“The Chinese people are on high alert that criticism of the government, independent thinking, and challenges to official narratives are dangerous.” PEN America has published “Writing on the Wall,” a report about the disappearance, late last year, of five Hong Kong booksellers. Only four of the five men have been released from Chinese custody.
If your default mood hovers between melancholy and despair, you may be cheered (or at least made a bit less glum) by this argument that striving for happiness is bad for us in the long run. Mari Ruti makes the case that a “happy, balanced life” depends in large part on a kind of emotional numbness.
What’s the best book of the 21st century? To date, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao seems to be the favorite – the BBC polled a few dozen US critics and Junot Diaz‘s novel came in first place. The full list is available from The Guardian, and includes Zadie Smith‘s White Teeth and Michael Chabon‘s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, both of which appeared alongside Oscar Wao in our own “Best of the Millennium” list a few years ago.
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.)