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As newspapers and magazines shrink and shutter their book review sections, one could easily fret that with them will go that other great literary institution: the author-critic feud. Fortunately, as Alice Hoffman’s weekend meltdown suggests, the form is still thriving — in 140-character nuggets. Smarting from a so-so review of The Story Sisters in the Boston Globe, the prolific novelist tweeted her fury to the world. She came out swinging, calling reviewer Roberta Silman “a moron,” quickly moving on to “idiot,” then expanding her repertoire to dis the newspaper and the city of Boston itself. But the real jaw-dropper in Hoffman’s two dozen plus tweets on the subject was her suggestion that “If you want to tell Roberta Silman off, her phone is [Silman's phone number and email address]. Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” –“Hey, Authors, Don’t Tweet in Anger!” by Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon
Fallada typified the extremes of this era when he and his friend Hanns Dietrich von Necker made a pact– each would submit a poem to a third party for judgment, and the author of the work judged inferior would be shot. Their poems were never submitted, understandably. But Fallada’s desperate obsession with a girl led to a second, more serious pact with Necker. Hoping to disguise their suicides as a duel, the two precipitous youths climbed to a famous lookout, paced off and fired. Having missed their targets, the two young men were forced to reload– with Necker tending to Fallada’s rifle for him, as Fallada didn’t know how to service it. In the next round, Necker missed, but Fallada hit his man. At Necker’s request, Fallada took his friend’s pistol and finished him off. Then he turned it on himself. The bullet skipped past his heart and punctured a lung. He was found and rescued. –“Iron Hans,” Benjamin Lytal, The Nation
Hitler’s secret stealth airplane; (older: Hitler’s anti-gravity plans); Germans who lost savings kidnap and torture their investment advisor; Katha Pollitt on women’s rights and Obama’s Cairo speech; this is the most dangerous century
My 20-year-old copy of Lipstick Traces is the one book I would save from my proverbial burning house. When I bought it, I was a 19-year-old undergraduate who contributed weekly concert reviews to the British music weekly Sounds, and far too fond of frittering away my money on books about music. Though they weren’t nearly as crowded, the “pop/rock” sections of bookshops looked much the same as they do now: crammed with pulp and hacked-out biography, but also dotted with works of real brilliance. I got hold of as many of them as I could: Marcus’s masterful treatise on archetypally American music, Mystery Train; the Irish wunderkind Nik Cohn’s trailblazing and impressionistic rock history Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, published in 1969 and written when he was just 22; Stanley Booth’s crisp yet romantic The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones; Jon Savage’s history of punk, England’s Dreaming; and Philip Norman’s Beatles biography Shout!, less than great on the music, but just about perfect on the drama and pathos of their career. –“Don’t Look Back,” John Harris, The Guardian
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”