Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science By Hans Belting Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider (Belknap Press, 303 pp., $39.95) In many respects this is a bold book, first of all because of its premise: a veteran art historian dares, after half a century as an active scholar, to take another look at a classic art-historical problem—the formulation of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Florence.
Greetings from Iraq. This week I've been traveling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, on a whirlwind tour that took us through Afghanistan and Pakistan before we arrived in Baghdad this evening. This installment of The Plank comes to you from one of Saddam Hussein's lesser palaces, situated on a stagnant pond where the dictator and his sons reportedly used to go fishing. (Most of the buildings around the compound are now named after places in Oregon.) I'll be writing plenty about this trip in the days to come, and in the print edition of TNR.
Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq By Patrick Cockburn (Scribner, 227 pp., $24) To feel the power of Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite cleric and tormentor of the Americans in Iraq, all you needed to do, in the years after the invasion, was go to the Mohsin Mosque in eastern Baghdad. There, spread in the street for a half a mile, as many as fifteen thousand young men would stand assembled, prayer mats in hand, waiting for the service to begin. The scene was safe: Mahdi Army gunmen searched the cars and the supplicants for bombs.