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Author Barbara Park Dies

Wrote the “Junie B. Jones” series.

Barbara Park said she wasn’t grown-up enough to write grown-up books, but she certainly made a lot of children happy. The author of the beloved Junie B. Jones series died after a long battle with ovarian cancer, her family confirmed on Sunday. She was 66. Park wrote more than 30 illustrated books about Junie B. Jones, kindergartener and first-grader, since 1992. The books went on to sell millions of copies—as well as draw ire for Junie’s bad grammar and mischievous ways (in fact, it is one of the top 100 banned books). Park said she herself was a troublemaker who often was in the principal’s office, and she said she was inspired by Judy Blume to write for children. Park is survived by her husband, Richard, and their two sons.

Read it at People

22 Days of JFK

‘It Will Not Be Lyndon’


Just days before he was assassinated, JFK confided to his secretary that he wanted to replace his vice president when he ran for reelection—he didn’t think LBJ was fit for president.

President Kennedy’s secretary Evelyn Lincoln wrote in her 1968 book Kennedy and Johnson that November 19, 1963 had been “one of the most pleasant days” she could remember in the White House. Kennedy’s schedule was light and he had spent long stretches of time in the rocking chair in her office, speaking pensively as he rocked. “You know, if I am reelected in ’64,” he said. “I am going to spend more and more time making government service an honorable career,” adding, “I am going to advocate changing some of the outmoded rules and regulations in Congress, such as the seniority rule.

Sunday Talk

Myth of American Decline


Josef Joffe on American exceptionalism, why Europeans hate Israel, and why China may not be the next superpower.

Josef Joffe is that rare European: a well-known and respected public intellectual, an academic with sinecures at prestigious universities on both sides of the Atlantic, the publisher-editor of the left-leaning German newspaper Die Zeit, and a staunch defender of the United States against reflexive and voguish European anti-Americanism. In The Myth of America's Decline, his first English-language book since a treatise of the “imperial temptation of America,” Joffe argues that despite consistent predictions of decline—and much to the irritation of the European cognoscenti—America will not be displaced as a superpower any time soon.


Writer Doris Lessing Dies

Martin Cleaver/AP

Nobel Laureate was 94.

Doris Lessing, the Nobel prize-winning author of The Golden Notebook, died Sunday. She was 94. She is the author of over 50 novels, including Memoirs of a Survivor, The Summer Before Dark, and Under My Skin. She became the oldest Nobel Laureate in 2007, at the age of 88. Born in what is now Zimbabwe, Lessing published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing in 1950. Her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook was considered a “feminist Bible.” She died in London.

Read it at Guardian

Summer in the City

The Bronx Riviera

Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE

In ‘Orchard Beach,’ photographer Wayne Lawrence honors the working class people who flock to the Bronx’s only beach.

Facing History

Should Former Nazis Face Trial?


In Germany a prosecutor has recommended 49 men and women who allegedly served as guards at Auschwitz face trial, but what’s the point? Leonard Rosen says history will judge.

On September 3rd of this year Kurt Schrimm, Germany’s special prosecutor for investigating Nazi-era crimes, recommended bringing charges against 49 men and women who allegedly served as guards at Auschwitz. In the German system, the special prosecutor reviews potential cases and recommends for action only those that meet the highest standards of evidence. It is then up to local prosecutors where suspected criminals live to mount cases or not.

Snap, Snap

Jordan’s Underground Slam Poets

Mohammad Hannon/AP

Most of them are young and female—and their underground slam poetry is speaking truth to power in their conservative Arab culture.

Aysha, 25, stands at the front of a small, brightly lit room in Jabal Al Weibdeh, one of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods. The fluorescent light is somehow tempered by the apartment’s soft and eclectic furniture—a clumsy circle of wooden chairs and faded couches. Although it is filled with people, the room is silent, waiting for Aysha to begin to speak.“Tell your governments, the only kingdom my generation will bow to is the one between our temples,” she chants, her voice swelling in the tiny space, as the sound of snapping fingers cuts through the air.


The Week’s Best Reads

The Daily Beast

From a harrowing pregnancy at the edge of the world to creationists’ last stand against science education, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

Thanksgiving in Mongolia Ariel Levy, The New Yorker A journalist’s harrowing, heartbreaking story of her miscarriage while on assignment in a remote corner of Asia.Why We’re Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley Evgeny Morozov, Frankfurter Allgemeine It knows how to talk about tools but is barely capable of talking about social, political, and economic systems that these tools enable and disable, amplify and pacify.The 40-Year Slump Harold Meyer, The American Prospect From 1947 to 1974, American workers brought home most of the wealth they produced.

Whiny Tidings

Palin’s Naughty List

Julio Cortez/AP

She didn’t write about ‘Protecting the Heart of Christmas’ at all—instead, the eternally offended governor may have penned the perfect manual for another holiday altogether: Festivus.

Initially I planned to ignore this week’s release of Good Tidings and Great Joy, Sarah Palin’s book waging war on the war on Christmas. Few political hucksters milking the culture war for an easy buck peddle antics more shopworn than the annual fear-mongering that secularist Scrooges are coming for our creches.But then I couldn’t stop wondering: What happens when the Queen of Grievance takes up arms on behalf of the Prince of Peace’s birthday?I’ll tell you what happens.

City of Angels

America’s Best Food Town

Axel Koester/The New York Times via Redux

What’s turned Los Angeles into a culinary boomtown? Chef Roy Choi and New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear know.

If you want to fall in love with Los Angeles, have a meal with Roy Choi and Dana Goodyear. That should do it.On paper Choi and Goodyear have little in common. Choi was born in South Korea and raised in Southern California; poor in Koreatown, better off in Anaheim, prosperous in Coto de Caza. Goodyear comes from WASPier, wider ranging stock: Princeton, Cleveland, London, Bethesda, St. Louis, New York, and finally, a few years ago, the upscale bohemia of Venice Beach.

Holy Cow!

Fifty Shades Movie: What We Know

The Daily Beast

Get out the whips and paddles, the ‘Fifty Shades’ flick will be rated NC-17. But there won't be Anastasia’s ‘Inner Goddess’ monologue. You know you want to read more.

In May 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey was released as an e-book, launching an immediate sensation. The trilogy, which started as Twilight fan fiction, was published by Random House a year later. In the series, author E.L. James describes the seduction of virginal college student Anastasia Steele by Christian Grey, a beautiful billionaire and secret sadomasochist. Fifty Shades went on to sell more than 90 million copies worldwide, ensuring that we’ll never look at a tie in the same way again.


The American Prophet of Loss


American novelist Robert Stone writes bedtime stories of a kind that David Samuels has always liked—the kind that end badly. They discuss Stone’s new novel.

There was a time, a little more than a decade ago when I lost a thread that I had been following up until that point, and I was left with nothing. So I sat in a house by the ocean in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and read all the novels that Robert Stone had then written—Hall of Mirrors, Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, and Damascus Gate. They were bedtime stories I could trust—the kind that ended badly.I remember one day that I spent in a bathtub looking out at the ocean and re-reading the end of Outerbridge Reach.


Table for Two in Rwanda

via Little, Brown and Company

In his new book, Columbia professor Josh Ruxin tells the tale of picking up and moving to deepest Rwanda, where he helped revitalize a village and fell in love with a little restaurant called Heaven.

From a cocktail party came a village.Veteran development worker and Columbia professor Josh Ruxin’s life-changing voyage began when one of those too-good-to-pass-up offers presented itself at a rooftop gathering in New York City. A donor and admirer of his entrepreneurial company, Health Builders, offered him the funds to build a real-life prototype of a perfectly developed sustainable village. It was in the fledgling days of the Millennium Villages project—a collaboration between the United Nations and Columbia University’s Earth Institute—and though no village was yet slated to take root in Rwanda, it was ideal ground to break.

On the Hunt

The Mystery of the Vanished Pilots

Lawrence Thornton/Getty

When a man stumbled on the remains of a downed American plane in the Pacific, it ignited an obsession in him to discover the story of these lost pilots. A new book tells his story to find their remains.

It takes nothing away from Wil Hylton say that his subject, Pat Scannon, is a reporter’s dream. Scannon was a medical researcher who became obsessed in 1993 with finding several American pilots who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in World War II. He, not Hylton, the author of Vanished, is the one who has done most of the research on the pilots and their excavation process. And it is he who discovered a mystery.But it takes an author to turn a mystery into a book, and Hylton does a fine job of it.

Yuletide Savior

Palin Is Here to Save Christmas

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Our favorite Alaskan wants to rescue the holiday from angry atheists and liberal do-gooders, but what exactly does she have in mind? There’s scant talk of the Bible in her book.

The war on Christmas comes but once an election cycle, and with Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, fires the first shot. The volume is part call to arms against the “Scrooges” secularizing Christmas, part theological statement about the meaning of Jesus’s birth, and part recipe book.The problem with the holidays today, writes Palin, is they’ve been secularized. Nativity scenes can no longer be erected on government-owned property, people are afraid to say Merry Christmas, Christmas trees have become Holiday trees, and business owners have taken the Christ out of Christmas.

Amazing Grace

Flannery O’Connor’s Desire for God


The Southern writer’s religious zeal was off-putting to a lot of her peers, but a newly discovered prayer journal reveals why she needed God in her writing.

If a myth is built around an author, her most intimate thoughts become worthy of a hardcover. Flannery O’Connor is certainly the stuff of myth. Born Mary Flannery O’Connor in 1925 to Irish Catholic parents in Savannah, Georgia, she kept her full name until she began publishing stories and novels, an ambition that was initially second to her desire to be a cartoonist like James Thurber. By all her peers’ accounts, she was “weird” and “wry,” sometimes merciless.

Moscow Noir

Into Russia’s Dark Soul


If you want to understand Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall, you can start by reading Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko detective series. Sarah Weinman reviews the latest—and says Smith’s stately pacing makes them all the better.

My favorite crime novel series, I've come to realize, take sustained breaks between installments. The book-a-year crew don't necessarily produce perpetual pablum, but the annual schedule rewards consistency to the point of sameness, and entertainment value over more substantive measures.More breathing room between books, however, gives writers more time to infuse their series with something extra. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett cast such giant shadows over crime fiction, spawning innumerable imitators and literary descendants, that one forgets each wrote a scant number of books—seven and one—featuring their respective iconic private detectives, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.


JFK, Behind the Scenes

Estate of Jacques Lowe

America was enthralled by the 35th president, his glamorous wife, and cute kids. In a new book, Kennedy’s personal photographer releases never-before-seen photos of the first family.


Billion-Dollar Nazi Art Bonanza


The 1,400 looted Nazi artworks found in a Munich apartment are just a small percentage of the thousands that disappeared during World War II. What else is out there waiting to be found?

Before the Nazis founded the ERR, their military unit dedicated to art and archive theft; before Hitler conceived of converting the entirety of his boyhood town of Linz, Austria into a “super-museum” containing every important artwork in the world; and long before the Allied armies, aided by the Monuments Men, liberated hundreds of thousands of looted artworks, the Nazis were stealing from their own people. Thanks to George Clooney’s upcoming film, a fictional drama based on historical fact (but bending it to the will of Hollywood), the world has become familiar with the “Monuments Men:” a group of several-hundred Allied officers from the art community, who were charged with locating, protecting, and recovering art and monuments that were in the line of fire during the Second World War.

Rabble Rousing?

Palin’s Battleground Book Tour

Slaven Vlasic/Getty

She’s slamming ‘angry atheists’ and Christie’s ‘extreme’ weight—and the ex-governor’s also promoting her book in key GOP primary districts. Can she swing the races for the Tea Party?

It may look like a regular book tour, complete with stops at the Walmart Supercenter in Wausau, Wisconsin, and Barnes & Noble bookstores from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Bloomington, Minnesota, and some few choice TV hits on the Today show, CNN, and Fox & Friends.But when Sarah Palin embarked on her own 15-city swing Tuesday in Easton, Pennsylvania, she plunged herself into the heart of a debate roiling the Republican Party between the moderate establishment on one hand and Tea Party fist-raisers on the other.

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