An Islamic State senior commander reveals the terror group’s origins.
The Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a transgender woman who was imprisoned four years ago in Malawi for getting engaged to a man. Pardoned and freed, she now scrapes by living in exile in South Africa.
“For much of my life, there was something about my mother I felt almost allergic to. As she approached death, for the first time I found I didn’t merely love her, I actually liked her.”
Excerpted from The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion.
"Imagine a great hall of fetishes where whatever you felt like fucking or being fucked by, however often your tastes might change, no matter what hardware or harnesses were required, you could open the gates and have at it on a comfy mattress at any time of day. That’s what the internet has become for music fans. Plus bleacher seats for a cheering section."
Previously: "The Problem With Music," Albini's 1993 essay in The Baffler.
Margaret Keane’s husband stole credit for her iconic paintings, basking in fame and fortune that should have been hers for years. Then she told a reporter the truth.
A wife’s notes on her husband’s last months.
Excerpted from The Iceberg.
A jeweler from Queens tries to crack the code.
“The first point he makes several times is that his new album will appeal to everyone; the second is that he is a changed man who’s grown up and calmed down. All I can say with certainty is that Brown is a stranger to the concepts of modesty and consistency.”
On the lives of the men who gang-raped a woman on a Delhi bus last year, the life of their victim, and the people left out of India’s growing prosperity.
In this excerpt from Colm Tóibín's Booker-nominated novel, Mary recounts the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
"I know, because Marcus told me, that Mary and Martha, the two sisters of the dead boy, began to follow my son once they had heard the news of the lame walking and the blind seeing. And I understand that they would have done anything in those last silent days. They watched helplessly as their brother grew easily towards death in the same way as a source for a river, hidden under the earth, begins flowing and carries water across a plain to the sea. They would have done anything to divert the stream, make it meander on the plain and dry up under the weight of the sun. They would have done anything to keep their brother alive. They sent word to my son and they asked him to come but he did not. It was something I learned when I saw him myself, that, if the time was not right, he would not be disturbed by a merely human voice, or the pleadings of anyone he knew."
The story behind the iconic photograph of the Holmes family, hiding in the water amidst violent Tasmanian bushfires.
On a cruise with Syvlia Browne, the controversial psychic famous for telling distraught parents where their missing children are.
How the Ovitzs, a family of Jewish dwarves from Transylvania, survived Auschwitz.
Is Bryan Saunders a drug-inspired outsider genius, or just in need of intervention?
In 1943, a young research scientist found a cure for TB. It should have been the proudest moment of Albert Schatz’s life, but ever since he has watched, helpless, as his mentor got all the credit.
"He knew Jody was rattling about the house. He knewand he acknowledged this laterthat she might at any moment blunder in. She did not like parties that involved open doors, and guests passing between the house and the garden. Strangers might come in, and wasps."
A metaphorical tale of a wayward younger brother and his icy relationship with his siblings.
"The fifth brother, Joseph, was much younger. By the time he came of age, there were no comfortable rooms left for him, and so he was given the raw rooms in the mansion's newer wing. Joseph was a strange, solitary, somewhat frightening child, and although his brothers loved him, they were relieved to have him out of their hair. Joseph wished to be a gentleman like his brothers, but life was difficult in the raw wing of the mansion. The new wing was a place of Protestant industry, and Joseph went to work."
Diagnosed with a rare blood disease, the author reflects on illness and addiction.
A father and his daughter observe the emergence of mysterious, animal-like oil rigs.
"Only the most violent post-return decommissioning could stop all this, only second deaths, from which the rigs did not come back again, kept them from where they wished to go, to drill. Once chosen, a place might be visited by any one of the wild rigs that walked out of the abyss. As if such locations had been decided collectively. UNPERU observed the nesting sites, more all the time, and kept track of the rigs themselves as best they could, of their behemoth grazing or wandering at the bottom of the world."
Scenes of a crumbling relationship between a black woman and a Jewish man.
"You know what I mean? I was nineteen and crazy back then. I'd met this Jewish guy with this really Jewish name: Gideon. He had hair like an Afro wig and a nervous smile that kept unfolding quickly, like origami. He was one of those white guys who had a thing for black women, but he'd apparently been too afraid to ask out anyone, until he met me."
On collecting books.
I have lived in books, for books, by and with books; in recent years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from books. And it was through books that I first realised there were other worlds beyond my own; first imagined what it might be like to be another person; first encountered that deeply intimate bond made when a writer's voice gets inside a reader's head.
Eco-tourism in the Himalayas.
The valley is everything you'd want and more. An icy milky river thunders over rocks and below steep wooded slopes are lush fields where people are working the land, oblivious to the Gore-Tex procession. Oblivious but not unaffected: the houses are smart, the prayer wheels freshly painted, just about everyone has a mobile phone, it seems, and is on it, and there are very few places you can't get a signal around here. This is not really the place to come if you're looking for peace and quiet.
On a Victorian-era murder case, and the novel it inspired.
There was torture, starvation, betrayals and executions, but to Shin In Geun, Camp 14—a prison for the political enemies of North Korea—was home. Then one day came the chance to flee.
Searching for the reclusive band’s studio in Düsseldorf.
The lavish display and heavy drinking concealed the deadly serious North Caucasus politics of land, ethnicity, clan, and alliance.
In a cable brought to light by Wikileaks, the Ambassador to Russia describes a raucous three-day Dagestani wedding attended by Chechnya’s president Ramzan Kadyrov.
Exploring the relationship between authors and their parents.
It mattered to her that she could have, or might have, been a writer, and perhaps it mattered to me more than I fully understood. She watched my books appear with considerable interest, and wrote me an oddly formal letter about the style of each one, but she was, I knew, also uneasy about my novels. She found them too slow and sad and oddly personal. She was careful not to say too much about this, except once when she felt that I had described her and things which had happened to her too obviously and too openly. That time she said that she might indeed soon write her own book. She made a book sound like a weapon.
A comical look at the lives of grocery store employees, from the author of Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.
" "What about the glacé cherries?" I tell her they're in Home Baking and she asks, "Where's that?" so I have to take her back. My knees are hurting. Passing through Meat and Poultry these beanpole girls with pierces and tattoos ask me, "Do you know the difference between a 'free-range chicken' and 'farm-fresh'?" For a second I'm too miserable to even say "No.""
The explosion of publishing created a much more democratic and permanent network of public communication than had ever existed before. The mass proliferation of newspapers and magazines, and a new-found fascination with the boundaries of the private and the public, combined to produce the first age of sexual celebrity.
A woman's investigations of closed-off places become quiet expressions of nationalistic outrage.
"She went through a summer or two of exploring empty listed buildings. The English countryside was full of them, just standing there, vast, abandoned, too big to develop but architecturally and historically too important to destroy. "
War photographers tell the stories behind their most harrowing images.
An investigation into the disappearance of a 24-year-old British cruise ship activity director from the Disney Wonder opens the strange and insular world of cruise employees, who vanish mysteriously at alarming rates.
Tracking down 40-odd members of the British band.
It's a Tuesday morning in December, and I'm ringing people called Brown in Rotherham. "Hello," I begin again. "I'm trying to trace Jonnie Brown who used to play in the Fall. He came from Rotherham and I wondered if you might be a relative." "The Who?" asks the latest Mr Brown. "No. The Fall - the band from Salford. He played bass for three weeks in 1978." "Is this some kind of joke?"
The body of a 38-year-old woman lay on her couch with the TV continuously running BBC for three years. Who was she, and why did it take three years for her to be discovered?
When a writer’s daily routine gets out of control.
One morning, as I gobbled my doughnut and slurped my coffee, thinking to myself, "What a fantastic doughnut, what an amazing coffee," I realised that I had not just thought this but was actually saying aloud, "What a fantastic doughnut! What a totally fantastic experience!", and that this was attracting the attention of the other customers, one of whom turned to me and said, "You like the doughnuts, huh?"
Excerpted from the author’s biography of mathematician Simon Phillips Norton.
John Walker Lindh’s father on why his son is an innocent victim of the War on Terror.
What happened when the U.S. Military decided to take its lead from America’s biggest brands.
In 2001, a young Japanese woman walked into the North Dakota woods and froze to death. Had she come in search of the $1 million dollars buried nearby in the film Fargo?
How an Iraqi expat conned the United States, without ever once being interviewed by an American official, into making the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq.”
A famed attorney begins a transformation away from being a man; and dies after a companion shoves her under an oncoming train.
Unruly teens from around the world are kidnapped by parental order and sent to ‘behaviour-modification centers’ like Tranquility Bay, a $40,000/year prison-like compound in Jamaica.
The director of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours on his aversion to America, the advantages of small budgets, and the challenges of directing the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.
Why did a veteran BBC on-air personality confess on camera to a mercy killing he did not commit?
In Torreón, north of Mexico City, cartel gunmen are freed from a prison, commit a massacre at a wedding that includes the band, and then return to custody.
Inside Rebecca West’s vast Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, an eerily timeless travelogue of the Balkans written on the eve of WWI.
An interview with Clay Shirky on “why no medium has ever survived the indifference of 25-year-olds.”
A first-person account. “If you’re the sort of person who has only ever had to deal with colds and cuts, food poisoning and the odd virus…what strikes you most is the glacial pace of recuperation.”
Zadie Smith on Graham Greene, the master of “ethical ambivalence.”
How an alcoholic doctor simultaneously saved his own life and made what could be the medical breakthrough of the century.
How did a pair of young rappers from Scotland, laughed off the stage for their accents, land a deal with Sony and start partying with Madonna? They pretended to be American.
The volcanic ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull has caused travel chaos and misery. But we were lucky. An eruption in the future could wipe out the human race.