News out of North Korea, when it comes at all, generally follows one of three storylines. In the first, it fires a missile that comes down far off course. In the second, the regime threatens the West with annihilation. And in the third, that regime does something so brazenly totalitarian that Caligula would gasp in admiration. Most recently, for example, it issued a decree that no one can be called Jong-un except the reigning boss or Jong-il or Il-sung except ...
“Let’s break shit.” Thus, in Silicon Valley CEO–speak, the epitaph for the New Republic, chiseled out a few weeks back. But quoth the fastidious New York Times, that executive “told the staff that he intended to break stuff—though he used a profanity.”
It’s not because no one swears or does adult things in New York that the Times circumlocuted, though it’s in good company in doing so. Only recently did the New Yorker allow words unbecoming to the ...
Daniel Galera photographed by Júlia Berenstein.
Let’s say you’ve suffered some psychic trauma or experienced some brain injury and can’t form new memories. Your anterograde amnesia leaves you subject to all sorts of hoodwinking, the fruitful premise of Jonathan Nolan’s short story “Memento Mori” and the 2000 film Memento that it spawned.
Now let’s say that you can’t remember faces—that, in other words, you’re afflicted with a rare neurological disorder that blocks you from forming a memory of the appearance of the people you’ve met. So ...
How a catchphrase became sadly relevant
Once upon a time, long ago—in the late 1960s, that is—there lived a young woman who, a recent college graduate, was on her own for the first time. She liked sex with men. She may have gauged it as a kind of validation, a stage for playing out childhood issues and sibling rivalries. Or there may not have been much thought to it at all.
We will never know. We can only guess at how Roseann Quinn sorted out these ...
Remembering the second best-selling novel in English
J.R.R Tolkien, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s great work of modern mythology, was forged by three wars. The first began 100 years ago, a hell of mud and fire. The second was its successor, a time of contending totalitarian visions. The third has in some respects never ended, pitting East against West, religion against religion.
As truly as it did George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Cold War most fully shaped Tolkien’s vision. But Tolkien also opposed two larger ...
Celebrating Sandra Cisneros' writing
Sandra Cisneros photographed by Ray Santisteban.
In the Spanish language, caramelo is a candy made of melted sugar, milk and butter—a caramel, in other words. In parts of Mexico, a caramelo is a kind of chewy cheese quesadilla. You can find the dish in Michoacán, and, for that matter, in Chicago, where the largest population of Mexicans outside of Mexico and the American Southwest is to be found.
And everywhere in Mexico, a nation as obsessed by ethnic gradations as any other, a caramelo is a ...
It's still a vexing document
Was ever a book so disbelieved from the moment of its release as the set of documents known as the Warren Commission Report? Perhaps O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It, to be sure, but in the annals of official explanation, nothing has become so completely a byword for the semantic domain labeled, “Yeah, right, uh-huh.”
It did not help that the Commission was rushed from the beginning. John F. Kennedy, whom the report lauds as “a young and ...
The beloved book’s strange origins
The Wizard of Oz.
In 1932, an appliance salesman named Isidore Hochberg wrote a set of politically charged lyrics for a satirical musical called Americana. In one tune, the narrator builds railroads, fights wars, plows fields and erects skyscrapers in the space of a few verses, only to be undone by predatory capitalists. The show closed after only a couple of performances, but that song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” became a smash hit, recorded by a young Bing Crosby.
Come the ...