Graeme Wood

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This Very Old House

Originally appeared in The Daily.

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

by Anthony Shadid

Mariner Books; 336pp.
A century of warfare in Lebanon has sent most Lebanese into exile, flung to the corners of the earth like shrapnel from a rocket blast. These 12 million overseas Lebanese — three times the number still in the country — keep their identity strong by marrying other Lebanese, sending their kids to Lebanese schools and, often, tithing money to their co-religionists in the old country.
Among the Christian faction of this diaspora was the late Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer winner who died of an asthma attack while reporting in Syria earlier this month for the New York Times. He grew up in Oklahoma, in many ways disconnected from Lebanon: He spoke English at home, and he never visited Lebanon until his early 20s. But the Lebanese force was strong in this one, and eventually he returned to the site of his family home, the subject of “House of Stone,” his third and final book. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cullen Murphy’s new book on the Inquisition

Originally appeared in The Daily.

God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World

by Cullen Murphy

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320pp.

“Inquisition” is among the least cuddly words in the English language — an odd state of affairs, when you consider that some of its linguistic cousins are perfectly lovely. The ultimate Latin root means simply to ask a question, and its English relative “inquisitive” is something we typically laud children for being. But to be the object of any sort of inquisition, whether headed by a hellbent bureaucrat or a man in a scarlet cassock, is very bad news for you indeed, with a guarantee of psychological discomfort and strong hint of the physical sort as well.

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Arms and the Men

A review of Andrew Feinstein’s The Shadow World.

Originally appeared in The Daily.

The premise of Andrew Feinstein’s book “The Shadow World” is that humanity owes much of its war and misery to a dark cabal of arms dealers, corrupt politicians and defense contractors. This cabal runs on money (lots of it), cocaine and influence. Its major players are total amoralists, millionaires virtually to a man, and responsible for looting the treasury of nearly every developed country and spilling the innocent blood of every undeveloped one. Law enforcement nips at the feet of these men, yet most of them remain not only free to enjoy their network of mansions and kept women, but also toasted as statesmen and royalty. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Daily

South Carolina Town Sitting on Gold Mine

Originally published in The Daily:

KERSHAW, S.C. — Let the gold rush begin at what will soon be the only active gold mine east of the Mississippi River.

A Canadian company has just announced plans to reopen a historic mine in this small Southern town with a depressed economy and double-digit inflation. It believes there may be billions of dollars of gold still left at the site.

“We want to take this opportunity,” Kershaw resident Sonya Poole said, “and grab it.”

And if the Canadians find that the gold veins lead under the nearby state prison, she said, “I’ll help them tunnel right underneath it.”
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Filed under: Daily

The Twin Towers

Originally appeared in The Daily.

The World Trade Center site is now hallowed ground, and to denigrate the architecture of its enormous rectangular towers is vaguely uncouth, as if to denigrate not just the towers but the great city that produced them. But critics were not always so respectful. When the towers went up in the early 1970s, everyone found something to hate. Those who liked shiny glass skyscrapers moaned at these opaque figures now marring the skyline. More classically inclined critics asked whether this was where modern architecture had brought us — to big rectangles, witless and inert, as ugly as they were inhuman. The unkindest cuts came from those who said they were not up to the Big Apple’s standard — “so utterly banal,” wrote the critic Paul Goldberger, “as to be unworthy of the headquarters of a bank in Omaha.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jersey Gore

Originally appeared in The Daily.
For today’s summer vacationers, the Jersey Shore presents few dangers worse than bad calzone, unwanted encounters with reality TV stars, and venereal disease. But the beach bums of yesteryear faced a danger much more terrifying, and not curable with a dose of Imodium or penicillin. It measured about 10 feet long, stalked swimmers along a 125-mile stretch of coastline, and feasted on human flesh throughout the summer of 1916. No one can be sure, but most scientists now think the culprit was one or several great white or bull sharks. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Gaddafi Family File

The Daily published a Gaddafi family tree, partially written by me.  Check it out here.

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A Vanished Heir

The last days of a missing Rockefeller

Originally appeared in The Daily.

Michael Rockefeller, heir to a fortune in the hundreds of millions and the son of the governor of New York, was last seen 50 years ago tying a pair of empty red gas cans to his back and swimming for the shore. “I think I can make it,” he said. Then he swam away from his capsized catamaran into the Arafura Sea, toward the coast of New Guinea, where cannibalism may still have been practiced.

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