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Writing Worth Reading

The Spartan Monarchs

Queen Victoria enjoyed sex, modern art, and self-indulgence. What we think of as Victorian values — stuffiness and priggishness — were much more the province of her grandson George V (1910-36) and his son George VI (1936-52). “They were our two Spartan monarchs, duty-bound, sexually repressed, emotionally disciplined, wanting everyone kept in place and convinced that material discomfort improved people’s characters” (1,290 words)

The Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II

Conversations with migrants from Africa and the Middle East seeking new lives in Europe. Thousands wait in Calais hoping to reach Britain – where they will be arrested and deported. “All of the people I interviewed for this story made their first journey to Europe in a smuggler boat across the Mediterranean. Our government believes that, had any of them drowned, it would have been a useful deterrent to others” (5,600 words)

Americans In North Korean Films

North Korea understands well the propaganda value of films. For decades its own film industry has demonised America. It treats foreign films as a serious threat, and rightly so; even the most innocent of them challenges the regime merely by showing how much better people live in other countries. A film such as The Interview, which mocks, deflates, and finally annihilates Kim Jong Un, “just couldn’t be allowed” (1,150 words)

GM’s Greatest Hit: The 1955 Chevrolet

The 1955 Chevrolet was the greatest full-size car ever made in America. “Has a car ever exuded more self confidence, optimism, and all-round competence?” Cars would get better in many technical ways, but never again was a car so perfectly suited to its time and place. The Chevrolets of the mid fifties “achieved a pinnacle”, as did GM, which was the Apple of its day — the most admired and profitable company in the country (2,370 words)

Alexandra Fuller’s African Childhood

Thrilling, lyrical account of Fuller’s memoir Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, about growing up in colonial Rhodesia. The country is at war, the whites are losing, her parents are mostly drunk. “They continue, through war, drought, bad harvests, the birth of their children and the loss of their children, to have fun, to drink and party and play cards, to dance and have another drink, and then drink a whole lot more” (1,900 words)

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