The author of ‘Room,’ ‘Slammerkin,’ and ‘Astray’ picks five of the best historical fictions about the oldest profession.
Considering that I have no personal experience of either selling it or paying for it, I’ve been oddly preoccupied (as both reader and writer) with prostitution all my life. For me it’s the ur-job, the original trade, the one that stands for all the other bargains in which we rent out our time or energy. For pre-20th-century women, in particular, whoring and marriage could be described as the two default positions.1. Roxana by Daniel Defoe. This unsettling last novel by the early master of English fiction focuses on a highborn woman—one of whose pseudonyms is Roxana—forced to resort to prostitution.
Warning: NSFW! The seven-minute lesbian sex scene in the French drama ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ is the most controversial of the year. See what the scene looks like in the graphic novel upon which the film is based, as well as some thoughts from author Julie Maroh about the source material.
Much ink has been spilled over the feral seven-minute sex scene in the riveting French drama Blue is the Warmest Color.The sexual bildungsroman, for the uninitiated, centers on Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a 15-year-old high school student in Lille. She is ravenous, and consumes everything from her father’s signature spaghetti to Marivaux with rapacious license. This attitude eventually extends to lovemaking. After crossing paths with Emma (Léa Seydoux), an out art student at a nearby college with an eye-catching blue ‘do, the precocious teen falls for her.
What is it about Sholem Aleichem’s stories of a poor milkman in the shtetl that has audiences bewitched for nearly 50 years after the smash musical debuted on Broadway? Jen Vafidis on a new cultural history of ‘Fiddler.’
It is extraordinary, not the norm, if a work of art can change how people look at each other. In this way, Fiddler on the Roof, the enduring musical about a Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia confronting modernity and holding onto tradition, has done an extraordinary thing: it has brought the shtetl in a commercial, friendly way to several generations of Americans and global audiences. The story of Tevye the dairyman has gone through several phases, first as a collection of short stories written for a generation of Russian Jews who shunned the commoner language of Yiddish, and finally one of the top five musicals performed by American high-schoolers of any religious demographic.
This week, from stories about the streets of Tehran to the quest to bring a lost World War II pilot home. By Mythili Rao.
The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli Taraghi.Born in Tehran in 1939, Goli Taraghi was a teenager during Iran’s 1953 coup and a grown woman during the 1979 revolution. Both upheavals feature prominently in her writing, but the stories collected in The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons are hardly polemical. Political tumult instead merely provides the backdrop of the transformations of her characters, young and old. The adolescent girls of “Flowers of Shiraz” can hardly comprehend the change underway in their country: In the run-up to Mossadeq’s ouster, they ride their bikes through the city, meeting for ice cream, flirting with boys, and racing through the hills, despite the protests on the streets.
Emma Woolf asks: Why do interviews with female authors often fixate on their diets and their love lives, not their written words?
Not exactly a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”—so far the autumn has been full of wind and rain (as I write, the biggest storm in a decade—christened St. Jude—is bearing down on the U.K.). But I’ve had a lively few weeks travelling around the UK, filming the new series of Supersize vs Superskinny, and doing the rounds of the Literary Festivals.The atmosphere at each festival is distinctive, and the towns are different too—this is what our small island calls the North-South divide.
A new book, City Parks, features essays from contemporary writers and luminaries—from Zadie Smith to Bill Clinton—on their favorite parks. Isabel Wilkinson talks to its editor, Catie Marron.
Everybody knows it, that feeling of entering a park: peeling off the city streets and into that nourishing sense of calm. And then, after the kids on bikes, the joggers, and the dogs playing fetch have faded, the thrill of being perfectly alone sets in.That feeling of calm greets you upon opening City Parks: Public Spaces, Private Thoughts, a glossy new collection of essays and photographs highlighting some of the most luscious and mysterious parks in the world.
In the Bible, he’s the wise king who authored the greatest poetic wisdom of all time and was a portrait of repentance. But the real King David was a lot nastier—and more fascinating.
Whether as the brave youth striding forward to face the giant Goliath, the wise older king composing the immortal Psalms, or the ancestor and model for the messiah, the legend of David has been recited and burnished for nearly three thousand years. Politically, ethnically, religiously—David is central to the story Jews and Christians tell about themselves.This is, after all, the king against which all other kings were measured, the ancestor of Jesus, the person described by God as “a man after my own heart.
When the great maestro and composer Leonard Bernstein—who seemed to know everyone—raved about Ernest Hemingway’s ‘tenderness’ in a letter to Martha Gellhorn, Papa’s ex-wife poured out her feelings about the troubled writer: ‘Tenderness is a new quality in him.’ From the rich new collection ‘The Leonard Bernstein Letters.’
Leonard Bernstein to Martha GellhornArizona Biltmore, Phoenix, AZ7 January 1959Dearest Marthy,Happy New Year. At long last, a rest—although God knows it takes full as much energy to unwind and force the inactivity as it does to be active. But at least they’re not all pushing from all sides: I have only my own sick silly psyche pushing from inside.I’m not staying at the above—just using the luxuriousissimo facilities + living with friends. Burtie has been with me, left yesterday, all is calm.
Why has the suffering of the Middle Eastern Christian communities not ignited outrage and support from Western Christians? The answer has something to do with Israel and the Second Coming, writes Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.
In the autumn of 2008, I was in Syria shooting a BBC TV series A History of Christianity. It’s painful to look back on that happy time, to think of the warm reception we had and wonder what has happened to all those people now. One moment I remember especially: my interview with His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, at his Church’s fine new seminary buildings in the hills outside Damascus.
That scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car? Cormac McCarthy wrote that. From a motor-powered garrot to lyrical pillow talk, read the best passages from the screenplay of ‘The Counselor.’
Though Ridley Scott faithfully adapts Cormac McCarthy's first feature film screenplay, the director could not possibly include every passage of lyrical prose, crammed into a wordy 175-pages. Here are the best scenes and speeches (some that you won’t see on film) from The Counselor.1. ‘Auto’ EroticIf you only know one thing about The Counselor, it's probably that Cameron Diaz's character Malkina has an intimate—very intimate—encounter with a sports car.
Welcome to the world in 1945—death, destruction, hunger, revenge, rape. So how did we get from there to here? Ian Buruma talks about his new history of the year World War Two ended.
For a young man growing up in the Netherlands in the 1950s the War—that is the Second World War—hung like smoke. It was everywhere: “We grew up with the notion that you couldn’t go shopping in certain shop butcher shop because he had been a collaborator or buy candy at a certain tobacconist because she’d had a German boyfriend during the War. My primary school teachers all had fantastic tales of derring-do—invariably all fake.”Out of this experience comes Year Zero, Ian Buruma’s global tour of what the world looked like in 1945 as peace descended.
No historian has ever been as close to power as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was to President Kennedy as a new collection of his letters marvelously shows. Ted Widmer on the whirl of celebrity and policy that dance across the pages.
The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s presidency winds down this fall, and it is refreshing to have these two books, each a celebration of genuine life and thought, as we enter an echo chamber that is unlikely to promote either in the weeks leading up to November 22.Schlesinger’s letters complete a download that has been coming steadily since his death in 2007. Indeed, after going to his reward, he has been publishing at a prodigious pace.
In her new book 'Chasing Chaos,' Jessica Alexander offers a poignant, clear-eyed look at the world of international disaster relief and her own addiction to aid work.
A decade in and out of the world’s most dangerous and heart-wrenching humanitarian crises does a number on the human psyche. In Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid, veteran aid worker Jessica Alexander offers a behind-the-scenes window into the catastrophes that incense us on TV, the ones we cry over when we read about them in magazines, and the ones we’re woefully unaware of, which rarely make it onto our radars. She lives in countries and works with people decimated by war, natural disaster, disease, and governmental negligence.
In an entry from a newly published edition of her diaries, Anaïs Nin confides her feelings for gay novelist Gore Vidal
In this 1946 diary entry from Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947, Nin discusses her complex relationship with—and unrequited love for—then 21-year-old novelist Gore Vidal.February 25, 1946Last night Gore came. After writing under the stimulus of benzedrine, he was depressed. I talked about analysis, had to confess I had been to [Dr. Clement] Staff because “I wanted to die.” Although Staff said if Gore were analyzed I would lose him, I want him free and strong.
From Obama’s stumbling path on a Syria intervention to a Texas philanthropist’s search for a Ugandan killer, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.
Obama’s Uncertain Path on Syria Mark Mazzetti, Robert F. Worth, and Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times A riveting play-by-play of the administration’s stumbling, halting move toward—and then away from—an intervention in Syria.Dignity’s Due Samuel Moyn, The Nation Why are philosophers invoking the notion of human dignity to revitalize theories of political ethics?The Cost of Living Stephen S. Hall, New York As cancer drugs have become more expensive—in a few cases, staggeringly so—their effectiveness has often failed to rise in tandem.
Robert Hilburn’s vivid new biography, ‘Johnny Cash: The Life,’ provides a piercing look at a man besieged by the demons of addiction but steadied by Christian faith and an abiding love of music. Read excerpts from two crucial moments in Cash’s saga.
Robert Hilburn’s vivid new biography, Johnny Cash: The Life, thoroughly examines all aspects of the performer’s life, from his start in the Arkansas cotton fields to his late-life renaissance working with producer Rick Rubin. But Hilburn is particularly canny when it comes to Cash’s genius for slipping in and out of musical categories. He was not exactly a country singer, but not really in the rock ‘n’ roll camp either. Nor was he a straightforward folk or gospel singer, although he excelled in those genres.
Nearly fifty years after her diary was first made public, readers can now read previously unpublished details about Anaïs Nin’s complicated love life.
Anaïs Nin, the celebrated diarist and writer of erotica, has always appealed to a particular reader: the insecure but precocious teenage girl, the obsessive governed by a desperate longing for intimacy (“I need love more than food,” Nin confided to her journal in 1946). That allure lives in her exhaustively detailed diaries, published in seven volumes and covering five decades. It is here that readers can explore Nin’s every heartrending expression of love, intimacy, and sexual passion, peering in on a lifelong quest for “the one who would complete” her.
Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Huxley—none of the great novelists ever had an original screenplay produced. Cormac McCarthy has. But is his new movie, ‘The Counselor,’ any good? By Andrew Romano.
Hollywood has never been kind to great fiction writers. But The Counselor—the new Ridley Scott film starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz—is different. Somehow novelist-turned-screenwriter Cormac McCarthy has avoided the curse of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley, and Vladimir Nabokov and managed to convince a lot of very powerful people to make exactly the movie he wanted to make.The question is whether that’s a good thing.
Like the White House twitter mole fired this week, President Lincoln had his own official leaking secrets and mocking him, Count Adam Gurowski. Kevin Peraino on the amusing parallels and what they reveal about secrecy and diplomacy.
When the news broke this week that National Security Staff official Jofi Joseph had been fired for his acerbic, anonymous tweets as @natsecwonk, it was heralded as a new low in the annals of diplomatic privacy. It was just the latest confirmation, the thinking went, that the secretive world of international statecraft has been forever turned upside down—a small-but-telling postscript in the Age of Snowden.It is worth remembering, however, that diplomats in all eras have struggled with the question of privacy.
Justin Long, who played the ‘Mac Guy’ in a series of ads, responds to Jonathan Franzen’s calling him “smug.” His movies, 'A Case of You,' and 'Best Man Down,' are in theaters soon.
I’m a huge fan of Franzen’s work, so in a weird way, just to be mentioned by him—no matter how pejoratively—was flattering. I’ve got to say, I thought a lot about The Kraus Project after I read it, and I thought it was an interesting essay—and one that I don’t necessarily disagree with. I love what he had to say about Karl Kraus, and the German point of view versus the romantic Italian and French way of looking at art, and finding aesthetic beauty in just walking down the street.
COOLEST GRANDPA EVER
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