[books] Since so many of you asked, I’m the guy who’s spent the last 6 years reading NOTHING but science fiction. Here’s my top 15 list … ‘The Forever War (Joe Haldeman) – I believe this was the first military sci-fi book I read. I didn’t know much about military sci-fi and was doubtful that I would like it, especially since it sounded like a parallel of the Vietnam War. Again, dead wrong. This book has a lot to say, and it says it extremely eloquently. Humanity is in an interstellar war against the Taurens, and the soldiers who visit home (because of time dilation) visit after huge periods of time, so it’s a good take on where humanity will be in 500, 1000, and 10000 years from now. Again, this one was hard to put down.’
[books] James Ellroy says film adaptation of LA Confidential was ‘as deep as a tortilla’ … “Whether you like it or not, I live in the past,” he said. As far as he was concerned, history ended – as did his 2009 book Blood’s a Rover – in May 1972. He was only interested in what came before. “That is the period of my emotional and intellectual curiosity. Nothing after May of 72 vibrates my vindaloo.” He said he had always been the same. “In 1956, when I was eight years old, I alerted my mother to the fact that I believed that world war two was still going on.” It ended before he was born, she replied. “I didn’t believe her then, I don’t believe her now.”
[truecrime] The real story behind Harper Lee’s lost true crime book … An interesting look at one of Harper Lee’s unfinished books. ‘“He might not have believed in what he preached, he might not have believed in voodoo,” she once wrote, “but he had a profound and abiding belief in insurance.” In the course of her reporting, she turned up dozens upon dozens of insurance policies, all taken out by Maxwell, seemingly without the knowledge of the insured, with his home address as the correspondence address and naming himself as the beneficiary. The more she learned about the earlier deaths, the more convinced she became that at least five of them were murders, even though he had never been convicted of any of them.’
[books] A supposedly great article I’ll never read the same way again … A look at inaccuracies in the journalism of David Foster Wallace. ‘One accusation was made in 2011 by Wallace’s good friend Jonathan Franzen, who offhandedly accused Wallace of making up dialogue in his famous “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” piece. “Those things didn’t actually happen,” he told New Yorker editor David Remnick. “You notice he never published any nonfiction in your magazine.” Franzen seemed salty about it at the time, leading plenty of people to accuse him of levying a cheap shot, but probably not as salty as he should’ve been, knowing how famous his (admittedly dead) friend had gotten as a dogged truthteller by sort of making some of it up.’
[life] Mariko Aoki phenomenon … Do you have a urge to defecate after entering a bookshop? You are not alone! ‘Persons with a history of experiencing the Mariko Aoki phenomenon were described as having a “book bowel” tendency (Japanese: 書便派 sho’ben-ha) in Vol. 41 of Book Magazine.’
[books] A Definitive Ranking of Iain M. Banks’s Culture Novels … ‘Use of Weapons – It’s a dark, complex, unnerving, and deconstructive portrait of a character who, in any other writer’s hands, might have been sketched out as a straight-forward “galactic hero” archetype, winning the day with wits and a gun. While it’s often considered to be the high point of the series (and works hard to earn that title), the finicky nature of the narrative structure and some of the extreme sociopathy shown by heroes and villains alike make it much more than escapist reading. An amazing book, but an uncomfortable one.’
[morris] Was Thomas Kuhn Evil? … Nice overview of Errol Morris’ big problems with Thomas Kuhn. ‘Morris, who calls his philosophy “investigative realism,” writes, “I feel very strongly that, even though the world is unutterably insane, there is this idea—perhaps a hope—that we can reach outside of the insanity and find truth, find the world, find ourselves.” Kuhn, for all his faults, goaded Morris into writing a brilliant work of investigative realism.’
[movies] Why is pop culture obsessed with battles between good and evil? … An interesting look at why modern stories tend to be narratives about Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. ‘It’s no coincidence that good guy/bad guy movies, comic books and games have large, impassioned and volatile fandoms – even the word ‘fandom’ suggests the idea of a nation, or kingdom. What’s more, the moral physics of these stories about superheroes fighting the good fight, or battling to save the world, does not commend genuine empowerment. The one thing the good guys teach us is that people on the other team aren’t like us. In fact, they’re so bad, and the stakes are so high, that we have to forgive every transgression by our own team in order to win.’
[books] Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories … Written in 1928 by S.S. Van Dine. ‘A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by house-breakers and bandits are the province of the police department–not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. Such crimes belong to the routine work of the Homicide Bureaus. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.’
[books] Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction? … interesting list of overlooked science fiction authors and their books of note. ‘Leigh Brackett (December 7, 1915–March 18, 1978) was lauded for her planetary adventures (she moved her Eric John Stark adventures to the extra-solar world Skaith when space probes rendered her pulp-era Solar System implausible) but that was only one aspect of her work. In addition to writing SF and mysteries, she was a successful script writer. Her credits include The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, The Long Goodbye, and an obscure little film called The Empire Strikes Back. Her planetary adventures tended to be long on action and short on clear moral boundaries. I am particularly fond of her post-apocalyptic The Long Tomorrow.’
[books] The Terrible Occult Detectives of the Victorian Era … Amusing look at fictional Occult Detectives. ‘Plagued by a haunted bladder, a phantom taste, or family suicide? Flaxman Low is there to instantly pin the blame on a bunch of Dianists, dead relatives who meddled with Eastern mysticism, or an African man hiding inside a cabinet and using glowing poisonous mushrooms to kill off the family. Then he explodes your house.’
[books] Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life Digested … a digested read from John Grace. ‘9. Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t – Just shut up, quit moaning and listen to me. I know things you don’t. So don’t expect me to listen to you. That’s not the way things work. I’m here to make you feel Better about Yourself by telling you things you already know in a way that makes you feel clever.’
[books] 100 Best Thrillers of All Time … long, varied book list with something for everyone. ‘Jaws by Peter Benchley – No one on this book’s editorial team, not even Benchley himself, thought a novel about a killer shark would resonate with readers. Benchley was criticized for the lack of characterization when it came to the human characters, but readers praised the intense scenes featuring Jaws himself. The novel’s inclusion in the Book of the Month Club captured the attention of Steven Spielberg, who turned it into the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time. Years later, Benchley expressed guilt over giving sharks a bad name, insisted Jaws was fiction, and became a passionate marine life conservationist.’
[moore] The Cardinal and the Corpse … Go watch this little-seen 1992 docudrama by Iain Sinclair & Chris Petit. Alan Moore appears as himself along with Derek Raymond, Michael Moorcock, Tony Lambrianou amongst others.
[magic] The Limits of Reason … Philip Pullman on magic. ‘My attitude to magical things is very much like that attributed to the great physicist Niels Bohr. Asked about the horseshoe that used to hang over the door to his laboratory, he’s claimed to have said that he didn’t believe it worked but he’d been told that it worked whether he believed in it or not.’
[lovecraft] H.P. Lovecraft stories: an intro to Cthulhu, Necronomicon, Dagon & more … good overview of Lovecraft’s world … ‘My personal favorite Lovecraft story, “The Whisperer in Darkness” (read here) features evil crab-aliens, mind control, and disembodied brains in a tale so gross and weird I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a hundred movies already.’
[books] 55 Essential Space Operas from the Last 70 Years … Great list of Sci-fi books… ‘Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks – Though it technically kicked off in the late ’80s, Iain M. Banks Culture novels could be said to be the genesis of what came to be known as the New British Space Opera in the ’90s and 2000s. An twist on utopian space operas, The Culture presents a future where benevolent AIs govern everything, genetic engineering has resulted in immortality and perfected human design, and the most powerful faction in the universe (next to the energy beings) is the Culture, a group of cheerful collectivists with massive, heavily armed sentient starships. Banks’ imaginative world design and massive scope is paired with an iconoclastic and anarchic sense of humor for a modern classic.’
[fiction] Why is pop culture obsessed with battles between good and evil? … A look at why the structure of stories has changed over time and the connection to Nationalism. ‘As part of this new nationalist consciousness, other authors started changing the old stories to make a moral distinction between, for example, Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Before Joseph Ritson’s 1795 retelling of these legends, earlier written stories about the outlaw mostly showed him carousing in the forest with his merry men. He didn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor until Ritson’s version – written to inspire a British populist uprising after the French Revolution. Ritson’s rendering was so popular that modern retellings of Robin Hood, such as Disney’s 1973 cartoon or the film Prince of Thieves (1991) are more centrally about outlaw moral obligations than outlaw hijinks. The Sheriff of Nottingham was transformed from a simple antagonist to someone who symbolised the abuses of power against the powerless. Even within a single nation (Robin Hood), or a single household (Cinderella), every scale of conflict was restaged as a conflict of values.’
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May 29, 2018
[books] 25 Best True Crime Books of All Time … Strong list of True Crime books. ‘Skip Fatal Vision, the true crime book written by a journalist who was embedded with a man who was ultimately convicted for killing his pregnant wife and their two other children. Instead, get more meta and read ace cultural critic Janet Malcolm’s study of the relationship between the two men in The Journalist and the Murderer. It’s more thrilling than any book about ethics in crime journalism has any right to be.’
[weird] Meeting Their Makers: The Strange Phenomenon of Fictional Characters Turning Up in Real Life … with stories from Alan Moore, William Gibson, Dave McKean and Doug Moench. ‘Authors have reported seeing their fictional creations act in this independent manner not only in their minds, but also ‘in real life’ – especially in the worlds of science fiction and comic books. Alan Moore himself has mentioned in an interview that he once saw one of his creations, the mage John Constantine (from the Hellblazer series), in a sandwich bar in London. “All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine,” Moore revealed. “He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar.” Moore contemplated whether he should go around the corner and double-check if it really was his own character that had walked into the bar, or whether he should just finish his sandwich and leave…’
[books] Roger Moore’s 1973 Book About The Making Of Live And Let Die Is Straight-Up Bonkers … An amusing look at Roger Moore’s warts-and-all account of filming Live and Let Die … ‘B-Day Twenty-two started off on a very black note when in the middle of my knees-bend morning work-out Mike Jones, my hairdresser, telephoned from London to tell me he would not be joining me in Jamaica as a unit hairdresser after all. Mike, who chopped off my locks for Bond, has been with me for several years but out of two hairdressers on the unit list it was decided to bring only one to Jamaica. Harry chose to axe my man which displeased me no end. I finished my work-out in a furious mood and flung my breakfast toast across the room in rage.’
[books] 30 years of Culture: what are the top five Iain M Banks novels? … ‘Three: Consider Phlebas – After almost drowning the hero in sewage in it’s opening scene, the first published Culture novel goes on a rip roaring killing spree across the major sights of the Banksian universe. Space pirates, ringworlds, cannibal cultists, a lethal card game, and a Planet of the Dead… the Culture is shown through the eyes of those who hate and fear this machine lead society, creating by far the darkest of all Banks’s science fiction writing.’ (Previously, Previously, Previously)
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[books] Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks… A long-read on Iain M. Banks Culture Series of books. ‘One can see then why Horza might dislike the Culture. On the surface, his complaint is that they surrendered their humanity to machines. But what he really wants is a culture that can serve as a source of deeper meaning, which is the one thing that the Culture conspicuously fails to provide – on the contrary, it turns everything into a joke. The Culture may be irresistible, but for essentially stupid reasons. (“Horza tried not to appear as scornful as he felt. Here we go again, he thought. He tried to count the number of times he’d had to listen to people – usually from third- or low fourth-level societies, usually fairly human-basic, and more often than not male – talking in hushed, enviously admiring tones about how It’s More Fun in the Culture… I suppose we’ll hear about those wonderful drug glands next, Horza thought.”) It is precisely because of this decadence, as well as lack of seriousness, that the Idirans themselves assumed that their victory over the Culture was a foregone conclusion. When one compares the soft decadence of the Culture to the harsh militarism of the Idirans, it just seemed obvious that the Culture would not fight, but would quickly fold. This was, however, a miscalculation. In fact, the Culture would never give up.’
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February 28, 2018
[books] Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read … and what we watch and listen to.
‘The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, [Jared] Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.’
[lists] Top 10 Errant Teenagers in Fiction … ‘Tetsuo in Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. Tetsuo is a boy who quite literally contains apocalypse, badness bursting out of him so furiously that he fears his head will explode.’
If you wanted to be unstoppably hectored by someone in tie and blazer about how the Edward Heath government had committed treason by taking us into the Common Market in 1972 and then find out the the name of the acrobat who performed a quadruple back-somersault on to a chair at the New York Hippodrome in 1915, and the artiste who caught him, Norris McWhirter was your man.
And you can add to that the fact that Norris, along with his twin brother Ross, created the Guinness Book of Records, which had sold more than 75m copies in 37 languages by the time his involvement ended in 1996.
We will never see his like again, not because the world doesn’t teem with libertarian ideologues, nor with grown men who know too much about the minutiae of stuff; but because combining these two disciplines successfully in public seems beyond our wit in 2017.
[truecrime] The Bloody History of the True Crime Genre … Examining the origins of True Crime … ‘Reputable authors became increasingly interested in crime as a site of social, aesthetic, and scientific inquiry. Reform-minded writers like Charles Dickens (“A Visit to Newgate,” 1836) and William Thackeray (“Going to See a Man Hanged,” 1840) decried the institutional punishments of the era. Perhaps the most notorious essay was the satirically titled “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” first published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1827 by the self-confessed opium-eater Thomas De Quincey. The essay was so well received it inspired a “Second Paper” in 1839 and a collected edition including a “Postscript” in 1854. Adopting the absurd persona of a member of the “Society of Connoisseurs in Murder,” De Quincey articulates his aesthetics of murder. He does not condone violence or make moral claims, but instead compares the effect of murder to Kant’s theory of the sublime…’
[books] H.P. Lovecraft Gives Five Tips for Writing a Horror Story, or Any Piece of “Weird Fiction” … ‘The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain–a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.’
[books] Famous Authors Reply to Your Unsolicited Dick Pic … Mary Shelley: ‘I behold the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had help create. He takes up the entire screen; and this dick pic, if dick pic it might be called, is fixed on me. The veins throb, and it lurches forward disturbingly, while a single tear weeps from the tip. Your one hand is stretched out, seemingly to grip him, but I avert my eyes and delete the image. I take refuge in my Candy Crush challenges, where I remain during the rest of the night…’
[books] Philip Pullman’s swearwords are a useful lesson for children … Why swearing isn’t bad for children … ‘Children also learn, from a surprisingly early age, that swearing isn’t all negative. Research shows that swearing is linked with all kinds of emotional states, including joy, surprise and fear. By learning to swear, children learn to understand other people’s feelings in a more nuanced way. “Children learn that curse words intensify emotions in a manner that non-curse words cannot achieve,” says Professor Jay. But the biggest advantage, from my perspective as a parent, comes from studies dating back as far as the 1930s, which show that swearing quickly replaces biting, hitting, and screaming as children develop. To which I must say, thank fuck for that.’
No, Cujo was a standard novel in chapters when it was created. But I can remember thinking that I wanted the book to feel like a brick that was heaved through your window at you. I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do—and I’ve got enough ego to think that every novelist should do this—should be a kind of personal assault. It ought to be somebody lunging right across the table and grabbing you and messing you up. It should get in your face. It should upset you, disturb you. And not just because you get grossed out. I mean, if I get a letter from somebody saying, I couldn’t eat my dinner, my attitude is, Terrific!
[books] Longtime Stephen King fans criticize new IT adaptation for not being bad … ‘While audiences and critics alike have praised 2017’s IT for its smart casting and big budget scares, the response from classic King fans has been scathingly negative. “Couldn’t it have been a cheap, PG rated primetime miniseries?” tweeted @AnnieWilkes45. Others criticized the popular new film for not including any demonic laundry machines, giant rubber bats, possessed big rig trucks, man ponytails, or Gary Busey.’
TIM CURRY: I read It when I got the role and I thought it was wonderfully scary, because clowns are scary. It’s the exaggeration. Pennywise always understood what each character was scared of, and provided it. And I could see what fun it would be to be that scary. They came up with such a great makeup. There’s the classic scene where little Georgie floats his paper boat down the gutter and puts his hand down to try and get it back, and is grabbed by Pennywise, who says: “Down here we float …” The boy playing Georgie [Tony Dakota] yanked his hand away and said, “You’re scaring me!” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to.”
[books] Schulz: The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature … funny list of some great moments in punctuation … ‘“Marley was dead: to begin with.” That is the opening line of A Christmas Carol, although it is less like an opening than like a train car immediately running into another train car. The sentence would be unremarkable if it read, “Marley was dead, to begin with.” The colon would be unremarkable if the sentence read “To begin with: Marley was dead.” But as written, this sentence is insane, or anyway destined to foment insanity in the grammatically prissy…’
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June 2, 2017
[books] Drif Field, Raymond Carver, and the infamous Guide… a look at Drif’s Guide to All the Second-hand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain … ‘It all has the tone of a man about to bow out, and leave the blinkered inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah to their well-deserved ruin. And his prophesy has largely come to pass. The ranks of second-hand booksellers have thinned drastically. There are still some left in Sussex, but like antiques in general it’s a dying trade in which a very few discreet high-class niche dealers (without the overheads of a shop) might still do well, but most bookshop-owners won’t. The times are against them.’ [thanks Phil]
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[moore] Howard Philip Lovecraft – Utopia/Valhalla #1, April 1970 … As Providence #12 arrives – here’s Alan Moore on H.P. Lovecraft from 47 years ago … ‘Then apparently, another race drifted in from space. The star-headed CTHULHU, who came to Earth and waged war for a time on the Old Ones. But peace was made, and the children of Cthulhu were allowed to live in their frozen city at antarctica with their servants, the proto-plasmic Shoggoths. Eventually, they were defeated, and either imprisoned or banished by the elder-gods,. The basic theme for the Cthulhu mythology, is that it occurs when a mortal breaks the restraints placed upon him, upon which, the Old ones can operate both freely and terribly.’
These stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.
[books] The Complicated Friendship of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow, One of His Biggest Fans … ‘Barlow didn’t invent Cthulhu. He lived in Lovecraft’s great dream, but he never became a great dreamer himself. Until he got to Mexico, he was a serial abandoner of projects, who set out to do everything but left most of it unfinished. He was also too interested in reality: where Lovecraft had sublimated his fears and desires, Barlow had sex and saw the world. Rather than imagining dreadful Others, he took note of what other people were actually like.’
[books] A Glorious Mythology of Loss: Alan Moore’s “Jerusalem” … The L.A. Review of Books on Moore’s recent novel … ‘In the novel’s final pages, Moore reveals the magnitude of what he has set out to accomplish — his novel is a metatextual ritual that aspires to overturn the fundamental economic mythology built into the social fabric of late capitalism — yet the author displays a wistful humility concerning his project’s ultimate efficacy.’
[books] Three days with The Dice Man: ‘I never wrote for money or fame’ … Tanya Gold interviews Luke Rhinehart (aka George Cockcroft) author of The Dice Man … ‘He says he has no idea why he began writing. He read outsiders, and men who railed against belonging: Tolstoy, Kafka, Hemingway. His first attempt at fiction was about a young boy who is locked up in a psychiatric institution because he thinks he is Jesus Christ. He abandoned it after 80 pages, but one chapter featured a psychiatrist called Dr Luke Rhinehart. “He was a minor character,” Cockcroft says, “but there he was.”’
[books] Fictional characters make ‘experiential crossings’ into real life, study finds … a look at the power of fiction on readers’s inner lives … ‘The term covers a wide range of experiences, from hearing a character’s voice to feeling one’s own thoughts shaped by a character’s ideas, sensibility or presence, he continued. “One respondent, for example, described ‘feeling enveloped’ by [Virginia Woolf’s] character Clarissa Dalloway – hearing her voice and imagining her response to particular situations, such as walking into a Starbucks. Sometimes the experience seemed to be triggered by entering a real-world setting similar to one in the novel; in other situations, it felt like seeing the world through a particular character’s eyes, and judging events as the character would.”’
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The story itself, which has become more familiar than Hubbard or any of his disciples ever intended, revolves around the figure of Xenu, the tyrannical dictator of the Galactic Confederation. Millions of years ago, Xenu, faced with an overpopulation crisis, threw hordes of his own people into volcanoes on the planet Earth—then known as Teegeeack—and blew them up with atomic bombs. Their spirits, called thetans, survive to the present day, clinging to unsuspecting humans, and they can only be removed through dianetic auditing, a form of talk therapy that clears the subject of its unwanted passengers.
One of the church members who read this account was screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who was a devoted Scientologist for over three decades before resigning in an ugly public split. Haggis told Lawrence Wright, the author of the seminal New Yorker piece that became the exposé Going Clear, that after finishing the story, he got the wild idea that it was some sort of insanity test—if you believed it, you were kicked out. When he asked his supervisor for clarification, he was informed: “It is what it is.” Haggis read it again, but the same thought continued to resound in his brain: “This is madness.”
Hubbard himself had another term for it. In an insertion to the original manuscript, squeezed between two lines, the author left his own description of what he had written: “Very space opera.”
[space] The Wold Newton Meteorite … the history behind a meteorite that crashed into Yorkshire in 1759 and later fell into fiction … ‘In addition to almost killing a farm labourer and kickstarting the modern scientific study of meteorites, the “EXTRAORDINARY STONE” which fell to Earth two centuries ago was also the catalyst for some of the most inventive and influential crossover fiction of the twentieth century. If you’re are a fan of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or even Bryan Talbot’s Grandville, or Showtime’s Penny Dreadful then you have the Wold Newton Meteorite to thank. All these worlds filled with characters from different novels, films, and TV series owe a huge debt (acknowledged by both Newman and Moore, I might add) to the writing of Philip Jose Farmer…’
[people] Lessons from My Father … Powerful piece of writing from Joe McGinniss, Jr. on the downfall of his father … ‘The subject of his book “Fatal Vision,” the convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, upset that the book portrayed him as guilty of the crime, sued my father for fraud. The contract for the book granted my father the freedom to tell the story as he saw fit, but the jury deadlocked anyway, and a mistrial was declared; the case was settled out of court a few years later. A few years after that, a famous piece in The New Yorker, “The Journalist and the Murderer,” by Janet Malcolm, took the case as emblematic of the moral compromises made by writers. Few in the publishing world came to my father’s defense. His reputation was in tatters, and he wondered aloud whether he’d ever write another book. If he’d ever crawl out of the dark black pit of depression. If he’d see fifty-five, sixty? His freezer was filled with bottles of gin and vodka. He’d pour drinks and stir them with an index finger, suck it dry. Have a bottle of wine at dinner, a second. Then he’d call. If I answered, it was to listen, and I knew before he completed his first sentence.’
[mystery] The Unsolvable Mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript … decoding the hidden meaning of a famous coded medieval manuscript … ‘Readers will probably never stop forming communities based on the manuscript’s secrets. Humans are fond of weaving narratives like doilies around gaping holes, so that the holes won’t scare them. And objects from premodern history—like medieval manuscripts—are the perfect canvas on which to project our worries about the difficult and the frightening and the arcane, because these objects come from a time outside culture as we conceive of it. This single, original manuscript encourages us to sit with the concept of truth and to remember that there are ineluctable mysteries at the bottom of things whose meanings we will never know.’