He was the Sultan of Swat in the era of swing. The Bambino, the Big Bam, the Behemoth of Bust. As a reform-school boy from Baltimore who made it good on the big stage of New York City, Babe Ruth belongs in the pantheon of great American tales. As a baseball player, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. And as a national phenomenon, well, where does he fit? Maybe in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. Babe Ruth really was the diamond as big as the Ritz.
It should have been October 31, shouldn’t it? From the very moment that a new account of the life and art of Edward Gorey was announced, Halloween hungered for the book—working the phones, dropping by the other day’s houses for none-too-subtle campaign visits, taking out ads in the trade publications.
Camille Paglia puts her personality on full display in her critical writing. She shoots straight about her desires and fears for society, and her essays are polemical without being preachy or pandering. Her new essay collection Provocations covers a variety of topics in eight general sections (Popular Culture; Film; Sex, Gender, Women; Literature; Art; Education; Politics; and Religion), so you can find her opinion on just about everything by thumbing through its 681 pages. There’s a delightful trip-down-memory-lane quality to the book—it covers cultural touch points from David Bowie to Alfred Hitchcock to the Clinton White House.
Something about Tom Brady was different. New England sports diehard Jerry Thornton realized this when the cover of the February 18, 2002, edition of People magazine caught his eye. “Why I Had Plastic Surgery” blared the big-blocked letters. But it wasn’t Greta Van Susteren featuring her new “talk of TV” look that grabbed his attention. Thornton was fixated by the top right corner: a space occupied by a visor-wearing quarterback who until now had been a pop-culture anonymous. “Those lips, that chin, that Super Bowl win!” read the accompanying tease with Brady’s photo. If Celtics icon Larry Bird had gotten a “That wispy mustache, those tiny shorts—the best in sports” treatment, Thornton couldn’t recall.
So, here’s a story. You probably saw it in the news, in the dueling op-eds, in the outrage that swirled around it. But the story is still worth revisiting as a microcosm, a little diorama, of our cultural situation. This past July, The Nation published a poem by Anders Carlson-Wee called “How-To,” narrated by a panhandler offering advice to other panhandlers, explaining how to gin up sympathy among the passers-by.
By his own telling, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper entered politics almost accidentally. He joined the Reform Party of Canada as a side project while pursuing his masters in economics; the man who would go on to be Canada’s prime minister for more than nine years only stood for political office because his party simply was not fielding enough candidates.
David Peace grew up in Yorkshire. So he moved to Tokyo in 1991, age 27, because who wouldn’t? And once settled in Japan, he began to write the fiction that would make him successful. In English. Mostly about Yorkshire, because . . . well, because David Peace is one of the best and most peculiar writers in English today, and he apparently needs distance to allow himself to slip inside the minds—conscious and unconscious—of the people about whom he writes.
Today, about 14 million working-age men are neither employed nor looking for work. Thirteen million men ages 18 to 34 still live with their parents. Male membership in civic groups has fallen a half to two-thirds since the 1960s. Just half of men are husbands, compared with three-quarters a half-century ago. After decades of increase, male life expectancy actually fell in 2014.