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Hatchet Job of the Year!


“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.


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.


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.


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.

Reading Lives

All About George (Eliot)


As a teenager Rebecca Mead first encountered George Eliot’s Middlemarch and has returned to it at important moments in her life. In her new meditation cum memoir about the novel, she reveals deep truths about how and why we all read says Lucy Scholes.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 recently, the crime novelist Ruth Rendell voiced her fears that reading is a dying art: “Reading is no longer something that everybody does as a matter of course,” she said. “Reading is becoming a kind of specialist activity, and that strikes terror into the heart of people who love reading.” Her comments struck a chord with discerning critics and writers. In a piece written for the Guardian, the often-divisive novelist and critic Philip Hensher proposed a radical government-enforced yearly reading quota.

Death and Madness

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week: a grandson’s compelling dive into his grandfather’s life as a WWII combat psychiatrist an his most famous patient, and a journalist’s journey into a college classroom where death is the subject.

A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, A Japanese War Crimes Suspects, And an Unsolved Mystery from World War II Eric JaffeA Curious Madness is not your typical mystery. There is no body, there is no weapon, and unlike a drop of blood, the clues are as nebulous as the thoughts and intentions of men. “The main problem with writing about my grandfather was I didn’t know anything about him,” author Eric Jaffe writes of Daniel Jaffe, who was a combat psychiatrist in World War II.


25 Extraordinary Ailes Revelations

Nancy Kaszerman/

You can see why he didn’t want it published. From allegations of violence and sexual advances to his controversial time at Fox, all the juiciest bits of the Roger Ailes biography.

In The Loudest Voice in the Room, which goes on sale today, New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman excavates the life and times of Republican strategist-turned-cable television mogul Roger Ailes, the “brilliant, bombastic,” and—according to Sherman—deeply paranoid paterfamilias of Fox News. Below, some of the spicier nuggets from the unauthorized biography, for which Ailes didn't grant an interview:*Ailes, 73, was diagnosed as a toddler in the working class industrial town of Warren, Ohio, with life-threatening hemophilia, which “caused blood to pool in his knees, hips, and ankles.

The Struggle To Find Trans Love

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For one trans woman, finding a date within San Francisco’s lesbian community turned out to be much harder than she anticipated.

DatingJune 2010.I’ve spent much of the last decade writing about trans woman exclusion and trans woman irrelevancy in queer women’s communities. You would think that by now, I would have little left to say about the subject, but this is not the case. In deciding what I would write about this time around, I wrestled with so many possible themes: for instance, discussing how my views on this issue have evolved over the years; critiquing the masculine-centrism of modern-day dyke communities; highlighting the need for heterogeneous queer spaces that are accepting of difference; explaining how trans male/masculine folks who claim a place in dyke spaces by emphasizing their lack of male genitals or their assigned-female-at-birth status royally screw over their trans sisters; or the misogyny inherent in the fact that the queer community loves it when trans female/feminine spectrum folks get all dragged up and lip sync along to some record, but when we speak in our own voices about issues that are important to us, nobody wants to take us seriously.

Sasquatch Sex

Monster Porn Is a Thing

via Amazon

Forget brawny cowboys and sadomasochistic millionaires. ’50 Shades’ opened the door for every horny monster, space alien, minotaur, leprechaun, and gargoyle imaginable. Can you say ‘cryptozoological erotica’?

“From within the tufts of matted hair, the creature released a huge pale cock that defied logic.”Defied. Logic. “He stroked his cock, while I continued to lave his balls, taking one and then the other in my mouth.”Balls. Laved.I entered the world of interspecies fuck fiction—populated by illogical and pale cocks, testicle laving, and bigfoot handjobs—with some reluctance. The quotes above are examples of the sparkling prose to be found in Cum For Bigfoot, one of the best-selling titles in this subgenre of erotica commonly known as “monster porn.


The Brain Man

Arian Camilleri

Just what is novelist E. L. Doctorow up to in his latest fiction inside the brain of a man who may or may not be delusional. Tom LeClair on a confusing mix of neuroscience, George W. Bush, and unreliability.

If an octogenarian novelist can surprise in January, it could be a happy new year for fiction. Unlike Doctorow’s best-known novels, Andrew’s Brain is not historical. Andrew is an eccentric like the mid-century packrats of Homer and Langley, Doctorow’s last novel, but as a cognitive scientist Andrew is cutting-edge contemporary. Instead of Doctorow’s usual big-screen approach to story, we have 200 pages of personal conversation between Andrew and a psychiatrist.


Jesus’s Third Way

Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Writing a book on Jesus showed me how polarized the opinions of him are. But for me, Jesus represents a third way—a symbolic example with the power to change lives.

Try writing a book on Jesus and see responses you’ll get. My short book, Jesus: The Human Face of God, appeared about a month ago, and I’ve been deluged with emails and letters, in quantity and passion of a kind that never followed from my earlier books on, say, Tolstoy or Walter Benjamin or Robert Frost. Let’s just say that readers often have their own very personal take on Jesus, and they’re looking for books that reinforce their idea of what it means to follow him.

Ordeal by Water

Polar Explorer vs. Reality TV Crew


In ‘Chasing Shackleton’, Tim Jarvis re-enacts a hundred-year-old Antarctic journey using replica gear and clothing. Despite the raging tempests, subzero temperatures, and treacherous crevasse fields, what really tests him are the intrusions of a reality TV crew. This would seem to be a problem unique to modern explorers. But might Shackleton have sympathized?

The so-called “heroic age” of polar exploration lasted from the tail end of the Victorian era until the outbreak of World War I. When we consider this period’s doughty adventurers, none speaks more directly to our modern souls than Sir Ernest Shackleton. The exhibitions, movies, books, and other paeans to Shackleton in the last decade or so (from the 2002 film starring Kenneth Branagh to the assiduous reverse-engineering, in 2011, of his favored whisky) appear to have perma-frosted him, as it were, atop the pile.


The Week’s Best Reads

From the internet’s hostility to women to a politician’s lonely quest for the facts on GMOs, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet Amanda Hess, Pacific Standard “Ignore the barrage of violent threats and harassing messages that confront you online every day.” That’s what women are told. But these relentless messages are an assault on women’s careers, their psychological bandwidth, and their freedom to live online. We have been thinking about Internet harassment all wrong.Citizen Ailes Gabriel Sherman, New York When the head of Fox News moved to Garrison, New York, he bought a little newspaper and tried to instill his own brand of American values.

Next Stop

Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin

Joy Fera/Shutterstock; Author’s Collection

Berlin, 1940. Late one a night a railway worker boards her train home and chats with a man. Then everything goes wrong. An excerpt from Scott Andrew Selby’s ‘A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin’.

On the evening of November 4, 1940, thirty-year-old Elizabeth Bendorf had just finished her shift as a train ticket salesperson at the S-Bahn station Friedrichshagen and was waiting for a train to arrive in the station to take her home. The S-Bahn was part of Berlin’s rapid transit system.It was common in 1940 for German women like Bendorf to work outside the home. As a result, women often rode the S-Bahn alone at night when their shifts ended.

Cramer on Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis

In his classic 1984 essay, Richard Ben Cramer wonders if Jerry Lee Lewis got away with his wife's murder.

Richard Ben Cramer died one year ago this week and he is still sorely missed. His career began at the Baltimore Sun during the Watergate Era, blossomed at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he won a Pulitzer for his reportage in the Middle East, and broadened in the 1980s when he conquered the long magazine profile with his enduring Esquire piece on Ted Williams. Cramer then dove headfirst into publishing with an exhaustive account of the 1988 presidential election in What It Takes, and followed that with a bestselling biography of Joe DiMaggio.

Northern Star

Sjón’s Literary Reykjavik

L. Toshio Kishiyama/Getty

Welcome to the most literary country in the world: Iceland. Its current international star Sjón shares his favourite haunts, why he doesn’t believe in realism, and getting into politics.

Literarily speaking, Iceland is prolific. According to recent reports, there are more books read per capita in Iceland—a country with a 99% literacy rate—than anywhere else in the world. But perhaps most astonishingly of all, one in every ten of its 300,000 inhabitants will publish a book in their life. There are, however, only a few Icelandic writers that are read beyond their coastline.Sjón is one of them. The 51-year-old author, whose a pen name means ‘sight’ but is also an abbreviation of the less book-cover friendly, Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, has written seven novels, numerous poetry collections, song lyrics, plays, picture books for children and, in 2011, a libretto.


Are You Smarter Than a Mouse?


Forget fifth graders. In this excerpt from 'Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power,' Dan Hurley compares our intelligence to the mind of the mouse.

Remember the Fox television show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?In November 2011, results of the ultimate extreme version of that kind of contest were reported in Seattle at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society. Gene Brewer, a psychologist at Arizona State University, was the first author of a paper entitled “Working Memory in Rats and Humans.”i Working memory is the ability to juggle multiple items of information in your head, to not simply remember the numbers 13 and 4 but to multiply them in your mind.


How to Hide a Famine

Stephen Shaver/AFP/Getty

At the height of the Great Famine, China hosted the World Championships of ping pong and managed to hide the deaths of nearly 44 million even with the eyes of the world on them.

The preparations had been thorough. In 1961, they had to be. In the last throes of the greatest famine on record, China was about to host its first ever World Championships. There would be journalists arriving alongside the athletes and officials. Somehow, China had to make sure the fact that up to 44 million people had died in the last three years remained an internal secret. And the sport chosen to cover such devastation was ping pong.One man had ensured that the Chinese were hosting the Championships at their time of need, even helping arrange the journalists’ visas.

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