Ever since Pulphead, we can’t get enough of John Jeremiah Sullivan, so we’re happy to hear he’s at work on his next book, The Prime Minister of Paradise. Sullivan will tell the story of Christian Priber, a German American who tried to establish a utopia in 18th century South Carolina. “This man, he really represented the height of the enlightenment at the time,” Sullivan said during a recent interview at Notre Dame. No word on an official release date yet, but it’s already being optioned for film by Scott Rudin.
As young and extremely carefree 20-somethings who spent their weeknights drinking $5 pitchers of Busch at the now-defunct Jack’s Club, we conceived of Family Dinner as a pseudo-ironic mimicry of the middle class practice with which we had all grown up. But seven years later, we are still at it. The group has grown from four people to 16. We have a calendar and a Google group, and we get together around 49 Wednesdays out of the year, rotating between approximately seven dwellings. One person cooks, everyone else brings beer or sometimes wine. We even have a family name: We’re the Boehners, and we love each other.
If you’re going to accidentally leave almost two dozen unprocessed photo negatives out for 100 years, there’s no better place to store them than a block of ice in Antarctica. Conservationists restoring an Antarctic exploration hut found the negatives left from Robert Falcon Scott’s fatal 1910-13 Terre Nova Expedition to the South Pole. For a less harrowing tale of Arctic exploration, check out our review of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
"Every day while I was reading an advance copy of The Orenda this summer, I drove past a billboard advertising The Lone Ranger, which showed Johnny Depp in war paint with a dead crow inexplicably plopped on top of his head. That’s why Boyden’s work is necessary. We all know Depp’s Tonto is a travesty, and the movie justifiably tanked at the box office, but we don’t as a culture seem to know what to put in the place of that war-whooping savage that filled the screen of the million-and-one Westerns we all watched on TV as kids. In The Orenda, Joseph Boyden is quietly, brilliantly showing us the way.”
"My understanding of Russian literature and its history was shaken up by Muireann Maguire’s Stalin’s Ghosts: Gothic Themes in Early Soviet Literature; I had never given a thought to that side of Soviet literature, and I doubt many people have, but she convinced me that (as she puts it) ‘The centrality of the Gothic-fantastic to Russian fiction is almost impossible to exaggerate.’” Stephen Dodson kicks off A Year in Reading.
The cartoonist Joe Sacco has a new graphic novel out that uses a twenty-four-foot panorama to depict the first day of the Battle of the Somme. At Salon, Sacco tells Daniel D’Addario that his upbringing in Australia, where the landings at Gallipoli have great patriotic significance, helped to spur his interest in the War to End All Wars. (Related: we interviewed Sacco last year.)
The history of the civil rights movement is littered with moral compromises, class conflicts, and power rivalries. That history has been told elsewhere, most famously in Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters, but it never made it into my elementary/middle/high school. If I knew about that history, I think I would have liked these men more. King’s capacity for mediocrity makes his capacity for greatness that much more interesting and that much more extraordinary.
In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
Moss Hart had talent, an inhuman tolerance for work, and a pair of brass balls, but what set him apart from the thousands of other guys hanging around theater lobbies in the mid-1920s trying to catch a break was that the man was fucking relentless.