Home/Prufrock/The Meaning of Easy Rider, Camus’s Death, and a Massive Viking Ship

The Meaning of Easy Rider, Camus’s Death, and a Massive Viking Ship

Actors Peter Fonda (front on bike), Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper on the set of his movie Easy Rider. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Happy Friday, everyone. First up: A new book claims that Albert Camus was killed by the KGB. “Sixty years after the French Nobel laureate Albert Camus died in a car crash at the age of 46, a new book is arguing that he was assassinated by KGB spies in retaliation for his anti-Soviet rhetoric. Italian author Giovanni Catelli first aired his theory in 2011, writing in the newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had discovered remarks in the diary of the celebrated Czech poet and translator Jan Zábrana that suggested Camus’s death had not been an accident. Now Catelli has expanded on his research in a book titled The Death of Camus.”

Easy Rider isn’t about freedom. It’s about its absence. The late Peter Fonda: “My movie is about the lack of freedom, not about freedom. My heroes are not right, they’re wrong. The only thing I can end up doing is killing my character. I end up committing suicide; that’s what I’m saying America is doing.”

Massive Viking ship found buried on island: “Archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar found a big mound carved into a western Norwegian island — along with the remains of a “huge” ship as long as 55 feet, Paasche told The Washington Post, in a discovery that may tell new tales about how the ships evolved to become fearsome and agile vessels more than 1,000 years ago.”

Terry Teachout remembers John Simon; so does Christopher Bonanos.

Thomas Mann in America: “Mann’s American reception was facilitated by numerous middlemen, first among them the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, who marketed Mann “as a personality, rather than just as a name on the title page of long and difficult novels.” Thomas Mann’s War brings back to our consciousness the role of long-ago arbiters of taste — Van Wyck Brooks, H. L. Mencken, Archibald MacLeish, Kenneth Burke, among others — and portrays the rise of the opinion-influencing potential of printed media in American ‘cultural formation’ in the 1920s. While other authors have covered the subject of the German exiles, including Thomas Mann’s American years, we are concerned here with the intersection of culture (or, in the German sense, Kultur) and American middlebrow.”

Essay of the Day:

Who was Thomas Edison? He was a day-dreamer, a risk-taker, a kind of genius, and a difficult man:

“That Edison was almost entirely deaf from the age of 12 made his determination to capture and broadcast sound all the more poignant. (Another deaf genius, Ludwig von Beethoven, is the subject of Morris’s slender penultimate biography.) Edison’s auditory challenges make for merry portraiture. The inventor liked to explain that he could hear music perfectly well by holding a stick in his teeth with the other end pressed against an acoustic speaker’s diaphragm. He once interrupted Sergei Rachmaninoff, who was auditioning (!) for a contract with Edison Records, after he heard him play a few bars. ‘Who told you you were a piano player? You’re a pounder!’ roared Edison at the greatest pianist of his time.

“From his first teenage days as a railroad telegrapher and newspaper publisher, Edison exhibited ‘the traits that distinguished him as an inventor — contrary thinking, obstinate repetition, daydreaming, delight in difficulty,’ Morris writes. All his life he was given to intense periods of noodling, forswearing meals, sleeping at his desk, testing and retesting his ideas, and shepherding his favored brainchildren to manufacture, marketability and profit. His wives and real children paid the price.

“As befits an American giant, Edison was not merely a scientific savant. He was an engineer and a businessman, too, a sui generis forerunner of the billionaire wizards of Silicon Valley, where this biography might be keenly appreciated. Half of this sizable volume is the chronicle of a gifted but clumsy corporate tycoon who lost many millions ‘in a career remarkable for profligate spending and wasted opportunities.’”

Read the rest.

Photos: Epson International Pano Awards

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about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University. Follow him on Twitter.

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