"Random House will publish writer and critic Maud Newton’s first book, an examination of her obsession with genealogy and her own colorful family history, along with the science and superstition of ancestry in the culture at large. Newton’s essay, ‘America’s Ancestry Craze,’ is the cover story for the current issue of Harper’s magazine. This interdisciplinary study will draw on memoir, reporting, cultural criticism, scientific and anthropological research to understand the fear and fascination behind genealogy, and why it has become the second most popular hobby in the United States. Newton began blogging about books and culture in 2002; within a few years her site was one of the most widely [...]
Though I am no longer by any metric young, this year I've taken to heart a lot of Choire's advice to young people on the subject of "operators, divas, drama queens, vampires, bitter underminers and soulless careerists." To those categories one of my other favorite advice-givers, Nancy Hawkins, would propose an addition, or at least a subset: the pisseur de copie.
Mrs. Hawkins, the young widow narrator of Muriel Spark's A Far Cry from Kensington is probably best known for her diet tips: “It’s easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half. If you are handed a plate of food, leave half; [...]
In his fiction and in his life, Harry Crews empathized most with the people who needed it most: the freaks, the fuck-ups, people who’d been broken by loss of one kind or another. Crews died on Wednesday, at age 76. As his son Byron told The Daily’s Claire Howorth, “[he] put more miles on the Chevy than most of us.”
Crews lost his father, a man he didn't remember, to a heart attack at the age of two. "It wasn't unusual for him to fall in the field," Crews wrote in A Childhood, to lie incapacitated on the ground for an hour or so, and then slowly pull himself [...]
"I suppose it made sense, when blogging was new, that there was some confusion about voice. Was a blog more like writing or more like speech? Soon it became a contrived and shambling hybrid of the two. The 'sort ofs' and 'reallys' and 'ums' and 'you knows' that we use in conversation were codified as the central connectors in the blogger lexicon. We weren’t just mad, we were sort of enraged; no one was merely confused, but kind of totally mystified. That music blog we liked was really pretty much the only one that, um, you know, got it. Never before had 'folks' been used so relentlessly and enthusiastically as [...]
As lead-ups to fortieth birthdays go, I recommend steering clear of subway preachers who forecast the Rapture for the very day you're most dreading. For 18 months now, End-Timers have been gathering daily, at the top of the stairway to the train I take home from work, to press “Judgment Day” tracts on unsuspecting commuters. I'm sure someone else, someone who lacked my fundamentalist baggage, would've laughed at the coincidence and shaken it off, but to me it felt personal when the men turned up there, with their pamphlets and placards and dire predictions, as though the God I grew up fearing and eventually turned my back [...]
Is “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” a protracted 2012 campaign ad? An End-Times relocation brochure for fundamentalists? Or just the most boring hour of television since Lawrence Welk? Probably all three. Most of my friends are baffled by the media’s obsession with her. “I'm watching her give a speech on CNN, and she might very well be the most aggressively stupid person I have ever seen on the national stage,” one said recently. “And I'm old enough to remember Dan Quayle.” But I can’t help it, I’m transfixed. And because I don’t have cable (except for basic-basic and HBO, a combination apparently only available to Cablevision subscribers [...]
When Sarah Palin began shopping around a "Planet Earth-type" reality series based in Alaska earlier this month, the media responded with its usual gleeful incredulity: Caribou Barbie on a fishing boat! The former governor is reportedly seeking upwards of $1 million per episode, and, with Discovery and A&E interested in the project, she just might get it. Not only are her antics the best thing for Internet pageviews since Paris Hilton invented the no-panties dismount, they're TV ratings gold. Jimmy Fallon said it best, "Any reality show about Sarah Palin will have to compete with that other reality show about Sarah Palin: the news."
If you're [...]
"When I was young, my mother had a feverish conversion and started a church in our living room. I’d always been a tiny bit anxious that I might one day follow suit, hear the calling myself, start roaming the streets, preaching salvation. A committed but fearful agnostic, I’d never intended to tempt fate by visiting the Holy Land." —Awl pal Maud Newton tempts fate by visiting the Holy Land.
Part of a series about youth.
How exactly I came to write a "Dear Abby" letter from Dick Diver, the protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, I don't know. When exactly I did it, I can't say. I discovered this overwrought, clicheful, usage-challenged soliloquy—for though it's addressed to an advice columnist, no question is posed, and no advice is sought—when I pulled the book off the shelf the other month, and I would really like to pretend that it's something I jotted down at, say, the age of ten. But I first read the book at fourteen, and it was my favorite novel on and off [...]
Profanity is alive and well on Twitter, except in Utah, apparently. You'd expect heathen citydwellers to swear, and we do not disappoint, but the Bible belt is pretty foul-mouthed too (no word whether language there trended cleaner on Sundays). Thanks to tweets, blog comments and unlocked Facebook feeds, we know more than ever before about the way regular people—in New York, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, and [...]
In a marriage otherwise marked by acrimony and the hurling of dishes, my parents always agreed on one thing: that we rooted for the Cowboys. The allegiance was, to say the least, unpopular in Miami, where we moved from Texas in 1973, much too soon after Dallas crushed the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. I was two then, and some of my earliest memories involve the three of us gathering in front of the TV to watch the star-helmeted men stand around kicking the grass, amble into formation, and then tear across the field, chased by or chasing men in some other kind of helmet. From time to time my [...]
If you've ever been in therapy and liked, trusted and worried about losing your shrink, Emma Forrest has lived your nightmare. Three years ago, her psychiatrist died of lung cancer she didn't know he had. This was the man who rushed to her side at St. Vincent's after she downed a bottle of pills, who sang show tunes—"It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed / he's psychologically disturbed!"—with her in sessions, and who tried, with no hint of salacious intent, to confiscate a fashion photo she showed him of herself, bleeding from self-inflicted cuts, in her underwear. With Dr. R's help, she "fell out of love with madness” [...]
Carrie Frye: Maud! I rented Thelma & Louise a few weeks ago, and it was, weirdly, only on rewatching that I realized why every so often I get an irresistible urge to rent an aqua convertible, conscript a few female friends for the trip and just drive… south, west, wherever: it's because of Thelma & Louise! It should have been the obvious source of the daydream, but I had lost track of the full extent to which this movie had hardwired my brain. It's been 21 years since it came out—it is now old enough to walk into a bar and order a Wild Turkey straight up and a Coke [...]
In Miami we braced for a hurricane every year or two, latching down the Bahama shutters, stocking up on canned goods, and filling the bathtubs with water. But as storm after storm fizzled out or swept off to ravage the Gulf Coast or the Carolinas, we started to feel cocky and impervious. The big one didn’t strike until I was away at school, when Andrew rolled in.
My mom's house, miles and miles from the ocean, wasn't supposed to be particularly at risk, but with a storm of that magnitude, wherever you live, you board up the windows and hunker down and pour a drink, get high [...]
I discovered Kate Christensen’s work several years ago, when I read The Great Man, and then all the rest of her books, in one weekend. After I praised them on the radio, she emailed me and we became friends, which is great because she's a wonderful, smart, funny, generous person, but it's also weird, because she's one of my favorite living writers, and here she is, flesh and blood, moving through the world like the rest of us.
Misha Angrist, otherwise known as member four of the Personal Genome Project, has—along with Stephen Pinker and some other science-world luminaries—given permission for his entire genome to be published online. As a trained geneticist, he's more equipped to predict the direction and effects of DNA research than the rest of us. His new book, Here is a Human Being, ponders the implications of this kind of bioforensics for our culture at large, and also for those of us, like me, who've already opened this Pandora's box by subscribing to 23andme or one of the other personal genomics outlets. Will our information be kept private? [...]
It's hard to know how worked up to get about the Hutaree, the Antichrist-obsessed militia group arrested by the FBI over the weekend for allegedly plotting to kill a police officer, blow up members of law enforcement at the resulting funeral, and thus set in motion the annihilation of the federal government. When the Tea Party kicks you out of its massive tent, and neighboring militias dismiss you as a cult, you might just be out there on the fringiest fringe in Fringeville.