In 1944, three years before writing and five years before publishing ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell penned a letter detailing the thesis of his great novel. The letter, warning of the rise of totalitarian police states that will ‘say that two and two are five,’ is reprinted from ‘George Orwell: A Life in Letters,’ edited by Peter Davison and published today by Liveright.
To Noel Willmett18 May 1944 10a Mortimer Crescent NW 6Dear Mr Willmett,Many thanks for your letter. You ask whether totalitarianism, leader-worship etc. are really on the up-grade and instance the fact that they are not apparently growing in this country and the USA.I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase. Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers° of the type of de Gaulle.
On the 200th anniversary of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ two new titles dive into the habits and customs of the writer’s Regency England and the burgeoning business of extreme Austen fandom. Plus: Relive Colin Firth’s wet-shirt moment with a clip from the BBC’s famed miniseries.
No one who saw Jane Austen in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a literary giant, one of those rare artistic luminaries whose global brand is booming almost two centuries after her passing. The seventh child of an Anglican rector—a member of the lower ranks of the landed gentry, whose death threw the family into dire financial straits—Austen spent the majority of her life in the rural hamlets of Hampshire and the Somerset spa town of Bath, penning a handful of novels under the pseudonym “A Lady” and dying from a mysterious illness at the age of 41.
Most scholarly works on Islam are written by Christians or Jews, but Muslims rarely write about Christianity. Kirsten Powers talks to the author of 'Zealot' about the double standard.
What is it about Reza Aslan that has unhinged so many people?The author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is at the center of an inexplicable firestorm for writing a book about Jesus. He’s been treated to hair-splitting attacks on his academic credentials and claims of a secret Muslim agenda. Nearly every critic of the Iranian-American and Muslim author has fretted over whether he has the right to tackle his subject. In an interview, Aslan was exasperated, pointing out to me repeatedly that his credentials were never questioned when he wrote the bestselling, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.
Wealthy as they are, the heirs of the Johnson & Johnson company have seen so many tragedies that one must wonder if there’s been a hex, as a new book suggests. Emma Garman tells the stories of a family besieged by early deaths, drug overdoses, sex scandals, and bizarre behaviors.
The idea that undeserved riches carry a curse appeals to our sense of fairness, to say nothing of whetting our appetite for schadenfreude. Whether it’s a Mega-Millions winner whose life has woefully disintegrated, or a perpetually unlucky-in-love silver spoon heiress, the media will invariably deliver the details in a tone of superstitious glee. The Johnson dynasty, along with the families Kennedy and Onassis, has for decades provided the most vivid illustrations that money not only can’t buy happiness, it also ushers in tragedy.
Is the practice of psychiatry really crumbling and in crisis, as stories of over- and under-diagnosis show? Psychoanalyst Matthew Tiffany on an important new book that shows just how complicated the issues and challenges are in the field.
Set aside an afternoon to go online and search for how psychiatry is failing. You’ll discover a cottage industry—a slew of books, editorials, essays, and news features covering the crumbling mental health services in America. Coast to coast, from The Los Angeles Review of Books to The New York Review of Books, there are essays on over-diagnosis, misdiagnosis, under-diagnosis; there’s a Greek chorus singing the zealotry of how doctors are all-too-frequently throwing medications at mental illness, while the pharmaceutical industry pulls the strings, like a malevolent Oz.
From the teenager who betrayed Wikileaks to the feminists trying to save Israel from fundamentalism, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the Web this week.
Wikileaks’ Teenage Benedict Arnold Ryan Gallagher, Slate How the FBI used a baby-faced WikiLeaks volunteer to spy on Julian Assange.Taken Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?How Much Is a Life Worth? James Oliphant, National Journal Ken Feinberg, the man tasked with compensating victims after a devastating tragedy, knows the answer—and it’s rarely the same.
Regina Calcaterra survived homelessness and abuse before she emancipated herself at age 14. Now an accomplished lawyer, politician, and author of the upcoming ‘Etched in Sand,’ she makes the case for adopting teenagers instead—and giving them a home forever. As told to Caroline Linton.
When I grew up in foster care in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s and by the time I was in foster care in 1980, I had emancipated myself at the age of 14 so I could make my own decisions about how I was going to grow up as opposed to my mother. I was told during my emancipation process that, “Well, now that you’re emancipated, the next thing you have to [do is] plan what you’re going to do now that you’re 18.” Basically you’re told now that you’re 18, you’re no longer in social service and you’re no longer in the foster-care system and essentially you’re going to be homeless.
The Alaska pollock is said to be the largest remaining source of palatable fish in the world, used in the Filet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonald’s and by many other fast food chains. Some 1.5 million tons of it are caught in U.S. fisheries every year. But that’s a harvest level as close to the bone as we can cut. Kevin M. Bailey, the author of the new book ‘Billion-Dollar Fish,’ says the stock could be in danger of collapsing—and it could take its ecosystem down with it.
What is your big idea?If you talk with a fisheries scientist about harvest management, it usually ends with them drawing a curve and then a line. Where they intersect is an exact solution, the Maximum Sustainable Yield, the largest long-term average catch that can be taken without impairing the population’s reproducibility. By this engineering solution, the complexity of a whole ecosystem gets flattened onto a sheet of paper.Engineering solutions to fisheries problems in the United States took hold in the 1880s.
Can you write compellingly about the trials and tribulations of New York media types circa 2009? Choire Sicha’s ‘Very Recent History’ suggests not.
In 1977 the New Statesman published a poem by Craig Raine, “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home,” that launched the very minor British school of Martian Poetry. Martian poems were so called because they adopted the perspective of a stranger in a strange land, reenvisioning familiar things in elaborate metaphorical language. (The car in Raine’s “Postcard” is, e.g., “a room with the lock inside—/a key is turned to free the world/for movement.”) Martin Amis was a champion (and anagram) of Martianism, prizing its penetrating gaze and its disdain for cliché, and it is Amis’s Money, a somewhat Martianistic take on 1980s New York City, that comes to mind when one reads Choire Sicha’s Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c.
The story of how the repeated sexual abuse of one Hasidic girl by a prominent man shook up her community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and tore apart their world. An excerpt from Allison Yarrow’s ‘The Devil of Williamsburg.’
Nestled within modern-day Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster capital of the world, is an ultra-Orthodox community that claims to be the world’s largest sect of Hasidic Jews. In Satmar Williamsburg, there is no president, no Internet. Just God. Religious laws govern life. All of it. What you eat, what you wear, what you say, what you do. Many of these laws—strict laws—lord over relationships between women and men. So many laws that 12-year-old Rayna (the victim's name has been changed in this piece—her identity is sealed by the court as she was a minor when the abuses took place) could hardly keep track.
As reward for donating to his film.
That’s one way to get a good review. As a prize for donating $5,000 to Bret Easton Ellis’s Kickstarter for his film The Canyons, Pablo D’Stair had the privilege of Ellis reviewing his work. The book, Regard, is an experimental novel about a troubled 13-year-old. Ellis’s review, posted Wednesday on Vice, is mostly favorable, although he does manage to say things like “it’s hard not to wonder why someone would attempt to write a book like this now,” and “it’s not annoying enough to toss right away.” His final verdict is that to have written Regard “takes a lot of daring and ambition” and D’Stair clearly “cares about language.” In the coming weeks, Ellis will review six more novels from other writers who donated that same amount.
After seven tries, Peter Stothard, the editor of the Times Literary Supplement, has finally written the book on Cleopatra that he always wanted to. Here he recounts how the sole surviving example of her signature helped inspire him to write.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, three weeks before the beginning of the Arab Spring, I was in Alexandria to try for the eighth time to complete a book about Cleopatra. I was certain it was the eighth time. Sometimes it seemed the only certainty. In Room 114 of the Metropole Hotel, Place Saad Zaghloul, there was written evidence of all the other seven attempts, long pages and short scraps, bleached and yellowed, each piece patch-working into the bedcover as though they had always been here.
The novelist and short story writer Charles Baxter explains what makes a good writing day, the dark experiences from the book tour trail, and why he’s scared of spilling salt. By Noah Charney.
Where did you grow up?In Minneapolis, Minnesota, and outside of it, on 40 acres of half-hearted farmland outside of Excelsior, Minnesota.Where and what did you study?I received a B.A. from Macalester College and a Ph.D. in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. I took many English courses, some history and philosophy classes, but not enough classes in foreign languages and literatures; that was one of my bigger mistakes. It was common among my generation.
“Nearly half a century after the publication of Portnoy’s Complaint,” Jodi Kantor writes in Sunday’s New York Times, “politics is finally catching up with fiction, as libidinous, self-sabotaging politicians are causing grimaces among fellow Jews and retiring outdated cultural assumptions—that Jewish men make solid husbands and that sex scandals belong to others.”When reporters write that public events are “finally catching up with fiction,” it is usually the “finally” that is suspect.
Is there anything new to say about T.E. Lawrence? Yes, thanks to Scott Anderson’s stylish account of the legendary Brit and the swirl of characters who remade the Middle East, writes Melik Kaylan.
History has its fads. The Victorians looked to it for lessons in Empire and moral rectitude. Marxists mined it for material on class struggle and the great dialectical progress unfolding in their favor (hence the notion of “progressive” ideas). Fernand Braudel and the French Annales School told us the price of footwear in the 1500s or the median age of prostitutes during the Second Empire. These days, though, history must tell good stories first and foremost, preferably about “colorful” protagonists.
A promising therapist finds his perfect life falling apart with a cast of patients that may just be saner. Drew Toal reads Robert Boswell’s new Californian novel.
Jim Candler is a promising therapist at the Onyx Springs Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Center in California. He owns a big (if ugly) house, drives a Porsche, and is engaged to be married to a beautiful young woman. He’s also in line for a big promotion at work, and has helped get his hapless childhood friend a good job at the clinic. Everything appears to be going perfectly, but appearances can be deceiving. In Tumbledown, Robert Boswell’s first novel in a decade, Jim Candler and his faux-perfect life take center stage.
Digital availability a growing concern.
As e-books grow in popularity, libraries and publishers find themselves increasingly at odds over how best to loan digital copies to library patrons. In a new report from NPR, Lynn Neary details the conflict over pricing and distribution. Publishers, hesitant to provide vast numbers of possible customers with an easily duplicated and quasi-permanent version of their product, have been pricing eBooks to libraries at vastly inflated rates. In addition, many publishers have been effectively leasing their e-books by restricting the amount of time or number of uses allowed per digital copy. Many librarians, however, argue that price inflation and restrictions make loaning e-books untenable, despite growing demand from their patrons. In April, Simon & Schuster began an experimental program with three New York City libraries that would make their entire catalog available to check-out, with the option for the patron to buy the book at any point. Whether this satisfies both sides of the divide remains to be seen.
Controversial play first winner for drama.
Tim Price’s The Radicalization of Bradley Manning won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Drama on Tuesday. It is the oldest British award for literature, having first awarded prizes in 1919. This is the first year in which the James Tait Black Award has included a category for drama. The Radicalization of Bradley Manning focuses on Bradley Manning’s formative teenage years in Wales and his relationship with his mother, who is British. Manning was recently convicted of 17 of 22 charges against him, and faces up to 136 years in prison. Price has said publicly that “the only crime Bradley has committed is that he cares."
Working on his 46th novel still.
Crime novelist Elmore Leonard is recovering from a stroke, his longtime researcher Greg Sutter confirmed on Monday. Sutter said Leonard had suffered a stroke last week and is “doing better every day”—and still at work on his latest novel, which will be his 46th. Leonard, 87, is currently hospitalized in Detroit, his longtime home city. Originally writing Westerns, Leonard found his stride with crime fiction as well as screenwriting.
Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez, whose new novel ‘The Sound of Things Falling’ visits the history of his home country and its troubled capital, Bogotá, picks his favorite books about South America.
Nostromo By Joseph ConradJoseph Conrad’s insultingly ambitious and incredibly accurate political novel is, to my mind, the best piece of fiction ever written about Latin America outside of Latin America. The fictional republic of Costaguana watches one of its provinces secede, aided by the military intervention of the United States, in a series of events that are suspiciously reminiscent of the revolution through which the province of Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903.
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Author Barbara Park Dies
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