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Face Fail

The Unpersuadables

Intelligent creationists, scientifically-minded climate-change doubters, and Holocaust deniers—why don’t all smart people believe in facts?

As he was researching his new book, Will Storr met a creationist who said there were dragons on Noah’s Ark, a climate-change denier who maintained that DDT is harmless and can be eaten “by the tablespoon,” and a past-life regression therapist who told him that in previous lives, one of her clients was a tree branch and two others were John Lennon.Occasionally, Storr found himself frustrated. But the industrious British journalist kept his exasperation in check, deciding that he was less interested in combatting obviously flawed reasoning than in exploring how contentious notions take root in the first place.

Congrats

Chimamanda Adichie: Literary Lagos

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

The new winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction on her literary city and how it inspires her writing.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been a cornerstone of both Nigerian and American literature in recent years. Her debut novel, Half of a Yellow Sun was followed by a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008 and her latest, Americanah, which describes a young couple reintegrating back into Nigerian life after an American education has just won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.Growing up in a quiet area of Enugu with her Igbo family—an ethnicity and language that many of her characters share—Adichie left Nigeria to study in the U.

HAPPY FEET

The Art of the Sneaker

Rizzoli New York

The basketball sneaker has a long and lucrative history, especially for the sportsmen who become the brands' ambassadors.

They wait in long lines in the bitter cold. They squeal with delight over the stitch on the shoes or the faux snakeskin upper. Colors more likely to be seen during Carnival in Rio than on any self-conscious American are hits. Catty quips about style choices are met with irrational exuberance over over-hyped new designs.No, these aren’t the insufferable Carrie wannabes taking up New York’s sidewalks—they are teenage boys and grown men all over the world going on about basketball sneakers.

Soros: Ukraine Could Wreck Europe

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The billionaire financier says in its tepid response to Russia’s Crimea land grab, the EU flubbed a key chance to breathe new life into the stale union.

George Soros, one of the world’s leading investors, has warned that the European Union is in danger of falling apart if it fails to confront Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression in Ukraine.The billionaire financier told The Daily Beast that European governments should have seized on Russia’s land grab in Crimea to breathe new life into a union that is disintegrating and stumbling towards oblivion. Instead, he argued, squabbling European nations have failed to meet the challenge and continued to act in their own narrow self-interest.

Future Tense

Relax, Robots Won’t Take Every Job

CSA Images/Getty

The co-author of ‘The Second Machine Age’ talks about the possibility that machines will put us all of work and why that is just one of several scenarios of the future.

What is technology doing to us? Between the digital skeptics and the wide-eyed utopians sit the authors of The Second Machine Age, two MIT scholars with an interest in consensus and moderation. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both at the university’s Center for Digital Business, realized that things were moving way faster than even they would have predicted. Just as the Industrial Revolution saw machines replacing human brawn, the second machine age sees them replacing our cognitive faculties.

Influences

World According to Wes Anderson

Mike Pont/FilmMagic

Wes Anderson opened the spring season of ‘LIVE From the NYPL’ by talking about his new film, Stefan Zweig, Francois Truffaut, and Marcel Proust.

Filmmaker Wes Anderson opened the LIVE From the New York Public Library’s Spring season on Feb. 27, chatting with the library’s Paul Holdengraber about his new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was deeply influenced by the work of Austrian author Stefan Zweig. “I stole from Zweig,” Anderson said, and the result is an extraordinary tapestry of an imaginary Austro-Hungarian Empire from grandeur to decay. Though The Grand Budapest Hotel is a comedy, it is a dark comedy that foreshadows the sinister history of the two world wars and their aftermath.

AWARDS

National Book Critics Announce Awards

Getty

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won for fiction and Sheri Fink for nonfiction.

On March 13, The National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its book awards for books published in 2013. Winners included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her novel Americanah, and Sheri Fink for Five Days at Memorial, her nonfiction account of a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina. Frank Bidart won for his volume of poetry, Metaphysical Dog. Amy Wilentz won in autobiography for Farewell, Fred Voodoo. Leo Damrosch’s Jonathan Swift took the prize for biography. And Franco Moretti won the criticism award for Distant Reading.

Read it at Publisher’s Weekly

BOOK REPORT

Study: Americans Love Libraries

Justin Sullivan

Roughly a third of Americans say they are ‘highly engaged’ with their local libraries.

How much do Americans love libraries? So much that even people who don’t use them say they cherish them. That’s one of several surprising findings in a new Pew Research Center report. Most intriguing: people who identify themselves as techies and people with high incomes are often among the biggest users and fans of public libraries. Another counter-intuitive finding: the people who said they feel overwhelmed by “information overload” were often those who rarely visited a library and engaged the least with new technology.According to the report, 30 percent of Americans are “highly engaged” with their local libraries, but most people’s use of libraries depends on what’s going on in their lives: students, job seekers, and new parents patronize libraries because their lives are changing and they need information. People who engage the least with their libraries, according to the study, tend to have “lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy, and less engagement with other cultural activities.”

Read it at Pew Internet Research Project

Endless Work

How I Write: Scott Spencer

Everett Collection

‘Endless Love,’ adapted for the big screen in 1981 and 2014, made Scott Spencer’s novel a household name. But the National Book Award-nominated author was already regarded as a modern master.

Where did you grow up?I was raised in a house on the far South Side of Chicago, in a development erected on landfill made from slag and other industrial by-products a few years after World War II. My father worked in a nearby steel mill—I learned later in life that he was a manual worker as a matter of conscience—and my mother worked for an opinion research company, going to people’s homes and interviewing them about their reactions to products and advertising.

Heroine Fix

Wonder Woman’s Triumphant Comeback

Cliff Chiang/DC Comics

Always something of a problem child for DC Comics, the Queen of the Amazons returns with a new back-story that exalts her godliness and celebrates her humanity.

Amid all the recent kerfuffles at DC Comics—the Batwoman lesbian wedding that wasn’t, the brooding big screen reinvention of Superman, Ben Affleck’s controversial casting as Batman—it would be easy to overlook the most exciting reinvention in recent comic book history: Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman. Her epic two-year inaugural story arc wrapped last September, and War, the final graphic novel collecting that arc, came out yesterday.

Bad History

‘300’ Is No Match for Herodotus

Legendary Pictures

Hollywood would never grossly distort the Civil War or D-Day. So why let ‘300’ get by with mangling the 2,500-year-old Greco-Persian War?

Of all the war-torn eras in the all the history of the world, why, Frank Miller and Zack Snyder, did you have to wander into mine? Such is my cry, and that of my fellow Greek historians, following the opening weekend of 300: Rise of a Franchise (oops, I meant “Empire”).We tried to accept the original 300 with patience and grace, happy at least that the public had gotten some insight, however warped and distorted, into the iconic Spartan defeat by invading Persians at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.

The Old City

The Lost History of New York

Vladimír Fuka; Courtesy Rizzoli New York

The Czechoslovakian police were thought to have destroyed all copies of a book of NYC illustrations in the 1960s—until the author's grandson found something in the attic 50 years later.

COOLEST GRANDPA EVER

Keith Richards Pens Kids' Book

Writing 'Gus & Me.'

Inspired by his own grandfather, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is publishing a children's book called Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. His own grandfather Gus handed Richards his first guitar. Now, as a five-time grandfather himself, legendary rocker said, “The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is a story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me." The book is to be published in September.

Read it at The Guardian

Murder Most Foul

True Detective: Medieval Edition

Culture Club/Getty

Medieval scholar Eric Jager, whose new book is ‘Blood Royal,’ about a true story of murder in 15th-century Paris, picks five books about medieval crime that you probably missed but shouldn’t.

The Murder of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders By Galbert of BrugesThis is the earliest surviving journal of its kind, about a brutal assassination and its causes and consequences. In 1127, Charles the Good was attacked in church by the rival Erembald family, who sliced their victim up with swords while he was at prayer. (Charles’s father had also been killed in church.) Galbert, a cleric, chronicled the murder, the investigation (including a bloody judicial duel), and the resulting civil war, which upset the balance of power in Europe.

The End

America’s Lost Tribe

MPI/Getty

In the heart of America an Indian nation called the Mandan formed a fascinating civilization that was wrecked by European invasion. A new book tells their story like never before.

On October 20, 1804, the Corps of Discovery camped just below the point where the Heart River empties into the Missouri, in present-day central North Dakota. Lewis and Clark were only a few months into their journey, and each day brought new wonders for the three-dozen men charged with exploring the lands acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase.  For William Clark, writing in his journal, the memorable sights of that autumn day in 1804 consisted mainly of animal migrations.

BOOK IT

The App That Speaks to Your Eyes

Bertrand Demee/Getty

A soon-to-be released app uses text streaming to make reading quick and painless. Watch out Netflix, a new time suck is on its way.

What if you could read a thousand-page book in a matter of hours?Gravity’s Rainbow on the train to work. Infinite Jest during an afternoon on the hammock. Crime and Punishment over a lunch break or two. With the technologically facilitated speed-reading offered by a new app, called Spritz, soon to be released for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Gear 2 Watch, it just might be possible.The app works by maximizing the efficiency of the movements of the human eye, called saccades, that are required to read text in a traditional format.

Hot Reads

This Week’s Hot Reads

The Daily Beast

This week, from friendship with a phony (and murderous) Rockefeller to fortune-seeking husband-hunters in the British Raj.

Blood Will Outby Walter KirnFrom his earliest school days, Walter Kirn is driven to succeed—to impress his instructors, out-accomplish his peers, earn top grades, and win contests. But midway through his undergraduate education at Princeton, questions of “what else?” catch up with him. What if it’s not enough to be smart and work hard? In Lost in the Meritocracy, Kirn charts how the economics of privilege taunt him at every turn in Princeton.

Checkmate

The Russia Hand

FPG/Getty

What would America’s most insightful strategist of Russia make of the invasion of Crimea? A new collection of his diaries reveals much about the man and his fine mind.

George Frost Kennan, America’s most influential 20th century diplomat, wouldn’t have been at all surprised by Russia’s recent military incursion into Ukraine.  Indeed, it could very well be said that he predicted such a development as early as 1997.  “I have been rendered most unhappy,” wrote the former US Ambassador to Moscow, by the admission of “Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to membership in NATO.”How was such a development “to be reconciled with the assurances to the Russians that they need not worry, that the extension of NATO’s borders to the east has no military implications?”  Indeed, Kennan saw nothing in the rapid and reckless expansion of NATO “other than a new Cold War, probably ending in a hot one, and the end of the effort to achieve a workable democracy in Russia.

Conformists

Hofstadter: Tea Party Prophet

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In the 1960s the great historian Richard Hofstadter first identified a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism in American life, but thanks to the Tea Party and the recession, its worst traits are still plaguing us.

Twenty-first century philistines, suffering from a lack of imagination and curiosity, have seized upon understandable economic anxieties since the financial crash of 2008, to shepherd an increasingly large flock of American sheep into the livestock freight carrier Pulitzer prize winning historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “anti-intellectualism.”Anti-Intellectualism in American Life—one of Hofstadter’s best, among many great books – was a pile of dynamite in 1963, when it was first published and blew a sizable hole in the house of America’s self-comforting delusions of intellectual superiority.

War Stories

The Surreal Terror of Iraq

Steve Bronstein/Getty

A surreal and haunting collection of stories about the spectacle of violence and how war worms its way into daily life by Iraqi author, Hassan Blasim.

The title story in The Corpse Exhibition, Hassan Blasim’s new book, masquerades as a lecture delivered to an initiate who has just joined a cult of assassins. In this secretive group, agents go by code names like “the Nail” and “Satan’s Knife,” and “display” their victims’ bodies in grotesque ways calculated to terrify the citizens of an unnamed country in what seems like the modern Middle East.The catch, and the story’s most brilliant conceit, is that unlike real terrorists, Blasim’s fictional killers operate on principles artistic, not political or religious.

How I Write