Houston ChronicleNEW YORK (AP) — Author-columnist Jimmy Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of wise guys and underdogs who became the brash embodiment of the old-time, street smart New Yorker, dies Sunday. He was 87. Breslin died at his Manhattan home …Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88New York TimesColumnist Jimmy Breslin, bard of the New York…
“You guys know about vampires?You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, "Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” - Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz
We wanted to be, in the words of one of the musical’s songs, “in the room where it happens” to see whether it earns the raves it has received — and my ticket money as one who is too impatient to wait for the movie version.
I also wanted to see if the production is guilty, as some critics have charged, of “Founders chic,” the practice of over-glorifying our nation’s Founding Fathers (and thanks to modern DNA tests, we’re learning more about who some of them fathered), especially when judged by today’s standards of racism, sexism and other culture war issues.
Those are legitimate concerns, in my view, although they also call upon us to judge people by the standards of their day, as much as ours, which is not always comfortable.
For example, Harvard history and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning author who has been credited with reopening debate over whether Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with slave Sally Hemings, said she loves the musical yet has qualms.
“Imagine ‘Hamilton’ with white actors,” she wrote in a blog of the National Council on Public History. “Would the rosy view of the founding era grate?”
Good question. The show’s nontraditional casting of mostly nonwhites to portray white historical figures is timely, refreshing and enticingly ironic. It enables us to have a bit of emotional distance to see, for example, white slave owners portrayed by black or Hispanic actors.
But as a product and reflection of hip-hop culture, the play defies attempts to imagine it with a traditionally white cast. “Hamilton” sets out to be more than that. Its multiracial cast and Miranda’s lyrics seamlessly connect rap compositions with storytelling in a way that respects and renews the nation’s founding narratives.
This, in short, is a patriotic production that, among other messages, conveys the notion that U.S. history is not for whites only. It is U.S. history reimagined for an era in which people of color increasingly are taking more responsibility for a multiracial future — all the way up to the White House.
‘Hamilton’ is even better than its hype (Chicago Tribune)
In articles, blog posts and Facebook threads, scholars have debated whether “Hamilton” over-glorifies the man, inflating his opposition to slavery while glossing over less attractive aspects of his politics, which were not necessarily as in tune with contemporary progressive values as audiences leaving the theater might assume.
The conversation has yet to erupt into a full-fledged historians’ rap battle. But some scholars are wondering if one is due to start.
“The show, for all its redemptive and smart aspects, is part of this ‘Founders Chic’ phenomenon,” said David Waldstreicher, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York who last September sounded an early note of skepticism on The Junto, a group blog about early American history.
Amid all the enthusiasm for “Hamilton” the musical, he added, Hamilton the man “has gotten a free pass.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” put it more bluntly.
“One of the most interesting things about the ‘Hamilton’ phenomenon,” she wrote last week on the blog of the National Council on Public History, “is just how little serious criticism the play has received.”
Ms. Gordon-Reed was responding to a critical essay by Lyra D. Monteiro, in the journal The Public Historian, arguing that the show’s multiethnic casting obscures the almost complete lack of identifiable African-American characters, making the country’s founding seem like an all-white affair.
“It’s an amazing piece of theater, but it concerns me that people are seeing it as a piece of history,” Ms. Monteiro, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark, said in an interview.
The founders, she added, “really didn’t want to create the country we actually live in today.”
Ms. Gordon-Reed — who is credited with breaking down the resistance among historians to the claim that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings — wrote in her response that she shared some of Ms. Monteiro’s qualms, even as she loved the musical and listened to the cast album every day.
“Imagine ‘Hamilton’ with white actors,” she wrote. “Would the rosy view of the founding era grate?”
Historians are generally not reluctant to call out the supposed sins of popularizers. When Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” arrived in 2012, a number of prominent scholars blasted it for promoting a “great man” view of history and neglecting the role African-Americans played in their own emancipation.
While the most recent critiques of “Hamilton” have focused on race, some scholars have also noted that it’s an odd moment for the public to embrace an unabashed elitist who liked big banks, mistrusted the masses and at one point called for a monarchal presidency and a Senate that served for life.
Alexander Hamilton “was more a man for the 1 percent than the 99 percent,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor at Princeton and the author of “The Politicians and the Egalitarians,” to be published in May.
R.B. Bernstein, a historian at City College of New York who has written extensively about Jefferson, credited “Hamilton” with keeping the subject of slavery simmering underneath its jam-packed story. But race and slavery, he added, were not the only important, or timely, aspects of the show.
“It’s about how hard it is to do politics, about how people of fundamentally clashing political views tried to work together to create a shared constitutional enterprise,” he said. “And right now, that’s a message we really need.”
A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves. “It’s something I bring up all the time in my lectures,” says Eric Foner, a Columbia University historian and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” “If the Germans built a museum dedicated to American slavery before one about their own Holocaust, you’d think they were trying to hide something. As Americans, we haven’t yet figured out how to come to terms with slavery. To some, it’s ancient history. To others, it’s history that isn’t quite history.”
John McQuaid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the new book Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat, tells NPR’s Rachel Martin why we like to eat things that actually sound pretty gross:
Our tastes our malleable. This is also part … of our evolutionary heritage in that our ancestors lived in so many different parts of the world, with so many different types of food, and still do, that flexibility is part of our makeup. … We learn to like things that, by rights, no one should like. …
I paid a visit to Iceland during my research and I tried … a type of fermented sea shark. It used to be buried in the sand for months, and then they’d dig it up in a semi-fermented, rotted state and eat it. Vikings did that, I guess when they had no other option, but today it’s a delicacy, it’s a national tradition in Iceland. But it smells like a combination of ammonia and rotted fish. … You’re supposed to drink it with some Icelandic schnapps and toast the god Thor. I tried this and I have to say, I did not learn to like it. … But if you live in Iceland, you will learn to like it because you derive other pleasures from it. You derive fellowship, and it’s fun and your brain kind of shifts around, so things that other people find disgusting, you find enjoyable.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall starred in “The Big Sleep,” circa 1946. The famous Hollywood couple met on the set of "To Have and Have Not" in 1944. When they met, Bogart was 44 and Bacall was 19. The couple married on May 21, 1945 in a small ceremony at Bogart’s close friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield at Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio.
The couple starred four films together including the aforementioned and "Dark Passage" (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948).
After reading Deep
Down Dark this winter and A God in
Ruins this spring, it’s time to reconvene the Morning Edition book club for
our third meeting. We’ve asked Pulitzer Prize-winning author and screenwriter
Richard Russo to do the honors: He’s selected Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
Fates and Furies
is the story of a marriage, divided into two sections. The first, Fates,
focuses on the husband’s story. The second, Furies, completes the tale,
focusing on the wife. Russo says that device allows for a stunning, 360-degree
view of a complex relationship.
“The secrets here are character secrets, not plot
secrets,” he tells NPR’s David Greene. “They are revealed in ways
that sometimes take your breath away. You have to wait almost until the last
page of the book to get to the last of the secrets.”
“By ignoring a lot of American culture you can write more interesting stories. Unfortunately, if you were writing about America as it is, you’d be writing about a lot of people sitting in front of television sets.” —Richard Russo
A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that ore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson read and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.
Cormac McCarthy; Blood Meridian
[Can you say run-on sentence? But, a damn good one!)