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Interesting

How I Write: Meg Wolitzer

Leon HarrisLeon Harris/eyevine/Redux

The author of the acclaimed novel 'The Interestings,' now out in paperback, talks about Scrabble, Edith Wharton, and writing without a desk.

Where did you grow up?In Syosset, a town on Long Island, aka Exit 43.Where and what did you study?I started out at Smith College and transferred to Brown University. I resisted the then-loud siren song of Semiotics at Brown, and studied English instead.Where do you live and why?Manhattan. In an uncool neighborhood that’s quiet and far from everything, which forces me to walk a lot. Describe your morning routine.Wake up, walk dog, play a little online Scrabble, start to work.

Chefs

The Queen of the French Kitchen

Rizzoli USA

Before Ducasse, before Bocuse, there was La Mère Brazier, whose cooking was the ultimate in rich hedonism.

Deep in the volcanic gullet of France, on the swollen banks of two rivers fat with fish and krill, in a land sweetened by sod and loamy truffle clods, Lyon squats with its bouchons and charcuteries, a gastronome's glutted mirage. This is not Paris, elite capital of elegant cafés, ville of dainty macarons and delicate glaciers—this a town belonging to the butchers and the traders, to the silk workers’ guild and the workaday Quai Saint-Antoine, where fishmongers and oyster stalls rowdily hawk their rough wares.

Top 100

The Hottest Cool Americans

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Defining who’s ‘cool’ is a slippery enterprise, but that’s never stopped anyone from trying. Bogart? Hendrix? Anita O’Day? Of course. Madonna? Hmmm.

“Bogart was cool: no one used the word then, but it’s the term everyone reaches for now,” writes the literary scholar Joel Dinerstein in American Cool, which he co-authored with photographic scholar and curator Frank H. Goodyear.Besides Bogie, the reach of those who make cut in this sleek book of photographs interspersed with essays includes Johnny Depp, civil rights protestors, Miles Davis as he appeared on the cover of Ebony, Elvis, Robert Mitchum, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Anita O’Day, Madonna, Tupac Shakur, Susan Sontag, Selena, and sundry others.

Forgotten Treasure

A Novelist Ahead of Her Time

Michael Ward/Rex, via Getty

A feminist author long before it was popular, she survived abortion, her husband’s betrayal and even a Harold Pinter screenplay. Her woefully neglected novels still bristle with wit and insight.

In 1966 the writer Penelope Mortimer endured a painful sterilization operation that left her with a giant scar across her belly. She languished in a “home” recuperating from a severe depression. Once out, she discovered her husband, John Mortimer, was leaving her for a younger woman. The novel she had been working on for nearly a year had stalled. To give her a change of scene, her employer, The Observer, sent her to Canada. There, inspired by a spontaneous love affair, her sixth novel was born.

Do Us Part

Fictional Marriages Gone Wrong

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Jean Hanff Korelitz, the author of the new novel 'You Should Have Known,' on her favorite books about failed marriages.

Obviously, I know everything there is to know about marriage. Who else but a self-appointed expert would commit the hubris of writing a novel like You Should Have Known, in which a marriage counselor has, to put it bluntly, no idea what’s going on in her own 18-year marriage, nor even, really, the first thing about her husband? And then there’s the fact that I’ve actually made it to my own Silver Anniversary and beyond (26 years and 7 months of marriage, not that I’m keeping track).

Past Imperfect

A Novelist Not to Miss

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Justin Cartwright’s ‘Lion Heart’ toggles back and forth between the present and the Crusades, probing the ties both filial and romantic that bind us all.

In conversation with the novelist William Boyd some years ago, I queried him on the names of unheralded authors. He enthusiastically commended Justin Cartwright (who by that time had already written half a dozen novels). It took a few years but when The Song Before It Is Sung made it into my hands in 2007, I was impressed by that Cartwright novel about the friendship between English philosopher Isaiah Berlin and Nazi officer Adam von Trott, who was executed for his part in the “generals’ plot” against Hitler in 1944.

Antediluvian

The Story of Noah

Niko Tavernise

Read the passage from the book of Genesis of the King James Version of the Bible that is the source of Darren Aronofsky’s new epic, ‘Noah.’

And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: and he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Fugitives

Hunting Down Egypt’s Hidden Nazi

SS doctor Aribert Heim disappeared after the war to lead a secret life in Cairo, ultimately giving Nazi hunters the slip. Now, a new book reveals Heim’s flight, his years in exile, and the manhunt for one of Mauthausen’s most notorious criminals.

In 1975, Rüdiger Heim, approaching his twentieth birthday, decided that he had to see his father again. He remembered little from his childhood. He recalled the soccer goal his father had built and how he would try to keep up with his older brother as the three of them kicked the ball around. Rüdiger also remembered spending time at his father’s medical practice.His mother and grandmother told the boys that their father was living in Berlin. As a small child Rüdiger received letters from him and wrote notes in return, in one describing how good he was in school, “above all in arithmetic.

Old Master

Norman Maclean’s Late-Life Miracle

University of Chicago Press

Norman Maclean didn’t start writing fiction until he was past 70. The man himself turned out to be as remarkable as his fiction.

There’s an old saying that great movie acting is all about the casting. You can say the same thing for magazine writing as well. Sometimes writer and subject are so suited for each other—like John Schulian and Mike Royko, Mark Jacobson and Harold Conrad or Bud Shrake and East Texas—that the story unfolds like a dream.Such was the case when Pete Dexter profiled Norman Maclean for Esquire in June 1981. Dexter was already a star as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, but he was different from other big city legends like Royko or Jimmy Breslin.

History Repeats

A History of Surveillance

Harvey Georges/AP

In the ’70s Americans learned the hard way that intelligence agencies hate to tell the public what they’re doing. Recent revelations about the NSA prove that oversight and accountability are as necessary now as they were four decades ago.

Twice in their history Americans have been forced to confront a challenging question: Is excessive government surveillance a necessity in a threatening world or a crime against democracy? In both instances, the evidence of such operations was gathered and publicized by citizens whose consciences compelled them to risk many years prison in order to inform the public about illicit government actions.We are currently living through one of those times, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the massive surveillance of the National Security Agency.

Dyke Power

All Hail the Lesbian Avengers

Design by Carrie Moyer

In the early 1990s, the Lesbian Avengers took gay politics into the sound and fury of street activism. In a new book, former member Kelly Cogswell remembers the good times and bad.

The death of arch-homophobe and foamer-at-the-mouth Fred Phelps has led to polarized feelings: do you dance on his grave, simply say “good riddance to bad rubbish,” or just think of him with pity? His Westboro Baptist Church picketed funerals with his ridiculous and vile “God Hates Fags” signs: how can we outdo that for his own? Or do we just turn away from his end-of-life spectacle, and in so doing repudiate the extreme homophobia and prejudice he represented?These thoughts occur while reading Kelly Cogswell’s Eating Fire: My Life As a Lesbian Avenger because when the direct action group of the book’s title was hot in the early to mid 1990s, that kind of explicit, vicious homophobia was the norm.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Reads

The Daily Beast

From the search for bisexuality to how helicopter parents are hurting their kids, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists Benoît Denizet-Lewis, The New York Times Magazine How a new breed of activists is using science to show—once and for all—that someone can be truly attracted to both a man and a woman.The Overprotected Kid Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution.

Splitting the Difference

My Post-Ultra-Orthodox Wedding

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

A couple, raised as ultra-Orthodox Jews, searches for the right wedding celebration to satisfy family and themselves.

I met my husband at a support group for former ultra-Orthodox Jews. There were a dozen of us there, sitting in a circle of chairs, talking about our challenging journeys out of our cloistered communities, but this young blonde man across from me kept on staring at me. It seemed as if he was searching for something in my face, trying to catch something with his eyes.His name was Zeke. At the end of the evening, he asked me what train I was taking home.

Founding Father

The Making of Mark Twain

Culture Club/Getty

In California, young newspaperman Sam Clemens fell in with Bret Harte and other self-styled Bohemians, and together they discovered the American voice.

“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935, and that book’s continuing ability to discomfit and enrage testifies to the power of Twain’s prose. He captured in print the blunt rhythms and salty wit of American colloquial speech, creating a distinctive national literary language that shaped the work of every writer who followed him. But he wasn’t alone in his quest to liberate American culture from sanctimony and sentimentality—a vibrant San Francisco publishing community played an instrumental role in helping Twain find his voice during a few seminal years in the 1860s, decades before Huckleberry Finn was published.

Thrilled

How I Write: David Baldacci

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The bestselling thriller author, whose new novel, 'The Target,' is available for preview this week, talks about writing since he was a kid.

Where do you live and why?I live in Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. I was born in Virginia, I’m a life-long Virginian. I came up here to practice law in DC over twenty years ago, just loved the area. It’s a great place to be a writer, because I can kind of look out the window and ideas come to me.Okay, where’s the best barbecue in Virginia?Ha! Growing up in Richmond there was a place my family would go every Saturday. Bill’s Barbecue.

Literary Estates

Five Great Literary Homes

John Greim/Getty

The debut novelist Stuart Nadler, whose book ‘Wise Men’ is out in paperback, picks his favorite literary descriptions of domesticity.

Our culture is packed full at the moment with aspirational domesticity––home improvement television shows, inside peeks at celebrity houses, a general collective madness for expensive mid-century sofas and artisanal hand-woven rugs and organic wallpaper. All of this reminds me of Lorrie Moore’s terrific story You’re Ugly, Too. When Zoë Hendricks finally buys her first home near the liberal arts college in Illinois where she teaches, her mother sends her a box of old decorating magazines in the mail.

Uncool

Music Criticism Has Gone to Hell

©DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection

In the new paradigm, artists generate coverage by their clothes, hook-ups, and run-ins with the law. What happened to the music?

Imagine, for a moment, football commentators who refuse to explain formations and plays. Or a TV cooking show that never mentions the ingredients. Or an expert on cars who refuses to look under the hood of an automobile.These examples may sound implausible, perhaps ridiculous. But something comparable is happening in the field of music journalism. One can read through a stack of music magazines and never find any in-depth discussion of music.

Secrets

This Week’s Hot Reads

The Daily Beast

From a portrait of an upscale New York City kitchen and its motley crew to a spy thriller set during the Chinese Communist Revolution.

Sous Chef by Michael GibneyA graduate of the Culinary Institute of America once told me that Gordon Ramsay is the only chef on television who acts like someone she’d find in an actual restaurant kitchen. Food Network and other channels have made the cooking industry seem family-friendly and, in doing so, are apparently committing a gross disservice to reality. It seems Ramsay’s coarse demeanor and fiery personality, complete with cursing and bawdy humor, reveal more about the field than can any bubbly acronym with which Rachel Ray abuses us.

Roddy Doyle, Ever Green

David Levenson

One of Ireland’s best writers—certainly its best known—talks about James Joyce, John Ford, ‘Father Ted,’ and bringing Jimmy Rabbitte of ‘The Commitments’ back in a new novel.

Roddy Doyle, the most popular Irish writer of his generation, was born in 1958 in Dublin. He is the author of 11 novels (the latest of which is The Guts) seven children’s books (including the well known Rover Adventures series), three novellas, several plays and screenplays, and a swarm of short stories (one of which, “New Boy,” was a 2008 Academy Award-nominated short film). A stage version of his first novel, The Commitments, is currently having a successful run on London’s West End.

DEATH IN THE Heartland

Nebraska Murder Mystery

Macduff Everton/Corbis

The mysterious death of a quiet, unassuming math professor, and a personal memoir about his own turbulent marriage, makes Poe Ballantine's latest book a gripping read.

The police reports that Poe Ballantine quotes at the beginning of the chapters of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere are meant to show how hokey life in the small northwestern Nebraskan town of Chadron might be: "7.14pm Caller from Regency Trailer Court advised of a dead bird that caller stated died for no apparent reason."But the reports have a secondary subversive impact, for this book is part-memoir and also a mystery, involving a possible murder.

How I Write