Agency: The Times has been publishing its Book Review as a stand-alone supplement since 1896. Our editors celebrated with a look back at the classics we reviewed.
From the archives: James Baldwin reviewed Alex Haley’s “Roots” in 1976, calling it an exploration of “how each generation helps to doom, or helps to liberate, the coming one.” James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was dubbed the “most important contribution that has been made to fictional literature in the 20th century.” And Reynolds Price saw in Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” evidence for “the possibility of transcendence within human life.”
An early interview with Gore Vidal explored his self perception and view on goodness (it “may be beside the point”); and in a 1985 conversation with the Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, she reflected on the release of her first novel while she was living in exile.
Take a journey through the history of the coverage and its predecessors and peek at our first best-seller lists.
Agency: Robert Kolker recently wrote about a legal case involving friendship, plagiarism and art for The Times Magazine, which divided social media users. He talked to Times Insider about how he approached the reporting.
In early January, I got an email from a writer in Los Angeles named Dawn Dorland. The email was straightforward: She believed she’d been plagiarized in a short story by another writer named Sonya Larson. Now they were in court.
Over several months, I examined the case for the recent New York Times Magazine article “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?,” which became a major subject of conversation online, with readers taking sides. This was, on one level, a story about a friendship torn asunder. But it was also about how people can take details from real life and weave them into their fiction, and the question of whether artists must adhere to a certain set of ethics.
Then there was the astonishing nature of what was appropriated: Dorland had donated a kidney, and Larson’s short story was about a kidney donation.
“Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” is a Rorschach test. Some readers might land on team Dorland, others on team Larson. But neither I nor any of the editors involved in the piece expected it to turn into Twitter’s favorite parlor game.
I feel that a lot of the debate that continues to swirl across Twitter risks flattening the piece into a tale of good guys and bad guys — which, you might say, kind of proves the story’s point. We all can retreat into our own echo chambers and decide on our own versions of the truth, which can turn any of us into bad art friends.
Agency: In August, Lorde put out her third record, “Solar Power.” Three weeks later, she released “Te Ao Marama,” an EP with five of the album’s songs translated into Maori, the Indigenous language of New Zealand. It’s part of an effort in her native country to boost a language that, not long ago, experts feared could die out, Brian Ng reports.
Beginning in the 1850s, the country’s European-settler government punished children who spoke the language at school and isolated Maori families by embedding them in white neighborhoods. New Zealand declared Maori an official language in 1987, but by then most of its speakers were older.
One of the artists behind the musical Maori resurgence is Dame Hinewehi Mohi, who in 2019 compiled “Waiata/Anthems,” an album of contemporary English tracks performed in Maori that debuted at No. 1 on the New Zealand charts. (Waiata means “song.”)
Language revitalization is “a never-ending battle,” Sir Timoti Karetu, an expert on Maori language, said. “All of us who have been colonized by somebody else are struggling for our languages to survive.”
Agency: When “Insecure” begins its final season later this month on HBO, it will return to the thing that made it both subtly groundbreaking and appealing for Black viewers especially: consistent focus on the ups and downs of Black women’s friendships.
As only the second television comedy created by and starring a Black woman, “Insecure” countered the racial homogeneity of its predecessors. It wowed viewers with the sleek and inviting looks and sounds of the show’s world, including the fashion of its characters.
But the most revolutionary aspect of “Insecure” was the abundance of decidedly unsexy moments — when the characters messed up, hurt themselves and others, indulged in the kinds of mistakes and bad decisions most of us make as young adults.
“True representation is the ability to show your vulnerability and be able to say, ‘I don’t have it all together, just like the next white person doesn’t have it all together,’” said Issa Rae, the show’s star and co-creator.
For more, our contributing critic at large, Salamishah Tillet, interviewed the stars and showrunners of “Insecure” about the show’s conclusion.
Agency: It’s not just for teenage girls or the literati. If you’re going through a difficult time or if you are feeling down, try putting pen to paper. Journaling has become a hallmark of the “self-care” movement.
Studies have found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep and more self-confidence, Hayley Phelan writes in The Times. She started keeping a diary a few years ago, when she was unhappy in her marriage and her career.
“I was in a place where I would have tried anything to feel better,” Hayley writes. “If someone had told me that a daily practice of morning somersaults helped her get through a difficult time, you better believe I would have started rolling.”
Agency: “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a government-sponsored, big-budget movie recounting a brutal battle in the Korean War, has touched a nerve for much of the public in China.
The movie depicts an against-all-odds defeat of the U.S., and it came out on the eve of China’s annual October holiday, known as Golden Week.
As a barometer of Chinese politics and culture, it’s a movie that captures the moment: aggrieved, defiant and jingoistic, a lavishly choreographed call to arms at a time of global crisis and tense relations with the world, especially with the U.S.
The villains are American soldiers and commanders, including a reasonable impersonation of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The heroes are the Chinese “volunteers” hurled against what was then viewed as the world’s most invincible army.
On Friday, its second day in cinemas, it broke China’s single-day box office record, raking in more than $60 million. By Tuesday, it had grossed more than $360 million, putting it on track to be among the most successful Chinese films ever made.
It did so despite mixed reviews, a running time of 2 hours 56 minutes, and technical errors on military history.
The battle, better known in the U.S. as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, drove the Americans and their allies out of North Korea in the winter of 1950, setting the stage for the stalemate that ended with a cease-fire three years later.
Agency: Would you get a master’s degree in the Beatles? In the band’s hometown, a postgraduate program aims to turn fans into students of the Fab Four’s legacy by studying their sociological, historical and economic impact.
As a new semester began last week at the University of Liverpool, 11 eager students, ages 21 to 67, trooped into class to start the program. One wore a Yoko Ono T-shirt, while another had a yellow submarine tattooed on his arm, Alex Marshall writes in The Times. Two had named their sons Jude, after one of the band’s most famous songs.
Academics have studied the Beatles for decades, and the band is big business locally: Liverpool’s association with the band was worth over $110 million a year, a 2014 study found. Tourists visit sites named in the band’s songs and venues where the group played.
Two professional tour guides in the course said they hoped the program would help them attract customers. “The tour industry in Liverpool is fierce,” one said.
One student, Alexandra Mason, recently completed a law degree but decided to change track when she heard about the Beatles course. “I never really wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “In my mind, I’ve gone from the ridiculous to the sublime.”
Agencies: “The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art,” which opened last week in Paris, brings a “War and Peace”-scale blast of French and Russian painting — and reunites, for the first time since 1918, one of the two most substantial art collections of pre-revolutionary Russia.
When the French bourgeoisie still disdained the Paris avant-garde, the young Russian textile magnates Ivan and Mikhail Morozov bought the most innovative paintings in the city — and bought in bulk. Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso: All their works went east, and they would inspire two generations of Russian successors.
The Morozovs made Moscow into the offshore capital of French modern art in the years around 1900. Then came the October Revolution, when all of the 200 paintings were taken for the national collection. Ivan Morozov went into exile. Under Stalin, the paintings were suppressed and scattered as far as Siberia.
Their reassembly across four floors of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris has been nearly a decade in the making, twice delayed by the pandemic. The backbreaking catalog was curated with cool precision by the former director of Paris’s Picasso Museum.
The exhibition required a colossal diplomatic effort, with assurances that French law would protect the Russian museums against any claims by the Morozovs’ descendants, and a personal sign-off for the loans from President Vladimir Putin.
London: At a recent concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London, nearly 6,000 attendees gathered wearing a mix of suits, ties and video game character cosplay. They had come to see an orchestra and choir perform music from Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997.
The music in the first installment of the Final Fantasy series in 1987 was limited to a handful of electronic sounds. But technology evolved, and by the late 1990s, the games featured live orchestral recordings. Nobuo Uematsu, who composed scores for the first nine installments of Final Fantasy, has drawn on influences as varied as Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Celtic music and classical music.
The soundtracks to the Final Fantasy series are enormously popular: Since 2007, there have been more than 200 official concerts across 20 countries. At the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics this summer, some athletes marched to Final Fantasy songs. On YouTube, fans post covers, tutorials and their own compositions.
“There are some melodies I composed almost 30 years ago I’ve almost forgotten,” Junya Nakano, who worked with Uematsu on the score for Final Fantasy’s 10th installment, said. “But fans are still playing them.”
Agencies: When the first Black winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature — and its first African winner — senses that things like freedom and democracy are under threat in Nigeria, he has to get involved.
“It’s a temperament,” said Wole Soyinka, 87, during an interview in Abeokuta, his hometown in southern Nigeria.
“Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” his first novel in nearly 50 years, is being published in the U.S. on Tuesday. Set in an imaginary Nigeria, it’s a satire about how the accumulation of power can go awry. (His 1975 play “Death and the King’s Horseman” is also being produced for Netflix by EbonyLife Media, the empire run by Mo Abudu, who has earned herself the unofficial title of “Africa’s answer to Oprah.”)
“Something has happened to the quality of sensibility in this nation,” he said. “I haven’t put my finger on it completely. But something has given in this nation. Something has derailed.”
Boko Haram has terrorized northeastern Nigeria for over a decade. Mass abductions have swept the north. Police brutality has stirred a protest movement. Secessionist groups have attacked government offices.
It keeps bringing Soyinka back to the forefront. “I know, I know, I know. I’ve announced a number of times I’m withdrawing from public life,” Soyinka said. “And I meant it! For about 24 hours.”