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Fertile Questions

The Test Tube Generation

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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.

Streetwise

Welcome to Literary Toronto

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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

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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.

Prepared

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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

Reading Habits

E-Books Thrive and So Does Print

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A new Pew study finds that readers are embracing e-books on a variety of devices but that print is holding its own.

Traditionally (strange word to use in connection with technological change but bear with me), devices that bring us entertainment displace one another. VHS kicks Beta off the island, CDs make cassette tapes obsolete, and so it goes. But according to a Pew Research Center poll released this week, the same does not hold true for the devices Americans use to read.  While the number of people reading e-books continues to climb (17 percent in 2011, 23 percent in 2012, and 28 percent in 2014), the figure for people who read books remained fairly constant for the same period.

Hatchet Job of the Year!

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“No rhythm, no beauty, no humor.” The eight most scathing book reviews of the year.

The eight scathing book reviews that make up this year’s Hatchet Job of the Year Award shortlist have been announcedLast year was, by most people’s standards, a good year for book lovers. At 28, Eleanor Catton became the youngest ever winner of the Booker Prize with her swirling, mesmerizing epic The Luminaries. At a daunting 832 pages, it was also the longest novel ever to have won the prize. Elsewhere, there were new novels from John le Carré and Donna Tartt, her first in over a decade.

Distorted

Myth of Reality in ‘Lone Survivor’

Gregory E. Peters/Universal Pictures

The film ‘Lone Survivor’ is meant to be a celebration of a heroic SEAL team in Afghanistan, but in making up parts of the story and avoiding hard truths the director Peter Berg has failed those men—and the viewer.

Spoiler Alert. Lone Survivor is a movie.Lone Survivor is a film with a serious identity crisis. It is a biopic and a memorial, both ultimately cheapened by concessions to the action genre and an inability to fully humanize its characters. It depicts Operation Red Wings where, for their part, a four man SEAL team is tasked with locating and surveilling an enemy militia leader from a mountain in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg plays real life Marcus Luttrell, who we know to be the only survivor, and we follow him and the doomed members of his team through their ordeal.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Reads

The Daily Beast

From the sentence that launched America’s endless global war to the amazing world of underground marijuana smuggling, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

The Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History Gregory D. Johnsen, BuzzFeed Written in the frenzied days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. More than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world.In the Name of Love Mika Tokumitsu, Jacobin “Do what you love” is the mantra for today’s worker.

The Adolescent Psyche

No Strange Magic in the Attic

James Dittiger

Lifetime doesn't make the mistake of leaving the brother-sister incest out of its television adaptation of 'Flowers in the Attic.' What's missing here is context.

When V.C. Andrews's mega-selling 1979 young-adult novel Flowers in the Attic was adapted into a campy 1987 horror movie starring Kristy "The Original Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Swanson and Louise "Nurse Ratched" Fletcher, most of the book's big plot points made it up on screen—except for one.Included in the film was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, alliteration-happy Dollanganger family: father Chris Sr., mother Corrine, and their four perfect "Dresden Doll" children (Chris Jr.

FOOD FIGHT

In Defense of the Paleo Diet

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Critics of America’s most popular new diet aren’t entirely wrong, but look closely at their three biggest criticisms and you see why you should still be experimenting with a paleo diet says Chris Kresser, author Your Personal Paleo Code

The Paleo diet has exploded in popularity over the past several years. It’s not unusual to see a Paleo book on the New York Times bestseller list, and by now you’ve either heard of it, know someone who is doing it, or perhaps are doing it yourself. But while the Paleo diet has rapidly gained a foothold in the public consciousness, it has also been criticized in the media. I outline below the three most common critiques and explain why they don’t invalidate the fundamental premise of the Paleo approach.

In the Garret

All About Paris

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Famous for her novels about Americans living and loving in Paris, Diane Johnson’s new book is about home: America. She talks to Noah Charney about her writing routine, the best advice she ever got, and life in Paris.

How did you first come to live in Paris?I went to Paris as a trailing wife, when my husband John was doing medical research with a French colleague there. At first, I resisted, hoping for England, because I was and am a great Anglophile, and also I couldn’t speak French.Which neighborhood in Paris is your personal favorite and why?We lived for a number of years in the Fifth Arrondissement, and I think that’s still my favorite, for its vestiges of Roman and medieval Paris, present student life, little theaters and bookshops, foodie markets and all.

How I Write