcolm Gladwell, Carl Bernstein, Masha Gessen, Walter Mosley, Mona Simpson, Ron Chernow, Robert Caro, Gay Talese, and actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

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Philip Roth Turned the Sentence Into an Art Form

“Beneath those white shirts were arms and chests and shoulders full of a workingman’s strength—powerful they had to be, to pull and pull on leather all their lives, to squeeze out of every skin every inch of leather there was.”

Christ, those sentences! Those perfect, meandering sentences. That’s what I loved most about Philip Roth, who died Tuesday at the age of 85: his prose.

Look closely at that long, em-dashed sentence from American Pastoral, probably Roth’s finest work, written when he was 64 years old. (Of course, Portnoy’s Complaint, from 1973, is the one everyone talks about. But for fans, it’s not even in Roth’s top five.) It’s part of a long, long, long passage—almost 10 printed pages—about the Newark Maid glove factory, owned by the father of the book’s tragic hero, Seymour “The Swede” Levov. I remember when I first read it—I couldn’t believe how long Roth and I were spending with the minutiae of sewing, cutting, spitting, stretching.

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Joanne Lipman Wants Men to Join the ‘Me Too’ Movement

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The “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements, spurred by revelations of horrific and possibly criminal misconduct by politicians, business icons, and Hollywood figures—along with festering sexual harassment and porn star-fling allegations against the putative leader of the Free World—have prompted a global discussion concerning the challenges women face both in and out of the workplace.

They have also inspired a collective case of nerves among men, some in high places, who are currently conducting anxious self-inventories of their actions and attitudes and re-assessing the magnitude of past transgressions.

“With all this talk about sexual harassment, there’s a lot of men who are asking questions like, ‘What do I do now?’” Joanne Lipman told The Daily Beast. “And there’s a lot of men who are now looking at their past behavior and saying, ‘Did I? Can somebody come back to bite me? Could this come back to haunt me? Did I do something 10 years ago that now I’m going to get in trouble for?’ There’s a lot of concern out there.”

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Why Isn’t Jay Gatsby Ever Called the ‘Crazy Ex-Boyfriend’?

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Recent events have revealed that a surprising number of powerful men are, to put it gently, deranged. Until now, these men were routinely forgiven for their obsessive and extreme behavior because boys will be boys, or because geniuses have eccentricities, or because there are all sorts of completely normal reasons why someone might install a remote-control lock on his office door. As we ask ourselves how we could have been so stupid, one answer might lie deep below the surface, in the stories we tell ourselves about what counts as normal “romantic” pursuit. So here’s a thought experiment for our times: Which of the following people is crazy?

Case 1: You’re a young man with a promising future, until an old flame of yours reappears and turns your life upside down. Under the guise of a friendship with your old flame’s husband, you begin spending every evening in her home, joining her family for dinner and then hanging around until the wee hours, to the point where you have no life beyond these moments in her presence. Over the years, you pocket small items belonging to her—lipsticks, keys, jewelry—which you regard as sacred. You eventually build a private museum devoted to her, enshrining everything she ever touched.

Case 2: You’re a young man with a promising future, until an old flame of yours reappears and turns your life upside down. Under the guise of eccentricity for which the wealthy are forgiven, you purchase a mansion overlooking her home, and then rent out a neighboring property to an unwitting relative of hers, whom you quickly befriend—for the sole purpose of having a spy on the inside tracking her every move. Befriending her husband and throwing lavish open-door parties out of the hope that she’ll attend, you devote every action in your life to being in her presence.

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Even the Brilliant Martin Amis Can’t Stop Talking About Trump

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Martin Amis, in an elegant dark overcoat, steps through the black doorway curtain that insulates the denizens of the Brooklyn café from the frigid evening. His face is flushed from the cold, and I must say he looks great. He is, after all, “Martin Fucking Amis,” to borrow a phrase from the professional poker player who used it to buck up Amis before Amis competed—briefly and unsuccessfully—in a Las Vegas poker tournament.

Martin Fucking Amis, as most readers know, is the author of Money, London Fields, and The Information, the caustic, hilarious, defining novels of the final decades of the last century. He’s the novelist whose finest work includes House of Meetings, a tour de force set in the Russian Gulag, Night Train, a darkly funny version of the American police procedural, and The Pregnant Widow, a bittersweet take on the sexual revolution. Besides Amis’ 16 novels and the highly praised memoir Experience, there are five collections of almost dauntingly erudite essays and reportage. The latest of these is to be the subject of our conversation.

The Rub of Time presents quite a list of topics to choose from as the book’s subtitle begins to suggest: “Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump.”

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When Postcards Provided the Perfect Format for Propaganda

Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive– Promised gift of Leonard A. Lauder Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

During its peak in the 20th century, the postcard was everywhere. It was widely considered a popular and accessible medium that was progressive for its time period. It was primarily used as a collectable item that magnified the pressing political and social prejudices of the era.

In 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was founded to serve audiences around the world with art that challenged the thought of imagination. In 2010, it became the residence to the Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive. The archive handled the study of the commerce, distribution, and development of the images. In addition, the archive manifests the narrative perpetuated by the medium itself, and the complications of art during both world wars and the years between.

The Propaganda Front depicts examples of the relationship between art, politics, and propaganda. The imagery raises questions on the role of mass media during this period and the social and political effects these images had on the public. These postcards hold timeless moments of history and showcase the complexities and mastery of graphic design. The following postcard images include universal messages that highlight the preconceptions of its time that can resonate both politically and socially today.

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Willa Cather Nailed the Immigrant Ideal We Should Cherish

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This year Willa Cather’s early masterpiece, My Antonia, turns 100, but these days, thanks to the most explosive immigration crisis in American life since the Reagan era’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 passed Congress, My Antonia has acquired a new timeliness.

At the center of My Antonia lies the Dreamer-like story of Antonia Shimerda Cuzak, a Bohemian immigrant who at age 14 comes with her family to the Nebraska of the 1880s and adapts to life in the West with a completeness unmatched by her American-born neighbors. Antonia’s story is told by Jim Burden, who arrives in Nebraska the same day that she does to live with his grandparents after his own parents have died.

Jim, who has been living in Virginia, must, like Antonia, adjust to the challenges of a Nebraska that is new to him, but his grandparents are kind, prosperous people. The hardships that are Antonia’s are not his. Jim does not have to worry about where his next meal is coming from or how he will get through the cold, Nebraska winters. The difference in the paths that have been laid out for Jim and Antonia, who is four years older than he, is spelled out early in the novel when Antonia says to him, “Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”

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Nothing But Respect for My President: Android Abe Lincoln

Philip K. Dick’s We Can Build You is a Cyrano de Bergerac story. The two lovers are schizophrenics, and the part of Cyrano is played by a robotic replica of Abraham Lincoln. It is the only novel ever written to feature the sentence, “I’m talking to Abraham Lincoln and finding out how to end our relationship forever.”

Written around the Civil War centennial in 1962, We Can Build You is not quite cyberpunk. Lincoln isn’t quite as cool as replicant Rachael in Blade Runner, and our narrator Louis Rosen is definitely no Harrison Ford. He’s an aging schmoe in a near-future world who works for a piano manufacturer that takes a detour into the replica business. Their idea: Civil War replicas! Beginning by recreating Lincoln’s grouchy but dutiful Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, the company then shoot the moon by resurrecting Lincoln himself. But they can’t find a market for their Civil War roleplay, and Rosen falls in love with Pris Frauenzimmer, the schizophrenic and sociopathic teenage designer of the replicas, and one of the nastier entries in Dick’s long line of ice queens.

Somehow, Lincoln becomes Rosen’s legal counsel, personal guide, and life coach. The president’s famed wisdom and savvy are there, but Dick brings him into the novel only to then almost entirely ignore race, history, and politics. Who on earth is this Abraham Lincoln?

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How Alan Hollinghurst Helped Make ‘Gay Literature’ Mainstream

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Novelist Alan Hollinghurst is the literary bard of modern British gay life. His 1987 debut, The Swimming Pool Library, tells the story of a young gay aristocrat tasked with writing the biography of an elderly gay peer. Set in 1983 immediately prior to before the onset of the AIDS crisis— during “the last summer of its kind there was ever to be”—it reaches back in time to the years before World War I, when homosexuality was criminalized and necessarily secretive. The Folding Star, Hollinghurst’s next effort about a young Englishman teaching in Flanders who falls in love with his 17-year-old student, was described by the New York Review of Books as a “homosexual Lolita.” The Line of Beauty, which earned Hollinghurst the Booker Prize in 2004 and was faithfully adapted into a BBC miniseries, takes off from at the point where The Swimming Pool Library ends, following a young Henry James scholar from the provinces lodging with the posh, London family of a Conservative MP elected in Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide. Beautifully written and beguilingly told, its stand-out scene culminates at a party with our coked-up protagonist asking the Iron Lady for a spin on the dance floor.

In keeping with his gay perspective and intergenerational interest, Hollinghurst’s latest novel, The Sparsholt Affair, tracks the lives of a (mostly gay and male) set of characters across seven decades. The story begins at Oxford (a reference point in most of Hollinghurst’s fictions, and from which the author himself graduated) in 1940. The shadow of war hangs over the school, with blackouts and air raid duty and requisitioned buildings. Through a window across the quad, a group of students spot an engineering student on his way to joining the RAF, a young Adonis lifting weights named David Sparsholt. Though his surname adorns the book’s title, he is a character we never really get to know, almost as inscrutable as the chalk portrait one of the captivated fellows draws of him showcasing his perfectly defined torso yet with a neck “open[ing] up to nothing, like the calyx of a flower.”

From Oxford, the novel jumps to 1966, where we see things from the vantage point of David’s 13-year-old son, Johnny. The Sparsholt clan is on a beach vacation in Cornwall with another family, and it is here that the book’s nominal “affair” occurs. We never find out quite what exactly the scandal entails, although it involves David, a Tory MP, a rent boy, and is definitely gay. The only other detail Hollinghurst provides is mention of a blurry, tabloid newspaper photograph taken through a window, a tragic resonance of the means by which the book first introduced us to David 26 years prior at school. Hollinghurst then skips to 1974, 1982, 1995, and 2012, revealing how l’affair Sparsholt reverberates through the generations. The narrative mainly following the travails of Johnny, by now an openly gay and highly in-demand portrait painter whose life intertwines with that of David’s chief Oxford-era admirer.

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Patton Oswalt Looks Back at His Late Wife’s Serial-Killer Obsession

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Michelle McNamara had been obsessed with cold cases since the age of 14, when the murder of a neighbor went unsolved. She eventually became a journalist and blogger, whose True Crime Diary website became sort of a clearinghouse for information about unresolved cases. “Unsolved murders became an obsession,” McNamara has said. “I was a hoarder of ominous and puzzling details.”

“Michelle became interested in these cases for two reasons,” adds her husband, actor/comedian Patton Oswalt: “Because they were cold cases, and because she could see in real time how connectivity was changing and more information was being digitized. So the combination of those two had intriguing potential.”

McNamara first became aware of the man she dubbed the Golden State Killer in 2007. From 1976 until 1986, this psychopath was responsible for 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders, first in the Sacramento area and later in Orange County, California. Also known to police as the East Area Rapist (EAR), he had disappeared from view, his identity a mystery. But his sick legend lived on. So McNamara decided to write a book about him, hoping it would help her discover his identity.

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Conservative Groups Want ‘Harmful’ LGBT Books Segregated at Iowa Library

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Conservative groups in Iowa are demanding a library in Orange City shelve LGBTQ materials, including books and DVDs, separately to everything else, claiming they could “harm” children.

The groups equate the reading of such books to drug use and eating Tide pods.

On flyers, Sioux County Conservatives and Reformation Iowa particularly singled out the books David Levithan’s Two Guys Kissing, Gayle E. Pitman’s This Day in June and Christine Baldacchino’s Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress.  

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Whatever Happened to the Book Herman Melville Wrote After ‘Moby-Dick’?

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Book publishing—like many commercial industries—is inherently a gamble. You can pick your favorite spec manuscripts, think the author behind it is brilliant, spend gobs of money on marketing, and still your latest offering can bomb.

Unknown debuts can turn into unexpected blockbusters overnight, and seasoned hitmakers can produce a surprising dud mid-career. Every green-lit project has an air of risk, expectation, and mystery surrounding it.

Take Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Now considered one of the greatest novels ever written, the book initially received mixed reviews only to fall into obscurity by the end of Melville’s life.

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How Salinger’s Nervous Breakdown Twisted His View of Nazis

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My new book J.D. Salinger and the Nazis deals with Salinger’s changing attitude toward the Nazis as expressed in his fiction, letters, and conversations between his first story (1940) and The Catcher in the Rye (1951). That attitude changed from initial unconcern about the Nazis, toward a gung-ho “Kill the Nazis” attitude, and from there to a final non-judgmental stance. The first signs of that non-judgmental attitude begin to appear in his fiction shortly after D-Day. Eventually Salinger started to be less critical toward the Nazis than toward the U.S. Army. Ernest Hemingway wrote that Salinger told him, “he hated the Army and the war.”

A week after the end of the war in Europe in 1945, Salinger had a nervous breakdown and wrote an unhinged letter describing his attitude toward the U.S. Army as being “edgy with treason” and calling the war “a tricky, dreary farce.” His breakdown also seems to have caused a change in his personality. How else to explain that he saw nothing wrong with bringing home a German war bride to live with him in the home of his Jewish parents? The most telling sign of his conflicted attitude toward the Nazis is the fact that there is only a one-sentence reference to a concentration camp in his fiction. In short, Salinger all but ignored the Holocaust.

A week after the end of the war, J.D. Salinger suffered a mental collapse. But it took him two months, until July 1945, to seek help in the psychiatric ward of a civilian hospital. He mentions his nervous breakdown in a letter he wrote to Ernest Hemingway from that hospital, and in “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor” he describes the symptoms of the nervous breakdown that the CIC agent Sergeant X suffers.

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Isn’t It About Time We Stopped Loathing Mickey Spillane?

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They got abandoned, slapped around, and drowned. They got strung up, whipped, knifed, and/or shot. Women had it rough in Mickey Spillane novels, which led to predictable charges of misogyny, but those doing the charging tended to ignore the fact that men had it just as rough and, more to the point, Mickey Spillane didn’t give a good goddamn what the critics thought about his work. He became one of the best-selling authors in the history of the printed word because the only thing he cared about was satisfying his millions of fans.

Hold on. That last sentence contains two errors. “Hell, I’m not an author, I’m a writer,” Spillane once said. “I’m just trying to entertain.” As for his audience, he added, “I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers.”

How refreshing! In an age when writers grovel for critical acclaim and prizes, when careerist MFAs rule the literary world, and political correctness has infected American fiction like some devious vanilla virus, we could use a little of Mickey Spillane’s earthiness and lack of pretension.

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Give a Shout Out to Charles Portis and His Extraordinary Novel ‘True Grit’

Merriam Webster defines cult as “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work such as a film or book.” This weekend hundreds of cultists will gather in Little Rock, Arkansas, to celebrate a person and a work. Charles Portis is the person and the work is his novel True Grit, which turns fifty this year. (A likely no-show is Portis himself, who has never established a public persona through profiles and interviews.)

True Grit begs the question as to whether a book in print fifty years after publication and which inspired two hugely successful films can properly be labeled “cult.” Mass cult might fit better.

Portis’s unassuming little novel—in most editions it clocks in around 220 pages—seems an odd candidate for such devotion. Written by a former Marine sergeant and journalist from southern Arkansas with only one previous novel to his credit (the moderately successful Norwood [1966], the endlessly hilarious account of an ex-Marine’s journey from Texas to New York to collect $ 70), True Grit couldn’t have been farther outside the mainstream of ’60s American literature.

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In ‘God Save Texas,’ Lawrence Wright Explores the Love-Hate Relationship With the Lone Star State

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In 1979, 14 years after fleeing Texas as a teenager, journalist Lawrence Wright found himself on assignment in the Lone Star State in a little town called Gruene, his stomach full of a three-inch rare steak.

George Strait was opening for a swing band at legendary music venue Gruene Hall, when Wright—who lived in Atlanta at the time—finally felt the push to move back to his home state.

“Dancers were two-stepping; the boys had longnecks in the rear pockets of their jeans and the girls wore aerodynamic skirts,” Wright chronicles in his new book about his Lone Star home land, God Save Texas.

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Did Opium Make Coleridge Forget the Rest of ‘Kubla Khan’?

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It’s a trope that’s as old as the written word: the brilliant artist whose creative genius is intricately tied to substance abuse—or so the genius usually believes. For Hemingway, it was alcohol; for Ken Kesey, LSD; and for Hunter S. Thompson, it was cocaine, acid, alcohol, and much more besides.

For Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the turn of the 19th century, the drug of choice was opium. Coleridge’s addiction wasn’t initially recreational—he became hooked as a young man after taking laudanum, a form of the drug considered medicinal during his time.

Regardless of the catalyst, the poet initially embraced the creative inspiration that came from his opium-induced dreams. And, in at least one instance, he was quick to give opium the credit—and blame—for the fact that one of his most famous poems, “Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream,” was just a fragment of the masterpiece that he thought it should have been.

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Florence Gould Was Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

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Money seemingly can buy everything, and Florence Gould (1895-1983) knew from a young age that “money doesn’t care who owns it.”

This dangerous American beauty, noted philanthropist, and Nazi collaborator during the occupation of France (1940-1944) understood that money and beauty meant power. And, boy, did she have both once she married hubby number two—an American millionaire. Aside from the descriptives above, Florence was also a sexual predator, a grande horizontale (she slept and traded with the enemy), natural-born gambler, gold-digger (even after she married her fortune), a knowing buyer of looted art, racketeer (introducing the Mafia to the French Riviera), adroit business woman (not adverse to paying bribes), owner of hotels and casinos, a banker to Göring’s personal bank; and, importantly, a talented airbrusher of her nefarious past.

This American nymphomaniac millionairess batted her bedroom eyes as needed, was drop-dead beautiful, oozed sex appeal and power, had a brilliant brain (that few men admired), was athletic, and never gave either her humble origins or the glass ceiling a second thought. Like Lord Byron, she was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” but once you did, you had to fall in with whatever sexual favors she demanded of you—male or female—or be hounded out of your own personal space by her greater influence and power. When she talked to you, it was most often with the purpose to seduce, to invade your personal psychological space and dominate. She was richer than Croesus, a procuress of high-class prostitutes for the occupying Nazi officers of Paris, a collaborationist literary salonnière, the holder over life and death for starving artists during the occupation, and a “clean skin” laundering high-ranking Nazis’ money through Hermann Göring’s Aerobank at the end of World War II. Florence even ducked J. Edgar Hoover’s 15-year-long fervent desire to charge her with treason. She dominated everyone who strayed into her orbit.

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Marilynne Robinson and the Spirituality of Centrism

Chris Madden

Marilynne Robinson has spent all her life trying to rescue, in her own words, “wounded or discounted reputations.” She has resisted blind deference and dogmatic thinking, even if she has always defined herself as a liberal with a religious sensibility (one of her previous books was a dialogue with President Obama). Her most recent book, What Are We Doing Here? is an eclectic series of essays ranging from freedom of conscience, theological virtues, and the history of Puritanism to the role of humanities in today’s world, integrity, and slander. They offer modest solutions for preserving one’s intellectual independence and autonomy in an age of increasing ideological conformism.

Robinson is worried by the current polarization of the American society. “We have allowed ourselves to become bitterly factionalized,” she writes, “and truth has lost its power to resolve or to persuade.” She has little patience for self-confident or intolerant discourses that ignore truth for the sake of defending the interests of a particular faction or ideology. In contemporary America, she notes with a touch of sadness, it is more temperament than reliance on facts that leads people to identify themselves with one side or the other. Both sides of the political spectrum have surrendered thought to ideology and have come to espouse overconfident views, “deficient in humility,” that produce “a slick, unreflecting cynicism” which is eroding our political and cultural life.

Among the examples of ideological thinking Robinson singles out those interpretations of our past that intentionally distort our national character or heritage. She is uneasy about the historical narratives embraced by both the Left and the Right that flatten our historical landscape and heritage. Our country, she writes, “is in a state of bewilderment that cries out for good history” that should liberate us from cynicism, conventionalism, and narrowness of vision. Some narratives uncritically celebrate competition and self-interest and encourage the simplistic individualist heroics celebrated in the works of Ayn Rand. We must question our subservience to the notion of competition because there is more to living a meaningful life than being constantly engaged in rivalry with our fellow citizens. Our predecessors understood that in addition to self-interest, other virtues such as honor, prudence, and loyalty are needed in order to create a good and decent society.

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The Mysterious Burning of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’

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The history of artists and authors is littered with wives who have been fundamental influencers—even collaborators—on their spouses’ work, but who didn’t always receive their due.

F. Scott Fitzgerald secretly “borrowed” portions of Zelda’s diaries and passed them off as his own creation.

Jeanne-Claude was only added as a co-creator on her husband Christo’s works several decades after they began their artistic partnership. And Vera Nabokov did it all for Vladimir—she inspired, she typed, she taught his classes, and she saved him from his destructive whims.

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The Hidden Error L’Engle Left in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

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Re-reading A Wrinkle in Time the other day for the first time since childhood, I came on a bit of garbled ancient Greek.

Audiences for the new Disney adaptation of the book will remember a character, Mrs Who, who speaks almost entirely in quotations. While Mindy Kaling, who plays Mrs Who in the new movie, quotes only in English, the character in the book quotes in many languages and then gives the English for what she’s just said, before identifying the author. She quotes Pascal in French, Dante in Italian, Cervantes in Spanish, Goethe in German, and Seneca and Horace in Latin.

And on page 59 of the new Square Fish edition—the one with the Disney cover that Macmillan put out in time to coordinate with the movie’s release—Mrs Who quotes some words in Greek that she attributes to Euripides and then translates.

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Meet Hannah Glasse, the World’s First Cookbook Author and Google Doodle Star

Legend had it, she began a recipe for cooking rabbit, “First, catch your hare.” Today, the world’s first great cookbook writer, Hannah Glasse, is celebrated in a culinary doodle on Google’s home page.

Englishwoman Glasse was one of the first people known to write down an extensive list of recipes bound into a book, and her signature dishes included Yorkshire pudding—a delicious savoury dumpling made of pancake batter served with roast beef at English Sunday lunches—and gooseberry fool, a dessert made with fruit and whipped cream.

The doodle shows her pushing a tray of ‘Yorkshire Puds’ into an oven.

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Ex-Agent Suing CIA for Killing Parts of Her Memoir

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A former CIA analyst is suing the agency for blocking portions of her new memoir.

Nada Bakos, a retired CIA analyst-turned-author filed the lawsuit Monday claiming the federal agency has violated her First Amendment right to free speech by redacting sections of her manuscript, titled, The Targeter: My Life in the CIA on the Hunt for the Godfather of ISIS.

Through non-classified information, Bakos would allegedly reveal the inner workings of the Islamic State and the CIA’s quest for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who was eventually killed in 2006 during a U.S. air strike.

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The Selfie Isn’t the Problem. We Are.

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Smartphones and social media are turning us into dreadful narcissists. Would anyone care to dispute this?

Yes, actually. His name is Will Storr, and he’s a British journalist who’s just published Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us. Though the title of his book suggests otherwise, Storr says we’re missing the point when we complain about technologically induced egotism: “We all think that these things”—Twitter, Facebook, the iPhone— “have caused the self-obsession, but of course that’s not true.”

The root problem, he contends, isn’t our devices or our social media sites. It’s us. Or rather, it’s the civilization we’ve built, a culture that for many decades has encouraged ever greater degrees of self-regard. Platforms like Twitter surely amplify our egocentric impulses, but Storr says it’s wrong to blame technology for creating them.

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The Perfect Novel for Easter: William Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’

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When we think of the works of William Faulkner, we’re unlikely to muse upon feelings of glorious rebirth, or any kind of positive reversal. Cram your mind full of almost any of his novels—minus, perhaps, the potboiling Sanctuary, written by a fame-seeking Bill for cash—and you will come away away with the sensation that that family of yours you’ve complained about over the years is a veritable benchmark for stability and support. You may then reach for the bottle on behalf of the clans that Faulkner’s imagination created.

You can’t get much more dysfunctional than the brood at the heart of The Sound and the Fury, but what I would also tell you is that here we have the ultimate Easter novel.

There isn’t exactly a booming Easter lit market. It’s not like Christmas, where we have a bumper crop of ghost stories that will last as long as we do as humans. There is a story from 1886 by Chekhov called “Easter Eve,” which involves a guy taking a barge across a river on his way to a church service and the ferryman telling him about this dead buddy of his who never got to share his stories with anyone. That’s pretty good. But yeah—there’s an Easter literature void.

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