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Viva Hate

Viva Hate

Richard Perry/The New York Times, via Redux

The former Smiths frontman’s autobiography is brilliant, funny, occasionally cruel, frequently tedious, and often maddening.

When Morrissey’s Autobiography was published in the U.K. in October, the British press — being the British press — seized instantly upon the revelation (or confirmation) that one of the most sexually ambiguous performers of the last thirty years had a two-year relationship with another man. Photographer Jake Owen Walters makes two first impressions on our author, first by ordering meat at a restaurant, thereby disgusting Morrissey into fleeing the premises; then by displaying the word “Battersea” tattooed on his (Walters’) inner-lip and inquiring as to why sthis South London district is mentioned in one of the singer-songwriter’s most frivolous solo tracks.

Naughty or Nice

How Santa Hurts Christmas

Stockbyte/Getty

Yes, it’s true, but Mr. Claus is just about the worst thing to happen to Christianity. We make kids believe in a fat man who hands out gifts unfairly and makes out with mom, and then ask them to believe in Jesus. Right.

Santa is a fixture in a fixture in holiday calendars, at malls, and on lawns across suburbia. But who is Santa really, and does he embody “the spirit of the Holiday” of consumer Christmas?Most modern American beliefs about Santa come from Dutch settlers in New York and reach us by way of department store marketing and Thomas Nast cartoons. But, as many people know, the modern Santa Claus evolved out of St. Nicholas. In much the same way homo sapiens evolved out of sea sludge.

Yippee Ki Yi Yay

‘Die Hard’ Was a Novel? Seriously

Everett

Stump your friends. Win bets in bars. Yes, ‘Die Hard’ is based on a novel that’s been unjustly obscured by the film.

“The novel on the cutting room floor”They are literature’s cold cases, the Missing and Presumed Dead. They are the unlucky novels and stories that inspired movies so successful that they eclipsed the originals almost completely.  Some books weather a subsequent movie’s success. Gone With the Wind survives as a classic film and a classic novel. But how many people know that before it was a movie, The Birds was a very good novella by Daphne Du Maurier, or that Forrest Gump is based on the novel Forrest Gump?Good fiction deserves a better fate.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Reads

The Daily Beast

From Orange County’s empty evangelical cathedral to the even darker side of Reagan’s “welfare queen,” The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

Where Are the People? Jim Hinch, American Scholar Evangelical Christianity in America is losing its power. What happened to Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral shows why.The Welfare Queen Josh Levin, Slate In the 1970s, Ronald Reagan villainized a Chicago woman for bilking the government. Her other sins—including possible kidnappings and murders—were far worse.How John McCain Turned His Clichés Into Meaning Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine The “brave maverick” who became the “bitter old man” is now “learning to let go.

Old-Fashioned Hero

The Eternal Lure of T.E. Lawrence

Hulton Archive

T.E. Lawrence led the Arab Revolt Against the Turks and Found Fame as the Antithesis of the faceless World War I combatants dying by the thousands in Europes’s trenches.

The passing of Peter O’Toole this week has brought an abundance of Laurentian iconography to TV screens, web pages and YouTube. For millions, O’Toole was Lawrence of Arabia. Over time, the incarnations of actor, character, and historical figure have coalesced into a single essence.In what seems to be a strange convergence, Lawrence’s legend has been further enhanced by Scott Anderson’s recent history, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

Lost Treasure

Hitler’s Holy Grail Plot

Cesar Rangel/AFP via Getty

Why did Hitler crave the missing panel in the famous Ghent Altarpiece? Maybe because the Nazi’s paranormal research group thought the masterpiece contained a map to the Holy Grail.

On the night of 10 April 1934, one of the twelve oak panels that comprise Jan van Eyck’s famous painting, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, was stolen from Saint Bavo Cathedral, in Ghent, Belgium. Often referred to as “The Ghent Altarpiece,” this monumental oil painting is arguably the single most influential painting ever made. It is also the most-frequently stolen, having been burgled, in its entirety or in parts, at least six times—quite a feat, considering that it is the size of a barn door (14 x 11.

The Color of Money

The Real Wolf of Wall Street

Ralph, PacificCoastNews.com

The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t actually on Wall Street—he worked on Long Island. How much of Scorsese’s new film comes from the infamous memoirs of Jordan Belfort?

The new Martin Scorsese film Wolf of Wall Street is particularly handy if you need to figure out how to open the door to your Lamborghini after you’ve been severely impaired by vintage Quaaludes. Wall Street crook Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has just taken three very strong, very expired sedatives. He was only a few hundred yards from his mansion, but why wait it out if you’ve got a fast car? The trick is to get a Lamborghini with jack-knife doors and low clearance, so that when you writhe and roll on the ground you can still kick the door upwards and crawl in.

Grrrr…

Best Books for Men

Getty

From the men who lunch to the Boomer news junkie, Liesl Schillinger picks the year’s best books for the masculine element.

What can you give the fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles in your life at the holidays, if they do not golf, do not wear ties, and like to say they “just don’t read fiction?” The question has rarely been more easily resolvable than it is this year, in which a plethora of new non-fiction titles (and, OK, one novel) make it easy to shop for the affable men on your list who unhelpfully protest that they don’t need anything. Match the following books to the male relative who fits them.

Yum

Eat Better With This Book

Getty

One ingredient at a time, Edward Behr will change the way you eat for the better, but you have to be willing to sit up, take notes, and take your food seriously. Are you ready?

It is a fact that America is in the midst of a rather serious foodie movement. To visit your local farmers market (which you’ve been doing for years, obviously), overhear 20-somethings at the new Korean-Mexican restaurant or amaro bar, look at the trailer for the new documentary Foodies, read the latest breathless trend piece on, say, kids taking cooking classes, or spend more than a minute on websites like Eater or Grub Street or Serious Eats, and you see that food has arrived as our great topic.

Dubliners

How I Write: Paul Lynch

Richard Gilligan

The debut novelist Paul Lynch on Irish writers, advice to aspiring authors, and a funny coincidence at a book event.

Where did you grow up?I was born in Limerick city but grew up in a small town in County Donegal—remote, windy, lots of rain. That’s how I recall it. As soon as I was of an age, I got the hell out. One of the discoveries of my writing life was that my imagination was in a rush to go back there. At first, this was a source of huge frustration—I wanted to write about cities and modern life. I wrote a few exploratory short stories set in Dublin, but the moment I relocated my writing to Donegal and found for it a mythic register, the magic began to happen on the page.

That’s the Year

The Ultimate Best Books List

What do critics think are the year’s top books? No need to take our word for what to read or give—we’ve aggregated everyone’s lists (40 of them) to give you a ranked ultimate guide.

Every December, the Internet is flooded with year-end best of lists. As we do every year, we tabulated the critics’s lists—40 of them, including Book Beast’s own—tallying up how many times each book was cited as one of the year’s best. The consensus pick for fiction: George Saunder’s Tenth of December. For non-fiction: Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. Here’s the complete list:Fiction: 1. Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (15 votes) 2.

Gastro

Toro Bravo’s Favorites

Getty

Food writer Liz Crain and four-time James Beard nominee John Gorham, owner of the Portland restaurant Toro Bravo, on their favorite cookbooks. Their very own, ‘Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull’ is out now.

One of my favorite things to do on a lazy weekend morning is to wake up, make a press of coffee, grab a bunch of cookbooks from the kitchen and get back in bed with both. John likes to go through a stack of cookbooks as much as I do although he probably has three times as many as I do. I’m not a strict recipe follower—John obviously isn’t either—and flipping through the books is more a way to prime the pump and generate ideas. We both particularly love cookbooks filled with personal narrative in addition to the recipes—tales of discovery, adventure, debauchery.

The Pitfalls of Power

This Week’s Hot Reads

A Teddy Roosevelt bio centered on New York City, the tragic failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and a newly translated story collection from a wrongly forgotten Soviet author.

America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh WilfordAfter Miles Copeland retired from his long career in the CIA, during which he helped organize the coup that overthrew the Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mossadegh, he developed a Risk-like board game in his new spare time. It was called The Game of Nations, and the description on the side of the box read: “Skill and nerve are the principle requirements in this amoral and cynical game.

Publishing

Fourth Installment of “Millennium’ Trilogy on the Way

Jan Collsioo / AP

Stieg Larsson’s series to continue with new author.

With more than 75 million copies sold worldwide and two separate film adaptations, the Millennium trilogy is one of the most successful franchises of all time. However, the author, journalist Stieg Larsson, never saw what a hit his novels had become–they were all published posthumously. Now, a new writer–fellow Swede David Lagercrantz–will be continuing the story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in a fourth installment, to be published in 2015. Larsson’s longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, criticized the decision by Norstedts Publishing Group to continue the series, saying "I think it's distasteful to try to make more money.” Gabrielsson currently possesses the unfinished manuscript to a fourth installment that Larsson himself was working on when he died; the rights to that manuscript are currently in dispute.

Read it at Channel NewsAsia

So Pretty

Holiday Coffee Table Books

From a massive atlas of the world to Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings, here are the 26 most beautiful, expensive, and fascinating art and photography books published this year.

Sheikh Down

The True ‘American Hustle’ Story

David Handschuh/AP

How much of the movie ‘American Hustle’ actually happened, and what was the real legacy of the famous Abscam caper it’s based on?

What is the American hustle? Is it quintessentially American to make wealth any way you can, to do it as quickly as possible, and to wheel and deal and bribe and con as if that’s the natural order of things? America, so it seems, was founded on swindling the natives, kidnapping Africans, the scams of the robber barons, the sins of the gilded age, the Teapot Dome scandal, the Boss Tweeds, the Huey Longs (All the King’s Men), and the Richard Nixons (All the President’s Men).

Radical

Banker: Pope Too Easy on Rich

Franco Origlia/Getty

Chris Lowney left seminary to work in international investment banking, where he saw what markets could do for the world’s poor. He has a few things to tell the anti-capitalist pope.

Both Pope Francis and I were Jesuit seminarians. He wanted to go to Japan as a missionary, but never got the chance. I did get to go there, but not as a Jesuit.I left seminary in New York after a few years when I realized I wouldn’t be happy as a priest. (That’s a comment on my life calling, not on the church I love or the Catholic priesthood). I suspect the pope would have blessed my choice to leave, since he recently wrote that the church’s representatives can’t be “sourpusses” or look like “someone who has just come back from a funeral.

Dear Sir

The Letter That Changed Modern Lit

The Daily Beast

A hundred years ago, Ezra Pound wrote a letter to the struggling and largely unpublished James Joyce offering to help him—and set in motion a literary revolution.

Can a single piece of unsolicited mail change the course of literature? In my opinion, only one letter justifies such a bold claim—a query sent a hundred years ago this month, on December 15, 1913, when Ezra Pound, searching for new talent, reached out to a struggling Irish author living in Trieste.James Joyce, thirty years old, had faced rejection after rejection during the previous decade. He had completed his collection of short stories, Dubliners, eight years before Pound contacted him—but Joyce still hadn’t found a publisher willing to issue the book.

Read These!

Best Books of the Year

From Jill Lepore’s and William Dalrymple’s histories to the novels of James Salter and the debut of Adelle Waldman.

And so it ends. Another year of reading, another year of surprises, disappointments, delights, regrets, forays and retreats on the page. I’ll demur from offering a one line conclusion on the whole year, for like most things in life it’s more complicated. But somehow I found myself reading more previously published books than in past years. That’s probably not a good thing for a literary editor to admit, since I am, after all, meant to be on the forefront of all that’s new and fresh and to tell you, my gentle readers, all about it.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Reads

From New York’s homeless children to the retired FBI agent who disappeared on a rogue CIA mission, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

Invisible Child Andrea Elliott, The New York Times There are more than 22000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression. This is one of their stories.The Lobotomy Files Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber, The Wall Street Journal A cache of musty documents lost to memory exposes a time when the U.S. lobotomized some 2,000 veterans. The nation forgot. But Roman Tritz remembers.Missing American in Iran Was on Unapproved Mission Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Associated Press Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson was arrested in Iran in 2007 and is now the longest-held hostage in American history.

How I Write