Downton Abbey is back on American TV screens, and Sunday night is once again safe for those of us who don’t care for football.
The makers of Downton Abbey go to great lengths to get their period details and history correct, and one of the ways they do this is by incorporating contemporary books into conversations and even at times the main plot. In fact, it can be difficult to find an episode of Downton where the references to Dickens, Trollope, or now-obscure English historians are not flying thick and fast. When Lady Edith started dating a London editor, one expected to meet Virginia Woolf or E.M. Forster at a party any moment. Alas, poor Michael Gregson died before the producers could work a Bloomsbury party into the show.
Twenty-two years after a young man named Chris McCandless was found dead in a long-abandoned bus north of Denali National Park and Preserve, a plausible explanation has arisen as to why the 24-year-old man stayed there until he starved to death: toxic mushrooms.
A noted authority on Alaska mushrooms who this year examined one of those photos identified some of the mushrooms McCandless was eating as “Amanita muscaria.” Those have been known to make people sick and cause hallucinations.
In accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at this year’s National Book Awards, eminent sci-fi writer Ursula Le Guin made a knock-out speech about the power of capitalism, literature and imagination that, as she put it afterwards, “went sort-of viral on YouTube.”
The 85-year-old writer started with a shout-out to her fellow fantasy and sci-fi writers, who have for so long watched “the beautiful awards,” like the one she’d just received, go to the “so-called realists.” She continued:
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality. …
en Bill Kalush, a former magician, founded the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York City, he wanted to create a place that “was available for anyone … to be able to come in and find some of the rarest material — the things that you couldn’t find, almost anywhere else in the world,” as he told PRI. The materials’ subject? The ancient arts of magic and deception.
Kalush has assembled books dating from the 15th century until now. The books themselves are available for members of the public to look through, but Kalush is also digitizing them and translating them, PRI says. (Many are in Persian, French, Italian or another language.)
American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. But that’s not to say they’ve just been sitting around. Apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism.
In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the 19th century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand their End Times theology.
Daniel Silliman spoke with Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, in Heidelberg, Germany.
Why write about evangelical Christian apocalypticism?
When I was a young lad saying bombastically foolish things like “I want to be rich or dead by time I’m 30,” I will admit that I mistook Ayn Rand’s intellectual sleight of hand as good philosophical shorthand instead of the snakily oiled license for greed that it was.
I hadn’t yet been faced with much travail in life, and when I had been there were friends around who helped me out (Digby knows two of these folks very well.) So my habit of introspection and of triple questioning every conclusion had not yet formed and it was the natural match for my atheism that helped Ayn Rand’s ‘Objectivist philosophy’ become a guiding star of my ideals. Like I said, I was bombastically foolish back then, but I’m wise enough now to know that Objectivism mostly appeals to the socially and morally defective with it’s easy shorthand. This article from Digby makes it much easier to see why that is.
I can hardly wait for his review of “Ideal.”
This could be very interesting if it’s based on what I think it might be. Rand famously admired a serial killer as the ultimate expression of objectivist manhood and based her male characters on some of his attributes. She was known to have wiritten an unfinished novel about him. I don’t know if this is it, but it might be:
Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation — Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street — on him.
Warning: Highly Graphic content at link.
I try to avoid listicles however this one involves good books…
THE LAUGHING MONSTERS. By Denis Johnson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Johnson’s cheerfully nihilistic novel about two scammers and rogue spies in Africa derives much of its situation from several of his early journalistic pieces.
LENA FINKLE’S MAGIC BARREL. Written and illustrated by Anya Ulinich. (Penguin, paper, $17.) Ulinich’s graphic novel traces the marital and romantic adventures of her immigrant heroine.
LET ME BE FRANK WITH YOU: A Frank Bascombe Book. By Richard Ford. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.) In four linked stories, Ford’s aging Everyman surveys life after Hurricane Sandy batters New Jersey.
LILA. By Marilynne Robinson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) A young woman with a past of hardship and suffering makes a new start in Robinson’s fictional town of Gilead, Iowa.
I’ve also long suspected that similar services exist for Billboard’s Top music lists as well.
In January 2012, former megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage went to the top spot on the Hardcover Advice section of The New York Times best-seller list. In March 2014, it was disclosed by evangelical magazine, World, that Driscoll’s publishing success was aided by a consulting firm called ResultSource, which purchased books on behalf of Driscoll in a coordinated effort to spike sales and give the impression that the book was popular with thousands of book buyers. Driscoll recently resigned from his church and one factor associated with his departure is the decision to buy his way onto the best-seller list.
Driscoll later admitted that the scheme was wrong and even asked that the designation “New York Times best-selling author” be removed from his bio and book covers. However, Driscoll is not alone among evangelicals wanting to improve their brand and increase sales. Just after the Driscoll story broke, another megapastor, Perry Noble, admitted using ResultSource on one of his book projects.
Jeffrey Trachtenberg pulled back the curtain on ResultSource’s operation in a 2013 Wall Street Journal piece. He noted that business and health care books have made the list with the help of ResultSource but didn’t report on any books from Christian publishers. The revelations about Driscoll’s Real Marriage best-seller campaign demonstrated that Christian authors and publishers also use the service. In fact, it appears that ResultSource CEO Kevin Small, as a graduate of Liberty University, is right at home with Christian clients.
Amazon and Hachette announced Thursday that they had resolved their differences and signed a new multiyear contract, bringing an official end to a publishing dispute that blossomed into a major cultural and business brawl.
Neither side gave details of the deal, but both pronounced themselves happy with the terms. Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, won the ability to set the prices for its e-books, which was a major contention in the fight.
“This is great news for writers,” Michael Pietsch, Hachette’s chief executive, said in a statement. An Amazon executive, David Naggar, said Amazon was “pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Chris Mooney’s book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.
In June of 2011, Jon Stewart went on air with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and started a major media controversy over the channel’s misinforming of its viewers. “Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?” Stewart asked Wallace. “The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
Stewart’s statement was factually accurate, as we’ll see. The next day, however, the fact-checking site PolitiFact weighed in and rated it “false.”In claiming to check Stewart’s “facts,” PolitiFact ironically committed a serious error—and later, doubly ironically, failed to correct it. How’s that for the power of fact checking?
There probably is a small group of media consumers out there somewhere in the world who are more misinformed, overall, than Fox News viewers. But if you only consider mainstream U.S. television news outlets with major audiences (e.g., numbering in the millions), it really is true that Fox viewers are the most misled based on all the available evidence—especially in areas of political controversy. This will come as little surprise to liberals, perhaps, but the evidence for it—evidence in Stewart’s favor—is pretty overwhelming.