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JFK: ‘War Is a Dirty Business’


In a frank and fatalistic letter to Inga Arvad, with whom he had an intense affair, the WWII hero wrote down his feelings about war.

In 1941 and 1942, John F. Kennedy had an intense romantic affair with Danish journalist (and Hitler’s guest during the 1936 Olympic Games) Inga Arvad, who was married at the time. The affair ended when Kennedy went to the Pacific to serve during World War II, and in 1943 he became a war hero after his boat, PT-109, was rammed by the Japanese, and he rescued his crew by towing them with a life-jacket strap clenched between his teeth. Shortly after, he wrote one of his most candid letters to Arvad, whom he nicknamed Binga.


A Girl's Story, Like Their Own

In 'Survival Girls', Ming Holden introduces us to a remarkable group of Congolese refugees who use theater to tell a story of survival.

In 2011, Ming Holden traveled to Kenya and founded a theater group for Congolese refugee girls in the slums of Nairobi. Her new book about the experience, Survival Girls, traces her journey and the stories of the remarkable young women who joined her project. (Incidentally, all proceeds of the book go to the Survival Girls themselves, and Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter are reported to be fans.) Below, an excerpt from Holden's non-fiction novella introduces us to the sweet, spirited refugees she encountered in her theater workshop: *** “What do you do when you're feeling squeezed?” I asked the girls as we began the next workshop.

Read ‘Em

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week: a book about men in all sorts of ways, a writer’s 1940s New York, a rain drenched Irish tale of murder and pursuit, and a novel filled with trash.

The Book of Men Edited by Colum McCann, Tyler Cabot, and Lisa Consiglio In this collection, edited by Colum McCann and the editors of Esquire and Narrative 4, there are all kinds of men. Heroes. Cowards. Creeps. War correspondents and wanna-be lovers. Husbands and dreamers and sons. There are all kinds of women, as well. Mothers and lovers, convicts and authors. Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Khaled Hosseini are just a few of the writers who have contributed ideas about what is it means to be a man to The Book of Men; so are Edna O’Brien, Tea Obreht, Amy Bloom, and seventy-four other writers from countries around the world.


Randi Zuckerberg’s Reinvention


An excerpt from Randi Zuckerberg’s new book, ‘Dot Complicated,’ describes how she went from Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘ridiculous sister’ to the brains behind Facebook’s marketing strategy.

In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister moved from New York City to Menlo Park help grow the start-up. She spent years finding her role in the company amid a community of coders and the long shadow of her sibling.  In this chapter, excerpted from her upcoming book Dot Complicated (HarperOne, Nov. 5), she describes trading a capella antics for team-building leadership.And so I came to California and to Facebook.I officially joined on September 1, 2005.

Reliving Dallas

Could This Have Saved JFK?

Random House

Fifty years ago Jim Lehrer was in Dallas as a young reporter. Now he’s written a novel that explores what might have happened if the Secret Service had kept the bubble top on JFK’s limo.

On that fateful day fifty years ago, newsman Jim Lehrer waited at Dallas’ Love Field for Air Force One to arrive with President and Mrs. Kennedy. He was assigned to cover the arrival and to stay there until Air Force One left. Love Field had an open telephone line by the fence where he could talk to Rewrite. Copy then was called in by phone, and the Times-Herald, an afternoon newspaper, was on deadline, adding to the time pressure. “My big episode came when the rewrite man told me while we were testing the line that Air Force One had just left – it was coming from Fort Worth (a short flight), and he wanted to know if the bubble top was up on the limo,” Lehrer recalled.

An Ancestor's Perilous Voyage

A quarter of a million Indian women boarded ships as indentured servants in the 19th century, bound for the West Indies. Gaiutra Bahadur's new book follows their precarious sea-crossing and life in the New World.

In Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, author Gaiutra Bahadur traces the journey of her great-grandmother from India to the West Indies as an indentured sugar plantation laborer, whose kind were called "coolies" by their colonial masters. After the abolition of slavery, the British transported more than a million indentured Indians to a more than a dozen colonies from 1838 to 1917, a traffic that was a third the size of the British slave trade.

Moral Lessons

Martin Luther's Ego


Thanks to Martin Luther’s defiant stand against the Catholic Church we have a politics and religion of ego—and figures like MLK Jr. stand on his shoulders.

“I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” —Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521“I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion. But now he can be my President, Catholic or whatever he is… He has the moral courage to stand up for what he knows is right.” —Martin Luther King Sr., from the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, October 31, 1960, the day his son Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tangled History

JFK & The Rule of Threes

Getty (2); Corbis

On November 22, 1963, three towering figures of the 20th century died. John F. Kennedy is the one that we all remember, but let’s consider the others.

Do you remember what you were doing the day Aldous Huxley died? Or C.S. Lewis? You don’t think so? Well, the odds are that if you were old enough to be laying down memories at the time, you do. Because it was also the day President Kennedy was assassinated.The indelible experience of hearing the news is captured well in the opening scene of Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Odessa File, as the announcement interrupts a song in mid-bar on our German hero’s car radio.

Love and War

Failed Soldiers, Better Lovers

Hemingway and Fitzgerald desperately wanted to be great soldiers but neither one could pull it off. Both of them found love in the service, though, that too turned out tragically.

Quick literary trivia question. Which hard-drinking modernist writer of legendary fame served in the U.S. Army during World War I?Hint: it’s not Ernest Hemingway. As a young man, Hemingway tried to enlist but was barred from service because of a defective eye. However much he would later look down on his frenemy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, for being someone who “for his actions in civil life as a criterion… would probably have been re-classified or shot for cowardice,” Fitzgerald is the only one of the two who could boast—not that he did, at least on this account—of wearing his country’s uniform in wartime.


The Paris of Your Dreams

Peter Turnley

It turns out that Paris is in fact the most romantic city on earth. Just look at these 20 pictures by photographer Peter Turnley of people, well, just kissing.

Under Siege

When India Failed

Arko Datta/Reuters

Under attack from a terror assault in Mumbai’s fanciest hotel on November 26, 2008, India failed to respond with speed, coordination, or proper investigation reports a thrilling new book about those terrifying days.

In the months leading up to the November 2008 terrorist attacks that devastated Mumbai, the signs of looming catastrophe were unmistakable. That June, a 32-year-old police officer named Vishwas Nangre Patil became Deputy Commissioner of Police (DPC) for Zone 1—the teeming city’s beating heart—and immediately learned of warnings of planned attacks on Mumbai’s major landmarks, including its high-end hotels, had been passed to Indian intelligence and law enforcement authorities.


The Week’s Best Reads

The Daily Beast

From the girl putting her life back together after being shut in a closet to Wikipedia’s brewing editor crisis, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

The Girl in the Closet Scott Farrell, The Dallas Morning News The story of Lauren Kavanaugh, who was locked up, starved and tortured for six years by her birth mother and stepfather when she was barely two years old. Kavanaugh, now 20, is still figuring out how to live on. A harrowing eight-part account with dynamic web design.The Decline of Wikipedia Tom Simonite, MIT Technology Review The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia, has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking.

From the Trenches

Great War, Great Photos

Unknown photographer, Imperial German Army. Courtesy of IWM

World War I was not the first war to be photographed, but it was the first conflict where soldiers and civilians alike took up their own cameras to make a record of what happened, on and off the battlefield.

Crime Scenes

‘Murder Is My Business’

Weegee/International Center of Photography,Weegee

Shooting everything from tenement fires to executed mobsters, Weegee was the only crime photographer who elevated tabloid fodder to the level of art.

Field Guide

Atheist Evangelism

Kyle Robertson/AP

Eager to share the good news that there’s no god? Here’s the book that will teach you how to persuade unsuspecting believers that scientific rationalism is the one true faith.

The loose ensemble known as the “New Atheists” have always had a weirdly evangelical streak, with their emphasis on faith as the essence of religious practice, and with their implication that the entire world would be better off if everyone would start thinking exactly as they do. It was inevitable, then, that the movement would eventually produce something like A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian’s new guide for atheists who wish to proselytize the faithful.

Nov. 22, 1963

The Weekend That Never Ended

Carl Mydans, Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

In the first installment of our 22 days of JFK project, we look back 50 years to the terrifying few days when two deaths destroyed the innocence of a generation.

They turned us loose early that day.I was sitting in a 6th grade classroom when the principal came on the intercom to say the president had been shot. One kid stood up at his desk and did a little cheer. Some girls shushed him. A little later the principal came back on to say that President Kennedy was dead.We got out at 2 p.m. instead of 3, but no one got particularly excited about that. We just milled around the front of the school, waiting for our parents to come and pick us up.

Sexual Politics

England’s Lesbian Queen

Universal History Archive/Getty

The last of the Stuart monarchs ruled England with brilliance and intrigue, likely had an affair with a Churchill ancestor, and made sure her country stayed Protestant. Finally she gets the biography her remarkable life deserves.

Nothing is more difficult than to recreate in all its complexity than a distant age and not only to get it right, but make it seem fresh and relevant. Fortunately, Anne Somerset has already done this brilliantly in her outstanding biography of Elizabeth I. In the case of Elizabeth, of course, Ms. Somerset had the advantage of writing about one of the most famous (and most compellingly interesting) of all English monarchs, the subject of so many different plays, films, and television dramas that we almost feel we know and understand her.

New Biography

Jack Deserves a Better Bio

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Hollywood bad boy is taking on fewer roles—and dating less. Now would seem the time for a great biography to salute him. What we have instead is Marc Eliot’s dismal effort.

Nicholson? The title of Marc Eliot’s latest movie star biography is counter-intuitive to say the least. Who but an irate headmaster ever referred to Jack Nicholson by his surname? Surnames, you can almost hear one of his infectiously insolent characters saying, are for assholes. For the past four decades and more, since he shot to fame in Easy Rider, he has been known to all and sundry simply as “Jack”. It’s an absurdly connotative name: Jack the lad, Jack of Hearts, Jack Daniels, jack a car, jack up, jack… well, you can fill in the naughtier bits yourself.

Love, love me do

How Beatlemania Began


Fifty years ago this month the Daily Mirror first diagnosed ‘Beatlemania’ as it was sweeping the world. But what explains the phenomenon? An excerpt from a new book explains.

THE ADVENT OF BEATLES-INSPIRED HYSTERIA can be difficult to date, but the phenomenon we call “Beatlemania” got its name in a (London) Daily Mirror article that appeared fifty years ago this month. In this essay, excerpted from his book Beatles Vs. Stones (Simon & Schuster, Oct 29), author John McMillian explores the roots of the phenomenon.How did the Beatles ever manage to inspire such frenzy in the first place?  People used to ask them all the time, and even they weren’t entirely sure.


Gitmo Docs Use Pseudonyms

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From Shakespeare.

What's in a name? Since being ordered to force-feed hunger striking prisoners–a violation of the Tokyo Declaration of 1975–doctors at Guantánamo Bay Prison have adopted Shakespearean pseudonyms to protect their anonymity. "Desdemona," "Leonato." and "Luciento" have been administering nutritional supplements via feeding tube to the nineteen detainees still refusing solid food. The strike has lasted since February, and at one point included more than 100 of the 164 prisoners at Guantánamo.

Read it at London Review of Books

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