A still from Doctor Thorne.
- Hot take: There’s a new miniseries adaptation of Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, and it’s not good. Just follow Laura Miller’s lead and read the book instead: “Seemingly everything that happens today has already been covered in one of [Trollope’s] books, albeit in a less technologized form … The resemblance between particular current events and Trollope’s fiction is like the weather: however much it changes from day to day, in one form or another, it’s always there. His novels amount to a compendium of every recurring pattern of human behavior as observed by a wise, amused, and tenderly exacting deity. He sees all our little self-delusions and vanities, but he loves us just the same. In fact, sometime they make him love us more.”
- Plenty of novelists love cinema. The rarer thing, Adam Thirlwell writes, is the filmmaker in love with literature. It’s just Whit Stillman out there: “Stillman has never been shy with his literary provenance. Stillman’s cinematic innovation—in his 1990s trilogy of high bourgeois melancholy, Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, and his 2012 film Damsels in Distress—has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. (Like his characters, Stillman admires the value in apparently outmoded things.) The atmosphere of his films owes as much to Henry James as it does to Truffaut or Max Ophüls … Stillman’s characters are monsters of literary conversation … People talk syntactically, at high speed, with absolute artistry (one comparison, in a different register, but at a similar pitch of artificiality, is Tarantino). Stillman uses dialogue the way Matisse uses color: it does not necessarily correspond to anything in the real world.”
- In the Middle East, realism is out of fashion—to take on the political moment, writers have had to get weird. “Five years after the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and elsewhere, a bleak, apocalyptic strain of postrevolutionary literature has taken root in the region. Some writers are using science fiction and fantasy tropes to describe grim current political realities. Others are writing about controversial subjects like sexuality and atheism, or exhuming painful historical episodes that were previously off limits. In a literary culture where poetry has long been the most celebrated medium, writers are experimenting with a range of genres and styles, including comics and graphic novels, hallucinatory horror novels, and allegorical works of science fiction.”
- If you’ve lately been avoiding the comments section of your favorite site, fear not—it’s still a wasteland of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Dawn Foster cites a new Demos report that “analyzed comments over a three-week period, using an algorithm to determine whether tweets that used the words whore and slut were sexist insults or conversational. They found that 6,500 users were targeted by 10,000 ‘explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets’ … Has the internet made people more hateful? Perhaps. Or it may simply have made it easier for people to express their hate … Quite often men will tweet photos of their erect cocks to me, in response to nothing at all, and their profiles show they do this to as many women as possible, several a minute, before their accounts get shut down. It must be an easy way to get a kick without leaving the house.”
- When next you encounter a group of med students, be sure to grill them on how they memorialize the cadavers in their lives: “According to Cynthia Klestinec’s book Theaters of Anatomy, Italian students in the fifteenth century felt guilty about their part in ‘defiling’ the human body in the name of scientific advancement … After the demo, students prepared and organized the final ritual: a funeral … A body ‘carried into the anatomical hall, and the cover of the box in which it had been transported was returned to the executioner, who remained at some distance for this purpose,” Roswell Park writes in the 1903 book An Epitome of the History of Medicine. ‘If the corpse was one that had been decapitated, during these solemn ceremonies the head was placed between its legs.’ The proceedings were not always so solemn, though; sometimes there were performances. ‘Finally, an entertainment with music, often furnished by itinerant actors, was given.’ ”