Books and Arts
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Black Veil: A Memoir With Digressions by Rick Moody (Little, Brown, 288 pp., $24.95) Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation. I apologize for the abruptness of this declaration, its lack of nuance, of any meaning besides the intuitive; but as I made my way through Moody's oeuvre during the past few months I was unable to come up with any other starting point for a consideration of his accomplishment. Or, more accurately, every other starting point that I tried felt disingenuous, nothing more than a way of setting Moody up in order to knock him down.
Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israelby Tom Segevtranslated by Haim Watzman(Metropolitan Books, 167 pp., $23)An uncle of mine, the Hebrew poet Simon Halkin, once made a remark to me that I found memorable. "Zionism," he said, "was the only straight idea ever to have passed through the mind of the Jewish people. But when something straight passes through something crooked, it comes out crooked, too." These are crooked times for Israel and for the Jews. The temptation to conclude from them that Zionism was a crooked notion is, in some circles, growing.