He is America’s greatest living playwright, but lately he’s scandalized his old friends with his right-wing views. Now David Mamet has written his first fiction—about violence and war.
David Mamet is blessed—and cursed—with an obsessively acute ear.In his plays, films and prose—including Three War Stories his just-published trilogy of novellas concerning the degrading and/or uplifting effects of (often grisly, occasionally sadistic) martial violence on the human character—Mamet hears voices and then retransmits them after dexterous literary processing.In his politics—which, over time, have crossed the ideological gulch from “brain-dead liberal,” as he once called himself in a noted essay, to rabid right-winger—Mamet also hears voices.
JFK was one of America’s most liberal presidents, right? Wrong. Former aides Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Ted Sorensen rewrote history to make him more liberal than he really was.
President Kennedy was a tax-cutting Cold Warrior who was tough on unions (“the cancer of labor racketeering”), slow on civil rights legislation, and called abortion “repugnant.”So how in the world did he wind up as an icon of liberalism?The matter puzzled even some of JFK’s former aides: Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen acknowledged at one event, “Kennedy was a fiscal conservative. Most of us and the press and historians have, for one reason or another, treated Kennedy as being much more liberal than he so regarded himself at the time.
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner talks about the pleasures and difficulties of writing a monumental—but always accessible—biography of Johann Sebastian Bach.
It never happens often enough, but now and then, a subject gets the book it deserves. So it is with John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, a biography so thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written that it should satisfy both the well-informed enthusiast and readers simply seeking to become better acquainted with a musical giant. Johann Sebastian Bach was such a protean composer that tomorrow someone could publish a completely different and equally wonderful biography.
One of the greatest travel books ever published, the late Patrick Leigh Fermor’s two-volumes of his walk across Europe in the 1930s, is finally finished.
In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off to walk across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, or Constantinople, as he always called it. He reached his destination at the end of 1934, after many memorable adventures and encounters, but he did not write about the journey until nearly thirty years later.By then, he was a war hero, celebrated for his part in the abduction of a German general in occupied Crete in 1944, and a writer whose books included two loving tributes to his adopted home of Greece.
The Fab Four’s success did not come from hours spent on stage in Hamburg or Liverpool—it erupted from a crazy combination of ambition, talent, and—most of all—arrogance.
When English writer Mark Lewisohn first informed Neil Aspinall—a Liverpudlian accountant who at 19 began ferrying four local lads known as the Beatles to and from gigs in an £80 maroon Commer van, then became the boys’ road manager, personal assistant, and all-purpose fixer, and eventually wound up running their record company, Apple, for the last 39 years of his life—that he, Lewisohn, was planning to pen a three-volume, multi-thousand-page history of the Fab Four, the band’s oldest, closest friend responded with a grunt.
From how Nazi science is influencing American abortion politics to hitmen who turn on those who hire them, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.
The Nazi Anatomists Emily Bazelon, Slate How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics.The A-Team Killings Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a U.S. Special Forces base—was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?Oops, You Just Hired the Wrong Hitman Jeanne Marie Laskas, GQ Say you want someone, you know, eliminated—a lover, a business partner, a mother-in-law.
Know what Hitchcock’s “The Birds” is based on? Thought not, but you should because Daphne Du Maurier’s original story is superior and creepier in every way.
“The novel on the cutting room floor”They are literature’s cold cases, the Missing and Presumed Dead. They are the unlucky novels and stories that inspired movies so successful that they eclipsed the originals almost completely. Some books weather a subsequent movie’s success. Gone With the Wind survives as a classic film and a classic novel. But how many people know that before it was a movie, Die Hard was a very good novel called Nothing Lasts Forever, or that Forrest Gump is based on the novel Forrest Gump?Good fiction deserves a better fate.
You might think you know genius when you see it, but as a new book shows, the very definition and idea has had a fluid history. From the divine to the profane, what we mean when we say that potent word.
In 1917, a young psychologist at Stanford University did something strange: he tried to measure the IQs of dead people. Despite the challenge of testing the mental agility of deceased subjects, Lewis Terman claimed that reports of childhood activities, accomplishments, and pastimes could supply the essential data. Terman and his assistant relied on biographical accounts of illustrious individuals to compute the scores. The smartest of the overwhelmingly male and European luminaries they ranked was John Stuart Mill, with an estimated IQ of 190.
One of America’s sharpest literary personalities spent his last decade drunk and lonely, but remained fiery and lusty till the end, as his friends like Susan Sarandon, employees, and relatives recount.
Gore Vidal opened his second memoir, Point to Point Navigation, published in 2006, writing that he hoped he was moving graciously “toward the door marked Exit… For the young, death is supremely unnatural. For the old, it is so natural that it is not worth thinking about.” Death was “unavoidable,” Vidal said of his partner Howard Austen’s death in 2003. “One or the other is going to die, it’s inevitable that both will be dead. I’m stoic.”But there was very little calm or graceful about Vidal's final decade, as I learnt researching my book In Bed With Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood and the Private World of an American Master.
The executive producer of ‘60 Minutes’ says a key source for its blockbuster Benghazi report told a different story to the FBI.
The CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes lost confidence in a key source for its report on Benghazi that aired last month after the network confirmed that an FBI interview with the source less than a week after the 2012 attacks did not match the account he gave the network. The source, a former British military officer named Dylan Davies, claimed in the interview—as well as in his new book—that he scaled the walls of the U.S. compound in Benghazi on the night of the attacks and disabled one of the attackers.
Novelist Amy Tan talks about her new novel, ‘The Valley of Amazement,’ set in a Shanghai courtesan house, how she researched Chinese history, and learning how to write about sex.
Amy Tan has a wicked sense of humor. She’s attained sensational literary success; her novels The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter have defined the Chinese-American immigrant experience. But she’s also a master of the deadpan spoof, as in a YouTube video she made for this year’s Ecco/Harper Collins sales conference. Sitting at the grand piano in her spacious living room, she talks about everything her new novel, The Valley of Amazement, is not.
Mitt Romney’s chief strategist looks at ‘The Gamble,’ the other new book about the 2012 presidential race, and the cold, hard data on why President Obama won.
There are two new books out about the 2012 presidential election that are wonderfully different but complementary. You’ve probably heard of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s Double Down, a sequel to their 2008 campaign book, Game Change. But there’s another book that must be read if you are interested in what happened in 2012: The Gamble by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck, two youngish political scientists at George Washington University and UCLA.
Celebrated filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) released an eye-opening new book, ‘Cabinet of Curiosities,’ containing sketches and diary entries for his myriad projects. Del Toro opened up to Marlow Stern about his relationship with James Cameron, Justice League and Marvel projects, collaborating with Kanye, and more.
You know a Guillermo Del Toro film when you see one. It’s a dazzling mélange of ghastly creatures, ornate sets, and beauteous viscera. The work of a true artist.Now, the Mexican auteur behind movies like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim has provided a gateway into his macabre mind with the release of the tome Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions. The hardcover book contains never-before-seen sketches, notes, and illustrations—all of which are housed at his own personal museum, which he’s dubbed “Bleak House”—affording readers a rare glimpse into his singular cinematic process.
The 2012 election may not have had Sarah Palin, but as John Heilemann and Mark Helperin discovered in Double Down, there was still plenty to talk about.
There’s been a lot of coverage of Jon Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s Double Down follow-up to their gangbusters hit Game Change. From the red flags raised by vetters of Chris Christie, to the Obama team thinking about swapping Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, to the relationship between Obama and Bill Clinton—these anecdotes have been everywhere. In addition to those stories, here are some more of the juiciest bits from the dishy new book.Just tell me you love me.
Our friends over at Byliner asked a few of their favorite authors—Sebastian Junger, Maile Meloy, Mary Karr—to share what books they’re reading and rereading this fall.
Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit:George Saunders’s Tenth of December is the best book of stories since Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. The title story may be the best American story since Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” or O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” This is a writer bursting open a genre and working at the top of his game. The stories are also morally useful. Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure is his best book to date and a wrenching memoir of immigrant agony and the deep schisms a family in stress can foster.
America’s most cited legal scholar, Judge Richard Posner, talks about his compulsive writing, what’s guaranteed to make him laugh, and his passion for cats.
Describe your morning routine.I don’t really have any routines. Well, if I’m at home or in the office I have a desk and a computer. And I write. I’ve never thought in terms of any particular routine. There are a lot of interruptions, emails and so on. Whenever I have free time, I write. Judicial opinions or academic stuff. I don’t have any quota of words. I understand full-time novelists, say, they will want to do a certain amount of words a day in order to finish a book.
For the 1985 Chicago Bears, one hit made their season—and the team—against Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson. It was the kind of hit everyone remembers, and one that it is illegal today.
Every now and then, a single play captures the spirit of a team. It can stand for an entire season. If you want to learn about the ‘85 Bears, you can talk to old players and old coaches about tactics, or you can simply say, “tell me about the Ferguson Hit.”The Bears underperformed in the weeks following the Miami game—Chicago’s only loss that season—stumbling through the remainder of their schedule with workmanlike wins over the Colts and the Jets.
Behind the forthcoming Coen brothers’ film about folk musician Llewyn Davis lies a remarkable memoir by Dave Van Ronk—the man who made folk cool before Bob Dylan.
It’s easy to see why the Coen brothers were drawn to the life of folksinger Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) as the inspiration for their new movie Inside Llewyn Davis. He is a figure that resembles many of the filmmakers’ main characters: earnest to a fault, intelligent but guileless, captive to large and inexplicable forces, and, in the end, never quite capable of expressing himself as clearly or as loudly as he would like. But, also like a Coen brother’s character, he was at the center of amazing things; he was one of the lynchpins of the Greenwich Village folk movement of the 1960s.
When you’re the heavyweight champion of the world life is just more complicated. From his absurd sex life to the 62 cars to bankruptcy, here are the 7 best parts from Mike Tyson’s memoir, “Undisputed Truth.”
Mike on the MakeIn a sport not lacking for imploding superstars, Mike Tyson squandered his natural talent like few boxers have before or since. However, his memoir makes clear that he was lucky to even have been alive to make his professional debut at 18. His mother was an alcoholic, and he grew up in a brothel. His childhood was spent committing petty thefts and violent muggings. He was first arrested at age 10 for stealing a credit card; he had already at gained a reputation as a skilled street fighter, and by thirteen was fighting grown men for money.
CHILL YOUR BONES
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STRIKE A POSE
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