A month ago, the Nobel Prize–winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney died at age 74. Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky remembers how funny his friend could be.
Irreverent comedy subverts, but it doesn't necessarily hurt. Its best laughter can be derisive, but not cruel.Seamus Heaney, among many other things, embodied that central principle: his comic sense was gleefully sharp, but it was not mean. I think he disdained cruelty, as well as pomposity. Mischievous, more bite than bark in the sense that it was mordant with minimal rhetoric, Heaney was not genteel. He enjoyed the disrespectful roar of impropriety.
From a novel on nostalgia to a novel on paranoia.
Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland. Summerfield Hayes, a Brooklyn-born soldier late of the Union Army, wakes up in a hospital bed unable to speak. He has been rendered mute by what in 1864 was a medical diagnosis: nostalgia. A modern name for it might be post-traumatic stress disorder. In his new novel, entitled Nostalgia, Dennis McFarland explores how war makes some men prisoners of their own minds. Though in a state of near catatonia, Hayes’s synapses are busily firing.
You’ve probably never heard of Stephen Wright’s 1983 novel 'Meditations in Green,' but you should know it now. It’s one of the strangest and evocative book about the Vietnam War. Nathaniel Rich goes into the jungle.
A good war novel forces you to visualize, in vivid detail, the horror and dysfunction of combat. A great war novel goes further—it makes you feel the horror personally. The putrescence of a corpse rotting at the bottom of a trench wafts from the pages of All Quiet on the Western Front; readers of Farewell to Arms are susceptible to sudden sharp pains in the legs and scalp. Meditations in Green, Stephen Wright’s debut novel about the Vietnam War, does these things well, but it also does something far more peculiar: it convinces you that the war never ended.
Terry McMillan talks about the power of family ties and her new novel, ‘Who Asked You?’ with Jane Ciabattari.
Terry McMillan has nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers, and a devoted fan base for her novels, which feature indelible portrayals of women navigating through life’s tumult with irreverence and grit. Mama, her first novel, paid homage to her hard-working mother, who raised five children in Port Huron, Michigan. As the novel opens Mildred Peacock, 27, is about to kick her husband out: “If it weren’t for their five kids, she’d have left him a long time ago.
What role did Islam have in shaping the Founders' views on religion? A new book argues that to understand the debate over church and state, we need to look to their views on Muslims, writes R.B. Bernstein.
One of the nastiest aspects of modern culture wars is the controversy raging over the place of Islam and Muslims in Western society. Too many Americans say things about Islam and Muslims that would horrify and offend them if they heard such things said about Christianity or Judaism, Christians or Jews. Unfortunately, those people won’t open Denise A. Spellberg’s Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders. This enlightening book might cause them to rethink what they’re saying.
On the last day of September in 1927, Babe Ruth stepped to the plate and hit his 60th home run. Bill Bryson on the summer that made Ruth’s career.
Lou Gehrig, in his quiet, methodical, all but invisible way, was having a fantastic year. As the second week of September began, he had 45 home runs, 161 runs batted in, and a .389 batting average. As his biographer Jonathan Eig notes in Luckiest Man, Gehrig could have stopped there, with almost a month of the season still to play, and had one of the best seasons ever. In fact, he did essentially stop there.His mother was unwell with a goiter and needed surgery.
From the inside of Air Force One during the first moments after JFK was shot to the Afghan warlords waiting to pounce when the U.S. pulls out, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.
"The Flight from Dallas" by Chris Jones, Esquire. From noon to dusk on November 22, 1963, history went dark, locked inside the closed and crowded cabin of Air Force One. Fifty years later, what happened after JFK died has fully come to light. "Public Enemies" by Ben Austen, Wired. How social media fuels Chicago’s gang wars. "The Death of Republican Ideas" by Molly Ball, The Atlantic. How the Heritage Foundation went from the intellectual backbone of the conservative movement to the GOP's bane—and how it's hurting the party's hopes for a turnaround.
A new book reveals with devastating detail that Bangladesh should now be added to the roster of Henry Kissinger and Nixon’s crimes in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile. Nick Turse on the forgotten genocide in Bangladesh—and what the echoes with American policy today.
I’ve only seen Henry Kissinger up close and personal twice. One time was an abortive interview about the U.S. wars in Indochina which ended with him stomping off. The other time was during the early 2000s on a Manhattan street when I watched him and a body guard-type flee from protesters who were yelling epithets like “war criminal” and shouting “you’ve got blood on your hands, Henry.” They were no doubt referring to Kissinger’s connections to the killing of innocents in Vietnam.
Cousin Eddie was a Vietnam Vet who came home and went hunting alone. Kara Krauze writes about the cousin she never knew, explaining war to her 7 year old son, and our common need for Heroes.
The other night at dinner my stepdad told us about cousin Eddie* and how he’d gone off to Vietnam, drafted, served his year and a day, and came back different. My seven-year-old, who likes to play war and hear about war and know what’s happened, returned to the table, ears open. Each time we have one of these conversations about war, my mother makes sure to tell him that war brings damage; we shouldn’t go to war, better to avoid it. “But what if we have to go to war?” my son asks.
Thirty years is all the time we have to dramatically change our consumption of fossil fuels—or face catastrophe. Mark Hertsgaard on the new U.N. report—and how Bill McKibben learned to do something about climate change.
Bill McKibben should feel vindicated today. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s premier scientific body on the issue, has just endorsed the path-breaking argument he made last year in Rolling Stone that most of the Earth’s remaining fossil fuels must not be burned if civilization is to avoid catastrophic amounts of global warming. Humanity can burn no more than 1 trillion metric tons if it is to have a better than 50-50 chance of limiting average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the IPCC declared today in the “Summary for Policymakers” of its Fifth Assessment Report on climate science.
Just try sticking a Doors song on an ad for a Buick or deodorant. The band’s drummer John Densmore explains why their music will never be a commodity.
At the risk of sounding grandiose, I will say that, to me, rock ’n’ roll is sacred. It started out mid-twentieth century, and when dirt-poor Elvis bought his first Cadillac, that was his way of “blinging” the uptight ’50s. Sixty years later, I said no to Cadillac, by vetoing the idea of a Doors song becoming the soundtrack to encourage folks to buy cruise mobiles. For all those years a tradition has been building. A tradition built on the idea that this music means something.
Jesus was killed because of taxes. That’s more or less the message of Bill O’Reilly’s new book. Professor Candida Moss on what else the Fox host gets wrong—and what he leaves out.
In Killing Jesus: A History, Bill O’Reilly and writing partner Martin Dugard bring us their long-awaited “accurate account of not only how Jesus died, but also the way he lived.” This should settle two millennia of Christian debate. Although it lacks suspense (SPOILER ALERT: he dies), it’s a pretty good read and it’s fleshed out with tidbits about the ancient world.But it should have been called The Gospel of Bill O’Reilly.Here are some of the reasons why.
In her new book "Wonder Woman," Barnard president Debora Spar asks why so many women struggle to opt back in after taking time off for motherhood.
In 1989, Felice Schwartz wrote a wildly popular (or at least wildly well read) article in the Harvard Business Review. Entitled “Management Women and the New Facts of Life,” the article argued that if corporations wanted to retain their best and brightest female employees, they needed to create a more flexible and family-friendly workforce, one that offered young mothers a variety of ways to structure their working hours and their careers. High-potential women, Schwartz suggested, fell naturally into one of two camps.
Phew! The National Endowment for the Arts reports that more than half of all Americans are still reading—and even talking about books. Ten other facts about how we read today.
For those who fear that Americans are abandoning reading, the results of The National Endowment for the Arts 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), should be encouraging. Americans are reading just as much as they did four years ago, despite the new frontiers of digital media. More than half of all Americans can still find time to read a book, and some even still talk about books with their friends. It’s mostly good news from the NEA—unless you’re a poet.
Always feeling anxious? There’s a cure, and it doesn’t involve drugs, medicinal herbs, or shock therapy. Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin recommend reading Henry James’s ‘The Portrait of a Lady.’
To live with anxiety is to live with a leech that saps you of your energy, confidence, and chutzpah. A constant feeling of unease or fearfulness—as opposed to the sense of frustration that characterizes stress—anxiety is both a response to external circumstances and an approach to life. While the external circumstances cannot be controlled, the internal response can. Laughter, or a big intake of oxygen (the former leading to the latter), usually relieves systems at least temporarily, as well as offering an encouragement to relax.
After controversial decision earlier.
Good decision, it being Banned Books Week and all. The Randolph County school board in North Carolina, which represents some 16,000 students, overturned on Wednesday their controversial Sept. 16 decision to ban Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. The board members had to convene an emergency meeting after they were reportedly inundated with outraged emails.
Says he’s not interested in teaching their books.
Canadian author and University of Toronto literature professor David Gilmour both apologized and defended his “I’m not interested in teaching books by women” comment that was published on Wednesday in the online magazine Hazlitt. Gilmour said he is “extremely sorry to hear that there are people who are really offended,” and characterized the statement as “a careless choice of words.” Gilmour said he was speaking to a French colleague while he was doing the interview, and remembered being more concerned about his French accent than what he was saying to the interviewer. He will not alter his syllabus because “I tend to teach people whose lives are a lot like my own, because that’s what I understand best, and that’s what I teach best.” During the Hazlitt interview he also said, "What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller, Philip Roth." Gilmour said that was a joke, and pointed out that he does in fact teach Truman Capote.
‘From Scratch,” a new tell-all history of the Food Network, details the many egos that have clashed on the channel, from Anthony Bourdain trashing everyone to Guy Fieri’s alleged ‘minority’ problems. We speedread the book for the biggest fights.
From journalist Allen Salkin comes From Scratch, a new tell-all history of the Food Network that details the egos, and feuds of the people that made a fledgling upstart a cable TV empire. The precipitous fall of Paula Deen earlier this year wasn’t the first time celebrity chefs found themselves in the midst of scandal. It wasn’t even the first time for Deen. As messy as making food is, making food on TV is messier. Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen After Deen’s 2012 diabetes scandal, an audience member at a food festival asked Anthony Bourdain if the constant smoking on his own program was comparable to Deen’s gratuitous use of butter.
Jonathan Franzen is in a fracas over his comments deploring our literary culture, Amazon, and social media. Michelle Goldberg defends the novelist—and says we should admit we’re losing something important to the Internet.
The Internet gets very angry if you criticize it. Earlier this month, as you probably know, Jonathan Franzen published a nearly 6,500-word lament, modestly titled “What’s Wrong With the Modern World,” about the eclipse of literary culture by a digital swarm of “yakkers and tweeters and braggers.” The reason you probably know this is because the piece was so widely mocked and reviled. “Jonathan Franzen Misses the Old Days, When Women Couldn’t Tweet Back,” Amanda Hess wrote in Slate.
The military has a major investment in ‘serious’ videogames and is using them to treat PTSD. Corey Mead writes about the treatment’s successes and the benefits of gaming.
The game goes like this: You are Spc. Kyle Norton, a 19-year-old Midwesterner whose life has begun to spiral downward following a bomb-disposal assignment in Iraq. Already beset by financial difficulties, you receive a surprise email from your fiancée, who announces that she has become pregnant by another man. Still reeling from this news, you learn that your best friend has just been killed in an ambush. As these scenarios unfold, questions appear on your videoscreen, prompting you to decide whether, as Norton, you should seek help for these issues.
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