Books and Arts

The Democratic Temper

American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony By Samuel P. Huntington (Harvard University Press, 303 pp., $15) This brilliant book should have been published a year ago. In the last days of the Carter Administration it did seem as if our political institutions suffered from a deepening erosion of authority. The leading exhibit was an enfeebled presidency whose decline had continued from the 1960s to the 1970s, regardless of party or person.

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That was just Lamentations, it was not History...—Derek Walcott The idea of the responsible victim was conceived by Hannah Arendt to restore the honor of the Jews. Victimization is a disgrace; but there is no disgrace in action, or in taking the consequences. Arendt's view of Jewish complicity in the anti-Semitic crime ironically resembles the vulgar Zionist view which exaggerates the Jewish resistance to it. Both recoiled from the grim chronicle of helplessness that is more or less the political history of the Jews ("the extraordinary spectacle of a people...

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Here it is, days after the exchange of vows, and I’m still groggy from having watched television’s coverage of the royal wedding. I thought the sun would never set on it. First there were all those preliminary “specials,” and then the day itself went on forever, a seeming eternity of coverage. From the dead of the night into the afternoon, the stalwarts of the news stayed on the job, really covering the whole occasion, like soot.

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It was utterly predictable that freedom of pornographic speech and action would sooner  or later come into conflict with the women's movement. Pornography, after all, has long been recognized to be a predominantly male fantasy involving the sadistic humiliation of women. The women's movement itself, however, did not foresee any such conflict.

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The Wrath of Man

Sophocles: An Interpretation R. P. Winnington-Ingram The list of those who have misinterpreted Sophocles is long and distinguished. Confusing theater with therapy, Freud called the action of Oedipus Rex "a process that can be likened to the work of a psychoanalysis." Misguided by late-18th-century aesthetics, Hegel saw Antigone as the paradigmatic tragedy, a conflict of the individual against the state. Yet Aristotle was perhaps the worst offender. His analysis of Sophoclean drama bequeathed to millennia of critics innumerable idiosyncratic notions.

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A conversation with Toni Morrison.

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Lectures on Literature: British, French, and German Writers By Vladimir Nabokov, with an introduction by John Updike Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; $19.95 Vladimir Nabokov, according to the published testimony of several of his students at Cornell during the 1950s, was an extraordinary teacher--unorthodox in his methods, alternately beguiling and amusing in his manner, and above all compelling in the vision of literary art he conveyed to his classes.

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Michael Jackson made a terrific album, Off the Wall (Epic), that spawned four hit singles and became one of the season's staples in the top 10. He coincidentally provided some counterpoint to Pink Floyd: as the upbeat title tune put it, "Life ain't so bad at all/If you live it off the wall." Though he has been sealed up in the bubble of show business for over a decade, ever since the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" made him a celebrity at age 10, Michael Jackson is scarcely cursing his fate in his latest album. He is too busy enjoying his role.

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The everyman comes back to Brooklyn.

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There was always more to the legend of John Wayne than met the eye. To judge by most of the obituaries, the unifying effect of his long war against cancer had transcended the divisive effect of his long war against communism. His illness was thus regarded as a metaphor for all the problems that plague Western man in his decent from power. With Wane's passing, we were told by solemn editorialists, the last simplistic American Hero had bitten the dust. This meant that there would be no more Vietnams on the American horizon.

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