Content Section
Mad as Hell

Paddy Chayefsky: ‘Network’ Prophet

via YouTube

The 1976 movie darkly foretold the future of television news. Dave Itzkoff’s new book describes the drama behind the scenes, and the making of its screenwriter’s mordant vision.

You know the phrase even if you don’t know, or have never seen, the film. You may have have seen it on a best-film-clips-ever TV show. You may have heard it bellowed parodically by a comic, bug-eyed and sweating: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It was originally spoken by Peter Finch in his most famous scene as Howard Beale, the distressed, exploited newsreader of the 1976 movie Network, who is murdered live on-screen by his bosses for ratings.

Swashbuckling Poet

Lord Byron, Interventionist

Getty

What Lord Byron learned when he waded into the fight for Greece’s independence—and why it still matters.

The West has never been shy of producing public figures, or even celebrities, who seek out their own foreign entanglements and occasionally do a bit of good in the process. George Orwell was shot in the throat by Francoists in Spain but, fortunately for us, lived to write the definitive history of a complex and quietly betrayed civil war. Susan Sontag risked carpet bombs in Sarajevo to insert a bit of culture into carnage by directing (if perhaps too tyrannically) an all-Bosnian production of Waiting for Godot.

Longreads

The Week’s Best Longreads

Getty

From Chris Christie’s corrupt career to the rise and fall of Flappy Bird, The Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

It’s Not Just the Bridge Alec McGillis, The New Republic Chris Christie’s entire career reeks.36 Hours on the Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump McKay Coppins, BuzzFeed With all but his closest apostles finally tired of the charade, even the Donald himself has to ask, what’s the point? On the plane and by the pool with the man who will not be king.The Decline of the Revival Jim Hinch, Los Angeles Review of Books Conservative Christian writers face the sunset of their influence in America.

Block by Block

The JFK Assassination in LEGO

Brendan Powell Smith

Brendan Powell Smith brings to life the shocking episodes that forever altered U.S. history—in intricately detailed LEGO brick form. A look at his new book, ‘Assassination!’

Masterpiece

The Great Book of Picasso

Michel Sima/RDA/Getty

On February 15th the definitive, massive, comprehensive catalogue of Picasso’s works will be published—again—thanks to Cahiers d’Art and its new owner. Sarah Moroz on the rebirth of a famous publishing house, gallery, and art journal.

Christian Zervos was a Greek-born critic and collector who became a staple of the Parisian art scene in the first half of the 20th century. In 1926, he launched Cahiers d’Art, a publishing house, gallery, and seminal art journal characterized by its tastemaker contributors, meticulous layout, and incredible art (both classic and modern). The likes of Paul Éluard, Ernest Hemingway, and Samuel Beckett appeared alongside visuals by Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, and Marcel Duchamp.

Frisson

Books Inspired by Love Lives

The Daily Beast

Passionate pairings, dysfunctional marriages, and jealous love triangles stoked many writers’ creative fires, producing the nine memorable works below. Joni Rendon and Shannon McKenna Schmidt are the authors of ‘Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads’.

Could T.S. Eliot have imagined the bleak world of The Waste Land if he hadn’t been driven to the brink of madness by his manic depressive wife? Would we have Tender is the Night if the Fitzgeralds’ own marriage hadn’t come undone in the south of France? Some scribes used writing as a way to work through conflicted feelings, while for others a romantic partner was the secret weapon that cemented their fame. Then there were the opportunists who exploited real-life scenarios for the sake of a good story.

Beard

Lincoln in Love

Library of Congress

Biographers and historians always miss the sensual Lincoln, the man who might have visited prostitutes and passionately wooed Mary Todd. Jerome Charyn, the author of ‘I Am Abraham’ finds the romance in an icon.

So much has been written about Lincoln, yet he remains a deeply mysterious man. We know he loved to tell scatological tales; his worn jokes probably kept him sane as he battled to preserve a nation that was splitting apart. We can feel his sad cadences and the rapture of language in the Gettysburg Address. But we aren’t willing to allow him any rapture in his own life. No historian, biographer, or myth-maker such as Carl Sandberg has ever written about his sensuality.

Fiction Problems

What Should Be Your Favorite Book?

Getty

What do we talk about when we talk about the books that mean something to us? Benjamin Lytal sees where his nose leads him while reading two new books (from Rebecca Mead and W. G. Sebald) about books.

In a recent review, Joyce Carol Oates classified Rebecca Mead’s new My Life in Middlemarch as “bibliomemoir”: that is, as criticism done with the intimate flair of confessional. It’s a big confession, after all, to name your favorite book. Even that term, “favorite,” can be embarrassing. Mead prefers to say that, “Most serious readers can point to one book that has a place in their life like the one that Middlemarch has in mine.” Mead cites her husband’s devotion to Proust, one friend’s relationship with David Copperfield, another’s with The Portrait of a Lady.

Extremes

Extreme Weather, Extreme Cost

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Politicians and businesses have long complained about the price of fighting climate change. Now they're getting a taste of just how expensive inaction will be.

The weather has become the go-to excuse for economists and businessmen who want to explain poor performance. “Unusually, disruptive weather across large stretches of the country kept people indoors,” explained Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, in accounting for a slowdown in home sales in December. Speaking on CNBC, Diane Swonk, the chief economist of Mesirow Financial, used the January chill that gripped much of the nation to explain disappointing numbers on U.

Dangerous Liaisons

Famous Writers’ Seduction Tips

Courtesy Everett Collection

Forget champagne and candlelight dinners, writers—from Colette to Casanova to Raymond Chandler—and their significant others haven’t played by the book when it comes to seduction. Joni Rendon and Shannon McKenna Schmidt are the authors of ‘Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads’.

Successful wordsmiths seduce readers with unique storylines and scintillating prose. These creative writers mastered seduction off the page, too. For them, novelty and naughtiness were the ultimate aphrodisiacs.Colette and Bertrand de JouvenelE.L. James wasn’t the first writer to recognize the erotic power of words. Colette used her novel Cheri, the tale of a young man’s carnal awakening at the hands of a retired courtesan, to seduce her teenage stepson.

Hysterics

The Book India Hates

Landov

When a blustering Indian demagogue attacked Professor Wendy Doniger’s scholarly book on Hinduism, her publisher caved and pulped her book. Shame on them, writes Tunku Varadarajan—and shame on India.

“YOU NOTICEE.” In strident, upper-case pidgin-legalese, the man—a belligerent Indian enemy of “westernization,” a strutting Hindu fundamentalist with a record of suppressive activism against books that “hurt the sentiments” of Hindus—addressed a legal notice to Wendy Doniger, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School (and a woman who knows more about Hinduism than the man in question could ever hope to learn in this benighted lifetime or the next).

Olympic Fail

The Stench of Sochi

Robert Cianflone/Getty

Let’s just admit that this Winter Olympics in Sochi just stinks. It fails as a spectator sport—curling?—and is just a giant show for one of the world’s most sinister tyrants.

The world is filled with great sporting events.The 2014 Olympic Games is not one of them.Sochi started with the same problem as every Winter Olympics. Forget the crass commercialism, the fake amateurism, NBC’s refusal to televise important events live to all its viewers. As an event, the Winter Games fail on the most basic level. They’re lousy to watch.Good spectator sports share certain fundamentals. Their competitors battle head-to-head. Their winners are determined objectively: fastest runner, most points.

How I Write: Julianna Baggott

Julianna Baggott Official Fan Page/Facebook

The author of the popular ‘Pure’ and ‘Fuse’ has completed the trilogy with the new book, ‘Burn.’ She talks about breaking into an Irish accent, her first book, and Michael Moore.

Where did you grow up?A yellow, ivy-covered house on a dead-end street in Newark, Delaware.Where and what did you study?In college, I majored in Creative Writing and French, which my father referred to as Starvation and Poverty.Where do you live and why?I’m moving from sunny Florida to the bitter cold of the progressive northeast – to be closer to family and for my kids.What’s your morning routine like, particularly with your four kids?I stay up late working (or worrying).

Of the Maidens

Virgin Sacrifice in the Parthenon

Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Was the Parthenon used as a site for virgin sacrifice? A new book contends that we may not really understand this iconic monument.

Don DeLillo’s novel The Names opens with the narrator wandering in modern Athens, trying to avoid the city’s imposing past. “For a long time I stayed away from the Acropolis. It daunted me, that somber rock… The weight and moment of those worked stones promised to make the business of seeing them a complicated one.” His reticence suggests something sacred lingering in the stones, but it also reveals the difficulty of seeing the full complexity of ancient monuments.

Marriage the French Way

Pool Photo/Nicholas Kamm/Reuters

When Francois Hollande dines without a First Lady tonight, he’ll have turned a complicated French affair into an American problem. Philip Short on how far the French have come since the days of Mitterand and his not-so secret family.

Twenty years ago the French, like most other Europeans, including even the British, supposedly the most puritanical among them, were flummoxed by Bill Clinton. Why on earth, instead of declaring through gritted teeth and a smokescreen of semantic subterfuges, ‘I did not have sex with that woman’, didn’t he tell Kenneth Starr (as any French politician would have done): ‘It’s none of your business. This is a matter for myself and my wife. Cease your voyeuristic poking around in places which have nothing to do with the public domain!’It seems that similar incomprehension exists in the Unites States regarding the frasques — ‘indiscretions’ as Americans would call them—of the current French President, François Hollande.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

A Real Housewife On Sex and Dating

Stuart Conway/Camera Press/Redux

Carole Radziwill, one time princess, two-time Real Housewives star, debuts her first novel and talks about sex and dating.

The period after a break-up, divorce, or separation where individuals struggle to start again and re-enter the dating world is always a challenge. There is the timing, the comparisons to exes and an overwhelming feeling that nothing feels the way it should. But, finding your place after the death of your partner is a completely different story.In the new comedic novel, A Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, Claire Byrnes’ life is left in a bit of a mess after the unexpected death of her husband, a sexologist and well known author with a penchant for extramarital affairs.

La Vie

Edmund White: Sex & Survival

Louis Monier/Gamma, via Getty

One of America’s best-known writers, Edmund White’s latest book revisits his years living and loving in Paris. He tells Tim Teeman about sex, relationships, surviving strokes, marriage, and the importance of pleasure.

Edmund White opened the door, took one look at my blood-covered face and hands, and called softly for his husband Michael Carroll. “Oh my goodness, what happened?” White asked. Moments before, I had opened the door to White’s Manhattan apartment block’s inner stairwell (healthy me, taking the stairs), slipped and bashed my head square against the concrete wall (not so healthy me, I’ll take the elevator next time). A deep gash immediately started seeping blood.

Live and Let Die

Book Bag: How to Survive

Phil Ashley

Claire Cameron, the author of the new novel ‘The Bear,’ picks her favorite stories about unlikely survivors.

Why do some people survive traumatic events when others don’t? As we read tales about survivors traversing scorched landscapes, floating in the open sea or arriving alone in foreign lands, we often ask ourselves: Would I survive? Laurence Gonzalez in his book Deep Survival speculates that while 90 percent of people freeze or panic in threatening situations, there are a special 10 percent who are able to keep calm and take action. They are the ones who make the right decisions to stay alive and thrive.

Fun and Thrills

This Week’s Hot Reads

The Daily Beast

Three novels that make for clever and fun reading: from a ‘Lost’-like fantasy to a satire of the Irish boom.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer This novel features main characters we know only as the Biologist, the Psychologist, the Anthropologist, and the Surveyor, although this is not General Science 101 at your local community college. Nor is this some Theater of the Absurd knockoff. Instead, they comprise the 12th expedition to visit a place called “Area X.” The first expedition thought the place was a natural paradise, but the second expedition committed mass suicide.

Trippy

What Nazis Taught the CIA

Everett Collection

At a secret black site in the years after the end of WWII, CIA and US intelligence operatives tested LSD and other interrogation techniques on captured Soviet spies—all with the help of former Nazi doctors. An excerpt from Annie Jacobsen’s ‘Operation Paperclip’, published this week.

It was 1946 and World War II had ended less than one year before. In Top Secret memos being circulated in the elite ‘E’ ring of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preparing for ‘total war’ with the Soviets—to include atomic, chemical, and biological warfare. They even set an estimated start date of 1952. The Joint Chiefs believed that the U.S. could win this future war, but not for reasons that the general public knew about. Since war’s end, across the ruins of the Third Reich, U.

How I Write