Pop culture does not mean celebrity culture; I have perhaps said this more often than anyone you're going to meet. Who dates, who gets a divorce, who has a tantrum, who has surreptitious photos snapped of him by mangy, grim opportunists — these things are not culture of any kind, popular or otherwise, unless there is something else at stake. They are curiosities, and given that we are curious creatures, their pull is not surprising, nor is it new, nor was it invented by the internet, or television, or Americans.
American literature has plenty of coming-of-age novels. What we need more of, judging by the strengths of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new book, are novels about coming to America. In particular, books that address our biggest problems — in this case, race. Because things natives don't see about themselves often stand out like neon to foreign eyes. And if you think racism expired when President Obama was elected, this is perhaps not — or absolutely is — the book for you.
One need pick up on only a hint of the zeitgeist to know that monsters that once worried their careers had peaked in B-movies of the '50s are now enjoying a sustained resurgence. On screens and in the "Teen Paranormal Romance" section of Barnes and Noble, supernatural creatures of all stripes battle for the hearts (or throats) of our homecoming queens.
In 2011, Jessica Buchanan was an aid worker in northern Somalia, helping to raise awareness about how to avoid land mines. The north was the relatively safe section of the country; that October, she traveled to the more dangerous southern region for a training. The night before she left, she texted her husband, Erik Landemalm, also an aid worker in Somalia. She asked him a question: "If I get kidnapped on this trip, will you come and get me?"
This year marks the centenary of the birth of Albert Camus, the great novelist of existentialism. It's a movement that many Americans think of as quintessentially Parisian, born of cafe-table philosophizing and fueled by packs of Gauloises. But Camus wasn't a native of metropolitan France. He was born and raised in Algeria into a pied-noir family ("black foot," the phrase used to describe descendants of French settlers), grew up in working-class Algiers, and pined for north Africa long after he moved to the French capital in 1942.
For the past 37 years, Robert Caro has devoted his life to writing the definitive biography of Lyndon Johnson. So far, The Years of Lyndon Johnson has four acclaimed volumes and has shown readers just how complex the 36th president was, as both a politician and a man.