Books and Arts
Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution By Stephen Breyer (Knopf, 176 pp., $21) William H. Rehnquist has died, and John G. Roberts Jr. has been nominated to replace him, and another nomination is still to come: it is an understatement to say that the Supreme Court is in a period of transition. The change of personnel is taking place among conservatives of one kind or another, according to the wishes of a deeply conservative president. Yet all this must not obscure the fact that conservatism on the Court is about to encounter a serious challenge.
Wherever you look nowadays, you read that a deadly flu pandemic is coming. "A flu nightmare," blared a recent editorial in The Boston Globe; The New York Times ran the breathless "When A Bug Becomes A Monster." Then there was the BBC's "Avian Flu 'Could Cripple Economy'" and Der Spiegel's "A Ticking Time Bomb In Your Backyard." Nature's editors wrote, "Millions of people killed in highly developed countries within months. Tens of millions worldwide. The global economy in tatters. A Hollywood fantasy?
"The important thing is the rhythm," the man at the bar is explaining, cocktail shaker in hand. "You always have rhythm in your shaking. Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time. A Bronx, to two-step time. But a dry martini you always shake to waltz time." He's joined a few moments later by his wife and his wire-haired terrier. The former inquires how much he's had to drink and is told he's on his sixth martini.
A Very Long Engagement is all that its title promises. At two and a quarter hours, it is the longest film yet by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet; happily, it is also the most engaging, a stylish and satisfying epic of love and war, hope and memory. After an early career of directing shorts and commercials, in 1991 Jeunet and partner Marc Caro broke into feature films with the post-apocalyptic black comedy Delicatessen. This was followed by City of Lost Children, another meticulously designed dystopian nightmare.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, 242 pp., $25.95) Much of the influence of modern economics derives from the claim that human beings respond rationally to incentives. It is a deceptively simple claim with many implications.
The weather during mid-summer in Manhattan is frequently unpleasant, particularly the viscosity of the air--the feeling that one is breathing and moving through water at least as much as air. Perhaps that is why today, as I was walking to the subway and feeling oppressed by the dull, cloudy light and the general muddiness of the atmosphere, I began to think, as a kind of consolation, of the glorious weather in September, when summer is ending and autumn has not yet taken its place.
It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good By Rick Santorum (ISI Books, 449 pp., $25.00) Click here to buy this book It Takes a Family, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's sprawling new ode to the conservative agenda for America, devotes no less than three chapters to abortion. It's an issue that Santorum has made central to his identity as a legislator, the cornerstone of his right-wing bona fides and an emanation of his ultra-orthodox Catholicism. It's also an issue on which he may be rapidly losing ground to, of all people, a Democrat.
Even before Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby won the Oscar for Best Picture, it united critics across the spectrum, from middlebrow to aesthete, in almost universal praise. It was "nearly flawless," "a breathtaking human drama," "the cinematic equivalent of Hemingway." This consensus was challenged by only a few scattered naysayers, who described the film as "celluloid hooey," "phony, simplistic, and cheap," and "a compendium of every cliché from every bad boxing movie ever made." The maddening thing about Million Dollar Baby is this: Both sets of critics were right.
Perfect Madness By Judith Warner (Riverhead, 327 pp., $23.95) How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-At-Work Moms By Wendy Sachs (Da Capo, 205 pp., $19.95 White House Nannies By Barbara Kline (Tarcher/Penguin, 238 pp., $23.95) I Midway through my first pregnancy, I began to receive mailings from a company called “One Step Ahead,” which promised “thoughtfully selected products to help with baby … every step of the way.” My son’s needs were still simple, satisfied by umbilical cord and placenta, but once he arrived, I came to understand, matters would get more complicated.
Perfect Madness By Judith Warner (Riverhead, 327 pp., $23.95) How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms By Wendy Sachs (Da Capo, 205 pp., $19.95) White House Nannies By Barbara Kline (Tarcher/Penguin, 238 pp., $23.95) I. Midway through my first pregnancy, I began to receive mailings from a company called "One Step Ahead," which promised "thoughtfully selected products to help with baby ...