A brief history of the rock legend's style and fashions:
"Bowie’s image was as carefully contrived for album covers as for the actual musical performances: Sukita Masayoshi’s black-and-white photograph of Bowie posing like a mannequin doll on the cover of 'Heroes' (1977), or Bowie stretched out on a blue velvet sofa like a Pre-Raphaelite pinup in a long satin dress designed by Mr. Fish for The Man Who Sold the World (1971), or Guy Peellaert’s lurid drawing of Bowie as a 1920s carnival freak for Diamond Dogs (1974).
"All these images were created by Bowie himself, in collaboration with other artists. He drew his inspiration from anything that happened to catch his fancy: Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin of the 1930s, Hollywood divas of the 1940s, Kabuki theater, William Burroughs, English mummers, Jean Cocteau, Andy Warhol, French chansons, Buñuel’s surrealism, and Stanley Kubrick’s movies, especially A Clockwork Orange, whose mixture of high culture, science fiction, and lurking menace suited Bowie to the ground. Artists and filmmakers have often created interesting results by refining popular culture into high art. Bowie did the opposite: he would, as he once explained in an interview, plunder high art and take it down to the street; that was his brand of rock-and-roll theater."
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3932 words)
The founding editor of the New York Review of Books looks back on 50 years:
Danner: "I’m holding here the first issue, which declares, in a statement on the second page: 'This issue … does not pretend to cover all the books of the season or even all the important ones. Neither time nor space, however, have been spent on books which are trivial in their intentions or venal in their effects, except occasionally to reduce a temporarily inflated reputation, or to call attention to a fraud.' This is the only editorial statement that you’ve ever made."
Silvers: "That’s it! And that’s still what we try to do. We shouldn’t pretend to be comprehensive. There’s no point in reviewing a book if you can’t find someone whose mind you particularly respect. And even so, we have to turn down every month or so a piece we’d asked for. But I left one thing out of that editorial statement: the freedom of those people to reply at length, to make their case."
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6995 words)
It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the world—working as a deep-sea diver:
"Most offshore divers aspire to work saturation jobs ('Sat is where it’s at,' says Newsum), but after graduating diving school and passing an extensive physical, a diver must begin as a 'tender,' or apprentice diver. A tender will serve on the support staff for deeper divers, and work at depths as shallow as four feet of water. Often a tender will assist on jobs involving oil pipelines, which tend to be buried four to six feet below the mud line in order to avoid contact with ships or marine life. A tender might be called upon to bury a repaired pipe, using hand jets to displace the bottom so that the pipe will sink belowground. Or he might excavate a pipe, in preparation for a more experienced diver to repair it. An apprentice makes about $40,000 a year."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 19, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4582 words)
Dozens of reporters have been killed in Mexico over the last 12 years by drug traffickers, and very little has been done to investigate their deaths and bring the murderers to justice:
"Let us say that you are a Mexican reporter working for peanuts at a local television station somewhere in the provinces—the state of Durango, for example—and that one day you get a friendly invitation from a powerful drug-trafficking group. Imagine that it is the Zetas, and that thanks to their efforts in your city several dozen people have recently perished in various unspeakable ways, while justice turned a blind eye. Among the dead is one of your colleagues. Now consider the invitation, which is to a press conference to be held punctually on the following Friday, at a not particularly out of the way spot just outside of town. You were, perhaps, considering going instead to a movie? Keep in mind, the invitation notes, that attendance will be taken by the Zetas.
"Imagine now that you arrive on the appointed day at the stated location, and that you are greeted by several expensively dressed, highly amiable men. Once the greetings are over, they have something to say, and the tone changes. We would like you, they say, to be considerate of us in your coverage. We have seen or heard certain articles or news reports that are unfair and, dare we say, displeasing to us. Displeasing. We have our eye on you. We would like you to consider the consequences of offending us further. We know you would not look forward to the result. We give warning, but we give no quarter. You are dismissed."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 13, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4079 words)
A brief history of the LGBT movement:
"I am forty-four years old, and I have lived through a startling transformation in the status of gay men and women in the United States. Around the time I was born, homosexual acts were illegal in every state but Illinois. Lesbians and gays were barred from serving in the federal government. There were no openly gay politicians. A few closeted homosexuals occupied positions of power, but they tended to make things more miserable for their kind. Even in the liberal press, homosexuality drew scorn: in The New York Review of Books, Philip Roth denounced the “ghastly pansy rhetoric” of Edward Albee, and a Time cover story dismissed the gay world as a 'pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life.' David Reuben’s 1969 best-seller, 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)'—a book I remember perusing shakily at the library—advised that 'if a homosexual who wants to renounce homosexuality finds a psychiatrist who knows how to cure homosexuality, he has every chance of becoming a happy, well-adjusted heterosexual.'"
PUBLISHED: Nov. 5, 2012
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7526 words)
A lawyer and his pastor brother-in-law worked tirelessly to fight the Nazis from inside Germany—helping victims and even plotting to assassinate Hitler:
"Dietrich, embattled and frustrated, thought of going abroad, as he had in 1934 and 1935; perhaps some work in America might serve as a temporary alternative to military service—a dreaded, morally unacceptable prospect. His mentor Reinhold Niebuhr arranged a job for him in New York, where he arrived in late June 1939. But at once he was in spiritual turmoil: How could he contemplate living in a foreign country, at peace, when his own country was on the brink of war and desolation? He decided he must go back to Europe, explaining to Niebuhr:
"'I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany…. Christians in Germany are going to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose.'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 8, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4776 words)
It is "a national disgrace": The U.S. prison system, for years, failed to stop rampant sexual abuse from occurring behind bars. Inside the new program to stop it:
"The review panel’s most recent report describes the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, a maximum-security state prison in Troy, Virginia. About 1,200 women are confined there, and when the BJS surveyed them in 2009, 11.4 percent said they’d been sexually abused by other inmates in the preceding year alone; 6.0 percent said they’d been sexually abused by staff."
"The twelve months asked about in that survey came shortly after sexual misconduct by Fluvanna’s staff had already turned into scandal. Former inmate Melissa Andrews told the review panel about Patrick Owen Gee, who was chief of security at the prison—a man, she said, who seemed to hate women. When he started working at Fluvanna, he 'went from wing to wing in each building and told us, "you bitches think you’ve been living in Kindercare…things are going to change."' Andrews also testified that the warden to whom Gee reported, Barbara Wheeler, 'said to officers many times, that if she took anything and everything from us including our humanity maybe we would not return to prison' Gee was convicted of sexually abusing the inmates he was supposed to protect in 2008, and sentenced to five years in prison."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 4, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5463 words)
The life of the great English novelist, as documented in a biography by Claire Tomalin:
"The great drama—which is to say, the abiding trauma—of Dickens’s childhood was his year-long stint in a rat-infested blacking factory near the Thames, when he was twelve years old, following the arrest of John Dickens for debt in 1824 and his incarceration in the debtors’ prison at Marshalsea. Much has been written about this long-secret episode in Dickens’s life, including, most recently, Michael Allen’s heavily documented Charles Dickens and the Blacking Factory (2011), a work of some three hundred pages of interest primarily to Dickens scholars, but very likely impenetrable to Dickens readers in its concentration upon historical minutiae only tenuously related to Dickens and his novels. Another recent book, Ruth Richardson’s Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor (2012), gives a more intimately evoked view of Dickens’s childhood and the New Poor Law of 1834 by which workhouses became 'a sort of prison system to punish (the poor).'
"For the child Dickens, the shock of this change of fortune was all the more in that his seemingly loving parents so readily agreed to the enslavement of their bright young son:
"'No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge.'"
PUBLISHED: July 31, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3891 words)
[Fiction] A woman remembers a difficult relationship with her mother, and the extended family that embraced her:
"But it's as if my mother knows. Because, around the time I enter high school, I always turn out to be wrong. I have gotten a spot on my skirt, or my hair is a mess, or my posture is deplorable, or—my mother says—I'm glowering. Nor do I do enough around the house, and I refuse, in general, to take responsibility.
"That's true—but when I try to be useful, I wreck things! For instance, my mother has been distressed because the curtains are dingy and she can’t afford new ones, so one Saturday, while she is working, I take them to the laundromat for a surprise, and out of the machine comes a big wad of shredded rags.
"I throw up, of course. And when my mother gets home and sees them, she turns white and then red and then white again. She makes a phone call, puts me in the car, drives me to my aunts', reaches across me to open the car door, waits until I get out, and speeds off, without going in to say hello."
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2012
LENGTH: 42 minutes (10512 words)