Books and Arts

TNR Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2011
December 23, 2011

Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World by John Szwed This book was published the day before New Year’s Eve, 2010, and I had not yet read it when I chose my best books of that year. With empathy but no defensiveness, Szwed shows Lomax to be something more than a musical imperialist and less than the benevolent patron of American folk culture.  - David Hajdu, Music Critic Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson I was hoping to be the lone end-of-year champion for this well-received but somewhat overshadowed debut novel, but the pesky New York Times beat me to it in their ten best list. S

Art Director Picks: TNR's Best Art Work in 2011
December 21, 2011

Here at The New Republic, we spend a lot of time thinking about words. But a great magazine isn't just a collection of articles; it's a visual product. Which is why we're lucky that our art director, Joe Heroun, and his partner Christine Car, are brilliant at transforming nascent, nebulous ideas or fully polished pieces into visually compelling images, often at a moment’s notice. Here, accompanied by Joe’s words, are some of his favorite images from 2011. February 17 Cover A Dubya cover in the new post-Bush era called for something unusual.

Gray Paintings For Our Gray Era
December 21, 2011

These are not bright times. We see the world in shades of gray. So gallerygoers may be especially interested in artists who work in mixtures of black and white—in what for centuries has been known as grisaille. Of course, I’m not so sure that gray times inspire a taste for gray paintings. Formal values are not necessarily so closely related to social experience. And yet the thought has crossed my mind as I contemplate “Grisaille,” a group show currently at Luxembourg and Dayan in New York.

David Thomson on Films: Tinker, Tailor, Boredom, Why?
December 20, 2011

“Homeland” ended its first series on December 18 in a ninety-minute episode, as if it had so many loose ends to tie up, and so much to deliver before “the event of the TV season” closed. A couple of months ago, I welcomed the suspense, the plotting, and the human interest of “Homeland,” but I wondered even then if the series would go crazy with its own narrative.

TNR Film Classics: 'Miracle on 34th Street' (June 2, 1947)
December 19, 2011

Last week I voiced a hope for morebright nonsense on the screen, and this week Miracle on 34th Street was previewed for early release. It is a charming film, in part about a budding romance between Macy’s and Gimbel’s, but mostly about Santa Claus. The old gentleman (named Kris Kringle) is completely real, though the state of New York tries in a fine, big, foolish trial to prove he doesn’t exist. The point, developed quite deftly, is that if a few maladjusted people were able to prove Kringle daffy enough to be committed, they would have to prove most of the world crazy along with him.

Washington Diarist: The Answers
December 14, 2011

Is there a god?

The Invention of Space
December 14, 2011

Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science By Hans Belting Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider (Belknap Press, 303 pp., $39.95) In many respects this is a bold book, first of all because of its premise: a veteran art historian dares, after half a century as an active scholar, to take another look at a classic art-historical problem—the formulation of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Florence.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: The Unexpected
December 14, 2011

The Conquest Tomboy In Heaven, Underground: The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery “Politics is a stupid job done by smart men.” So says Nicolas Sarkozy in The Conquest, a French film about him that states it is not a documentary. At the start it asserts that, though it is based on real people and events, it is fiction.

Five Books I Wish I Had Written About This Year
December 14, 2011

It’s that season again: time for the annual purge of my bookshelves. As usual, my ambition outstripped my reviewing appetite this year, and I’m left facing a shelf full of worthy titles that I somehow never got around to. So, as I did in this space last year, I’m making my year-end compilation not a greatest-hits list but a list of the books I regret not having written about. Among them are two novels (one a very impressive debut), the best collection of short fiction I’ve read in years, an essay collection, and a memoir. Open City, by Teju Cole (Random House).

David Thomson on Films: An Unsparing Portrait of American Breakdown
December 13, 2011

There are advertisements and reviews out there that tell you to expect comedy in Young Adult. You deserve a sterner warning. Yes, the picture is written by Diablo Cody* (of Juno and TV's “United States of Tara”) and it is directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno and Up in the Air). But, if you recall, Up in the Air had George Clooney as a cool, amiable flake whose job it is to tell people they are fired, and who is set back (to zero?) when Vera Farmiga’s colder character tells him that their love affair of convenience and intricate travel schedules is going nowhere.

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