In 1932, several black Americans – including Langston Hughes – traveled to the Soviet Union to shoot a propaganda film about the “evils of racism in the United States.” One of those travelers, Lloyd Patterson, would never return. Instead, Patterson married an Ukrainian woman, and the pair had two children. The firstborn, Jim Patterson, was at one time the most famous black resident of the USSR – and his appearance in The Circus even drew the admiration of Joseph Stalin. After World War II, Patterson served as a Soviet naval officer aboard a submarine in the Black Sea. From there he went on to the Soviet Writers Union in 1967. If you think this sounds far-fetched, I encourage you to read more here.
College football season is upon us, and I'd be remiss not to highlight the recent flood of fantastic writing on my favorite televised sport. Most striking is Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch's Atlantic article "The Shame of College Sports." It's accompanied by several other takes on the issue. In regards to academia, this New York Times piece on the University of Chicago's football team demonstrates that tension between educators and football fans is nothing new. (A sentiment the paper illustrated in a 2006 piece on Ivy League football.) However, as Gregg Easterbrook notes, major football programs can also demonstrate success in the classroom as well. Finally, and on a purely emotional level, I will always seize any opportunity to share this fantastic ESPN story by Eric Adelson.
The folks at The New Yorker's Book Bench offer their take at The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. (Spoiler Alert: Katherine Hepburn gets a shoutout.)
"In no particular order, except one of hallelujah, here’s a necessarily partial list of some other living Korean American writers whose work or person, or both, I’ve had the great good luck of encountering"....you'll have to read the interview for the lengthy list as well as the thoughts of four Korean American writers who gathered at the behest of R.O. Kwon to discuss the influence and impact of Alexander Chee. It's full of beautiful insights from Kwon, Nicole Chung, Alice Sola Kim, and Matthew Salesses such as "Alex said he 'wanted to plant that flag in the culture,' and until he said that I don’t know if I’d thought about it as a reason to write. The need to exist in the canon, in the literary world. I found that very powerful, and very brave". Chee's newest book is an essay collection, How to Write An Autobiographical Novel, that we eagerly anticipated last month.
"Here’s a challenge for you: find a book jacket that features an image of a woman over 40." Despite being one of the biggest consumers of books, The Guardian writes about the lack of middle-aged women on book jackets. Pair with: an essay on the sexy-backed, faceless-woman book cover trend.
The most depressing favorable review of a TV show you'll read this year, LA Review of Books shares why "Catfish: The TV Show" is so poignant and so very sad.
"In an ironic twist, Super Terrain, a publisher in France, has created a new edition of Bradbury’s classic that actually requires extreme heat in order to be read." The prototype copy of Fahrenheit 451, which looks fully blacked-out until you apply heat, may be available to the general book-buying public in 2018. Check out: an essay about Ray Bradbury from our archives.