Books and Arts

The Disappointments
August 07, 2000

Only Yesterdayby Shmuel Yosef Agnontranslated by Barbara Harshav(Princeton University Press, 652 pp., $35)The Silence of Heaven: Agnon's Fear of Godby Amos Oz(Princeton, 304 pp., $29.95)Hillel Halkin is a writer and translator living in Israel, and a contributing editor of the Forward.In the spring and summer of 1923, sick with tuberculosis in Berlin and with barely a year left to live, Franz Kafka was studying Hebrew. Not for the first time he was thinking of starting life over in Palestine, under whose hot sun he would recover from his illness in an optimistic atmosphere of Jewish renewal.

The Human Variables
August 07, 2000

Why Wages Don't Fall During a Recessionby Truman F. Bewley(Harvard, 576 pp., $55) What do workers want? Most people give the same answer: more money. The answer is not entirely false, but it certainly is not right. If employers and government officials act on the basis of that answer, they will make serious mistakes. To understand this point, it is necessary to back up a bit and to say something about an increasingly intense debate. Economics is known as "the dismal science," in part because many economists work with a dismal picture of human beings.

House Arrest
July 03, 2000

Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Housesby Marjorie Garber(Pantheon, 243 pp., $23)Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and the director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, is a woman of almost sinister prolificacy. Every year or so, for many years now, her printer has burped forth some fresh chunk of cultural analysis. There are, one imagines, members of the cultural-studies crowd who set their watches by the regularity of these productions. Early in her career, Garber's work tended to a knotty, theoretical earnestness.

March 13, 2000

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference by Malcolm Gladwell(Little, Brown & Co., 288 pp., $24.95) In 1957, the sociologist Morton Grodzins introduced the idea of a "tipping point," in the context of a suggestion that once a certain percentage of minority group members enter a neighborhood (usually 20 percent, he proposed), the vast majority of whites will leave it. In the 1970s, the economist Thomas Schelling analyzed the "tipping point" phenomenon in considerable detail.

Sacred Implications
February 21, 2000

The David Story: A Translation With Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuelby Robert Alter(Norton, 448 pp., $30)Give Us a King!: Samuel, Saul, and Davidby Everett Fox(Schocken Books, 336 pp., $26)It was the German-Jewish literary scholar Erich Auerbach who, in a masterly comparison of Homer and the Bible in the opening chapter of his book Mimesis, in the early 1940s produced the first modern analysis of the radical minimalism of biblical prose narrative.

Code Comfort
January 10, 2000

The Control Revolutionby Andrew L. Shapiro(Perseus, 286 pp., $25)Code and Other Laws of Cyberspaceby Lawrence Lessig(Basic Books, 230 pp., $30) I. I have a number of "bookmarks" on my Netscape program. Many of them come from Netscape itself, and I have not changed them. (I am not sure that I could.) These include Nextcard Internet Visa, Toshiba, FTD Flowers, CBS sportsline and ABC news (not CBS news and not ABC sports, and nothing from NBC), and Netscape Channel itself.

Impartiality In America
December 06, 1999

James Madison: WritingsEdited by Jack N. Rakove(Library of America, 966 pp., $40)If having one's writings collected in a volume of the Library of America is a criterion, then James Madison at last has become a full-fledged Founding Father. Of the major Revolutionary leaders, only Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington have preceded him into what has become the American canon. Alexander Hamilton and John Adams still await entry, angry and frustrated no doubt by the fact that even the populist firebrand Thomas Paine has preceded them.Such recognition of Madison is long overdue.

Angels Arrive
October 18, 1999

Paper Bridges: Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowskytranslated, introduced, and edited by Kathryn Hellerstein(Wayne State University Press, 543 pp., $29.95)In her book of Yiddish poems, Dzshike Street, which appeared in 1933, Kadya Molodowsky has a sequence of five poems called "Jeremiah." This is the first of them, excellently translated by Kathryn Hellerstein:When my heart grows so full ofheavinessThat my legs can't hold my bodyany more,I want to fall onto my hands and knees,Howling windily, down on all foursLike an animal that knows not whyOr for whom--It's then, like milk upon the lips,That s

At Unease
September 06, 1999

Don't: A Reader's Guide to the Military's Anti-Gay Policy by Janet E. Halley(Duke University Press, 159 pp., $14.95)   In 1993, Jamie Gorelick, general counsel of the Department of Defense, testified before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Defending President Clinton's new "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Gorelick was asked to explain how someone alleged to be homosexual could establish that she was not, in fact, homosexual. Gorelick answered with an example: "In one instance a woman was alleged to have said that she was a lesbian.

The Era Of An Error
August 09, 1999

The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century by Francois Furet (University of Chicago Press, 596 pp., $35) I. Ten years on, it is apparent that we misunderstood the meaning of 1989 then and we misunderstand it now. Loose talk about the end of history is to blame. It led us to think that communism was over. Ten years on, it obviously is not over. Slobodan Milosevic's regime remains communist in essence, if authoritarian-populist in form.