Content Section
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.

Longreads

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

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!

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty

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.

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.

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.

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).

How I Write