Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

Category: politics

Germany prepares to publish Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' after 70 years

Hitler's "Mein Kampf"

Adolf Hitler's malevolent manifesto, "Mein Kampf," will be published in Germany again in 2015, 70 years after it last appeared there in print.

After World War II, publication of "Mein Kampf" ceased. The German state of Bavaria, which owns the copyright, had kept the book from returning, anew, to shelves. Yet it has decided to bring it back one last time before the copyright expires at the end of 2015.

That's because it hopes one last "unattractive" edition, with additional commentary, will put Hitler's writing in perspective. The Independent reports:

We want to make clear what nonsense it contains and what a worldwide catastrophe this dangerous body of thought led to," said Markus Söder, the Bavarian finance minister. He said the state's version would contain additional information which would debunk and "demystify" the manifesto.

Bavaria said it would also publish a school version, an English language edition, an e-book and an audio book.

The decision follows a change of heart by Germany's Central Council of Jews. Stephan Kramer, its general secretary, recently backed the idea of publishing a scholarly edition of Mein Kampf, explaining its role in encouraging Nazism.

The Internet was a reason behind his changed stance: "It is all the more important that young people should see the critical version when they click on to Mein Kampf on the Web," he said.

Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf," which means "My Struggle," while in jail in 1924 after attempting to stage a coup. The BBC describes it as "part biography, part political and racist rant."

A number of English-language translations of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" are available through major retailers such as Amazon.com.

RELATED:

Ezra Pound's daughter takes on Italian fascist group Casa Pound

German author Christa Wolf has died

Interview: Art Spiegelman taps the source

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" shown at a news conference announcing the upcoming publication. Credit: Lennart Preiss / Associated Press

Festival of Books: How the 'boys on the bus' cover campaigns

Click to view photos from the Festival of Books

We are, it seems, living in fragmented times.

Four notable political journalists and a media critic spent an hour late Saturday afternoon dissecting the state of American politics and political journalism. The L.A. Times Festival of Books panel was called "The Boys on the Bus," but as moderator (and L.A. Times political reporter) Mark Z. Barabak pointed out, these days half of the nation's political reporting class are women, and the bus was long ago replaced by chartered airplanes.

The panel's title was drawn from Timothy Crouse's 1973 landmark book "The Boys on the Bus," which was among the first and best-known works to examine the role of the media during presidential campaigns. Crouse helped create the modern perception of political journalists as celebrities in and of themselves, a role since elevated by the talking-head shows on cable and Sunday morning network news shows.

PHOTOS: Festival of Books

But as anyone who has been on the bus knows, celebrity has little to do with the day-to-day coverage of campaigns (Disclosure: I covered political campaigns for the L.A. Times from 2000 to 2008, where I worked with Barabak and his fellow panelist Ronald Brownstein, and against panelist Adam Nagourney, then a political correspondent for the New York Times). 

And in this era of instant news, tweets as stories, and television programming propelled by opinion, both the practice of politics and political journalism are undergoing tectonic shifts. Nation magazine media critic and journalism professor Eric Alterman condemned the predominant mode of coverage, arguing that most political journalism is about the process with a de-emphasis on what kinds of leaders the candidates would be if elected.

Continue reading »

Rodney King and the L.A. riots: When 20 years can seem like yesterday

Click to view photos from the Festival of BooksOne aspect of Los Angeles hasn't changed in the 20 years since the 1992 riots: Traffic tie-ups. Rodney King, whose March 1991 beating by L.A. police officers was the first link in the chain of events that culminated in the 1992 riots, was a half-hour late Saturday for his interview with Times columnist Patt Morrison.

So, in a sense, the session ran in reverse. With Morrison, who also anchors a radio show on KPCC, as the moderator, Angelenos spent a half-hour talking about their own experiences during and after the riots as they awaited King's arrival. The general consensus: The LAPD has changed for the better, but the socio-economic conditions that set the stage for the riots have worsened. And the racial divides are still chasms.

PHOTOS: Festival of Books

"I'm surprised at how white we are here," said one white woman, looking around at the crowd of more than 500 people in a basement auditorium at USC's Ronald Tutor Campus Center, about four miles north of where the riots began near South Central's Normandie and Florence Avenues. The woman said she lived in South Central, in a neighborhood in which she is the rare white resident. "The riots can certainly start again, until we have socio-economic changes, and in how we view other people."

King, for his part, arrived out of breath, and spoke of forgiveness for the officers involved in his videotaped beating after a high-speed chase. With his history of substance abuse, he said, he has been in need of some forgiveness. "I am a forgiving man," he said. "That's how I was raised, to be in a forgiving state of mind. I have been forgiven many times. I am only human. Who am I not to forgive someone?"

Continue reading »

Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals book cover for 'Total Recall' memoir

Schwarzenegger_bookcoverArnold Schwarzenegger revealed the book cover of his upcoming memoir "Total Recall" on Monday morning on Twitter to his 2.4 million followers. His publisher, Simon & Schuster, followed up with an email with details.

The former California governor, movie star and champion bodybuilder is using social media to help complete the book. Last week he asked his followers to suggest stories or anecdotes they would like him to include.

On Monday on Facebook, he asked fans what picture they think should adorn the back cover, eliciting hundreds of responses. I'd have to say the "Terminator" face in the same pose has an appeal.

In addition to Facebook, the former governor has launched a page on Pinterest to gather those photo suggestions. Now that Mr. Universe is on Pinterest, who says it's just for girls? As "Saturday Night Live's" Hans and Franz told us, Schwarzenegger is no girlie man.

Schwarzenegger is working with co-writer Peter Petre, Fortune Magzine's editor and co-author of books by Alan Greenspan and Norman Schwarzkopf. Publisher Simon & Schuster writes:

Chronicling his embodiment of the American Dream, TOTAL RECALL covers Schwarzenegger’s high-stakes journey to the United States, from creating the international bodybuilding industry out of the sands of Venice Beach, to breathing life into cinema’s most iconic characters, and becoming one of the leading political figures of our time. Proud of his accomplishments and honest about his regrets, Schwarzenegger spares nothing in sharing his amazing story.

How much the book might include about his personal life -- in 2011 he was revealed to have fathered a child with a member of his household staff, precipitating a high-profile separation from wife Maria Shriver -- is not clear.

"Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story" will hit shelves worldwide in October 2012.

RELATED:

Arnold Schwarzenegger to publish new memoir

10 books for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver

Schwarzenegger fathered a child with longtime member of household staff

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Adrienne Rich in the L.A. Times

Adriennerich_nbasPoet Adrienne Rich, who died Tuesday at the age of 82 (see our complete obituary), was also known as an essayist. Rich moved from Massachusetts to Santa Cruz in 1984, later saying, "I don't think it's a bad thing in your life to have your whole orientation completely switched geographically." She became an occasional contributor to the L.A. Times, writing essays and criticism for the paper.

She started off explosively In 1997, when she explained her decision not to accept the National Medal of Arts; it was not about a looming vote about NEA funding, she wrote. "My 'no' came directly out of my work as a poet and essayist and citizen drawn to the interfold of personal and public experience." In her 1,800-word piece, Rich went on to conclude:

In a society tyrannized by the accumulation of wealth as Eastern Europe was tyrannized by its own false gods of concentrated power, recognized artists have, perhaps, a new opportunity to work out our connectedness, as artists, with other people who are beleaguered, suffering, disenfranchised --precariously employed workers, trashed elders, throwaway youth, the "unsuccessful" and the art they too are nonetheless making and seeking.

I wish I didn't feel the necessity to say here that none of this is about imposing ideology or style or content on artists; it is about the inseparability of art from acute social crisis in this century and the one now coming up.

We have a short-lived model in our history for the place of art in relation to government. During the Depression of the 1930s, under New Deal legislation, thousands of creative and performing artists were paid modest stipends to work in the Federal Writers Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Art Project. Their creativity, in the form of novels, murals, plays, performances, public monuments, the providing of music and theater to new audiences, seeded the art and the consciousness of succeeding decades. By 1939, this funding was discontinued.

Federal funding for the arts, like the philanthropy of private arts patrons, can be given and taken away. In the long run, art needs to grow organically out of a social compost nourishing to everyone, a literate citizenry, a free, universal, public education complex with art as an integral element, a society without throwaway people, honoring both human individuality and the search for a decent, sustainable common life. In such conditions, art would still be a voice of hunger, desire, discontent, passion, reminding us that the democratic project is never-ending.

For that to happen, what else would have to change? I hope the discussion will continue.

That discussion surfaced in her 2004 review of "The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985" as she wrote, "Tracing the writer's development (and steadfastness) through the history he recounted of those years sharpened my sense of what's missing from the desperate, hysterical public non-conversations in which we're presently mired." She continued:

He, more than any American writer I can think of, had to make his way through the contradictions of early literary success, later iconization, vilification and incomprehension, particularly as a black writer, that fell onto his shoulders. Determined to remain a serious writer and not become a mere celebrity or spokesman, he lived for long periods, and died, outside the United States. He became a participant in the history of the civil rights movement somewhat reluctantly, seeing himself as a writer, not an activist, yet he knew he could and must bear witness to that history as it was being made, with respect and critical astuteness.

The artist, Baldwin wrote in a 1959 review of a collection of Langston Hughes poems, needs to be "within the experience and outside it at the same time." His own awareness of this difficult position (If I am, in spite of all, an American, what does this mean, for me and for America?) was, I think, a supreme artistic strength, giving him prescience, narrative power and an early and vivid anticipation of the real internal trouble toward which this nation, in its blur of wealth and fantasies, has been heading.

In March of 2001, Rich looked back at her prose pieces collected in the April 2001 book "Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations." In our pages she wrote:

For more than 50 years I have been writing, tearing, up, revising poems, studying poets from every culture and century available to me. I have been a poet of the oppositional imagination, meaning that I don't think my only argument is with myself. My work is for people who want to imagine and claim wider horizons and carry on about them into the night, rather than rehearse the landlocked details of personal quandaries or the price for which the house next door just sold.

At times in the past decade and a half I have felt like a stranger in my own country. I seem not to speak the official language. I believe many others feel like this, not just as poets or intellectuals but as citizens -- accountable yet excluded from power. I began as an American optimist, albeit a critical one, formed by our racial legacy and by the Vietnam War. In both these cases it was necessary to look hard truths in the face in order to change horrible realities. I believed, with many others, that my country's historical aquifers were flowing in that direction of democratic change. I became an American skeptic, not as to the long search for justice and dignity, which is part of all human history, but in the light of my nation's leading role in demoralizing and destabilizing that search, here at home and around the world. Perhaps just such a passionate skepticism, neither cynical nor nihilistic, is the ground for continuing.

RELATED:

Poet Adrienne Rich, 82, has died

Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska dies at 88

Juan Felipe Herrera is appointed California Poet Laureate

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Adrienne Rich accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2006 National Book Awards. Credit: Stuart Ramson / Associated Press

Andrew Brietbart, writer and provocateur, dead at 43

Andrewbreitbart_2010

Andrew Breitbart, the tireless blogger and bestselling author, died early Thursday morning. He was 43.

Breitbart, a controversial proponent of right wing ideas and tea party values, grew up in an environment of liberal privilege in Southern California. He was adopted by moderately conservative Jewish parents and attended two of L.A.'s most exclusive private schools — Carlthorp and Brentwood. "It was so awkward, the thoughts I was having," Breitbart told the L.A. Times, describing his political transformation.

Breitbart was editor of the Drudge Report for close to 10 years and helped launch the Huffington Post, until striking off on his own. "I always knew he was going to build something big," his political opposite Mickey Kaus told The Times in 2010. "He has that crazy Ted Turner look in his eye."

Breitbart had just published his second book, "Righteous Indignation," and been at the center of a recent controversy when he appeared at the 2011 Festival of Books, where he called himself a "reluctant culture warrior." Here is our report from Mary McVean:

Right, left or center, the audience who waited for provocateur and right-wing media guru Andrew Breitbart to race from LAX to USC ("I broke some laws to get here," he said) had a rollicking time as he talked with L.A. Times reporter Robin Abcarian at the Etc. Stage on Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Breitbart's second book, "Righteous Indignation," came out this month, and it's part handbook, part memoir of his journey from wanna-be hipster to star of the "tea party" movement. As Abcarian wrote in a Times profile, Breitbart was transformed from a "liberal, West Side child of privilege into a Hollywood-hating, mainstream-media-loathing conservative."
 
Breitbart burst into the news last summer when he posted on his Big Government website an item with two videos that had a USDA official named Shirley Sherrod telling an NAACP chapter that she once didn't give enough help to a white farmer. In the ensuing hoopla, Sherrod was condemned and then absolved when a longer video of her talk was released. Abcarian asked Breitbart if he still believed, as he earlier told Newsweek, that if he had a do-over he would have waited to see the longer version.
 
It wasn't easy to get a yes or no answer. 

Continue reading »

'Once Upon a Secret' describes intern's alleged affair with JFK

Johnfkennedy_alfordbook

In her memoir, "Once Upon a Secret," Mimi Alford claims to have had an affair with President Kennedy that lasted for more than a year. It began when she was a 19-year-old virgin and he was 45, and she last saw him a week before his death, she writes. The book officially hits shelves Wednesday, but some copies are already in circulation.

One made it to the offices of the New York Post.

In the summer of 1962, Alford was a slender, golden-haired 19-year-old debutante whose finishing-school polish and blueblood connections had landed her a job in the White House press office.

Four days into her internship, she was invited by an aide to go for a midday swim in the White House pool, where the handsome, 45-year-old president swam daily to ease chronic back pain. JFK slid into the pool and floated up to her.

“It’s Mimi, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“And you’re in the press office this summer, right?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” she replied.

Lightning had struck. Later that day, Mimi was invited by Dave Powers, the president’s “first friend” and later the longtime curator of the Kennedy Library in Boston, to an after-work party. When she arrived at the White House residence, Powers and two other young female staffers were waiting. Powers poured, and frequently refilled, her glass with daiquiris until the commander-in-chief arrived.

The president invited her for a personal tour. She got up, expecting the rest of the group to follow. They didn’t. He took her to “Mrs. Kennedy’s room.”

“I noticed he was moving closer and closer. I could feel his breath on my neck. He put his hand on my shoulder,” she recounts.

The Post continues the scene, in breathy detail. Alford, who is now 68, was Mimi Beardsley when she went to work at the White House as an intern. Her name came up in the 2003 book "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963" by Robert Dallek, after which she decided to tell her own story.

White House staffer Barbara Gamerikian, who worked in the press office, was asked about Mimi in an oral history kept on file at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. In 1964, Gamerikian recounted an incident in Nassau and another in Palm Springs where the president and Mimi were spotted in circumstances that made reporters and staffers suspicious. "I don't know what the relationship was," she said. "It is one of these areas where I'm not anxious to know and I hadn't many opportunities to inquire."

Mimi Alford will appear on "Rock Center" on Wednesday night to talk about her book, "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath."

RELATED:

Jackie Kennedy's tapes: The truth comes out in September

White House library's 'socialist' books were Jackie Kennedy's

Stephen King follows Don Delillo and Oliver Stone into JFK myth

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John F. Kennedy in California. Credit: William S. Murphy / Los Angeles Times.

Book news: Dr. Spock ebook, 'disgusting' blurbs, Gingrich's pandas

Drspock9thAre you an ultra-modern new parent who wants to raise kids the tried-and-tested mid-century way? "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care," the bestselling child-rearing bible, will be available as an ebook starting next week, Skyhorse Publishing has announced. Dr. Spock's manual has sold more than 50 million copies and gone through nine editions since its initial publication in 1946; now parents can read it on Kindle, Nook or iPad. Three other Dr. Spock books have already made the ebook leap: "Dr. Spock's The School Years," "Dr. Spock's The First Two Years" and "Dr. Spock's Pregnancy Guide."

The literary website The Millions looks at the practice of book blurbing. Book blurbs, the quotes that appear on the back of a book from other writers, were dubbed "disgusting tripe" by George Orwell. Back in 2005, Nick Tosches tackled the same topic for Book Forum, from the perspective of both a book blurbee and blurber. He confirmed the suspicion that many authors don't actually read the books they blurb. "I like you. I don't need to read it," he told a new friend who'd asked for a blurb for his first book. "Just tell me a little about it and I'll give you the blurb." Tosches writes that his blurb -- "a howl of laughter from the abyss of horror, a comic nightmare from the sick, troubled sleep of this century's desolate end" -- did appear on the book, but doesn't reveal the title. What was it? Jerry Stah's "Permanent Midnight."

The website Book Riot, launched late last year by a roster of experienced book bloggers, has upgraded its design. Instead of looking like a blog, it now looks like a magazine, better showcasing the work of its writers.

Did you know that Newt Gingrich likes pandas? The N.Y. Daily News parsed eight years of the Republican candidate's Amazon reviews -- at one point, Gingrich, who when he's not running for office writes historical fiction, earned the site's "top reviewer" status. Books he commented on included Henry Kissinger's "Does America Need a Foreign Policy," "The Marines of Autumn: A Novel of the Korean War" by James Brady, and Terry L. Maple's "Saving the Giant Panda." Sadly, for Gingrich, there are not many pandas in Florida.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

On Christopher Hitchens: August Brown considers

Christopher Hitchens in 2004
Over years of reading Christopher Hitchens, the most essential thing I learned from his work is that cliches in writing inevitably hide weak thinking. That seems obvious -– cliches come easily because they don’t require much thought. But the many appreciations of his career after his death have seemed preoccupied with the cliches of his charisma -- the heavy drinking, his leftist-neocon oscillations, his orbits in England's and Washington’s social elites.

For me, his greatest influence was on the page. His style was defined by a refusal to resort to stock images and analysis -- or to accept them from others. It made him a pleasure to read and difficult for others to debate. Everything he said felt new, hard won and, usually, correct.

Even though my own criticism has largely focused on music, his lessons in being vigilant against cliche still stand. In art and rhetoric, style is a conscious choice meant to pursue certain goals, and if a piece of art (or a politician’s speech) is lazy in its style, it’s usually lazy or murky in its motivations.

Even the last thing Hitchens published was an essay in Vanity Fair about how the physical ravages of cancer put him on guard against rote reassurances, like the maxim that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

His style, utterly devoted to originality and evidence, underlined the seriousness of his intellectual and moral task. He routinely chastised others, and especially those in power, for not taking the same rhetorical care. Cliches distort our understanding of the lived world. For Hitchens’ political enemies that was often the point, and he spent his life calling them on it.

Hitchens swashbuckled with targets small (improper tea-making technique) and large (the idea of God), with figures both loved (Mother Teresa) and despised (Saddam Hussein). From his journalism detailing the potential war crimes of Henry Kissinger to his much-debated encouragement of the Iraq war to his admiration for Somali women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, Hitchens always sounded the bells when he perceived a literal danger to life and dignity. But the one thing his every foe shared was a reliance on a kind of rhetorical fog of war.

In his view, Mother Teresa was not a fraud simply because her hospitals were filthy and that she accepted funding from sympathy-currying dictators. She was a fraud because she shopped the idea that, in her words, “the suffering of the poor is something very beautiful.” As he argued in “The Missionary Position,” it’s a turn of phrase that, when unraveled, comes from a pernicious mix of Christianity’s self-regard and the rich West’s need to look away from the miserable, lived reality of third-world indigence. Her language of poverty’s nobility was slippery to the point of meaning its own opposite in practice. “The rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for ‘the poorest of the poor,’” he wrote in Slate. “People do not like to admit that they have been gulled or conned, so a vested interest in the myth was permitted to arise, and a lazy media never bothered to ask any follow-up questions. Many volunteers who went to Calcutta came back abruptly disillusioned by the stern ideology and poverty-loving practice of the "Missionaries of Charity," but they had no audience for their story.”

Continue reading »

Ezra Pound's daughter takes on Italian fascist group CasaPound

Ezrapound1966Ezra Pound's daughter has filed suit to stop the Italian fascist group CasaPound from using her father's name.

Mary de Rachewiltz, who is 86, was motivated to act when a sympathizer of CasaPound went on a shooting spree in Florence on Dec. 13, killing two men from Senegal, wounding three others and then killing himself. 

"This affected me terribly. It was the last straw," she told the Guardian. "I studied in Florence which makes it that much more painful."

Why would a far-right group in Italy take its name from an American poet? That would be the unfortunate part of Pound's legacy. In London, the expatriate author and editor fostered the careers of some of the most significant writers of the 20th century, including James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway. But he became displeased with the politics of the first World War and moved to Italy, where he became enchanted by Benito Mussolini. His support for the Italian fascist included radio broadcasts during World War II that were eventually found treasonous by U.S. authorities. After the war, he was imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for a dozen years. He returned to Italy and did not disavow his fascist ideas.

CasaPound has distanced itself from the shooter, who had spoken at group meetings. "We are very sorry about this. She doesn't really know about us. We are not racist or violent," Simone di Stefano, an official with the group, told the Guardian. "We would like to resolve this out of the courts -- Pound is not a trademark and anyone can refer to his ideas."

De Rachewiltz, for her part, does not think the organization should use her father's name. "A politically compromised organisation like this has no business using the name Pound," she told the Guardian. She points to his work as explanation. "Pound was not leftwing or rightwing and you have to understand The Cantos to understand that. It is also a question of style. I have seen pictures of their shaven-headed leader and it does not impress me."

RELATED:

Ezra Pound collection given to the Ransom Center

Psst, Ezra Pound was born here

A letter to Ezra Pound from T.S. Eliot

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Ezra Pound in 1966. Credit: Jonathan Williams, from the book "A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude by Jonathan Williams," published by David R. Godine Publishers

Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video

Explore Bestsellers Lists

Browse:

Search:

 

 


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.


Categories


Archives