Books and Arts

The Shaman

ONE EVENING LAST OCTOBER, Mark Fisher, a nineteen-year-old student at Fairfield University in Connecticut, who had gone into Manhattan with friends, met a girl in a bar on First Avenue on the Upper East Side, got separated from his group, and was found dead the next morning on a Brooklyn sidewalk, his body wrapped in a yellow blanket, five gunshot wounds in his chest. According to a long article in The New York Times, Fisher's case remains unsolved mostly because no one who was with him that night seemed to want to tell the police everything that they knew.

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By now everyone in this world, and possibly in other worlds, has heard about Mel Gibson’s new film and has probably read some of the comment. I cannot remember so much prior talk about a film since Gone With the Wind in 1938. The casting of that picture became a subject of national concern; there was even, as I recall, a Broadway play on the subject. But that rumpus could not match the storm around The Passion of the Christ.

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Resistances

The Battle for Rome: The Germans, the Allies, the Partisans, and the Pope, September 1943-June 1944 By Robert Katz (Simon and Schuster, 418 pp., $28) Click here to purchase the book. THERE WAS A BRIEF PERIOD  in European history, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century to 1941, when it was easy to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants; when wars were fought by soldiers clothed, equipped, and trained by the state; when men trained to be murderers on behalf of the state were severely punished if they tried to use the same methods when not in military service.

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A History of Modern Palestine:One Land, Two PeoplesBy Ilan Pappe (Cambridge University Press, 333 pp., $22) Ilan Pappe and I walked a stretch together in uneasy companionship, but we have now parted ways. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we belonged to a group dubbed the "New Historians" of Israel, which also included Avi Shlaim and Tom Segev. This group, contrary to the conspiratorial image projected by our critics, was never a close-knit or monolithic school of intellectuals who plotted together around the table at Friday-night meals. Some of us barely knew one another.

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Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing By Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling (New Press, 277 pp., $25.95) In protecting the environment, how do America and Europe differ? The standard account is this: Europe follows the precautionary principle; America follows cost-benefit analysis. According to the precautionary principle, it is better to be safe than sorry. Aggressive regulation is justified even in the face of scientific uncertainty--even if it is not yet clear that environmental risks are serious.

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Pleasing Decay

In Ruins By Christopher Woodward (Pantheon Books, 280 pp., $24) Click here to purchase the book. For travelers who have experienced the grandeur and pathos of ruins that were once the glory of ancient Athens or Rome, it comes as a surprise to learn that what we are seeing today are tidied-up--its critics would say sterile--archaeological sites that are only as old as the last century.

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He Meant What He Said

I. Adolf Hitler's so-called second book was not published in his lifetime. Written, as Gerhard Weinberg convincingly speculates, in late June and early July 1928, the book’s publication was postponed because Mein Kampf, Hitler's first massive text, was selling very badly and could hardly stand competition with another publication by the same author. Later, after Hitler was appointed chancellor and Mein Kampf became one of the greatest (and allegedly most unread) best-sellers of all times, the second book was apparently seen as disclosing his foreign policy plans too explicitly to allow publica

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Appetite For Life

That Man: An Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt By Robert H. Jackson Edited and introduced by John Q. Barrett (Oxford University Press, 290 pp., $30) Robert Jackson was one of the greatest Supreme Court justices in the nation's history. Serving on the Court from 1941 until his death in 1954, Jackson wrote many enduring opinions. Of these, the most remarkable is probably his opinion in 1943 invalidating a state law compelling school children to salute the American flag.

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Money and Soul

The PatronA Life of Salman Schocken,1877-1959By Anthony David(Metropolitan Books, 451 pp., $ 30)For a year in the early 1960s, not long after finishing college, I had a job working for Schocken Books, a small publishing house in New York. Actually, "small" is something of an overstatement. Schocken consisted at the time of four people working in a two-room apartment on 38th Street and Park Avenue: the editor-in-chief Herzl Rome, two secretaries, and the editorial staff, which was me.

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Tramps Like Who?

Bruce Springsteen's America: The People Listening, A Poet Singing By Robert Coles (Random House) Thirty years ago this fall, Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. I knew from whence he greeted, having grown up in the same state a few years behind him.One of Springsteen's teenage bands, the Castiles, had been the entertainment at my friend Doug's eighth-grade graduation party; so when Columbia Records sent the twenty-four-year-old and his new group, the E Street Band, on a tour of midsized Northeast colleges to promote his record debut, Doug and I d

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