My son, the mass murderer: ‘What did I miss?’ [The Guardian] In 2006, Charlie Roberts walked into an Amish school in Pennsylvania and killed five young girls. His mother talks about trying to comprehend his actions.
The murderers next door. [The Guardian] In a remote corner of Romania, neighbours kill each other over tiny strips of land. Betrayed by their rulers, these rural communities have resorted to violent assertion of their rights. [more inside]
The Art of Witness by James Wood [The New Yorker] How Primo Levi survived.
“Primo Levi [wiki] did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer.”[more inside]
"There’s a long and noble tradition of literary critics misunderstanding Joseph Conrad. Partly that’s because he is such a complicated, dense and fascinating writer. Far more words have been written about him than he ever wrote himself – and not everyone can get it right all the time. Especially when you throw combustible postcolonial issues into the mix." [Sam Jordison - The Guardian] [more inside]
A serial novel written in real time by Joshua Cohen, with illustrations by Leon Chang.
PCKWCK is a reinterpretation of Charles Dickens' first serial novel, The Pickwick Papers. That's about all we know so far, because it hasn't been written yet. Beginning Monday, October 12th at 1pm EST, Joshua Cohen will write PCKWCK over five days in front of the entire internet. Every day from 1pm-6pm EST visitors to www.PCKWCK.com will be able to watch Cohen write in real time, offer feedback that may affect the outcome of the novel, and talk with Cohen and other readers in a chat room.[more inside]
Henning Mankell, Dean of Scandinavian Noir Writers, Dies at 67 [The New York Times]
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died Monday morning in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67. Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.[more inside]
"But the other thing you learn is that your fear and nervousness and insecurity is your own business, nobody else’s.”
Helen Mirren is interviewed by The Guardian.
Helen Mirren is interviewed by The Guardian.
"Julia is a do-gooder – which is to say, a human character who arouses conflicting emotions. By 'do-gooder' here I do not mean a part-time, normal do-gooder – someone who has a worthy job, or volunteers at a charity, and returns to an ordinary family life in the evenings. I mean a person who sets out to live as ethical a life as possible. I mean a person who is drawn to moral goodness for its own sake. I mean someone who commits himself wholly, beyond what seems reasonable. I mean the kind of do-gooder who makes people uneasy."
Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”Franz Kafka's Before the Law, animated as a pinscreen prologue to Orson Welles' film adaptation of Kafka's The Trial (Pop Matters review), and a stand-alone "free interpretation" short titled The Guardian by N9ve Studios. [more inside]
Not all comments are created equal: the case for ending online comments - Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. Previously: All of the commenting, none of the comments., What We Comment About When We Comment About Commenting
One lawyer’s crusade to defend extreme pornography. Myles Jackman is Britain’s leading obscenity lawyer. But he does not merely defend the accused: his life’s great plan and purpose is to rid this country once and for all of its laws criminalising extreme pornography – laws that he regards as morally and socially iniquitous. (contains descriptions of sex and pornography)
A profile on Michel Houellebecq. [The Guardian] [Books]
“It’s not my role to be responsible. I don’t feel responsible,” he says. “The role of a novel is to entertain readers, and fear is one of the most entertaining things there is.” To him, the fear in Submission comes in the dark violence at the novel’s start, before the moderate Islamist party comes to power. Was he deliberately playing on a mood of fear in France? “Yes, I plead guilty,” he says. For Houellebecq, the job of a novelist is foremost to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.[more inside]
Novelist Mia Couto discusses his hopes for conservation after the death of Cecil the lion, and his memories of Mozambique’s bloody civil war. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Since the pandas’ arrival, the team at Edinburgh zoo had already tried three times to breed the bears – with considerable fanfare and public attention – and each attempt had ended in disappointment. After a thoroughgoing review of these attempts in late 2014, this year’s season carried with it a sense of added pressure. But the keepers had also come up with one or two new tricks. A few weeks earlier, Maclean had daubed urine from Long Hui, an impressive male panda kept at Schönbrunn zoo, in Vienna, all over Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s enclosures, in order to spice the air with competition and possibility. “She spent a lot of time sniffing and seeing what was going on,” said Maclean. “He came out and was just like, ‘Whoa!’ He was all over the place.”
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
The Village Where Men Are Banned (and accompanying photos). Julie Bindel at the Guardian writes about the Kenyan village of Umoja, where for 25 years, since the village was founded by survivors of sexual assault, only women and their children have lived.
Mark Lawson Unpacks President Obama's Summer Reading Picks [The Guardian]
Barack Obama has reached the stage of his administration when plans are being made for the construction in Chicago of the Presidential library that former American leaders get to set up in their memory. But, before that, he – or his aides – have also had to think about a smaller library: the shelf of books that the American people are told their leader plans to read on his summer vacation.[more inside]
If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
"Although it has been said that every person is the hero of their own life story, it is more accurate to say that every person is the underdog of their own life story." Why southern gothic rules the world [SLGuardian], MO Walsh
The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120m... The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection – widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.
What Happened, Miss Simone? [YouTube] [Trailer] Helmed by Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World, Killing in the Name), the fully authorized doc incorporates concert footage, archival material, and interviews taking place over three decades. The movie will be available on Netflix June 26. [more inside]
Scan of mummified body of Swedish bishop reveals baby hidden in coffin. [The Guardian]
For almost 350 years Bishop Peder Winstrup lay quietly in his coffin in the crypt of the magnificent cathedral at Lund in Sweden, concealing a secret: the body of a tiny baby, tucked in under his feet. The little corpse, believed to be of a baby born several months prematurely, was revealed for the first time when scientists scanned the coffin and the mummified body of Peder Winstrup, believed to be one of the best preserved 17th-century bodies in Europe.
Can any mortal control this foul, pulsating orifice? Stewart Lee on Top Gear by way of HP Lovecraft. Stewart Lee previously on Top Gear
Terry Pratchett's daughter declares The Shepherd's Crown will be the last Discworld novel. [The Guardian] [Books]
Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna has brought down the curtain on her father’s Discworld novels, declaring that she will not write any more herself, nor give anyone else permission to do so. The comic novels set in a world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle are “sacred to dad”, she said. The author, videogame and comics writer told a fan last week that her late father’s forthcoming novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, featuring teenage witch Tiffany Aching, would be the final Discworld book. And asked by a fan if she would be continuing the series herself, she ruled out the possibility. “No. I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad,” she wrote on Twitter. “That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.” She added: “To reiterate – no I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so.”[more inside]
"Let’s have a year of publishing only women." ~ Kamila Shamsie [The Guardian] [Books]
It is clear that there is a gender bias in publishing houses and the world of books. Well, enough. Why not try something radical? Make 2018 the Year of Publishing Women, in which no new titles should be by men.[more inside]
From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.[more inside]
"That’s when I realised we were looking for something that only exists in the movies." (slTheGrauniad)
Eve Online: how a virtual world went to the edge of apocalypse and back The video game Eve Online is one of Iceland’s biggest exports and has become the world’s largest living work of science fiction. While rival games have come and gone, it has survived – thanks to a unique experiment in democracy
"D’Eon exploited this remarkable situation to transition to womanhood, getting both the English and French governments to declare that 'Monsieur d’Eon is a woman.' The press closely followed these announcements and, starting in 1777, d’Eon lived her life legally recognized as a woman. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, d’Eon is held up as one of the most remarkable women of her century." Transgender celebrities are not new. Just read London newspapers from 1770, The Guardian
"The Whitney museum says, 'Isn't it wonderful – we have 30% women in the new collection!'" says the activist known as Frida Kahlo. "And we're saying, why is that something to be happy about – 30%? Where is the other 20?" The Guerrilla Girls: 30 years of punking art world sexism (Emma Brockes, The Guardian); previously on MetaFilter.
What are the most disturbing novels? [The Guardian] [Books] Guardian Books discusses disturbing reads:
"Bret Easton Ellis has haunted some of our readers for days, and on the books desk we’re still getting over certain depictions of dangerous obsessions and hellish orgies. Which fiction has most unnerved you?"
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
"There are many ways we can envision women's liberation if we try. Since we total more than half of the world's population, our experiences as women intersect with almost every other struggle against systemic oppression. The lessons learned are personal and political. Tapping into this well can sometimes seem like an infinite journey: where does one start? Well, with comics, of course!" 19 Comic Characters Who Embody Women's Liberation, Ad Astra Comix [more inside]
On stage that day, Iglesias declared that Podemos would take back power from self-serving elites and hand it over to the people. To do that, the new party needs votes. If that means arousing emotions and being accused of populism, so be it. And, as the party’s founders have already shown, if they have to renounce some of their ideas in order to broaden their appeal, or risk upsetting some in their grassroots movement by tightening central control, they are ready to do that, too. The aim, after all, is to win. [more inside]
"In the hands of another actor, she could have just been one more detail in Scott’s design scheme, a clothes horse in a coil of cigarette smoke. But Young makes Rachael breathe. It’s a tricky role: she must seem slickly artificial, while hinting all the time at warm humanity. As Harrison Ford’s jaded ex-cop Deckard falls for her, the whole film hinges on us understanding why. That she pulls it off owes a lot to her raw presence – but presence is the lifeblood of movies."
"In short, it seems that when a white male thinks about the meaning of things, any things, it is philosophy..." (SLTheGuardian)
Sufjan Stevens's new album Carrie and Lowell can be streamed in its entirety at NPR and The Guardian. Four (very) early reviews. Previously
Why I didn't call the police when I saw two black boys with guns next door. [The Guardian]
"My husband’s instinct was to call law enforcement, but that didn't seem like the solution. Especially after Tamir Rice."
"No Land's Song" is a documentary about Iranian singer and composer Sara Najafi's fight to host a concert of solo women singers in Tehran. Nothing like it had been attempted in Iran for 35 years: after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, women were banned from singing solo in public.
“After every meeting at the ministry, I said, ‘OK, it won’t happen.’" But then she’d have a meeting with her Iranian singers – some old enough to have performed before the revolution, others too young to remember a time when women were allowed to sing at all – and decide to fight on.It is being shown at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Excerpt - Vimeo link.
Japanese woman comes to America to search for buried treasure- but it's the fictional buried treasure in the movie "Fargo". She's come to North Dakota's "Siberia" to end her own life and the language barrier and our perceptions of Japanese 'normal' get in the way. [more inside]
2 Deadly Shootings Within Hours in Copenhagen; 5 Wounded [New York Times]
A shooting at a free speech event featuring an artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad and a second shooting hours later outside a synagogue left two dead and five police officers wounded in Copenhagen, stirring fears that another terror spree was underway in a European capital a month after 17 people were killed in Paris attacks.[more inside]
Don't Judge A Book By Its Author by Aminatta Forna [The Guardian]
‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’ … Aminatta Forna on her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
It wasn’t easy to buy a car in the Soviet Union. Usually, the first thing to do was to sign up on a decade-long waiting list to register your interest in owning a vehicle. Secondly, you needed to save what was then a huge sum of money; a new Zaphorozhets cost the equivalent of about 30 times the average monthly salary. A few people found a different way, however – assembling cars with their own hands. [more inside]
Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris’s 2005 TV series was a comedy about a ludicrous ‘self-facilitating media node’ in east London. But 10 years on, it looks more like a documentary about the future How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true