The Alibi of Ambiguity
June 07, 2012

Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy DilemmaBy Barbara Will (Columbia University Press, 274 pp., $35)   IdaBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Logan Esdale (Yale University Press, 348 pp., $20)   Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected EditionBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Susannah Hollister and Emily Setina (Yale University Press, 379 pp., $22) ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1951, an oddly dressed young woman appeared in an alley adjacent to the municipal hospital in Angers, a town southwest of Paris.

What Balthus Can Tell Us About Our Summer of Disquietude
August 17, 2011

The Mountain, the twelve-foot-wide painting by Balthus in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is one of the most disquieting visions of summer ever committed to canvas, a pastoral painted in 1937 with all Europe on the brink of catastrophe. It is a painting that I find myself returning to with a new kind of attention at the close of a summer that has had its own share of disquietudes. A party of seven has stopped on a plateau overlooking a dramatic gorge; three men and three women and a tiny male figure off in the distance.

An American in Paris
May 30, 2011

The moment when it started to seem obvious that something might be up with Lance Armstrong—that the sudden dominance of Americans in a sport they had previously ignored might be built on shaky foundations—had nothing directly to do with Armstrong himself. It was the end of the talent-light 2006 Tour de France, robbed of its stars both by Armstrong’s retirement and Operation Puerto, the officious anti-doping investigation that ended with bans for many of cycling’s strongest contenders.

When Philosophy Mattered
January 13, 2011

Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos By Peter E. Gordon (Harvard University Press, 426 pp., $39.95) I. The Swiss town of Davos was once famed as a sanatorium. It provided pastoral balm for mental breakdown (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner), relief from chronic illness (Aby Warburg), and an Alpine antidote to tuberculosis (Robert Louis Stevenson finished Treasure Island there). This concentration of ailing artists and intellectuals produced its own distinctive cultural life, immortalized by Thomas Mann in 1924 in The Magic Mountain.

Several Worlds
February 17, 2010

Ajami Kino International The Last New Yorker Brink Films North Face Music Box Films A Palestinian, Scandar Copti, and an Israeli, Yaron Shani, have co-written, co-directed, and co-edited Ajami. This title is the name of a multi-ethnic district in the city of Jaffa, so it fits the film, not merely in facts but in feeling. Copti and Shani knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. Coincidentally, they prove again that the film medium has made a contribution to social revelation.