Donn Pearce knew a thing or two about The System.
Donn Pearce’s Cool Hand Luke is a hot book. A hot, sweaty book. A hot, sweaty, stinking book. When you read it, having worked vicariously on a chain gang in a Florida July, you’ll want to take four or five showers—and you’ll give up any thought of a life of crime, especially one south of the Pee Dee and east of the Atchafalaya.
Published in 1965, Cool Hand Luke is a dripping-forehead book about heat, yes. More than that, it ...
It’s an ur-text of American democracy, despite the king who signed it into existence
One clause has to do with fish traps in the Thames. Another requires that standard measures be set out for beer and wine. Another hints that royal forests might just be cut down to bring in cash for the commonwealth. Still another, unappealingly to modern eyes, gives the king the right to take over debts owed to a Jewish lender.
The Magna Carta, which King John reluctantly signed at Runnymede on June 15, 1215, mostly benefited the 1 percenters of ...
The preternaturally smart teenage inventor was the product of many minds
The future has failed us. Or, better, we have failed the future. Where a century ago writers were imagining that in our time we would be growing oranges on Mars and zipping around our gleaming, crime-free cities in airmobiles, we can scarcely imagine a century ahead in which we are not besieged and marooned on a ruined planet, devolved into weird libertarian have and have-not tribes, and afraid for our very lives.
And that’s not even the dystopian literature of ...
The novel that birthed a "machine of condemnation"
Thomas Hardy by William Strang.
Thomas Hardy always imagined that he would be better known for his poems than his novels, which he grudgingly wrote, he said, simply to pay the bills. The facts were otherwise. He lived a long life, dying in 1928 at the age of 87, but had given up on writing those novels fully 33 years before—which did nothing to diminish either his reputation or the speculations on the parts of the contemporary press as to just when he would break ...
H.W. Brands photographed by Marsha Miller
It’s easy, if you’re politically so inclined, to dismiss Ronald Reagan as a mere actor who bumbled his way onto the film set called the presidency, an intellectual lightweight in a White House full of geniuses, a political naïf in a hardball world.
It would be easy. It would also be wrong.
So says H.W. Brands, the eminent student of American history who, when not teaching at the University of Texas, has been busy writing weighty tomes each one ...
Juan Rulfo’s only novel is a very strange thing indeed
Asked once to name the writers that were most important to him in shaping the imaginary but very real jungle town called Macondo, Gabriel García Márquez did not hesitate to cite two. The first was William Faulkner, chronicler of the imaginary but very real Yoknapatawpha County. The second was Juan Rulfo, who, in the one slim book for which he is known, created an entire world in the microcosmic form of a remote village that did not exist in any ...
The inspiration for 'Cabaret' is 80 years old
Christopher Isherwood; credit New Directions.
In the early 1930s, a time fast fading into history, strange things were afoot in Germany. Trading on ancient symbolism, timeworn prejudices, modern pseudoscience, and long-nursed grievances, a powerful right-wing coalition was rising, led by a charismatic war veteran who promised to restore it to greatness and whose name would soon be known around the world.
In those early days, he banked on being unheard outside his own country. There were eyewitnesses on hand, to be sure, to report his ...
The celebrated Western novelist and historian dies at age 75
Ivan Doig photographed by Carol Doig
Ivan Doig, the novelist and historian whose work celebrated the Western landscapes in which he spent most of his life, died this morning at his home in Seattle. He was 75 years old and had been suffering for the last eight years from the effects of multiple myeloma—which did nothing at all to keep him from completing four books, the last of which, a novel called The Last Bus to Wisdom, will be published in August.
I had the ...