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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

AP

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.

Guantánamo

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

Publishing

Bookstores Fight Amazon

Ed Andrieski/AP

Refuse to carry titles published by the website.

Though Amazon has all but conquered book selling, the book publishing arm of the internet behemoth, Amazon Publishing, has had less success. This may be because brick-and-mortar bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, have refused to carry any of Amazon's titles. Its a modicum of revenge for independent booksellers, whose dwindling numbers are due in large part to Amazon's success. Amazon Publishing, however, is far from defeated; the company has plans to expand their publishing efforts.

Read it at NPR

Not So Lost Classics

Famous for Not Being Famous

Every month or so there’s another article rediscovering John Williams’ “lost” classic Stoner. Please stop—every literary type who cares already knows about it. Let’s rediscover someone else.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, seventeen more pieces will have been published on the subject of Stoner, “the greatest novel you’ve never heard of.” There appears to be no stopping the flood. Like the four Gospels, the articles, appreciations, analyses, and book reports all say essentially the same thing in slightly different ways. They tell the incredible story of the incredible novel written by someone you’ve never heard of, despite the fact that he won a National Book Award.

Scary Waste

Eat Your Pumpkin!

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Don’t be a monster and throw out your jack-o-lantern after Halloween. That orange flesh is a vital food the world over and it’s a huge waste just to carve it and toss it. A manifesto to eat your decoration.

On Halloween, we’ll carve our pumpkins, put them on display and then—throw them in the garbage. What a waste.Lacing into the innocent Jack-o-lantern might make me a killjoy, but here’s the thing. The Halloween pumpkin, as it stands today, is an emblem of the problems of our global industrial food system that sucks up too many of the planet’s resources, feeds billions of us too much, leaves 1 in 8 humans chronically undernourished and lets one third of all food produced for human consumption go to waste.

Unforgettable

Five Young Men, Lost Too Soon

In her haunting and lyrical new memoir 'Men We Reaped,' Jesmyn Ward traces the arc of five bright, brief lives—cousins, friends, her own beloved brother—all black men cut down by violence and tragedy in her Mississippi hometown. The National Book Award winner spoke with The Daily Beast about the hardest story she's ever had to tell.

Men We Reaped was extremely moving and beautifully written. You talk about how telling this story is the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Why did you decide to tell it now?I decided to tell it now because I couldn’t run from it any more. I avoided writing this for a really long time. And finally, when I finished Salvage the Bones in 2009, I was trying to figure out what I was going to work on next. I like to work all the time, because I’m afraid that if I don’t exercise it, then I’m going to lose it.

Con Man

A Confederacy of Scam Artists

Bettmann/Corbis

At the height of the early 1990s cultural wars, with William Bennett and Newt Gingrich railing against America’s decline, T.C. Boyle published a novel about a scam artist of a generation earlier, cereal inventor Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.

There are no winners in T.C. Boyle’s novels, only losers. And they tend not to be the lovable kind either. The Road to Wellville is filled with characters like the strangers you might meet at a Halloween party. They seem charmingly eccentric at first, dressed in their clever costumes, but once they remove their masks and begin to talk, you realize they’re just as petty and miserable as everyone else. And then you learn that they stole their costume ideas anyway.

State of Wonder

Ann Patchett: How I Write

Marvin Joseph

The ‘Bel Canto’ author, whose new book is ‘This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,’ talks about her friendship with Elizabeth Gilbert, and owning an independent bookstore.

NC: What’s your favorite thing about Nashville, and where should I eat when I visit? AP: My favorite thing about Nashville is the parks. We have these amazing parks that were park of the WPA in the 1930s. Great trails through the woods. And you should definitely eat at my house NC: That’s a great offer. I might take you up on it. Tell me about Sparky. AP: Yeah, he’s right here napping. We’ve had him a year. We got him out of the humane shelter on September 14, a year ago, and he’s just an astonishing dog.

Iron ladies

Cixi Who Must Be Obeyed

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Photographer: Xunling

Jung Chang's new book tackles the legend and legacy of Empress Dowager Cixi, the concubine who modernized China.

“It is necessary,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in his famous treatise on the craft of ruling, “to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.” Shrewd statesmen from antiquity through the Florentine’s day and beyond have embodied this alchemical mix of the vulpine and the leonine in their quest to consolidate power, and their names gild our history books: Cesare Borgia. Catherine de’ Medici. Maximilien Robespierre. Mao Tse-Tung.

Mars Attacks!

The Best Halloween Hoax Ever

AP

Seventy-five years ago, ‘War of the Worlds’ hit the airwaves, setting off a national panic. Marc Wortman on Orson Welles and radio’s big moment.

Goblins and witches, monsters and Martians. Invaders of all kinds will come knocking on doors this Halloween, eager to scare. The evening before, Mischief Night, pranksters roam the dark. Probably the greatest Halloween prank ever took place 75 years ago on Mischief Night.On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and The Mercury Theatre on the Air aired an updated dramatization of H.G. Welles’s Mars-invades classic War of the Worlds. Radio Martians were on the march and in much of the East, thousands of listeners who missed or ignored the signals that this was a radio play panicked and took to the streets.

Costume Dramas

How Daniel Became Harry

Stuart C. Wilson/Getty for BFI

After almost three decades of introducing British actors to the U.S., as the producer of Masterpiece on PBS, Rebecca Eaton tells Nico Hines why they are so much better than their American counterparts.

It happened in the blink of an eye. At the age of 9, Daniel Radcliffe was catapulted towards Harry Potter and Hollywood immortality by a single, instinctive wink.The London schoolboy was auditioning for the title role in David Copperfield, a BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens book, when a playful greeting grabbed the attention of the director Simon Curtis and separated Radcliffe from a host of boys vying for the job.“A director friend of mine told me, ‘If you’re casting a kid, cast a kid you like,’” Curtis recalls.

Radical Chic

Lenny’s Double Life

New York Daily News Archive

In 1951, wunderkind conductor Leonard Bernstein married the beautiful actress Felicia Montealegre. But was it a marriage of convenience? In this revealing letter, perhaps from around the same period, Felicia confesses her knowledge of Bernstein’s sexuality—and proclaimed her undying love anyway. From the new collection ‘The Leonard Bernstein Letters.’

Felicia Bernstein to Leonard Bernstein [Late 1951 or 1952] Darling, If I seemed sad as you drove away today it was not because I felt in any way deserted but because I was left alone to face myself and this whole bloody mess which is our “connubial” life. I’ve done a lot of thinking and have decided that it’s not such a mess after all. First: we are not committed to a life sentence—nothing is really irrevocable, not even marriage (though I used to think so).

Reading Pleasures

What Are Whorestoricals?

Rue des Archives/Collection Bourgeron, via Getty

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.

NSFW

The Graphic Sex of 'Blue'

Julie Maroh

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.

The View From London

Double Standard For Female Writers

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.

Miracle of Miracles

The Strange Power of ‘Fiddler’

Silver Screen Collection/Getty

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.

Lost

This Week’s Hot Reads

Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

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.

How I Write