George R.R. Martin Wrote This Adorably Geeky Fan Letter When He Was 15

George R.R. Martin was just 26 when he won the Hugo Award for Best Novella, an impressive feat for such a young writer. But he was published in print over a decade before that ― in the fan mail section of “Fantastic Four #17.”

In an upcoming History channel documentary about comics, Martin says that this letter was the first time his writing appeared in print.

In a post about the letter, Entertainment Weekly notes that the “A Song of Ice and Fire” author shows an early penchant for unexpected plot twists, a staple of his own writing.

“In what other comic mag could you see things like a hero falling down a manhole,” Martin wrote. He continued to shower the issue with effusive praise:

“You were just about the World’s worst mag when you started, but you set yourself to an ideal, and, by gumbo, you achieved it! More than achieved it, in fact ― why, if you were only half as good as you are now, you’d still be the world’s best mag!!!”

Read the entire letter below:

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How ‘I Love Dick’ Is Revolutionizing The On-Screen Muse

In Amazon’s new sex comedy “I Love Dick,” the protagonist, Chris Kraus, played by Kathryn Hahn, becomes wildly obsessed with a mysterious man ― part cowboy, part artist ― by the name of Dick. The camera itself, however, remains entirely fixed on Kraus.

Like the characters around her, viewers are glued to Kraus’ every move, watching a strong woman’s willful unraveling with a mix of fascination, horror and reverence. The way she tousles her hair with a bit too much muscle, like some sort of seductive metalhead. How she punctuates her jerky dance moves with overly carefree yelps and howls. Or how she occasionally makes additional use of random, long, solid objects by running them ever so gently between her legs.

The particular gaze with which the camera savors Kraus’ ― and Hahn’s ― every move is one many women viewers will identify with. It’s the admiring gaze women reserve for one another when attempting to understand who a person has made herself into ― and how and why. A way of looking that considers women to be smart, sexual, messed up and striving to be better, a perspective not often seen on screen. 

Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, is known for bringing this particular kind of female gaze to mainstream television ― doing for instant streaming what writer Chris Kraus herself did for writing in her 1995 semi-autobiographical manifesto I Love Dick, on which the show is based. 

Soloway’s “I Love Dick” follows Kraus as she accompanies her husband, Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), a Holocaust scholar, to a fellowship in the solidly trippy town of Marfa, Texas. There, Kraus meets Dick ― played by Kevin Bacon ― a scruffy, silent type, a land art sculptor who possesses deep appreciation for straight lines and large, concrete phalluses. Dick awakens something inside Kraus: desire, an eruption of excess energy that is not only sexual but creative, personal and political.

Fueled by her hunger for Dick, Kraus begins to describe his influence on her body and brain in a slew of love letters, each beginning “Dear Dick,” turning the archetypal male artist into her very own rugged muse. One reads: “Dear Dick, I want to make the world more interesting than my problems. Therefore, I have to make my problems social.” Even the book’s title, I Love Dick, positions Kraus as the subject, Dick as the object. 

“I think [Kathryn Hahn] is a muse for me in the same way De Niro is a muse for Scorsese.”
Jill Soloway

Kraus’ lust stimulates her creative drive, transforming the former failed filmmaker into, to quote Kraus, a “female monster,” a woman who boldly wreaks havoc on her life without remorse or apology, who uses her emotions and impulses as impetus for art. “Art supersedes what’s personal,” the book reads, and Kraus lives this truth unabashedly, as her piles of love letters transform into a revolutionary declaration of female irrepressibility.

While Dick becomes a muse for Kraus, Hahn is something of a muse for Soloway. Except instead of zooming in on misty, love-sick eyes or lengthy legs, Soloway keeps her lens fixed on Hahn’s delectable self-destruction, frenzied artistic innovation and virtuoso horniness. 

“I think she is a muse for me in the same way De Niro is a muse for Scorsese,” Soloway explained in an interview with HuffPost. 

“She has this clownish relationship to her body when it comes to sex,” she continued. “You know, it’s that awkward moment where you are supposed to be sexy but you are just too much in your head. As a physical comedian, she reminds me of Charlie Chaplin.”

Soloway first worked with Hahn in her 2014 series “Transparent”; Hahn plays Rabbi Raquel, a bastion of sanity juxtaposed against the dependably unholy Pfefferman family. But even as the show’s faithful dose of vanilla, a breath of normalcy amongst the selfish havoc, Rabbi Raquel is never one-dimensional. She is ethical, yes, but she’s goofy, flawed, romantic and confused ― as a result, she’s one of the most beloved characters in the stellar ensemble cast. 

“When ‘Transparent’ was happening, I was always like, ‘Kathryn needs her own show,’” Soloway recalled. “I thought, ‘If I do another show Hahn will be the lead.’”

It’s hard to think of a better role for Hahn than that of Chris Kraus ― who not only resembles her physically, but offers the actor endless opportunities for physical absurdity and emotional complexity through breathless rants, fevered sex and searing works of art. 

“Chris Kraus is a kind of like Philip Roth for women,” Soloway explained. “The more Dick ignores her, the more turned on she gets. What heroic, female TV character has ever admitted that? There are these things we women are supposed to keep secret, in service of male protagonists. The female gaze allows us to have our own version of our reality.”

The first time Hahn read Kraus’ I Love Dick, she felt an intense connection with the writer and protagonist. Many women creatives do. “Her writing got under my skin,” Hahn told HuffPost. “I couldn’t believe how similar some of our behaviors were, how fast our motors ran.”

While getting into character, Hahn took pleasure in how far Kraus pushed and how giddily she relinquished control over her identity and her life. “In the normal romantic comedy,” Hahn said, “Chris would flirt by getting dressed up, doing everything Dick asked, being quiet and demure, and waiting for him to look at her. But no, she just keeps going further and further. It is so cathartic to see someone moving forward into her own abjection. There is something so cringeworthy and delicious about it.”

 

There is a stark difference between Soloway and Hahn’s relationship and those of famed auteurs and muses past, which traditionally run male and female, respectively. Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti, Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, Bernardo Bertolucci and Maria Schneider ― such cinematic relationships are often fraught with unequal power dynamics that can result in violence, stemming from gendered stereotypes of the male genius and female beauty.

There is something distinct at play in Soloway and Hahn’s connection, and not just because both actor and filmmaker are women. “I Love Dick” destabilizes the very idea of a muse, founded upon patriarchal understandings of female desire. “I think women are expected to connect to their desire through being seen,” Soloway said. “We grow up in the world where we are told sex is the prize you get for being hot. We have been raised to believe that our sexual satisfaction, desire and orgasm are derived from succeeding at collecting male approval.”

“Women have had to do what they’ve had to do to make a living, so I don’t degrade female muses of yore,” Soloway added. “People who are conventionally attractive, like Brigitte Bardot, rise up thanks to men who believe they possess something special. Women became icons through being muses because that’s all we knew. ‘Some man thinks I’m fantastic and beautiful and look great in a hat and now I’m in a movie.’”

The argument “I Love Dick” makes is that, when a woman stops seeing herself only as a muse can, she processes her potential as an artist. “I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as a good woman filmmaker,” Hahn-as-Kraus says during an unprompted rant in the second episode. “How can you be, if you are raised to be invisible? I mean visible ― I mean looked at. It’s a wonder that any woman could look at herself as an artist.”

Hahn, however, represents a new breed of muse, one who is both subject and object, artist and artwork ― as Kraus might put it, predator and prey.

“Chris Kraus is a kind of like Philip Roth for women.”
Jill Soloway

When she becomes addicted to Dick, Kraus bids her ego farewell and plunges into the world as a female monster, unguarded and unafraid. This is revolutionary, even within the fictional world of Soloway’s creation. In the TV show, Kraus becomes a living catalyst for the other women and artists in her midst. Her awakening inspires the local groundskeeper to write a play and a fellow artist to stage a nude performance. 

For Soloway, it was important to expand the scope of Kraus’ novel to include new characters like Devon (Roberta Colindrez), Toby (India Menuez) and Paula (Lily Mojekwu). In part, this constituted an effort to tell stories of women who were not, like Kraus, white and straight. But also, Soloway hoped to visually represent the book’s influence on the contemporary generation of women and artists.

“We wanted to put into action what happened to us when we read the book,” Soloway said. She wanted to show, within her show, just how revolutionary it is to watch a woman pursue a man madly and fail happily. To watch a woman write and create without fear or self-doubt. 

“The book radicalizes people,” Soloway said. “People read it and they say, ‘I want to write. I want to have sex. I have an idea. I am not ashamed anymore.’ What happens when one woman says, ‘This is who I am’? Women start to go, ‘My turn, my turn, my turn.’ It just takes one woman to start telling her truth.”

Few demonstrate the contagious effect inspired women have on one another quite like Soloway and Hahn themselves. They feed off each other’s energy, brilliance and sense of humor, both moonlighting as water to nourish the other’s gnarled plant. “I feel like we’re constantly surprising each other still,” Hahn said.

For muses of yore, growing older means a decline in roles and a depreciation in value as the stock female parts of ingenue and romantic lead fade out of view. For Hahn, however, aging through the eyes and lens of a filmmaker who is enthralled by the entirety of her body and mind is a thrilling prospect. “There is something quite moving and profound about growing old alongside somebody that knows you so well,” she said. “To grow along with each other’s brains and bodies is something special.”

Like its source material, Soloway’s “I Love Dick” is a triumphant scrambling of art and life, a “matriarchal revolution,” a battle cry for any woman who has yearned to make something of herself, while only ever knowing how to criticize herself.

In her book, Kraus is both author and character, subject and object. As a woman, in the 1990s, this was new terrain. With her TV adaptation, Soloway bolsters Kraus’ words with the help of a writers room comprised entirely of women ― no male genius required. Kevin Bacon, for the record, credited the writers with creating two of “the best, most well-rounded male characters that I’ve read in a long time.”

What happens when a woman writes the story of herself ― activated, lustful and unafraid? What happens when a woman brings this story to the screen, expanding Chris Kraus’ narrative to house the entire history of feminist art? This was the revolution Soloway had in mind.

“Patriarchy recycles male protagonism over and over,” she said. “Every piece of art that is from a man’s point of view continues to make men feel like the subjects. We are women writing, women shooting, women turning the world upside down. You are not seeing women through a male perspective at all. That is a new feeling.”

Soloway described the powers of activated female desire as “too dangerous for this planet.” The exact effects remain to be seen. It seems safe to say, though, that the holy mythology of the lone, male artist is ― like Dick’s artistic legacy ― reaching its expiration date.  

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New Font Is Dedicated To The Queer Activist Behind The Rainbow Flag

In June of 1978, artist and activist Gilbert Baker hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of vibrant fabric, yielding a rainbow flag. 

Each color signified a certain power: pink stood for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for peace and purple for spirit. Today, that flag ― which over time was condensed from eight colors to six ― is immediately recognizable as a symbol of LGBTQ rights and pride. 

Baker, who called himself “gay Betsy Ross,” died in March 2017, but his iconic contribution to queer visual culture lives on. In honor of Baker’s legacy, advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather has teamed up with NewfestNYC Pride and Fontself to translate the energy and strength of the beloved rainbow flag into text. Finally, there is a rainbow font. 

The colorful type, titled “Gilbert,” is made up of the deconstructed stripes of the Pride flag, with multicolored rectangles curving and overlapping to produce lettering reminiscent of the flag’s 1970s roots. 

We wanted to celebrate something that he created that actually changed peoples’ perception of that community,” Ogilvy creative director Chris Rowson told Dezeen. 

The blending of colors visualizes, according to Rowson, the fluidity and openness of the LGBTQ community. “We liked the idea of that crossover and that overlay, it kind of creates new things,” he said. “People aren’t just one thing, they’re not just gay, or not just transsexual, everyone can be a mixture of things.”

The font is available for free download from Type with Pride. Its creators hope the eye-catching lettering will be spread across protest posters, Pride rally banners and queer-friendly public spaces around the world. 

Queers, allies and font fanatics, get ready to write with rainbow. 

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Netflix’s ‘Casting JonBenét’ Doesn’t Have Any Answers, But It’s Not Trying To Crack The Case

Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was murdered in her home in Boulder, Colorado, sometime late on Dec. 25 or in the early hours of Dec. 26, 1996. 

Now, 20 years and some months later, her unsolved murder has been the subject of numerous articles, books and television specials. The latest addition to the genre is Netflix’s newest documentary, “Casting JonBenét,” which doesn’t concern itself actually trying to solve the murder of the miniature blond beauty queen. In fact, no new evidence is uncovered and no forensic experts were interviewed for the project. Instead, the film explores JonBenét’s tragic death through the audition tapes of mostly amateur Colorado-based actors, who offer their insight, theories, judgments and personal experiences. 

The film’s director, Kitty Green, grew up in Australia, where she was “obsessed” with American television and sitcom fantasy families when Ramsay died.

“I had never seen a beauty pageant or even heard of a beauty pageant before, so it was so foreign,” she told HuffPost in an interview on Friday, when the film began streaming on Netflix. “It was a uniquely American phenomenon and I was captivated by how odd it was, how dark it was and how it kind of punctured this image I had of idyllic American life.”

Those who grew up in the ‘90s will likely relate to Green’s earliest memories of the case. 

“I mean, it was the imagery associated with it, which was all the pageants and crowns and the dress and the feather outfits that she was put in,” she said.”I think those images were really haunting. So it was almost like this image of this pageant queen who almost seemed to have it all, but whose life went horribly wrong, or horrifically had it taken away from her.” 

Green’s fascination with the case ended up being a lasting one. Whenever she would meet someone from Colorado, she couldn’t help but ask who they thought was responsible for JonBenét’s murder. Their varied responses piqued her interest. 

Before making the film, Green said she read every book and watched every TV special on the case. She came to the conclusion that trying to find JonBenét’s killer was futile and decided she didn’t want to make another true crime documentary. 

“I knew there’s no way we can solve this,” she said. “There’s absolutely no way we can find out who killed her. So my motivation became an entirely different thing. If we can’t solve the crime, then how do we deal with the idea that we will never know?”

Green said that she’s more interested in the remaining ambiguity and the mystery that haunts the public as the case remains unsolved, and believes the casting-tape framework employed in the film allows for the actors to “talk about how it affected them emotionally and personally and they can draw parallels with their own lives and look at the way that they kind of digest this tabloid material and true crime films.”

In the course of the film, multiple actors audition for the roles the members of the Ramsay family, as well as local law enforcement and other suspects. It’s through these auditions that these actors reveal their own theories and personal experiences that they believe better inform them to portray the character ― like one actress whose brother had been murdered and spoke of understanding how people might react to the sudden loss of a loved one in different manners.

“I always knew we’d get stories out of people, but I was amazed at the level of honesty and some of the stories were so heartbreaking and it was an incredible experience and a privilege to be in the room with them. I guess I didn’t expect that level of raw emotional humanity that we got,” she said. 

Since “Casting JonBenét” doesn’t offer any answers, it’s easy to see why it might be construed as exploitative ― not just of the 20-year-old cold case, but of the actors and their own stories. But everything is up for the viewer to decide. 

“We’re looking at the way people speculate. The way people jump to conclusions,” Green explained, later adding that the film is about “human experience.”

When asked what she hopes viewers will take away from watching her film, she hesitated, and then recalled a time when someone approached her after a screening. 

“They had read everything about the case for the last 20 years ―every article, watched every special ― but this was the first time they actually felt anything or felt any empathy for this family and the loss of life,” Green said. “And if they can feel the gravity of what happened in that town, if [the film] can humanize this whole case for people in some way, that would be really fabulous.”

“Casting JonBenét” is now streaming on Netflix.

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Ryan Seacrest Officially Joins Kelly Ripa As Co-Host Of ‘Live’

Last April, “Live” co-host Michael Strahan announced he was leaving the show to join “Good Morning America.” There was some controversy, as Kelly Ripa was allegedly blindsided by his decision to move on. 

But now, almost a year since Strahan’s final show, Ripa has a new sidekick ― and he’s a fan favorite.

On Monday, Ripa officially named Ryan Seacrest as her co-host, to much applause from her live studio audience. 

“So happy, so excited,” Seacrest said, while hugging Ripa. 

Seacrest’s latest gig comes a year after he wrapped up his 15-year run with “American Idol.” According to CNN, he will still host red carpet specials on NBCUniversal’s E! Network and lead his nationally syndicated radio shows for iHeartMedia. Seacrest has already worked with ABC as the host of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

Aside from his partnership with E!, Seacrest has a past with time-slot competitor NBC, as he also worked the Olympics this past summer.

Ripa and the “Live” team initially teased the big announcement on Sunday, with Ripa posting a video to Instagram, writing, “We’re going to need a bigger mug. #TuneInToLive #BigAnnouncement #LiveKellyCohost.”

We're going to need a bigger mug. #TuneInToLive #BigAnnouncement #LiveKellyCohost

A post shared by Kelly Ripa (@kellyripa) on

The show’s Instagram page also used to the opportunity to get fans hyped up: 

#TuneInToLive MONDAY #BigAnnouncement #LiveKellyCohost

A post shared by LIVE with Kelly (@livekelly) on

Other candidates for the job included Jerry O’Connell, Fred Savage, Anderson Cooper and John Leguizamo. 

Here’s hoping Kelly and Ryan have a great run together! 

“Live” airs weekdays at 9 a.m. ET on ABC. 

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‘Fate Of The Furious’ Becomes The Second ‘Fast And The Furious’ Movie To Earn $1 Billion

The “Fast and the Furious” pedal earned another medal this weekend, with “The Fate of the Furious” grossing $1 billion.

As of Sunday, the eighth “Furious” installment has earned $192.7 million domestically and a whopping $867.6 million overseas, according to Universal Pictures’ estimates. It’s the 30th movie in history ― and the second in the franchise, after 2015’s “Furious 7” ― to join the billionaires’ club. 

“The Fate of the Furious” pulled this off after just 17 days in theaters, the same amount it took “Furious 7.” The year’s first billion-dollar release, “Beauty and the Beast,” required almost a month to hit that mark. “Fate” is also the highest-grossing film directed by an African-American. 

This news comes as no surprise, given the increasing international fervor surrounding these high-octane movies. Since “Fast & Furious,” the fourth movie in the series, was released in 2009, each installment has outpaced its predecessor domestically and globally. Universal, which is enjoying a bang-up year at the box office thanks to “Fate,” “Get Out” and “Split,” already has two more “Fast and the Furious” sequels planned, and studio executives have reportedly discussed a potential spin-off surrounding Dwayne Johnson’s and Jason Statham’s characters. Plus, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, “The Fate of the Furious” introduces a certain baby who could extend the story’s shelf life far beyond its current expiration date

Other franchises with multiple $1 billion earners include “Star Wars,” “The Avengers,” “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

In other weekend box-office news, “How To Be a Latin Lover” opened to a decent $12 million, while the big-screen adaptation of Dave Eggers’ popular cyber-panic novel “The Circle” collected $9.1 million, a drowsy figure for a title released on more than 3,000 screens. The weekend’s big surprise was the Indian fantasy “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” which took in an estimated $10 million despite a mere 425-theater opening. 

The rest of the Top 10 includes “The Boss Baby,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Going in Style,” “Gifted,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and “Born in China.”

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Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘The Godfather’ Wouldn’t Get Made Today

You haven’t seen devotion until you’ve been in a room with nearly 6,000 “Godfather” disciples. The manic fandom typically reserved for Comic-Con and “Star Wars” assemblies was front and center when Francis Ford Coppola and the cast reunited Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival’s closing night. 

Capping off a nine-hour event that included screenings of “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II,” a 45th-anniversary panel discussion found Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Talia Shire and Rubert Duvall recounting the messy process of making a movie they never expected to become such a defining Hollywood signature.

The sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall had been boisterous throughout both films, cheering at iconic dialogue and almost every gruesome death or Corleone victory. Just imagine how enthusiastic they were by the time this A-list group took the stage. 

“The Godfather” is one of the most chronicled movies in history, as proven by the nearly 800-page annotated book Coppola published last year. Much of Saturday’s panel retread well-told stories: Paramount’s resistance to casting the crotchety Marlon Brando, the studio threatening to fire Coppola out of fear that his directorial choices would jeopardize the success, the fateful single take in which Coppola added a cat to the opening scene

Frenzy erupted when moderator Taylor Hackford asked the audience to shout out questions. One fan posed something that further explained the film’s fervent following: Could “The Godfather” be made today?

The answer, according to Coppola, is no.

Well, it could be made, he said, but it would be an offer major studios would have to refuse.

The first “Godfather” cost $6.5 million, Coppola explained. That’s the equivalent of about $38 million today, which would make it a mid-budget project in a market that’s overrun by tentpole titles costing well over $100 million apiece, he said. The “Godfather Part II” budget swelled to “$11 or $12 million,” or about $64 to $70 million nowadays. 

“It would never get through the process of getting an OK, or what they now call a green-light,” Coppola said. Contemporary Hollywood studios, he pointed out, are mostly interested in movies with built-in franchise potential ― “pretty much a Marvel comic,” a comment that provoked chuckles from the audience. 

“Basically there’s not enough wires,” Caan joked, referring to the suspension technique used to film superheroes and Hogwarts wizards in flight. 

Coppola and Caan’s assessment is painfully accurate: Original movies are no longer Hollywood’s breadwinners. The mid-budget adult release ― ranging from about $10 million to $70 million ― has become something of a relic over the past 15 years, replaced instead by comic-book adaptations, reboots and pre-determined cash cows. 

Even though it’s based on the popular novel by Mario Puzo, were Coppola to pitch “The Godfather” today, he would have a tough time securing the funds and support needed. The first installment made $245 million worldwide, which today amounts to $1.4 billion. For a film without animation or dazzling technical effects, that seems impossible in 2017.

Coppola said former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian once asked how one makes a movie that is both financially and artistically successful. “I said to him, ‘Risk,’” he said. “Nobody wants the risk when you get into business.”

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70 Years On, Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is A Man’ Is Still A Powerful Reminder Of What It Means To Be Human

Nicholas Heron, The University of Queensland

When he was captured by the Fascist militia in December of 1943, Primo Levi (1919-1987) preferred to declare his status as an “Italian citizen of the Jewish race” than admit to the political activities of which he was suspected, which he supposed would have resulted in torture and certain death. The Conversation

As a Jew, he was consequently sent to a detention camp at Fossoli, which assembled all the various categories of persons no longer welcome in the recently established Fascist Republic. Two months later, following the inspection of a small squad of German SS men, he was loaded onto a train, together with all the other Jewish members of the camp, for expatriation from the Republic altogether.

His destination, he was to learn, was Auschwitz; a name that at the time held no significance for him, but that initially provided a sense of relief, since it at least implied “some place on this earth”.

Of the 650 who departed Fossoli that day, only three would return. Yet Levi’s magnificent testimony of the Lager, Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man) – which he would compose in the immediate aftermath of the resumption of his life in Turin, and which was first published 70 years ago in 1947, making it one of the earliest eyewitness accounts we have – is far from a heroic description of his “survival in Auschwitz” (as the American title given to his text would have it). Although in an important sense it is also that.

Indeed, what is striking about Levi’s contribution, still today, is the conspicuous absence of a heroic register from its pages, whose appropriateness in this context – which is in large part what Levi teaches us – must surely be as questionable as the temptation to invoke it is strong.

With characteristic, but unsettling irony, it is the word fortune that appears instead in the very first sentence of his text (“It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944…”) and that sets the tone for all that follows. In the camp, it is not virtue that governs fortune; it is fortune that governs virtue.

Levi was sent to the detention camp at Fossoli after his capture.

Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr, CC BY-SA

It is the original title of Levi’s book that in truth gives expression to what will be his principal concern. Yet this is easily misunderstood. It is not exactly a question, and certainly not one that solicits an answer. But it is not even a question whose answer would be provided by the text itself, which claims no such privilege.

As we learn from the poem that opens the text, it must be understood instead to contain an implicit imperative: “Consider if this is man…” It is an order, a command (“I command these words to you”); one that is linked, moreover, to an imprecation:

Carve them in your hearts

… Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,

May illness impede you,

May your children turn their faces from you.

It is thus an admonition that we (“You who live safe/In your warm houses”) not avert our gaze. But since Levi, remarkably, includes even himself in this category, it functions also as a kind of self-admonition.

For the description of what Levi calls the “ambiguous life of the Lager” alters our understanding of the very structure of witnessing. And it does so by bringing to light the existence of a distinct oppositional pair much less evident in ordinary life: the drowned (i sommersi) and the saved (i salvati).

In Auschwitz, all the ritual humiliations appeared as if designed to hasten the prisoner’s descent to what Levi termed “the bottom”. But this process was especially accelerated in the case of those he called the drowned: “they followed the slope down to the bottom, like streams that run down to the sea”.

These were the prisoners who, for whatever reason (and the reasons were many), never adjusted to the brutal regimen of life in the camp; whose time in the camp was thus consequently very brief; yet whose number was apparently endless.

In the jargon of the camp, these were the Muselmänner, the “Muslims”, whose tenuous existence, even prior to their imminent selection for the gas chamber, already hovered in an indistinct zone between life and death, human and non-human. These, according to Levi, were the ones who had truly seen all the way to the bottom: the ones who (as he would later powerfully record) had truly seen the Gorgon.

With respect to the “anonymous mass” of the drowned, the number of the saved, on the other hand, was comparatively few. Yet by no means did it consist of the best, and certainly not of the elect. To invoke the guiding hand of providence in the midst of such atrocity was nothing short of abhorrent to Levi.

Primo Levi in the 1950s.

Wikimedia Commons

He is unflinching on precisely this delicate point: with rare exceptions, the saved comprised those who, in one way or another, whether through fortune or astuteness, had managed to gain some position of privilege in the structured hierarchy of the camp.

More often than not, this entailed the renunciation of at least a part of the moral universe that existed outside the camp. Not that the saved, any more than the drowned, are to be judged on this account. As Levi insists, words such as good and evil, just and unjust, quickly cease to have any meaning on this side of the barbed wire.

It was nonetheless his conviction that those who had not fathomed all the way to the bottom could not be the true witnesses. Yet far from invalidating the survivor’s testimony this made it all the more urgent.

According to Levi, it is the saved who must bear witness for the drowned, but also to the drowned. For in him is mirrored what he himself saw.

“Consider if this is a man…”: the imperative issued by Levi’s text is thus not that one should persist in seeing the human in the inhuman. It is more like its opposite: that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the human. And that our humanity in some sense depends on this.

Nicholas Heron, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Summing Up Donald Trump’s First 100 Days In A Trump-Like Tweet

WASHINGTON ― Given President Donald Trump’s incessant Twitter usage, HuffPost asked guests at comedian Samantha Bee’s “Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner” on Saturday to sum up the president’s first 100 days in a Trump-style tweet.

“You have to tweet from the toilet, obviously,” Bee said. “Whatever it is, it feels like it came from someone sitting on the toilet and shrieking an idea to an assistant nearby.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper theorized about Trump’s preferred tweet formula before thinking about his answer.

“Declarative statement. Declarative statement. Adjective,” he said.

Actress and comedian Retta, star of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” put it simply: “Hot. Mess.”

Watch everyone’s responses in the video above.

Video by Will Tooke, Mike Caravella, and JM Rieger.

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Samantha Bee On Trump’s First 100 Days: ‘My Jaw Has Been On The Floor 300 Times’

WASHINGTON ― Comedian Samantha Bee roasted President Donald Trump Saturday at her “Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” a star-studded alternative to the actual dinner taking place the same night in Washington.

Saturday was also Trump’s 100th day as president. In an interview with HuffPost before her event, the host of TBS’ “Full Frontal” said she didn’t know where to begin when trying to describe what has shocked her the most about Trump’s first 100 days in office.

“I’ve been shocked every day,” Bee said. “I didn’t know I had it in me. Are you kidding? My jaw has been on the floor 300 times in the first 100 days.”

Bee also found humor in Trump’s recent attacks against her native Canada.

“That’s exciting for Canada,” she said. “It warmed my heart.”

Watch Bee’s interview with HuffPost in the video above.

Video by Will Tooke, Mike Caravella and JM Rieger.

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.