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Who is it this time? The biggest celebrity of all, Barack Obama. Following in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt’s Hero Tales from American History, and Jimmy Carter’s The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, the president has come up with Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, a set of 13 “inspirational tales” of American pioneers.
Frankly, just the title makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears and scream. Even though it is taken from My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, it reeks of patronising, pseudo-didactic, blood-freezing smarm. And that’s not mentioning the subtitle – honestly, what children’s book has a subtitle? –“Leave the prose to the pros, Mr. Obama,” Philip Womack, Telegraph
More than 2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Ohio lost 3,094 of them. The rest of our boys came home, but the ship never righted. Guys I’d known my entire life weren’t fun, or funny, anymore. No more teasing, no big brother reprimands to get out of the street and quit picking on the little ones. Sometimes I’d look at my friends’ older brothers sitting on their front porches and their stares would scare me. I’d look in their eyes and get goose bumps. It was as if they thought I was trying to start a fight just by smiling at them. I’d scamper off, full of questions my father warned me never to ask. –“What it was like,” Connie Schultz, Columbia Journalism Review
The festival committee was wise to bring [DBC Pierre] out, Melbourne loves that shit. To some degree the crowd fitted to his style perfectly. Melbourne is the hipster capital of Australia, and the audience was made up of equal quantities of irony and fixed gear bicycles, I’m guessing, his people. After DBC swam off stage in a drunken whoosh, the audience clapped the precise number of times they heard his name mentioned during the festival, (seventeen thousand). In a way he was lucky. If the event was held during the day, he’d have been crucified by the crazy English literature teachers who swarmed the festival, demanding to know everyone’s process, while refusing to hand back the microphone once their question was asked. –“Tales from the Melbourne Writers Festival,” Brad Dunn, The Outlet
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature