As we survey the toxic environment in which we are soon to elect the forty-fifth president of the United States, many of us wonder: Why? Why is it this way?
James Rosen writes: As we survey the toxic environment in which we are soon to elect the forty-fifth president of the United States, many of us wonder: Why? Why is it this way?
The partisan among us will cite one of the two major-party nominees and blame him, or her, for overtaxing the system with his, or her, singularly odious baggage.
Economists and political scientists, less interested in the specific than the general, will point, perhaps more accurately, to a confluence of developments over time – the corrosion of public trust after Vietnam and Watergate, Supreme Court rulings on election laws, the twin apocalypti of globalization and the digital revolution – as the decisive factors shaping our modern political culture, with its unbearably heavy traffic of nasty primary challenges, leadership upheavals, scandals, hacks, leaks, attacks, and – gridlock.
To these explanations, I propose adding another, imparted to me by an unlikely source: Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Making conversation at one point, I asked Kerry if he had ever met one of my literary heroes. ‘Mr. Secretary, did you know William F. Buckley?’ The answer – and its forcefulness – surprised me: ‘I loved Bill Buckley.'”
We were on his first foreign trip as America’s top diplomat, in February 2013, with the traveling press corps enjoying an off-the-record wine-and-cheese event with the secretary in Cairo (to disclose this story on-the-record, I later sought and received permission from the State Department). Making conversation at one point, I asked Kerry if he had ever met one of my literary heroes. “Mr. Secretary, did you know William F. Buckley?”
The answer – and its forcefulness – surprised me: “I loved Bill Buckley.” Who knew that for the founder of National Review, the godfather of the modern conservative movement, a legendary liberal from Massachusetts harbored “love”? Why was that? I asked. Kerry resorted to Socratic Method. “Do you know who his best friend was?”
Now for those well versed in the Buckley canon, in whose ranks Kerry seemed to count himself, this amounts to a trick question.
The Buckley family and some outside observers – including this one – would cite Evan (“Van”) Galbraith, Buckley’s Yale classmate, sailing crewmate, and longest-standing friend.
A graduate, also, of Harvard Law School, Galbraith would go on to serve as a Wall Street banker, chairman of the National Review board of trustees, President Reagan’s ambassador to France, and president of Moët & Chandon.
“Buckley’s maintenance of “trans-ideological friendships” in his life reflected what some have called a genius for friendship.”
The last eulogy ever published by WFB, a supremely talented eulogist, was for Van, his friend of sixty years. Indeed, when WFB marked his eighty-second, and final, birthday, Van was one of two friends on hand, having just completed his thirtieth radiation treatment for cancer, with only months left for both men to live.
In the public imagination, however, the distinction is usually reserved for John Kenneth Galbraith (no relation), the Keynesian Harvard economist who served as President Kennedy’s ambassador to India, and who coined some enduring terms in the American political lexicon (e.g., “the affluent society,” “conventional wisdom”).
“WFB and Galbraith had met on an elevator ride in New York’s Plaza Hotel, escorting their wives to Truman Capote’s famous masked ball, the ‘Party of the Century,’ in November 1966. Buckley confronted Galbraith, right there in the elevator, about why he had tried to discourage a Harvard colleague from writing for National Review. ‘I regret that’ said Galbraith.”
This Galbraith, a skiing buddy of Buckley’s during annual retreats with their wives to winter homes in Gstaad, Switzerland, conducted the more public friendship with the era’s leading conservative. With unmatched wit and erudition, and equal instinct for the rhetorical jugular, they debated on college campuses, on the set of NBC’s “Today Show,” and of course on Buckley’s own show “Firing Line,” where Galbraith made eleven lively appearances. Read the rest of this entry »
To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is set to publish her first book in 55 years this summer, and many in the literary world are rejoicing.
The legendary one-book writer decided to end her career as a novelist to avoid the publicity she faced following Mockingbird‘s massive success, which included a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award-winning film adaptation. Mockingbird’s popularity means it’s no surprise that the sequel, Go Set a Watchman (which Lee wrote in the 1950s but set aside), will have a first printing of 2,000,000 copies.
That’s a massive number for a first printing, which represents a publisher’s estimate for a book’s immediate demand. It’s even more notable considering Watchman isn’t part of a beloved fantasy or thriller series, which often see high first printing counts.
Here’s how Watchman‘s first printing stacks up against other heavily hyped novels, from the final books of the
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A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
Director: Jack Clayton
A sublime Hollywood moment. Audrey Hepburn‘s voice is still as fresh as the day this was recorded. Nostalgic and melancholy, it’s perhaps one of Henry Mancini‘s best-remembered film scores. Though it’s a lighthearted mainstream romantic drama, it was the first to depict (though it does so gracefully, discreetly) a NYC prostitute in the romantic female lead role. More controversial is the male lead is also essentially a prostitute. An aspiring writer “sponsored” by a wealthy socialite. The contrast between the decadent fun of high-society New York city and Holly Golightly’s secret impoverished hillbilly origins, is a thinly-veiled profile of its author, Truman Capote. Holly is Truman. The novel it’s based on is a small masterpiece, darker, with a more realistic ending.
Washington Times‘ Jessica Chasmar reports: More details are surfacing about the apparent drug overdose of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead inside his New York City apartment on Sunday, police said.
Mr. Hoffman, a 46-year-old New York native, won an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of American author Truman Capote in “Capote.” He starred in many other notable films, including “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Master,” and the “Hunger Games” franchise.
Investigators found more than 50 glassine-type bags containing what is believed to be heroin in his apartment, along with several bottles of prescription drugs and more than 20 used syringes in a plastic cup, sources told CNN.
Mr. Hoffman reportedly had suffered from drug addiction for years. After 23 years sober, he admitted in interviews that he relapsed and developed an addiction to heroin. He checked into a rehabilitation facility last year.
Law enforcement officials said the actor’s body was discovered in the bathroom of his Greenwich Village apartment by an assistant and a friend, who called 911. Mr. Hoffman’s family called his death “tragic and sudden.”
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone,” his family said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”
Mr. Hoffman was not blessed with matinee-idol looks but his meticulous craft made him one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, able to straddle both the multiplex and the film festival audiences. He won raves for both franchise tentpoles such as the third “Mission: Impossible” film and a career-long collaboration with director Paul Thomas Anderson in such films as “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights.”
“Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t just a great actor in great roles. He was a great actor in crap roles. He took dead material and gave it life. Probably the best example is his turn as the baddie in [Mission: Impossible III]. As written, it’s an utterly empty, generic villain character.
From The Little Mermaid and Anna Karenina to Holly Golightly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Samantha Ellis examines the heroines written by men
I was delighted to see Truman Capote–the little freak was a genius–featured as an example of an author that excelled at writing woman characters. Holly Golightly is arguably one of the most compelling women characters in 20th century popular fiction.
Besides being a classic 1960s Hollywood movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella, a small book with a big character. Made famous, of course, by Audrey Hepburn. Which is unfortunate–many contemporary readers wouldn’t likely place Capote’s forgotten book on their must-read list. I came across it casually, in my 20s, and it was this exact thing that captivated me. The creation of this… indelible character. I almost felt like the detective in Laura, infatuated with a ghost. In this case, a fictional creation. The character is darker, more seductive, more melancholy, in Capote’s book, than the romantic, candy-coated version in the movie.
The other thing I found striking was that Capote was writing about himself. If we take the Holly Golightly character, and switch the gender, it’s a story of a young homosexual male from the south, hustling among the wealthy and famous in New York. Swinging between euphoria and depression, a sexual social climber, running from a troubled past. That’s a Truman Capote autobiography.
But we also know that Capote drew inspiration, like a reporter, from real women. One of Truman’s great talents was befriending talkative, wealthy, fascinating women. It’s said that he based the book on an actual young socialite in Manhattan (or a composite of a few women he knew) which involved discretion, misdirection, secrecy, and even threats of lawsuits, as the guessing game disrupted reputations and ignited rumors among New York’s elite. One wonders if the handful of society women in contention were insisting they were not her, or claiming that they were.
It’s also unfortunate that Capote was remembered more for his decadent celebrity, than his (regrettably thin) body of work. He was a writer of great promise who lost his way. After the obscenely-rewarding success of In Cold Blood (it made Truman literally the most famous writer on earth) Capote never wrote a serious novel again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a forgotten little gem that gave us one of fiction’s great heroines.
Samantha Ellis poses a good question. She writes:
Can men write good heroines? Most of the heroines I write about in my book How to Be a Heroine are written by women. And most of the heroines I find most problematic are written by men. It’s very troubling to go back to Hans Christian Andersen‘s The Little Mermaid and find that it’s a story about a mermaid who gives up her voice for legs to get a man. And even as a girl, I was furious with Charles Dickens for letting Nancy get bludgeoned in Oliver Twist and, later, outraged that Samuel Richardson heaped pain and indignity on Clarissa and called her “an Exemplar to her sex” as though learning to suffer well made us exemplary.
It’s particularly distressing to see how male writers have punished their heroines for being sexually adventurous. Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina throws herself under a train; Gustave Flaubert makes Emma Bovary pathetic even before she poisons herself. It’s striking that when Erica Jong wrote about an adulteress in Fear of Flying, she gave her a happy ending, in which she is reborn in a hotel bathtub, and summons her adoring husband back.
More than 50 years have passed since Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, her gripping novel about racial injustice in deeply segregated Alabama. Now the town where Lee was born and raised, and which served as the inspiration for her best-selling book, has once again become the scene of an unsettling legal dispute that has divided the community.
This time Lee, who at 87 is profoundly deaf and almost totally blind, is not the author of the story but – on the surface at least – its protagonist.
In a move which has shocked Monroeville, Lee, who resides in an assisted-living facility in the town, is bringing a lawsuit against the local museum, accusing the small, not-for-profit institution of exploiting her fame and the prestige of her Pulitzer-winning book without offering compensation. The museum is fighting back, condemning Lee’s lawsuit as “false” and “meritless” and warning that the legal action could destroy an institution that honours the author’s legacy and provides an economic boost to the town.
It is the kind of ugly public dispute that Lee, an intensely private figure who has spent her life avoiding the spotlight, might have been expected to avoid. Unsurprisingly, Monroeville has been awash with with rumour about whether Miss Nelle, as the author is known locally, was personally responsible for the decision to sue the museum. Read the rest of this entry »
Life in a Famous House, From Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Townhouse to Jackie O’s Park Avenue Spread
Legends pass away, but their New York apartments live on, relics of an age when poets could afford Village townhouses and not-yet-famous painters could swing a Soho loft. Those were the days! Truman Capote’s contemporaries thought he was slumming it when he crashed in the 9,000-square-foot, 28-room house his friend owned. (You see, it was only in Brooklyn Heights.) How could those friends have known that a gaming mogul would pay $12.5 million for the place nearly 60 years later? Of course, a lawyer is now living in Andy Warhol’s Upper East Side townhouse, while a doctor and her billionaire hedgefunder husband now occupy Jackie O’s 5,300 square-foot place. What’s it like to sleep in a famous person’s former home? Rent Jean-Michel Basquiat’s place on AirBnB to find out—or read what the new owners of a handful of historic homes have to say. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1962, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, a man “peeled off his clothing and began prancing around his hotel suite.” His bodyguards were cautiously amused, until the man “left the suite and began roaming through the corridor of the Carlyle.”
The man in question was delusional, paranoid and suffering a “psychotic break” from the effects of an overdose of methamphetamine.
He was also the president of the United States.
The reason for John F. Kennedy’s bizarre behavior was that, according to an explosive new book, the president was — unbeknownst to him, at first — a meth addict.
The man who supposedly made him so was Max Jacobson, a doctor who had invented a secret vitamin formula that gave people renewed energy and cured their pain, and was given the code name “Dr. Feelgood” by Kennedy’s Secret Service detail.
This formula was actually methamphetamine, and over the course of a decades-long practice, Jacobson became doctor to the stars, making unknowing drug addicts out of a long list of the famous and distinguished, including JFK and his wife, Jackie, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Fisher, Truman Capote and many more.