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. Why have you been the one to break the ban on encores?I don't know. But since I began singing this opera the public...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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