Books and Arts

Fast Art

The Andy Warhol retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art is the perfect show for time-pressed Manhattanites. They can breeze through it at the clip of a fast walk, take it in through the corners of their eyes without ever breaking stride, and be able to talk about it afterward entirely in terms of what they got out of it. Indeed, you can honorably discuss the show without attending it at all, if you've ever seen a Brillo box, a Campbell's soup can, a photograph of Marilyn Monroe, and a silver balloon.

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Reluctant Butterfly

Of the great impressionists. Degas probably had the worst eyes. His myopia was severe enough to excuse him from infantry duty; by his 40s he was virtually blind in his right eye; and by the 1890s he donned corrective spectacles blacked-out except for a small slit in the left lens. Complaints about la vue recur in his letters, and late in life he wrote to a friend, "I'll soon be a blind man.

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Front Man

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 861 pp., $24.95) In Neil Sheehan's apt and accurate phrase, John Paul Vann was "the soldier of the war in Vietnam." He began his extraordinary career there as a military adviser to a South Vietnamese division, and he went on to become the single greatest influence on the young American journalists in Vietnam who were to come into such fierce conflict with their government. Then, in 1963, Vann suddenly quit the Army, in what appeared to be an act of conscience.

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Made In America

Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and Americaby Edmund S. Morgan(Norton, 318 pp., $18.95)"Size was the key," writes Edmund Morgan. The puzzle was how to frame a system of government that would be at once national in its vision and popular in its foundation.

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Heroes and Echoes

Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example by Adrian Poole Everyone assumes that they know what tragedy means; the problem comes in trying to define it. One thing is certain: it is a uniquely Western phenomenon.

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The New Historicism

Shakespearean Negotiations  By Stephen Greenblatt (University of California Press, 205 pp., $20) The Place of the Stage: License, Play and Power in Renaissance England By Steven Mullaney (University of Chicago Press, 178 pp., $24.95) External observers must have noticed abundant signs of tumult in the world of academic literary criticism. Some, remarking with dismay the proliferation of forbiddingly obscure titles, may have lost interest or given up the hope of discovering what is going on.

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How Julian Schnabel turned bad painting into good money.

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In the stream of insults that Nikita Khrushchev brought down upon us in the winter of 1963, the American word "beatnik" constantly popped up. It's not out of the question that this word attracted the leader's attention because of its somewhat Russian sound.

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Going to Extremes

TODAY CHILE IS careening, quietly and in a carefully planned way, toward the greatest political catastrophe of its history. Within the next year or so, its people will be permitted to decide by plebiscite whether or not to accept a president proposed to them by their ruling military junta.

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On November 10 Bruce Springsteen fans began lining up outside record stores to buy the first copies of a boxed five-record set called "Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live 1975-1985." Three days later President Reagan first acknowledged reports that his administration had sold weapons to the government of the AyatoUah Khomeini in Iran. If scandal and album are a cultural coincidence, so too are the careers of Reagan and Springsteen. Both have become cultural icons by giving the American people a reflection, a vision, of themselves.

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