Michael Weiss

You Wouldn't Kill Margaret Thatcher if You Knew How Hot She Was

Why Hilary Mantel's controversial short story about an imagined assassination of the former prime minister misunderstands the Iron Lady.

There is no lower form of an English cultural event than a manufactured literary scandal. For a few blissful months, it seemed as though the seasonal eruption of belletristic bellyaching had ended. Martin Amis, after all, had moved to Brooklyn Heights. Salman Rushdie's references to himself in the third person were two long years ago, and Zoë Heller has moved on from the trauma of having read it. Even the news of Russell Brand's pop-Maoist tract, in which the recovering heroin addict explains how to "bring down the government and establish a personal and global utopia" in a "simple, accessible book," is not due out for a few more days, was only expected to kick up a modest fuss with the rumors that it was ghostwritten by recovering plagiarist Johann Hari. You might say it was a rather idyllic summer for English letters; that is, until Hilary Mantel set off an early chill to autumn.

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Ghosts of the Maidan

First revolution. Then war. Now what?

KIEV — "Don't listen to the police!"

Oksana Forostyna was explaining why I was late to our meeting at Oliva, a restaurant just off Maidan square in central Kiev. I'd asked directions from local law enforcement about a block away from my destination, and been inevitably led astray. Forostyna is the editor of Krytyka, which might be thought of as Ukraine's answer to the New York Review of Books, and she was kindly instructing me on the new rules of navigating post-revolutionary Kiev. 

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A White Shining Lie

Putin's 'humanitarian' convoy is simply a pretext for the war the Kremlin's been planning for months.

Leave it to Vladimir Putin to make relief sound menacing. "All excuses for dragging out the delivery ... are exhausted," the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Aug. 22, as more than 200 white-painted Russian Kamaz "aid" trucks entered Ukrainian territory without the permission of Kiev. "The Russian side has taken the decision to act. Our column with humanitarian cargo is starting to move in the direction of Luhansk."

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Putin's New Clothes

Russia’s president is nakedly invading Ukraine. Why won’t anybody say anything?

On the night of Aug. 14, the Telegraph's Roland Oliphant and the Guardian's Shaun Walker both witnessed, as the latter put it, "a column of [armored personnel carriers] and vehicles with official Russian military plates cross [the] border into Ukraine." It's not that this was anything out of the ordinary: Russia has been moving all manner of materiel into Ukraine for weeks, as the Interpreter has documented, all under the watchful gaze of U.S. and NATO satellites -- thereby establishing a new normalcy for what does and does not constitute foreign aggression in a neighboring country.

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The Chaos Convoy

The Red Cross has no idea what 280 Russian trucks making their way to the Ukrainian border are carrying. Is Putin's "humanitarian" mission a Trojan horse?

A convoy of 280 Russian Kamaz military vehicles -- all painted a nice, soothing white, absent any license plates, and brandishing flags of the Red Cross -- are en route from the Moscow suburbs to a relatively peaceful border crossing just north of Kharkiv, Ukraine. If the Russian state-controlled media is to be believed, they are collectively transporting around 2,000 tons of baby food, grain, bottled water, sleeping bags, sugar, and medicine to a war-ravaged nation next door.

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