Welcome Back, SPY. [Esquire] “Then came the last year: the withdrawal of Stewart and Colbert from Comedy Central, the death of Gawker, the return of Hillary, and especially the rise of Donald Trump. SPY pioneered the exposure and ridicule of Trump back in its day, of course, always referring to him as "short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump"— and in this campaign, astonishingly, that epithet (and the general tiny-hand critique) resurfaced in a big way. As Trump became the Republicans' presumptive nominee, lots more people, pretty much every day, said to me, "SPY really needs to be rebooted, if only just for the election."” [more inside]
“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals,” write two New York Times reporters. “Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.” In Washington, this weekly meeting has been labeled “Terror Tuesday.” Once established, the list of nominees is sent to the White House, where the president orally gives his approval to each name. With the “kill list” validated, the drones do the rest. [more inside]
Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan chronicler of Latin American history, politics, and football, has died at the age of 74 today in his hometown, Montevideo. [more inside]
UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.
Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
In February 1963, a new publication took advantage of the New York City printers strike and launched with a daring editorial: It does not, however, seek merely to fill the gap created by the printers’ strike in New York City but to take the opportunity which the strike has presented to publish the sort of literary journal which the editors and contributors feel is needed in America. The New York Review of Books is now 50. [more inside]
The Turn Against Nabokov [newyorker.com]
"The author, whose novels thrum with ironic recurrences, might have been perversely pleased with this: thirty-six years after his death and twenty-two years after the fall of the Soviet Union with all its khudsovets, Vladimir Nabokov is, once again, controversial."
"The new constitution 'recognizes the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood,' and art that is deemed blasphemous or 'anti-national' is now the target of a full-blown campaign of suppression."
Pity the Billionaire (YT): Thomas Frank discusses how the American right pulled off a massive coup and successfully branded itself the party of rebellion and protest in the wake of the financial crisis.
"An imprecation to read an avant-garde novelist is not something you often see written in spray-paint". And why should we pay attention? Because it "will fill your spine with gunpowder and light a match in your brain". Verso republishes Nanni Balestrini's The Unseen (with a brand new foreword by Antonio Negri), an epic monument to the struggle of the Italian Autonomia movement of the 1970s.
Some lives are exemplary, others not; and of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense). Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation — like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard’s — was Simone Weil’s. - Susan Sontag [more inside]
Fascinating and inspiring interview with playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard by Riz Khan on the subject of Belarus, a country ruled by the dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and whether artists can have an impact on the world of politics. Recently, the troupe Belarus Free Theatre has been touring the West with Being Harold Pinter, to rave reviews. Stoppard himself was a child refugee, escaping with his family from Czechoslovakia in 1939.
Judith Thurman chronicles the fabricated literary interviews penned by Tommaso Debenedetti, an Italian freelance journalist. His subjects include Philip Roth, John Grisham, Gore Vidal, Günter Grass, Toni Morrison, and other famous authors. [more inside]
Anarchism and Science Fiction: A Reading List
The Interview is a programme from the BBC World Service. Each episode is a 30 minute in-depth question and answer session between the journalist – usually Carrie Gracie or Owen Bennett-Jones – and the subject. Over the past few years it has covered everything from literature – for example, Martin Amis and Seamus Heaney – to the nexus between neurology and music, with Oliver Sacks, and what it's like to be a sprinter with no feet. [more inside]
The New York Review of Ideas is a web magazine reporting about New York commerce, literature and politics. The Manzine is actually £2 for the print version, but some of the its best is also online.
The Iron Heel, published a century ago this year, is a novel by Jack London about socialist revolution in the United States. It is set mostly between 1912 and 1932, with a foreword and numerous footnotes written from the point of view of a historian who has just discovered the manuscript some 700 years later. Here is an excerpt (which is printed on the back cover of some editions) from chapter five:
"This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
"In every existing government we find clamor, abuses of power, newspapers with triumphant, lying headlines, lies of every kind in public life. This being the case, someone like me, who understands nothing of politics, is compelled to think about politics and despair of ever understanding it, is compelled to envision something entirely different." Natalia Ginzburg, Member of the Italian Parliament, writer, and critic.
Victor Serge is one of the missing links in 20th-century history; in at the beginning of the Soviet Union, he saw before almost anyone what a nightmare it was going to be, wrote some prescient books, may have invented the word "totalitarian," knew everybody who was anybody, and was forgotten. Christopher Hitchens tries to remind us (quote and acknowledgment inside).