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Text & Context

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

AFP

Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod analyzes the rise of a pervasive literary trope in the West—that of the abused Muslim girl.

This book seeks answers to the questions that presented themselves to me with such force after 9/11 when popular concern about Muslim women’s rights took off. As an anthropologist who had spent decades living in communities in the Middle East, I was uncomfortable with disjunction between the lives and experiences of Muslim women I had known and the popular media representations I encountered in the Western public sphere, the politically motivated justifications for military intervention on behalf of Muslim women that became common sense, and even the well-meaning humanitarian and rights work intended to relieve global women’s suffering.

Music and Wine

This Week’s Hot Reads

From the Steely Dan lead singer’s memoir to the golden age of American French cooking, here are this week’s hot reads.

Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen. Steely Dan co-founder and lead singer Donald Fagen’s new book Eminent Hipsters is partly a compilation of his essays and partly a journal he kept while on tour in 2012. Fagen, who majored in journalism as an undergraduate, includes vignettes about his awkward adolescence and growing up Jewish in the predominantly Christian Midwest—alongside critical assessments of his own musical influences, science fiction of the 1950s, and radio legend Jean Shepherd.

Sociopaths

Murder, She Wrote

New York Daily News Archive, via Getty

Jayne Anne Phillips talks about her new novel, ‘Quiet Dell,’ inspired by the ‘Bluebeard’ murders in Depression-era West Virginia, one of America’s most sensational serial killings.

Jayne Anne Phillips’s new novel was inspired by one of America’s most sensational mass murders. Quiet Dell follows a grisly true crime in which a serial killer known by the alias Harry Powers (the press called him “Bluebeard”) murdered 45-year-old Illinois widow Asta Eichler and her three children and Dorothy Lemke, a Massachusetts divorcee. Powers buried all five bodies outside a garage in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, where he had confined and then killed them.

Analysis

Branding Feminism

Grand Central Publishing

The Book of Jezebel is a glossy and irreverant encyclopedia for "the ladies." But blogger Ana Alvarez says she's tired of feminism's slick new makeover by the ladymag set.

Leave it to Jezebel co-founder Anna Holmes to edit what is sure to be the coffee table bible for middle-class feminists everywhere. The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things features a word-and-picture compilation of all things “relevant” to the “ladies.” Who these ladies are remains unclear, but so far we do know zits and ingrown hairs are in there alongside women’s history greats like bell hooks and Althea Gibson.

WTF

Book: JFK’s Brain Disappeared

AP

Did RFK steal it after autopsy?

This is by far the strangest thing you will read today. Or any day, probably. A new book claims that President John F. Kennedy’s brain disappeared after his autopsy—and his brother Robert may have stolen it. According to a new book, End of Days: The Assassination of John. F. Kennedy,  Kennedy’s brain apparently wasn’t buried with him, and was instead placed in a stainless steel container with a screwtop lid. The container was reportedly stored in a file cabinet of the Secret Service (…ok) before being moved to the National Archives. In October 1966, it was allegedly discovered that brain and other autopsy materials were missing. An investigation by then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark failed to recover the brain (ever), but some suspected Robert F. Kennedy stole the locker. Conspiracy theorists, go!

Read it at New York Post

New Faith

My Escape from Mormonism

Eddie Brady/Getty

Her family no longer believed in Mormonism, but she still had tenure at the church’s flagship university. Lynn K. Wilder on her heart-racing days hiding her apostasy—and her path to a new faith.

The summer of 2006, my husband and I mustered the courage to drive two hours away from our largely Mormon community in Utah to attend a non-Mormon church on a Saturday night. That way, no Mormon friends or priesthood leaders could possibly see us. We were paranoid, worried that if someone from Brigham Young University saw me at a non-denominational Christian church, I would lose my ecclesiastical clearance and my job as a professor.And I would have.

The Battle of Algiers

The Year of Camus

Rue des Archives/Getty

Camus’s legacy is haunted by his hesitation to support Algerian independence, but Adam Kirsch says that he gets to the heart of questions over when to act—and when to be suspicious of ideology.

Some writers are lucky enough to be remembered 50 years after they die, and a few are even beloved. What is vanishingly rare, however, is for a long-dead writer to remain controversial. Albert Camus is one of those exceptions, a writer who still has the power to ignite political passions, because he managed to incorporate the history of the 20th century so deeply into his writing. As a novelist, philosopher, and activist, Camus came to stand in the public imagination for a scrupulously moral approach to politics—a liberalism tempered by suspicion of ideology, and adamantly committed to the value of the individual human life.

The Woman Who Saved Solomon

Solomon Northup’s story is so extraordinary that it seems incredible. Meet the civil rights crusader who rescued him from obscurity and made the movie ‘12 Years a Slave’ possible.

Last month, I wrote an article for The Daily Mail about the true story of Solomon Northup, a slave whose harrowing experiences form the basis of the movie 12 Years A Slave. As anyone who has seen the film will testify, Northup endured no end of brutality at the hands of various plantation managers and overseers, all of which are graphically depicted in Steve McQueen’s new film. When I filed the piece, my editor called to express some reservations.

The Biographer’s Song

A Life Lived Loud

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times, via Getty

When will one of America’s most outrageous literary characters get the book he deserves? Adam Begley on a sloppy and insipid biography that doesn’t do justice to Mailer’s life.

A great believer in karma, and nearly as frank in his confessions as he was exuberant in his self-advertisements, Norman Mailer was surely convinced that he would get the biography he deserved. Well, there have been five so far, the first four published in the 1980s and 90s. The most recent, a great big, messy love letter, is about to land with a dull thud in your neighborhood bookstore. Maybe it’s quantity that counts in this particular karmic equation, and the proliferating accounts of Stormin’ Norman’s earthly transit are an indication of his great virtue as a writer.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Reads

Illustration by The Daily Beast

From a Missouri town’s chilling war on two alleged rape victims to Cleveland’s experiment with worker-owned businesses , The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

Nightmare in Maryville Doug Arnett, The Kansas City Star A Missouri town’s chilling war on two teenage girls who were allegedly raped by high school football stars.The End of Ilth Erik Reece, Harper’s A network of worker-owned businesses in Cleveland has created environmentally sustainable jobs in low-income neighborhoods and a work environment that gives workers real input into company decisions and a share of the profits.Facebook Feminism, Like it Or Not Susan Faludi, The Baffler How the growing “Lean In” industry trades structural reform for airy positive thinking.

Sound and Vision

The Ten Best Novels on Music

Everetty Collection

Fiction and music don’t always go together smoothly, but here are ten novels that Ted Gioia rates as getting both right.

Okay, I’ve always had a problem with novels and music. When I was a starving student, my problem was how to afford them. I was an addict and needed a constant new supply of songs and literature. Now, many years later, my problem is where to store all my books and recordings. They are spilling off the shelves, and on to the floor, and I’ve stuffed boxes of those bad boys into every available spot in the garage.But I have another problem about literature and music.

Into the Darkness

Hermann Göring’s Shrink

Joanna Andreasson

At the Nuremberg trials of leading Nazis, one American psychiatrist took on the task of understanding their personality, and developed a strange attachment to Hermann Goring that ruined his life. Jack El-Hai on this unknown story.

In 2007, under the watch of insolently lounging house cats in a Northern California living room, I opened the lids of four battered cardboard boxes. Out rushed the smell of a vanished world: a physician’s patient records and hand-written notes untouched for decades, disintegrating photographs, stale cigarette smoke, x-ray images of Adolf Hitler’s skull, wax-sealed packets of narcotics, and allegedly poisoned food. The boxes exhaled the air of Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945 to 1946, when 22 of the top Nazi leaders awaited and began their trial by an International Tribunal.

Hail Britannia!

Bags of Swank

AP

When Churchill became Prime Minister, the Royal Family were not fans, but soon the King and Churchill developed a close and essential relationship as Britain fought for its life. By Michael Korda.

Quite apart from its many other virtues Kenneth Weisbrode’s wonderfully readable Churchill and the King will go far to correct the mistaken impression that the British sovereign is merely a figurehead, trotted out in full court dress and crown for the opening of Parliament and other symbolic ceremonies. Prime ministers come and go, but so long as he or she lives the sovereign remains, receiving and reading all state papers, and meeting once a week with the prime minister to advise, enquire, and comment—sometimes sharply, as was the case with Queen Elizabeth II and Mrs.

Nasty Stuff

Can Pedophiles Help Themselves?

David Elliott/Getty

That and other provocative questions about human sexuality are raised by Jesse Bering in his new book, Perv. He talks to Rachel Kramer Bussel about bestiality, sexual norms, and foot fetishists.

With his new book Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, Jesse Bering forces readers to face topics that can make even the most libertine amongst us squeamish—namely incest, pedophilia, and bestiality. He covers medical attempts to “cure” homosexuality, age of consent laws, highlights of scientific sex research, and argues that, like it or not, we’re all perverts of one kind or another. The Daily Beast discussed with Bering just how bad bestiality is, “virtuous pedophiles,” the furor over that risqué pre-twerking Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair photo, and what he considers the strangest of the strange in the land of out-there perversions.

Of Human Bondage

The Real ‘12 Years a Slave’ Story

Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight

It's being hailed as the most devastating film about slavery ever, but the extraordinarily detailed memoir it’s based on shows the institution to be even more hideous than you can imagine. Warning: spoilers abound.

That collective gasp you hear is the audience jolted by intolerable cruelty in 12 Years a Slave. Yet if you think the movie offers a terrible-enough portrait of slavery, please, do read the book. The written account is far worse than what the screen can display. The film is based on, and very faithful to, the autobiography of Solomon Northup, which was published in 1853 as Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, From a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana .

Courage

"Who Is Malala?"

Jessica Rinaldi/AP

In her new memoir, Malala Yousafzai remembers the day leading up to the moment Taliban gunman ambushed her schoolbus and shot her for her activism.

In the morning my parents came to my room as usual and woke me up. I don’t remember a single school day on which I woke up early by myself. My mother made our usual breakfast of sugary tea, chapatis and fried egg. We all had breakfast together—me, my mother, my father, Khushal and Atal. It was a big day for my mother, as she was going to start lessons that afternoon to learn to read and write with Miss Ulfat, my old teacher from kindergarten.

Booker Prize

Booker Winner Eleanor Catton Responds to Critics

Olivia Harris/Reuters

Says detractors mostly ‘men over about 45.’

The newest–and youngest–winner of the Man Booker Prize has not been immune to the controversy that inevitably accompanies winning a major literary award. In an interview with the Guardian, Eleanor Catton says that the criticisms following her win for The Luminaries has a lot to do with her gender and her age. "People whose negative reaction has been most vehement,” the author says, “have all been men over about 45." Catton went on to say that in the publishing world, “male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel...interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime."

Read it at The Guardian

Readers

One in 10 Icelanders Will Publish a Book

Dave Bartruff / Genesis Photos-Corbis

Country in the middle of ‘literary boom.’

There is an Icelandic proverb that says “ad ganga med bok I maganum"– literally, everyone "has a book in their stomach.” Or at least, one in ten do. Per capita, Iceland produces the most writers out of any country in the world; ten percent of the small island’s 300,000 residents will be published at some point in their lifetime. Publishing is so common that one novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir, said it sometimes gets competitive, “especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much." Who reads all these books? Iceland is a nation of voracious readers: Iceland boasts a 99 percent literacy rate.

Read it at The BBC

United We Stand

How America Was Made

FPG/Hulton Archive, via Getty

When historian Simon Winchester became American, he decided to set out to understand how the country developed. His new book tells the story of the men who shaped and united America. He talks to Eric Herschthal about what he found.

Most naturalized citizens have to learn something about America’s history. But Simon Winchester, the prolific British-born author who became an American citizen in 2011, tried to re-write it. His new book, The Men Who United the States, tells the nation’s history through the creation of its infrastructure—roads, canals, the telegraph, telephone, and electrical grid. Focusing on the many forgotten figures who brought these projects into being, he argues that these quotidian projects were critical to unifying a country of polyglot citizens.

Books

Punch and Poetry

What’s happening on the Emerald Isles? Two new books, one short stories and the other a detective novel without a resolution, to the new fiction being written by Irish writers. By Andrew Fox.

The short story was the weapon of choice for a generation of Irish writers—including Seán Ó’Faoláin, Frank O’Connor, and Liam O’Flaherty—many of whom had fought for the Republican cause in both the War of Independence and the Civil War, only to see their ideals defeated by the conservatism and social compression that marked the early years of the Irish state. It was in the face of these challenges during the 1930s and 40s, wrote Ó’Faoláin, that a form defined by its brevity and its inconclusiveness presented to Irish writers that most important though unlikeliest of things—an opportunity to arrive at an original “personality.

How I Write