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Chekhov’s Corpse and the Case of the Refrigerated Oysters

One hundred and twelve years ago today, Anton Chekhov drank his last glass of champagne.

His wife would describe the scene years later in her journal: “Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (‘I’m dying’). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: ‘It’s a long time since I drank champagne.’ He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed to call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child….”

LittleApplesChekhov passed away in Badenweiler, a small German town near the Black Forest. His body was taken back to Russia by freight train, and somehow ended up in a refrigerated car meant for oysters.

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Musing Among the Orchids

Inspired by a political climate that its editors called “stranger than fiction,” the New York Times Book Review has commissioned its first ever short story: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangements.”

Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In an article introducing the piece, John Williams of the Times explains that the Book Review “decided to turn to fiction to see how it might illuminate today’s befuddling political climate.” Befuddling, certainly, but at least this befuddlement has resulted in a piquant artistic contribution.

A modern spin on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, “The Arrangements” replaces the genteel figure of Clarissa Dalloway with a different kind of hostess—Melania Trump. Adichie explains in an interview that she was intrigued by Ivanka Trump, who “seems to me too thoughtful and too intelligent to truly believe that her father’s erratic, ungrounded policy positions would genuinely be good for the United States. And so I imagined her as a kind of unknowable character, and I needed a foil of sorts for her, which is how Melania Trump became the center of the story.” As for the relationship between politics and literature, Adichie says, “[f]iction can remind us—and because of the blood-sport nature of politics, we constantly need reminding—that the players in politics are first human beings.” And “The Arrangements,” told in a stream-of-consciousness style from Melania’s perspective, does just that.

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Halting the Clinton Dynasty; or, Thunderdome 2016

MyTurn

“People should and do trust me.”—Hillary Clinton

The marathon that is the presidential political campaign is coming to an end, and things are getting real uncomfortable. Information and insults are being thrown from every direction and it’s difficult to know what sources to trust to provide the truth on who the political candidates are and what they stand for.

Well, if you enjoyed Ted Rall’s Bernie and Snowden graphic biographies (psst he’s got a new one coming out soon), or believe anything Noam Chomsky has written, or are interested in preventing a real life version of The Hunger Games, you should seriously read Doug Henwood’s My Turn.

Henwood’s new book is concise, fact-based, and meant to get people talking; it is not about Bernie Sanders, not about Donald Trump, and not about misogynistic rants. Instead, Henwood goes point by point through Hillary’s personal and political history to illustrate how she is not the candidate she claims to be.

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