David Gates

Stories by David Gates

  • Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror

    He was a music legend and a legendary oddball. Now that he's gone, perhaps we can finally answer the question: who was Michael Jackson?
  • Dylan Gets Romantic

    Bob Dylan reinvents himself (again) on album No. 33. Some fans will love it. Us—we're still not sure.
  • Lolita turns 50

    Everything you need to know about literature's most misunderstood girl, including her real name
  • Fast Chat: Peruvian Tenor Juan Diego Flórez

    Peruvian-born tenor Juan Diego Flórez, 35, sang "La Fille du Régiment" at the Metropolitan Opera last week, and was cheered wildly after the showpiece aria "Ah! Mes Amis," with its nine high C's. He then sang an encore, hitherto banned at the Met, with a single exception: Luciano Pavarotti during a performance of "Tosca" in 1994. Flórez spoke with NEWSWEEK's David Gates. ...
  • Tape Ate My Homework

    Like most NEWSWEEK writers, I'm a quick study. Somebody dies whom you know a little about, you take a couple of hours to eke out familiarity with solid fact, and you kick in the piece. But unlike most of my colleagues, I'm a slow learner when it comes to practicalities. I hope this year has finally taught me one thing: when it comes to the tools of your trade, get the best, no matter what the cost.This past summer I did an interview with Philip Roth; we sat in his agent's office, my Radio Shack cassette recorder on the table between us. We spoke for about 45 minutes, after which I brought the tape to a friend's summer house, and settled in to transcribe it. What I heard was the aural equivalent of a blizzard pelting your windshield, with the noise of the machine's innards grinding away in the foreground and, in the far distance, some voicelike noises. I must have spent six hours going over those 45 minutes of tape, reconstructing what Roth had said, and had to give up on some of his...
  • Big Fun in Purgatory

    These short Samuel Beckett plays go from hopeless to more so. No reason you can't have a good time.
  • The Last of the New York Intellectuals

    With the death of writer and critic Elizabeth Hardwick, the once-rollicking world of the New York intellectual is a diminished, lesser place.
  • Attention Must Be Paid

    Postmodernist Donald Barthelme's posthumous revival gets a little help from friends old and new.
  • Tuned In, Turned On

    The times they were a-changin', but in the arts only music kept pace.
  • The Man With Two Brains

    From the 1890s until he died in 1963, Robert Frost wrote down ideas, homemade aphorisms and fragments of poems. As one of his jottings says (God knows in what context), "I reel them off with one brain tied behind me." As you'd expect of a man who fetishized plainness, he used cheap spiral notebooks and flip pads and school composition books. Frost wouldn't mind our looking through them: he often destroyed drafts of his poems, but gave notebooks to friends and institutions. And now that Frost scholar Robert Faggen has published them--700 pages, with all the crossings-out and [illlegible]s preserved--we can see that the notion of having two brains wasn't just a gag. "Hegel taught the doctrine of opposites," Frost wrote in another entry, "but said nothing about everything's having more than one opposite." This was a squash court of a mind, in which two Frosts--or more--whacked contradictory thoughts that ricocheted in all directions.Frost remains America's chief celebrity poet, but don...
  • War and Remembrance

    Ken Burns's in-your-face documentary on World War II revisits the battlefield and home front of yesteryear. But for viewers, the subtext will inevitably be today—and Iraq.
  • Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' Turns 50

    Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" gets the full 50th anniversary treatment next month, and both cheerleaders and hand-wringers acknowledge that it radically changed American culture—somehow or other. True, the National Quiet Desperation Index has only risen since 1957, and if the book's exaltation of junker cars and diner food had really taken hold, we'd have fewer SUVs and fast-food franchises. But "On the Road" showed, and continues to show, generations of young readers a more intense, more passionate—and more closely examined—life. Some who've busted out to live it themselves died on the streets. Others have refreshed the American sensibility, in music, art, fashion, or in simply learning to kick back and take pleasure in pleasure. This book has stayed, as one of its early readers would say, forever young.Yet when the novel—which might now be called "creative nonfiction"—appeared, its events were already 10 years in the past. And in 1947, when Kerouac (Sal Paradise in the book) hit...
  • Fair Play: A Nasty Week for the Sports World

    Since the news broke that the Chicago White Sox had thrown the 1919 World Series, has the sports world had a nastier week? Or should we forget even that qualification? The Black Sox scandal seriously damaged major-league baseball, but last week the NFL, the NBA and the Tour de France all took headline hits. The National Hockey League and Thoroughbred racing got off easy: brothers Eric and Jordan Staal (of the Hurricanes and Penguins, respectively) merely got arrested for disorderly conduct at a bachelor party, and at New York's Saratoga Race Course, only one horse, the 7-year-old Massoud, fell and had to be euthanized.The federal indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for his alleged involvement in a dogfighting ring was both the most horrific and least significant of last week's scandals. The indictment, which alleges that dogs were shot, hanged and electrocuted, could land Vick six years in prison and a $350,000 fine, which seems lenient if the allegations are true...
  • True or False: Jane Austen Outsells Alice Walker and Ann Coulter

    Jane Austen probably can't compete yet with Shakespeare or Dickens—and certainly not with the Bible—for the greatest number of adaptations, tie-ins, tchotchkes and other epiphenomena. Dickens has a theme park in Chatham, England, while the Austen-themed resort called Pembrook Park exists so far only in "Austenland," a just-published chick-lit novel by Shannon Hale, whose author's note describes her as "an avid Austen fan and admirer of men in britches." Hale's heroine is a "Sex and the City" career gal who can't keep a boyfriend and who has a crush on Mr. Darcy. Oh, not the "real" one—the one played by Colin Firth in the BBC "Pride and Prejudice."Later this summer, a British actress named Emma Campbell Webster will publish "Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure," an interactive fiction game with you as the main character ("Difficult as it is, you give up Colonel Brandon and return home to Longbourne ..."). Your mission is "to marry both prudently and for love." And...
  • The Genius of P. G. Wodehouse

    Evelyn Waugh considered P. G. Wodehouse the greatest comic writer of his time: that would be from 1900, when he sold his first magazine article, to 1974, when his last book came out. (He died a year later, at 93.) And Waugh predicted that his determinedly escapist stories and novels “will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own.” Right on both counts. The irksomometer overloaded years ago, and on the jacket of the new Everyman’s Library anthology “The Best of Wodehouse,” Waugh shares blurb space with David Foster Wallace.Wodehouse’s most popular creation, the team of foppish, feeble-brained Bertie Wooster and his quietly omniscient valet Jeeves, is a common literary archetype: Don Quixote/Sancho Panza, Mr. Pickwick/Sam Weller, Lear/the Fool, Frodo/Sam. But Wodehouse adds a folktale element: Bertie is a descendent of those witlings and third sons who complete their quests because of their innocence. In Wodehouse, the servant not...
  • Culture: Back From the Dead

    An artist dies, the work's on life support. Should the living make it get up and walk?
  • Great Expectations

    Seven years after his debut, the award-winning story collection "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges," Nathan Englander has finally published a second book. His publisher must be relieved that it's a novel. Even readers who end up not liking "The Ministry of Special Cases" ought at least to admire Englander's good sense. After a $350,000 advance for your first book, followed by awed reviews comparing you to [deep breath] Roth, Bellow, Joyce, Kafka, Cheever, Gogol, Chekhov and Singer, any writer would be tempted to swing for the fences. Would a 1,500-page novel that linked, oh, say, Bobby Thomson's home run, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mason and Dixon, Joseph of Arimathea and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle—all narrated by a hermaphrodite—be enough to impress that mob of long-awaiters and knife-whetters?"The Ministry of Special Cases" is merely a wonderful medium-length novel, set in mid-1970s Buenos Aires during the "dirty war," when Argentina's military dictatorship "disappeared" tens of...
  • Great Expectations

    Seven years after his debut, the award-winning story collection "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges," Nathan Englander has finally published a second book. His publisher must be relieved that it's a novel. Even readers who end up not liking "The Ministry of Special Cases" ought at least to admire Englander's good sense. After a $350,000 advance for your first book, followed by awed reviews comparing you to [deep breath] Roth, Bellow, Joyce, Kafka, Cheever, Gogol, Chekhov and Singer, any writer would be tempted to swing for the fences. Would a 1,500-page novel that linked, oh, say, Bobby Thomson's home run, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mason and Dixon, Joseph of Arimathea and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle—all narrated by a hermaphrodite—be enough to impress that mob of long-awaiters and knife-whetters?"The Ministry of Special Cases" is merely a wonderful medium-length novel, set in mid-1970s Buenos Aires during the "dirty war," when Argentina's military dictatorship "disappeared" tens of...
  • Re-examining the Holocaust

    "The head takes the longest to burn; two little blue flames flicker from the eyeholes ... the entire process lasts twenty minutes—and a human being, a world, has been turned into ashes." A Polish Jew named Zalman Gradowski wrote this account of what actually happened, step by step, in the gas chambers and crematoriums of Auschwitz, where he'd been sent in late 1942, along with seven members of his family, including his wife and mother. The Nazis gassed them; Gradowski had the good or bad fortune to be able-bodied, and it got him this rare look at the innermost workings of the horror Germany was hoping to hide from the world. The camp authorities picked him for the Sonderkommando, the Jews who dealt with the corpses—yes, yanking gold teeth, all that—and disposed of the ashes. Even worse, perhaps, they found themselves helping SS men reassure the still-clueless victims removing their clothes before the "disinfection" chambers.Naturally these men knew that they, too, would be killed...
  • Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

    It’s hard to imagine why Kurt Vonnegut was called a “pessimist” or a “cynic.” He lived through three quarters of the worst century ever and saw enough of the next one to know it was already shaping up as a contender. He didn’t just read about the madness and horror: in World War II, it almost killed him when he was in a German POW camp in Dresden and American planes firebombed the city. And he responded to his times appropriately—with anger, with despair, with stoicism—and still managed to laugh, and to recommend and practice human kindness. Isn’t the expression for this something more like “role model”?After the war, Vonnegut knocked around as a police reporter, an adman, a p.r. man for General Electric, and, briefly, as a Saab dealer. But he was also writing satirical fiction. His first novel, “Player Piano” (1952,) was a surreal spoof of the corporate world. His 1959 “sci-fi” novel, “The Sirens of Titan,” took on the military, capitalism and organized religion. In 1969, Vonnegut...

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