Books and Arts

Sober Lemmings
April 14, 2003

The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, and CliniciansBy H. Wesley Perkins(Jossey-Bass, 320 pp., $45) In the 1950s, Solomon Asch, an enterprising psychologist at Swarthmore College, engaged in some remarkable studies of conformity. Asch wanted to find out whether group pressures would lead people to reject the unambiguous evidence of their own senses.

That Cruel Guest
April 07, 2003

In the Land of Pain By Alphonse Daudet Edited and translated by Julian Barnes (Alfred A. Knopf, 87 pp, $13) The language requirement in American high schools has always been something of a curricular curiosity, and the abolition nowadays of the hopeful competence that it once proposed is but another sign of the withering away of the state of literary studies.

Freedoms and Feelings
April 07, 2003

I. The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein (Alfred A. Knopf, 292 pp., $25) Early in 1834, at the height of his war with the Second Bank of the United States, President Andrew Jackson received at the White House several deputations of businessmen, who pleaded with him to change course. Believing that the Bank was an unrepublican, unaccountable monopoly, Jackson had vetoed its federal recharter and ordered the government's deposits in it removed.

April 07, 2003

Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy by Susan Neiman (Princeton University Press, 343 pp., $29.95)  It is not a good thing for philosophy to find it everywhere. Most of experience, and even most of thought, is decidedly not philosophical--which is precisely what makes philosophizing so valuable. Yet Susan Neiman's book errs in just this way. It treats a phenomenon that is, unfortunately, ubiquitous; but it then falls into the trap of believing that serious reflection on this phenomenon is similarly ubiquitous. As a result, Neiman's interesting book winds up making philo

Life Changings
April 07, 2003

Assassination Tango (United Artists) That Girl from Paris (Films Philos) Has Robert Duvall gone out of his professional mind? The worry seems legitimate, especially for an admirer, after Assassination Tango. Ever since I first saw him, in an Off-Broadway production of Miller's A View From the Bridge in 1965, Duvall has seemed to me one of the few American actors in both theater and film who needed only to decide to be great in order to reach classical greatness.

April 07, 2003

From milkweed to lupine a woman shadows a monarch. Slowly makes her way, conveys her weight with care. And in the womb her son flutters, then butterfly-kicks against walls. The woman tracks a trail of burnished wings, migrating into the heart-notch of forest, then settles on a lichened tree-trunk where underground rivers flowing out of snow- mountain lakes rumble the decree of her unborn son: "Journey farther, journey deeper." Into darker woods she transports a monarch ruling, even now, unnamed territory.   This poem originally ran in the April 7, 2003, issue of the magazine.

Schindler's Liszt
March 17, 2003

To describe Roman Polanski's film The Pianist in less than superlatives might get one branded obtuse or hard-hearted. "A powerfully meticulous epic," extolled Richard Corliss in Time. "A remarkable story, handled with an expert lack of sentimentality," the New Statesman's Philip Kerr agreed.

The Rescuer
October 28, 2002

A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust by David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff (The New Press, 269 pp., $26.95) Twenty-five years ago, while researching Holocaust history for the Joint Distribution Committee in New York, and as I was preparing to immigrate to Israel, I came across a clipping from The New York Times from 1936.

Politics By Other Means
October 22, 2002

First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Lifeby Kenneth Starr(Warner Books, 320 pp., $26.95) Kenneth Starr is most famous for his role as independent counsel in the investigation of President Clinton. But Starr had a distinguished public career before he assumed that somewhat notorious position. In the first two years of the Reagan administration, he worked as a counselor to Attorney General William French Smith.

More Than Zero
September 09, 2002

For those of us who believe that architecture is an unfailingly accurate mirror of a society's values, the current state of the proposed redevelopment of Ground Zero offers the most graphic evidence of how little things have changed in this country since September 11, 2001. This is not due, of course, to a lack of attempted involvement by the public in general or the architectural profession in particular.