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Sex, AIDS, and Survival

Sean Strub, activist and founder of Poz magazine, has relished taking center stage in fighting for dignity, justice, and care for those living with HIV.

On September 5, 1991, the AIDS activists Sean Strub and Peter Staley unfurled a giant condom made of parachute fabric over Senator Jesse Helms’s Virginia home. The music producer David Geffen had given them $3000 to have it made. The men’s other compadres from the direct action group ACT UP powered a generator which inflated the condom to keep it as “life-like” as possible. The legend across the outsized sheath read: “A CONDOM TO STOP UNSAFE POLITICS.

The New Left

When the Sixties Came Unhinged

Hulton Archive/Getty

Who really won the 60s? Not the hippies but the bureaucrats who absorbed bohemian language in service of govt. programs. An excerpt from Fred Siegel’s The Revolt Against the Masses.

An excerpt concerning the growth of modern liberalism in the 1960s from the forthcoming book The Revolt Against the Masses.Substantively, as opposed to stylistically, there was no New Left. The old left’s delusions about the USSR were replaced by new delusions about Third World dictators such as Castro, Nkrumah, and Nasser. The underlying utopian tropes of the old left were refurbished not replaced. Utopian fantasies about eliminating private property were supplemented with utopian fantasies about free love and polymorphic perversity.


Is Sherlock a Good Detective?

Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

As a new season of the hit TV show debuts, Noah Charney asks if the famous sleuth was really all that good after all. Without Arthur Conan Doyle making him solve everything with ease, does his reasoning stand up to reasoning today.

In the Arthur Conan Doyle story, “The Silver Blaze,” Sherlock Holmes discusses the theft of a race horse from a country estate that is guarded by a fierce watch dog."Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.""The dog did nothing in the night-time."Holmes: "That was the curious incident.”Holmes later explains how the “dog that didn’t bark” helped him to solve the crime:I had grasped the significance of the silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably suggests others… A dog was kept in the stables, and yet, though someone had been in, and had fetched out a horse, he had not barked enough to arouse the two lads in the loft.


Beethoven in Love

Alfredo Dagli Orti

As the French Army invaded Germany in 1792 and with Mozart dead, the young Beethoven made his escape to Vienna to become the next great composer. But he left behind a young woman who had captivated his affections. An excerpt from John Suchet’s “Beethoven: The Man Revealed.”

At one o’clock in the morning on December 5, 1791, an event occurred that went largely unnoticed in Vienna and caused much sadness in musical circles in Bonn—an event that would have caused Beethoven considerable grief, and is still being mourned today.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at the age of thirty-five. It is not an exaggeration to say that Beethoven, who turned twenty-one less than two weeks later, was soon being talked of as Mozart’s natural successor.


The Week’s Best Reads

From beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl’s last story to a murder case that implicated a gay evangelical cult leader, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

This is Danny Pearl’s Final Story Asra Q. Nomani, Washingtonian Asra Nomani spent a decade chasing her friend’s killer, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Then she went to Guantanamo Bay to see him.Love and Death in the House of Prayer Jeff Tietz, Rolling Stone Tyler Deaton, a self-appointed apostle in one of the fastest-growing evangelical movements, loved Jesus, Harry Potter and, much to his dismay, other men. When his wife turned up dead, the secrets began to spill out.

Avant Garde

The Bioterrorist Who Loved Mahler

Smith Collection/Getty

A composer with an interest in scary biology is on the run from Homeland Security in this new novel from the brainy Richard Powers.

When his 14-year-old golden retriever dies, Peter Els calls 911. The responding officers appear to understand the grief behind his erratic action but still want to take a look around the house. They're startled by "a large wooden frame, like a freestanding coat rack," in the living room, with "several sawn-off water-cooler bottles" hanging off it. It's a musical instrument, the retired college professor explains; he used to teach composition.

Pigskin Perfection

Vince Lombardi’s Sleepless Night

Tony Tomsic/Getty

In the as-told-to classic ‘Run to Daylight,’ the peerless sportswriter W.C. Heinz channels the wee-hours torments of Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

It’s easy to overlook football writing. Football is TV, NFL Films—it’s the cinematic sport. And there is a surprising lack of memorable writing about, say, the Super Bowl. Still, plenty of tremendous football writing does exist—just ask the Library of America, which is publishing Football: Great Writing About the National Sport in August.When it comes to fluid storytelling and taut, sturdy prose, W.C. Heinz was a master. And versatile, too, as he expertly plied his trade as a newspaper columnist, war correspondent, magazine writer, novelist, and biographer.

Fertile Questions

The Test Tube Generation


A provocative new book says that women are being sold a lie that they can have it all and get easily pregnant in their late thirties and forties—and that we’re experimenting with fertility across a whole generation.

Gossip magazines are constantly touting the baby bumps of celebrities well into their forties. Halle Berry just had her second kid at 46; two years ago, Mariah Carey gave birth two twins at 41; and Kelly Preston gave birth when she was 46 to her second child. Everywhere you look, women are easily having babies in their late 30s and early forties. Stars, they are just like us. Or are they?So imagine Tanya Selvaratnam’s surprise when she had her first miscarriage at 37, and then another, when she was 38, and yet a third when she was 40.

Tallulah: Drunk, Gay and Fabulous

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Tallulah Bankhead was an actress, lesbian, proto-feminist, wit, raconteur, and one of the flapper era’s most dangerous women

When actress Tallulah Bankhead first arrived at the Algonquin Hotel she’d noted the tough, abrasive style of New York conversation. She herself had been raised never to cuss or talk dirty: yet these glamorous writers and actors made a point of using obscenities and working men’s slang to give an edge to their jokes and observations. Later she observed that one of the most skilled in this idiom was the journalist Dorothy Parker. Her sly, skewering banter and provocative cynicism were her defense in a male-dominated profession and also her selling point.

My Generation

Grabbing the Keys to Happiness

Ferran Paredes/Reuters, via Corbis

From his new book ‘The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again),’ The Daily Beast columnist on when America’s rubber finally met the road.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven, as William Wordsworth said when he got his driver’s license.The Baby Boom’s first social movement was cruising. This is not to be confused with Cruisin’—adolescence on wheels as it is poorly remembered in popular culture and badly reenacted in Plymouth Belvederes by old bald guys. I never saw a carhop wearing roller skates. The idea was as stupid then as it is now.Nor did we cruise in the singles bar or Christopher Street sense, loitering with sexual intent.


Welcome to Literary Toronto


Toronto is notorious these days for the antics of its mayor, Rob Ford, but there’s a quieter literary side to the city as novelist Sheila Heti reveals.

In her Toronto based novel, How Should a Person Be?, Sheila Heti transcribed a conversation between herself and her real-life artist friend, Margaux Williamson, leaving just a duologue and removing all sense of the how and the where.It would be difficult then to consider the 37-year-old’s most successful book to be a reflection on place, but it is. Even with this intermittent chopping of prose, Heti has a strong appreciation of life in the most populous city in Canada—the place where she was born and continues to live.

Jazz Age Tales

The Fabulous Generation


They danced all night, drank non-stop, ran naked through the streets, slept with whomever they wanted to—meet the Fitzgeralds and the Flappers. Two new books make you earn for their parties and explore the origins of ‘The Great Gatsby’ writes Lucy Scholes.

In June 1922, an article in the New York Times denounced the popular new gatherings known as “cocktail parties,” at which, due to the numbers of “inebriate” members of both sexes, “animosities develop, quarrels arise, and not infrequently the end of the ‘party’ is some sorry form of the tragical. Somebody gets shot or stabbed, or private disgraces become public because of a death over which the Coroner’s jury ponder long in an effort to determine whether it was ‘natural’ or a murder.


She Stopped a School Shooting

Mike Haberman

A man walked into a Georgia school with an AK-47 and a duffel bag full of ammunition. Antoinette Tuff, who tried to kill herself nine months earlier, talked him out of it.

Nine months before a man walked into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, wielding an AK-47 and a duffel bag full of ammunition and yelling “We are all going to die today,” Antoinette Tuff tried to kill herself.  But on August 20, 2013, she convinced the would-be school shooter that he had a reason to live.“It’s going to be all right, sweetie. I want you to know I love you, okay? I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’re giving up and don’t worry about it.

Creative Writing

Chang-rae Lee: How I Write

David Levenson/Getty

The Korean-American writer, whose new dystopian novel is ‘On Such a Full Sea,’ speaks about his first failed book, his favorite assignment for his students, and golf.

I understand you went to Exeter Academy. Tell me about your time there.Vis-a-vis writing, Exeter was the place I got interested in writing. Not sure that would’ve happened at my local public high school. Exeter alum writers were really promoted and we always had a troop of them coming through: Gore Vidal, George Plimpton, John Irving. We had a James Agee year, where we all read Agee’s work. It’s a place where writing and writers were revered.

Whose Your Daddy?

The Science Behind Virgin Births


Turns out that nun who gave birth to a child named after the Pope is in good company in the long history of virgin births. Professor Candida Moss on all the strange excuses given when there’s no father.

Last week a nun in Italy gave birth to a baby boy after being rushed to hospital with stomach pains. She named the boy Francesco, or Francis, and nuns at her convent are said to be “very surprised” by the news. No one more so than the woman herself who remarked—in what could be a direct quote from the hit Discovery Channel TV show—“I didn’t know I was pregnant.” Still, while few details are available, she presumably knows how she got that way.

Freedom and Strife

This Week’s Hot Reads

The Daily Beast

This week, a memoir of liberation, a biography of Ariel Sharon, and a comprehensive compendium from a master poet.

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood By Leah Vincent Whatever the ideology, few display the zeal of the convert. For writer and activist Leah Vincent, born the daughter of a Rabbi in an ultra-orthodox community in Pittsburgh, the ideology in which she found herself an eager neophyte was one that most of us in this country take for granted: secular self-determination. In Cut Me Loose, she describes her creeping disillusionment with the paternalistic and self-segregating world of the Yeshivish, in which a girl was expected to “move from her father’s home to her husband’s” at a young age, and where she was exposed to such sentiment as “blacks aren’t like other non-Jews.

Pink City Rock

Namaste, Jaipur!

Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times, via Getty

With over 200,000 people attending this year, India’s Jaipur Literature Festival can claim to be one of the biggest in the world—and certainly the most fun. Vijai Maheshwari reports on the big speakers, controversies, and hits from this year.

Asia’s largest literary festival kicked off in Jaipur, India, last Friday, with over 200,000 people thronging the various stages of the 17th century Rajput-built Diggi Palace in the center of the “pink” city. Free from the controversy that dogged 2012’s festival, when Salman Rushdie canceled his trip because of death threats by Muslim fundamentalists, this year’s festival has a more relaxed, bohemian vibe. Speakers at the prestigious festival include Jonathan Franzen, Gloria Steinem, Novel-prize winner Amartya Sen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Reza Aslan, Jim Crace, and memoirist Ved Mehta.

One for the Road

The Haunted Stage

Helen Warner

In a series of award-winning plays Conor McPherson has shocked theatergoers. Here he talks about his new play ‘The Night Alive,’ on drink, being a romantic, and the meaning of grace.

“It’s a question of always trying to wrong foot the audience,” the award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPherson told me on the phone from Dublin.  “Then you suddenly up the stakes exponentially, and they’re like, ‘Oh shit, I didn’t see this coming.’”That’s pretty much what McPherson did to me in the winter of 2008, shortly after I sat down in the third row at the Booth theatre to see The Seafarer, the story of a boozy Dublin Christmas Eve poker game in which a man’s soul is at stake.

Loud and Clear

You Need to Read This Book

Chris Hondros/Getty

After years of combat and thousands of pages of confusion, finally there is a book that explains the inner workings—and failings—of the American disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former State Department official John Kael Weston salutes Robert Gates’ “Duty.”

I met former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates twice, both times in the remotest reaches of Afghanistan. If anyone is entitled, indeed obligated, to pen a blunt book about America’s two longest wars, it is this deliberative ultra-insider and Washington wise man. Gates writes with an unfiltered voice and in very detailed fashion—600 pages of ungilded prose—to the benefit of readers, the nation, and, undoubtedly, curious troops.So what lies behind the curtain of official Washington at the highest levels of government in a time of nonstop war? Well, it ain’t pretty.

Rich Text

MLK’s Forgotten Masterpiece

Howard Sochurek/Getty

When Martin Luther King accepted his Nobel Prize, he delivered a speech that has been unfairly ignored because his delivery was so muted. Read 50 years later, it is electrifying.

Martin Luther King’s gifts were manifest. He was an inspired leader, a galvanizing orator, and a brilliant polemicist and prose writer. But more than anything, he knew how to rise to an occasion.On December 10, 1964, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, he knew the world was watching. He knew that he was the public face of the American civil rights movement, and that everything he said would be weighed and judged, sometimes harshly. Put in that position, almost any of us would tremble.

How I Write