‘Unexampled Courage’ Is The Civil Rights Book About the 1940s You Need to Read Now

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Americans have begun to talk once again about Atticus Finch, the heroic small town Alabama lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird. The Aaron Sorkin play based on the classic 1960 novel by Harper Lee is the biggest hit on Broadway. It stars Jeff Daniels as the attorney moved by his conscience, human decency, and faith in the rule of law to defend a black man wrongly accused of rape in the 1930s.

Good. We need reminding in today’s America that lynch law—which we like to think is a thing of the past—always had another side: the kind of taken-for-granted easy-to-live-with racism white people were used to in the South of “Mockingbird.” And we should be aware as well that those attitudes never were limited to Southerners. A lot of Donald Trump’s followers clearly wish they could return to a world where white men were men, and all others were something less.

But for all the virtues of Harper Lee’s novel or its new Broadway incarnation, they are fiction. And history can teach us more if the stories are well told and the facts are clear.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

How Orson Welles Nailed a Redneck Cop for Blinding a Black Man

Archive Photos

Who was the South Carolina cop who beat a black U.S. Army veteran and crushed both his eyeballs in February 1946? As Richard Gergel writes in Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring, Hollywood’s enfant terrible Orson Welles mounted a radio campaign to find out. In the first of his broadcasts, reading from Woodard’s affidavit, Welles got some of the facts wrong. (The recording is at the end of this excerpt.) But over the next few weeks the error was corrected and the police chief who blinded Woodard was found.

[On] Sunday, August  25, an exuberant Welles opened his radio broadcast with these dramatic words: “This is Orson Welles speaking. The place was Batesburg. Isaac Woodard thought it happened in Aiken. He was wrong . . . The blame belongs . . . in Batesburg. Batesburg, South Carolina.” Welles then described the work of his investigators in locating a minister and several workmen who had observed the police chief of Batesburg and a highway patrolman pouring “buckets of water over the head and body of a soldier.” Welles reported the officers were “washing away” blood and between each pouring asking the soldier, “Can you see yet?” According to Welles, he simply responded no. That soldier was Isaac Woodard.

But Welles was not finished. He explained that when he brought the Woodard story to national attention, “the name of the guilty policeman was unknown and it looked as though it always would be. I promised to get that name, I have it now.” Welles then dramatically disclosed to his national audience the name of Woodard’s attacker:

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

J.D. Salinger at 100: Forever Young, Forever Influential

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

New Year’s Day 2019 would have been the 100th birthday of J. D. Salinger. It’s a milestone worth celebrating because Salinger’s literary voice remains so young.           

Salinger is no longer as popular as he once was, but with the passage of time, his impact has become clearer. From Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to Frank Conroy’s Stop Time to Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, Salinger’s influence dominates modern American memoir.

The opening of Salinger’s 1951 masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye, set the tone for his writing. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap,” Salinger’s narrator, Holden Caulfield tells us before adding, “but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”       

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and a Christmas gift of friendship

Getty

Every year, at the close of the year, I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” and I ask myself a question: Have two characters in literature ever loved each other more than Sherlock Holmes and John Watson did? 

We often find the greatest potency in what I think of as semi-official capacities. An official capacity would be, say, your marriage. That person you are married to is meant to be, so we think, your main “go-to.” We assume there is potency in straightforward, forceful statement. But have you ever noticed that little in this life is more potent than a question, and that a question is always at least one statement? Usually it’s many statements at once. “Do you love me?” can also mean, “You might not love me now,” or “Maybe you once loved me and stopped doing so,” or “It’s conceivable that you’ve never loved me.” What if there’s no greater love than friendship, and it is friendship that is the root of any great love, no matter the form that love takes? These are other questions I ask myself when I read “The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle” at Christmastime, and it leads to a statement: This is how the best of relationships ought to be.

If you’re not familiar with this story, let us imagine that we are sitting somewhere together—in a tavern, say—and you are about to learn something heartening. The story first appeared in the January 1892 edition of The Strand, Doyle’s standard stomping grounds for his Holmes tales, and was later collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for book publication in October of that year. 

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Wrestling with the Paradox of Jesus as Human and Divine

Peter Nicholls/Reuters

In this secular age, few readers will venture into the recondite pathways of theological discourse, but I would encourage those with the slightest inclination to discover how contemporary thinking about Christianity has evolved to look into the writings of Rowan Williams. As good a way as any to begin would be to read his latest book, Christ: The Heart of Creation, a closely argued meditation on how Christians over two millennia have dealt with the paradoxes of Christian thought, as well as about the relationship between a creator God and creation itself.

Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury (2003-2012), the equivalent of the Pope within the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States. But that hardly begins to describe him. He’s a first-rate poet, gifted with a rich lyrical style and the ability to think in earthy images that bely a deeply speculative mind. He’s a public intellectual, one who weighs in regularly on a variety of thorny topics, from war and peace to human sexuality. He’s also one of the most serious and compelling theologians of our time.

His theological works range widely, beginning with The Wound of Knowledge (1979), a distillation of Christian thinking about spirituality from the New Testament through the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross. This is one of those inexhaustible texts that demands re-reading: I’ve read it at least four times, and plan to revisit it again soon. He’s written more than two dozen important individual works of theology, including influential studies of Arius and Teresa of Avila. Among his many works, I would especially recommend his concise study of the Desert Fathers of ancient Egypt called (in the British edition) Silence and Honeycakes (2003) or, in an expanded American edition, Where God Happens (2005). More recently, in 2017, he published an erudite collection of essays on Saint Augustine, where he looks closely at this influential autobiographer, theologian and philosopher—a shaping mind in the development of early Christian doctrine.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Meet the Original Ebenezer Scrooge

Getty/The Daily Beast

The term “Dickensian” always connotes a kind of plumminess. There is richness in this prose, and richness in the depth of the characters. Even the villains and sad sacks who fund their own misery have a way of doing your soul good.

Of course, we all look to Ebenezer Scrooge at this time of year. That premier skinflint made his debut in 1843, having been conceived in the mind of Charles Dickens while he walked upwards of twenty miles into the Victorian night of his London, the principle seat of his art and a character unto itself in his fiction.

But what you might not know is that nearly a decade before, Dickens had drafted a proto-Scrooge, another character also visited by representatives from the land of spirits who took exception to his wastrel attitude regarding Christmas.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

That Didn’t Take Long: Novelists Tackle Trump

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Standing for months in front of Trump Tower with a “literary” sign—such as WHO WILL GO UPRIVER FOR PRESIDENT KURTZ?—I wondered which American novelists would dare to brave the supposed curse of topicality and treat the famously litigious Donald Trump during his Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now presidency.

The first was the relatively new U.S. citizen Salman Rushdie in The Golden House. In the last month or so, Gary Shteyngart in Lake Success and Jonathan Lethem in The Feral Detective have published novels set, respectively, just before and just after Trump’s election. All three novelists call Trump a “monster” but avoid engaging him directly as a character. They instead make him an off-stage figure, to whom their characters react, and invent Trumpian stand-ins to absorb the writers’ wrath.

Sufficiently enraged to stand in the cold, I hoped for a novel as super-heated, explicitly political, and courageous as Robert Coover’s The Public Burning. About the Rosenbergs’ execution as “Atomic Spies” in 1953 when Richard Nixon was vice president, written in the ’70s when Nixon was president, and featuring Nixon as a major character, The Public Burning is an epic circus that mix-masters fact and fabrication. The novel closes with its superhero Uncle Sam, personification of old white-man anger, preparing Nixon to screw the American public as Sam has prepared all past presidents: by sodomizing him. Scheduled for a Bicentennial release, The Public Burning was delayed by legal challenges and one publisher’s cowardice until 1977.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

‘The Double Helix’ at 50: Discovering DNA Is Still a Miracle

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

In 1968, art had no problem being big, bold, and sprawling. Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles unleashed gargantuan double album sets that seemed expressly primed for the blowing of minds, and if they didn’t get the synapses firing enough, there was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to finish the job. But what we might overlook now, at the distance of some 50 years later, is what is conceivably that year’s best book, a slim volume that is bound to rip the roof off of any head and pour in a whole lot of goodness.

And why is that? Because we’re talking about a book that, oh, I don’t know, explains why we look like we do, why we sound like we do, have the mannerisms we do, possess the health predispositions we come with. Nuts, right? The book in question is The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James Watson.

There’s a good chance that the last time you heard Watson’s name you were in an eighth grade science class. There was that other fellow—Francis Crick—and the two of them, with a huge assist from Rosalind Franklin, figured out that what makes us us has to do with what’s essentially the root of all chromosomes, this cool looking doodad shaped like two interwoven staircases. You likely discharged the pair of scientists from your mind after a pop quiz or two and had no idea that Watson could write the hell out of a science book.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Why the Hell Are We Still Reading Ernest Hemingway?

Earl Theisen Collection/Getty

As the light industry of books on Ernest Hemingway continue to spill over into the 21st century, we now know everything about the most famous American writer except why we still read him.

Many of Hemingway’s contemporaries—Sherwood Anderson, Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis—have faded into the twilight realm of the praised but unread while Hemingway is alive and well on the syllabuses of colleges and even high schools. We’ve had studies of his prose style, Hemingway’s Laboratory by Milton Cohen (2012); his war service, The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos and a Friendship Made and Lost During World War I (2017) by John McGrath Morris; his boat, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life and Lost by Paul Hendrickson (2011); his final trip to Spain, Looking for Hemingway by Tony Castro (2016); and collections of his letters, though he told a biographer of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I write letters because it is fun to get letters back, not for posterity. What the hell is posterity, anyway?” (Bullshit, of course; if he wasn’t trying to shape his own posterity, why save all the letters?)

This year there are three more Hemingway volumes. Autumn in Venice: Hemingway and His Last Muse by Andrea Di Robilant is a fascinating story about Hemingway’s love of Venice and the affair he had there with a young woman thirty years his junior.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

James Baldwin’s ‘Beale Street’ Is Talking Louder Than Ever

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

If Beale Street Could Talk, a movie directed by Barry Jenkins, opens in limited release December 14. The novel of the same name by James Baldwin and on which the movie is based was published in June 1974. It tells the story of Tish and Fonny, two very young (she’s 19, he’s 22) African-Americans in New York City who are in love, engaged to be married, then find the fragile trajectory of their lives thrown off by Fonny’s arrest for a rape he did not commit. The perpetrator of the arrest—of the entire maddening injustice of Fonny’s incarceration—is one Officer Bell, a blue-eyed, red-haired New York City cop who, for no good reason, has it in for Fonny.

Beale Street is a tragedy, not without hope at the end, but a tragedy nevertheless. “You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride,” is a saying you hear among lawyers of the criminal defense bar, and the ordeal that Tish, Fonny, and their families endure is a very harsh ride indeed.

The same summer that Beale Street was published, I read it far from New York, in a quiet, leafy suburb of what was called in those days “the New South,” and the news that book brought me might as well have come from another planet. I was 16, white, middle class, and had spent exactly one night of my life in New York, at a Holiday Inn. The world Baldwin depicts, a world in which the racist animus of a white policeman could so randomly, lethally be brought to bear on one particular black man, rocked my 16-year-old self back on his heels.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

This Famous Poem About the Pilgrims Is a Real Turkey

Chandler and Joey, Bert and Ernie… Miles Standish and John Alden. We are talking, of course, of the rich history of fictional roommates, if by “rich” we really mean, “huh, there aren’t a lot of them, are there?”

But you know what else there isn’t a lot of? Notable fictional creations pertaining to Thanksgiving, though the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made a dogged—and lucrative—attempt to countervail that set of circumstances when he immortalized the above Puritan duo in a poem—about a love triangle, nonetheless—that still stands as our most notable Thanksgiving-related creation. But should it?

Longfellow had a unique career, and you can make a case that he’s done more harm than good with many of the readers who have encountered him since he composed his narrative poem The Courtship of Miles Standish 160 years ago in 1858. What Longfellow liked to do was read widely, then synthesize, borrowing European poetic forms and giving his American readers some juicy poetical tales loaded with heroic couplets.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Revealed: Sylvia Plath’s Last Desperate Letters

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Going through a breakup with her on-off boyfriend Richard Sassoon in the spring of 1956 Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother that her doubts about Richard stemmed from his physical inadequacy. “I see now through the boyish weakness of his frame, & the delicate health & unathletic nature, to a soul which is kingly and beautiful and strong.” The all-American good looks of a different beau, Gordon Lameyer, created the opposite problem. Plath was looking for a man to be her partner in life and the father of her children who was her equal in both physical and intellectual vigor. She found him, at a party in Cambridge just a month after writing to her mother about Richard. His name was, of course, Ted Hughes.

Plenty has been committed to paper about Hughes’ betrayal of Plath, when he began an affair with Assia Wevill in the summer of 1962—an affair which stretched on through the winter of 1963, when Plath committed suicide. (Assia moved into Court Green, Plath’s home and gave birth to a daughter by Hughes, named Shura. She cared for Plath’s children and Hughes’s household until Hughes was unfaithful to her, and, in 1969, committed suicide by gas oven, also killing Shura, then four. For more on Assia, read Yehuda Koren and Eliat Negev’s excellent biography, Lover of Unreason.)

Plath’s agony over Hughes’s betrayal is on full display in surviving letters to her friends, her mother, and of course, in her final Ariel poems, which were subsequently collected by Hughes after her death. (Hughes claimed to have burned and/or misplaced Plath’s final journals.) But then, at the end of 2016, came a startling discovery: 14 never-before-seen letters from Plath to her psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Beuscher, detailing Plath’s struggle after Hughes’s infidelity. These gut-wrenching letters are published for the first time in the second volume of Plath’s letters, edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil. The volume bears a foreword from Plath’s daughter, Freida Hughes, recounting her difficult decision over whether the letters should be published.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

How Edgar Allan Poe Got Kicked Out of the U.S. Army

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

In discussions of great American writers who were also military veterans, the name Edgar Allan Poe is unlikely to come up. Yet it should: the iconically doomed poet and inventor of the modern detective story served as a soldier for several of his formative years. Furthermore, in considering a life often marked by painful loss and failure, it might surprise many readers to learn Poe was something of a successful and motivated soldier—that is, until he wasn’t.

After leaving the University of Virginia without a degree (and with significant gambling debts) Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1827 under an assumed name: Edgar A. Perry. It’s unclear why he fudged the official rolls but he may have been reluctant to use his real name for the lingering sake of propriety. “Enlisted soldier” was not a profession typically undertaken by honorable young men in the early 19th century, a time when, paradoxically, Revolutionary War heroes were being venerated by the same dominant culture that looked with scorn upon real-life grunts. Relatively small by today’s standards, the army’s ranks at the time were disproportionately composed of immigrants, many of whom spoke little English: Germans, Irish, and others.

Poe’s exact reasons for wanting to join this motley crew are lost to history. Most likely his motivations were various and complicated, as people’s tend to be. He did not get along well with his foster father, John Allan, who refused to continue supporting him financially. His first book of poems, published the same year as his enlistment, was far from a commercial success. He was a young man in want of a glorious and paying career, and as a boy he would have heard stories of his grandfather David Poe, a major in George Washington’s army. The elder Poe was semi-famous in Baltimore and was remembered and liked by such luminaries as General Lafayette. There is evidence from “Private Perry’s” letters that Poe bragged of this association.  

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

The Saintly Sister Who Found Art and God in The Big Easy

Handout from Jason Berry’s collection

In 1957, the state of Louisiana built a four-lane vertical lift bridge on North Main InfoClaiborne Avenue over Industrial Canal, streamlining access from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a vast semi-rural area of mostly poor people. That year, two African American evangelists moved downriver to the Lower Nine, and Sister Gertrude Morgan became a Bride of Christ. She wrote:

He has taken me out of the black robe and crowned me out in white.

We are now in revelation, he married me, I’m his wife.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

How Basketball’s Fight Over Racial Equality Remade the Game

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

Dr. James Naismith’s final student before he retired from the University of Kansas was John McLendon, the pioneer of fast-break basketball, the full-court press, and the four corners offense. Yet McLendon never received the credit he deserved, because the majority of his work was accomplished at historically black colleges and universities when basketball was still segregated in the United States.

Long before civil rights legislation began to rid America of the scourge of segregation, McLendon was utilizing basketball to break down racial barriers. In March 1944, McLendon orchestrated a “secret game” between his team, North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University), and a collection of white former college basketball stars from Duke University Medical School, who had handily beaten the Duke varsity team in a scrimmage. McLendon planned the game for a Sunday morning, when most people would be in church. The medical students borrowed cars from friends and drove a circuitous route to the school to avoid being detected, arriving with their jackets pulled over their heads. They hustled into a locked gym, where McLendon’s Eagles trounced them 88–44. There were no spectators.

“Coach Mac” went on to mentor countless African American coaches, among them Southern University coach Ben Jobe, Clarence “Big House” Gaines (who led Winston-Salem State University to a Division II NCAA championship in 1967 on the strength of a young guard named Earl Monroe), and former Georgetown coach John Thompson, who became the first African American coach to win a Division I championship.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Susan Orlean Dissects the Catastrophic LA Library Fire

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Ben Martin/Getty

Susan Orlean had recently moved to Los Angeles and was taking a tour of the main branch of that city’s public library when the man guiding her around took a book off a shelf, cracked it open, and smelled it. “You can still smell the smoke in some of them,” he said, to which Orlean responded, “Because the library used to let patrons smoke?”

“No,” he said, “smoke from the fire.”

“The fire?” asked Orlean. “What fire?”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Meet the Photographer Who Caught Bob Dylan in His Prime

Courtesy Jerry Schatzberg

A creative career that arcs from accomplished photographer to celebrated filmmaker is hardly unique. Robert Frank, Chris Marker, and Stanley Kubrick, to name a few, all began as still photographers and then made the leap to moviemaking. But few artists have left as indelible a mark on both pursuits as Jerry Schatzberg. In the ’60s, he photographed cultural icons—Jimi Hendrix, Edie Sedgwick, Fidel Castro—for magazines like Esquire, Vogue, McCall’s, and LIFE. In the ’70s, his earliest movies—Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970, with Faye Dunaway), The Panic in Needle Park (1971, with Al Pacino and Kitty Winn, who won Best Actress at Cannes), and Scarecrow (1973, with Pacino and Gene Hackman; Palme d’Or at Cannes)—would become touchstones of a fraught era.

But for sheer, sustained excellence, Schatzberg’s portraits of Bob Dylan stand alone. In an 18-month supernova of creative energy, from early 1965 through mid-1966, Dylan recorded and released three of the most influential albums ever made: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Schatzberg met Dylan in the midst of that astonishing run, during the Highway 61 sessions in New York in ’65, and photographed him through ’66. (The famous, out-of-focus portrait gracing the cover of Blonde on Blonde is Schatzberg’s.)

A beautiful new book, Dylan by Schatzberg (ACC Art Books), brims with the best of those pictures. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the 91-year-old Bronx native discusses the rewards and challenges of working with Dylan, the real story behind that Blonde on Blonde picture, and making peace with his own fame—or lack of it. The interview, conducted by phone and at the Upper West Side apartment where Schatzberg has lived for five decades, has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity. — BC

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Humor and Horror Go Hand in Hand in These Spooky Stories

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

As anyone with a cursory knowledge of Halloween knows—which is to say, anyone from age two and up—the model ghost is a haunt who is skilled at parting you from your ability to remain unafraid.

Whether emerging from beneath your bed, the recesses of your closet, or the family crypt where you drink a pony of liquor each year to toast those who’ve have gone before, the best ghosts are in the terror business.

But what of the ghosts who make us laugh? What of their rich literary history? In even the scariest ghost stories, there tends to be some humor. Something potent often sparks its opposite, so humor works well with terror for the same reason that you see death and life and love and hate riding together.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Why Is Our Culture So Obsessed With Dead White Girls?

Peter Dazeley/Getty

“Why does Jenny have to die?”

My high school offered a course in film, for one semester. One of the first movies we watched in that class was Forrest Gump. Our teacher raised concerning questions about the way the women in the film were depicted, in particular, the character of Jenny, Forrest’s only childhood friend, a victim of child molestation at the hands of her father, later a drug user, eventually dead by AIDS.

Dumbfounded, I searched my adolescent brain for an answer. Because it manipulates the audience into feeling more for Forrest? It makes her life a tragedy? Jenny sets out to live an independent life and she is punished for it, my teacher offered. Somewhere, in the back of my brain, a door opened. Today, it’s easy to recognize Jenny as a dead girl, the subject of Alice Bolin’s new book: Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Pussy Riot’s New Book Is Disruption 101

Chris J Ratchliffe/Getty

Nadya Tolokonnikova readily admits that the political protest her group Pussy Riot undertook on February 12, 2012, was a total disaster. On that day, five members of the group entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and launched into a song they called “A Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Drive Putin Away.” Arrested almost immediately, three of the members were charged with ‘hooliganism,’ and eventually sentenced to two years in prison.

One of them was Tolokonnikova who, in her new book, Read and Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism, claims that “the action in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was horrible on the whole. We didn’t accomplish most of what we intended—we didn’t even get to the refrain of the song. We did not have enough footage to make a good music video. Oddly enough, we were sent to prison for the worst Pussy Riot action we’d done.”

And yet the brazenness of that fiasco, combined with the harshness of the response, made Tolonnikova and her cohorts global superstars—the face of the anti-Putin movement.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Jill Lepore: Politicians Can Dupe Voters but not Posterity

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/Getty

What’s the point of Jill Lepore writing These Truths: A History of the United States, her new 932-page history of America from Christopher Columbus to Donald Trump?

First, those are quite the bookends for an American epic—from the first Western voyager to sail to America (and give it smallpox) to the president who just called his former mistress “Horseface” on the internet. Lepore populates These Truths with big personalities, eccentric geniuses, and committed activists who work their will in large and small ways, and she does it with a historian’s rigor and a novelist’s eye for details.

Second, Lepore is a Harvard scholar and a New Yorker staff writer—a historian and a journalist—at a time when technology has swept the documentary world into a continuous feed of tweets and pics and podcasts and DMs. Lepore is attuned to how technology has continuously changed how people communicate and what records are left.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

The Haunting Mystery of ‘Edwin Drood’ That Charles Dickens Left Behind

Alamy

On June 8, 1870, Charles Dickens spent most of the day working on his latest novel. Normally Dickens would confine his writing to the morning hours, but on this day he met his close friend John Forster for lunch and then returned to his novel in the afternoon.

At 6:10 p.m., shortly after he had joined his family at the dinner table, he had a stroke. Twenty-four hours later, the most celebrated author in Victorian England was dead.

“The loss of no single man during the present generation, if we except Abraham Lincoln alone, has carried mourning into so many families, and been so unaffectedly lamented through all the ranks of society,” Horace Greeley, the founder of the New-York Tribune, said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Trump Fired James Comey and Shot Himself in the Foot

Getty

At Jeff Sessions’s urging, Trump nominated Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general in early February. He was confirmed in April, just as the president’s relationship with Comey was turning toxic. The FBI director’s standing deteriorated further on May 3, when Comey vigorously defended his handling of the Clinton email investigation in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While Comey was always seen as somewhat sanctimonious, his refusal to accept the possibility that he had made a grievous mistake infuriated Democrats and vexed his new Justice Department bosses, Sessions and Rosenstein. His failure during the hearing to declare that the bureau was not investigating Trump himself, and his statement that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think that his handling of the email probe had possibly cost Clinton the race, incensed the president.

The fallout was swift. A White House official returned from a meeting with Rosenstein to inform McGahn that the deputy attorney general had been troubled by Comey’s performance and wished to discuss how to address his refusal to acknowledge—let alone correct—his errors in judgment. Trump stewed about Comey all weekend during a trip to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and returned to Washington clutching the draft of a letter firing his FBI director—something he had begun composing numerous times only to be talked down by Priebus and others who feared that dismissing Comey would unleash a legal and political maelstrom.

On Monday, May 8, five days after Comey’s testimony, Trump summoned Pence, Priebus, McGahn, Sessions, and Rosenstein to the Oval Office. It was a Comey-bashing session in which nearly everyone—including Rosenstein—participated with enthusiasm. The president declared that he had decided to get rid of the FBI director, and mentioned the letter he’d written. It faulted Comey for his handling of the Clinton email investigation—something Trump had praised in his personal meetings with the FBI chief—and expressed his continued irritation that Comey had failed to tell the public what he had said several times in private, that Trump was not a target of the FBI probe.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Yuval Noah Harari’s Quick Primer on How to See Into the Future

Getty

One of my favorite one-liners is the joke by economist Paul Samuelson that the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions. It highlights the idea that sometimes we’re bad prognosticators because we see “trends” that were really just data points.

So how do you tell the signal from the noise? How do you know when something new is also something big? How much do our primate brains and changing weather patterns tell us about the future of immigration or war or online dating apps?

“I don’t think of history as much about studying the past as about studying change,” says Yuval Noah Harari, a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of the New York Times bestseller Sapiens. “And one of the main tools for studying change is looking at past changes in human society and political systems.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Kurt Eichenwald: I Was Kicked Out of School for Having Epilepsy

Getty

Convulsions dominated my first two years at Swarthmore College. My first neurologist, Dr. Charles Nicholson, instructed me to tell no one about my epilepsy because otherwise I would be subjected to severe discrimination. I hid out in my dorm room, and begged my roommates to keep my secret. My second neurologist almost killed me with toxic levels of medication. Broken bones, burns, nightmares, and hopelessness led me to plan suicide.

Then, in the summer after my sophomore year, I met Dr. Alan Naarden, a top neurologist. His treatment decreased my number of convulsions dramatically. He instructed me to stop hiding and to seek emotional support from a school psychologist.

For the first time, I began walking the campus alone. Over eight weeks, I experienced two convulsions outside; just a month earlier, before my medication change, that number would have been in the dozens. For the first time since my diagnosis, the school was being exposed to my seizures.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Baseball’s Greatest Poem Is About a Loser

Credit: Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

For all of the carping these days about the slow pace of baseball, there was a time when our grand, clockless sport fired millions of imaginations.

Said firing was helped along by a 24-year-old Easterner named Ernest Thayer, who had gone west to San Francisco to make his journalistic name. If you knew a Thayer who was a writer, you were probably a classical music aficionado, and had tracked down a copy of Alexander Thayer’s first-ever biography of Beethoven. But our Mr. Thayer was interested in another mighty B, you might say, that being baseball in all of its attendant, grand-sweeping powers, as borne out in poesy.

It was 130 years ago that Thayer published “Casey at the Bat,” a 13-verse poem that he regarded as doggerel. But this was high-level doggerel, if the term ever fit. You may have never sat down to read those 13 verses, you may have nary a clue who Ernest Thayer is, you may not like baseball, you may detest all things “sports ball,” but there is no way you have not come in contact with some aspect of the finest poem about athletics ever penned in this country.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!

Your Next Car Will Be Self-Driving—If You Buy a Car at All

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Autonomous cars are not a theoretical, maybe-if proposition that depends on a lot of different pegs falling into place. They’re already driving themselves. You may have seen one beside you in traffic. (I recently saw one next to me at a red light, and it was weird.) There’s already a full-blown trial in Chandler, Arizona.

If you bought a car in the last few years, there’s a decent chance you won’t buy another one. In a decade—maybe less—you may subscribe to a car service the way you subscribe today to Netflix or Blue Apron. When you need to go to Whole Foods, you send for a car on your iPhone or tell Alexa to send you one. Or you’ll order Whole Foods online, and an autonomous car will bring the groceries to you.

The revelation that that comes through like high-beam headlights in Lawrence D. Burns’s Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—and How It Will Reshape Our World is how much of the work is already done. General Motors introduced an autonomous concept car in 2002, and engineers started racing self-driving trucks and SUVs across the Mojave Desert in 2004. In the decade and half since, a long list of companies—Google, Uber, Tesla, Ford, GM, and many others—have spent tens of billions of dollars improving the technology to the point that it’s ready for the world.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Books

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on fiction and non-fiction at booksamillion.com — Shop Today!