THE NORWEGIAN NOVEL THAT DIVIDED A FAMILY AND CAPTIVATED A COUNTRY


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Reality literature.

Remember how divisive reality television was, before it became just television? In Norway, an intense debate is taking place about virkelighetslitteratur, or “reality literature,” a putatively fictional strain of writing that draws on identifiable characters and events. Critics of reality television complained that it was overproduced; the argument against reality literature is that it is insufficiently artificial, exposing and misrepresenting people who never consented to be a part of it. The country’s most flagrant transgressor of the code of plausible disclaimability is Vigdis Hjorth, whose prickly, persuasive novel “Will and Testament” came out in Norway in 2016, and has just been published in English, by Verso. Earlier this month, the translation, by Charlotte Barslund, was long-listed for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

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Lauren Collins — The New Yorker

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Morgan Freeman Takes Off


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An old article published in 1988.

Walking along 42nd Street, Morgan Freeman talks about the performances he most admires—not the Orson Welles of Citizen Kane but the Orson Welles of Touch of Evil; not the Laurence Olivier of Hamlet but the Laurence Olivier of Khartoum. He stops on the sidewalk, raises his right hand to his forehead in a snappy salute. “Now, that’s the level of performance you strive for.”

Like Freeman’s performance in Street Smart. Vicious yet charming, scary yet seductive, menacing yet amiable, the kind of guy who can hold a gun to your throat, then slowly smile, pat you on the cheek, and say, “Come on. I’ll buy you a cuppa coffee.” Freeman’s Fast Black has all the oxymorons you’d expect in a routinely first-rate portrayal of a pimp. But he takes them to a level deeper, playing a man so tautly in control he could snap into psychosis at any second, a man, most of all, who knows that a large part of being a successful pimp is being a gifted actor.

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Ross Wetzsteon — Bronx Banter

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To Catch A Thief: A Rare Book Expert on His Literary Obsessions


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Collectors Weekly: How do you determine the rarity of a book?

Sanders: It’s the old law of supply and demand. From 1920s to the 1940s, Idaho Press and Caxton Press published a lot of Vardis Fisher’s limited edition, signed Morocco-leather-bound books, and they produced tiny editions of as few as 10 copies, but they’re not books that anybody cares about. They might be really hard to find, but no one wants them. So on a rarity scale, it’s hard to get much rarer, but you’re not going to have the same success selling even Vardis Fisher’s books versus limited signed Steinbecks and Hemingways.

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Maribeth Keane and Anne Galloway — Collectors Weekly

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Kobe Bryant: Sheen of self-perfectionism


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If you want to watch something moving, if you want to see him play basketball but don’t know where to start, try the last three minutes of his last ever game – you can find them on YouTube. Bryant, ageing, tiring, balding, sweating, sucking air, is determined to score as many points as he can, and somehow, against the odds, starts winning – total focus, total exhaustion on his face, while the crowds chant KOBE KOBE KOBE, with his wife and two of his daughters in the front row. It’s a happy scene, almost implausibly celebratory, people are laughing in the stands as each ridiculous shot goes in, though you also get the sense that for them it’s only a game, and that nobody else is taking it quite as seriously.

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Benjamin Markovits — TLS

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Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall


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After the war, his reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” Asimov, in turn, described Merril as “the kind of girl who, when her rear end was patted by a man, patted the rear end of the patter,” although she remembered the episode rather differently: “The third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch.”

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Alec Nevala-Lee — JSTOR Daily

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What Trump doesn’t know about Iran


For Trump, one advantage of Soleimani’s assassination is that the Iranians will be more cautious about launching limited attacks on the US and its allies, though this isn’t to say that they will cease altogether. Iran cannot permanently de-escalate as long as sanctions continue. The intensity and length of the crisis means that accid­ents are likely to happen, as demonstrat­ed by what appears to have been the un­intentional shooting down of a Ukrain­ian passenger plane. At the same time, Trump and his administration are peculiarly ill-equipped to judge the likely outcome of any escalation of the conflict, or predict how the Iranians are likely to respond. This makes blundering into war a more than usually likely outcome. Iran has drawn the greater profit from the crisis so far, since Soleimani’s death goes some way to re-energising the nationalist and religious credentials of the regime: Trump’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’ and economic sanct­ions is now less likely to force Tehran to negotiate what would amount in effect to a capitulation. In Iraq, it is too early to say whether the demand for revolutionary reform expressed in mass street protests will be marginalised or capsized by the crisis, but it will certainly be weakened, perhaps permanently.

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Patrick Cockburn — LRB

Little Women Goes to War


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Even before it opened, the film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel had taken on heavy sociological and political significance.  Amy Pascal, the movie’s producer, had tweeted that men were not attending screenings of the Greta Gerwig–directed movie due to “unconscious bias” against women. Another Hollywood feminist VIP, Melissa Silverstein, jumped in: “I think it’s total, fully conscious sexism and shameful. The female story is just as universal as the male story.” The media were off and running: “Little Women has a Little Man problem,” Vanity Fair announced. “Men Are Dismissing Little Women: What a Surprise,” was the snarky title of a New York Times column.

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Kay S. Hymowitz — City Journal

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