Books

Hedonic Man
July 09, 2008

HAPPINESS: A REVOLUTION IN ECONOMICS (MUNICH LECTURES IN ECONOMICS)By Bruno S. Frey (MIT Press, 240 pp., $35)PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: THE HIDDEN FORCES THAT SHAPE OUR DECISIONSBy Dan Ariely (HarperCollins, 280 pp., $25.95)I.When I first began hearing about what Bruno S. Frey, professor of economics at the University of Zurich, calls the "revolution" in his discipline, my reaction was one of delight. As far as I was concerned, it could not happen fast enough.

Medals And Rights
July 09, 2008

Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic CityBy Lillian M. Li, Alison J.

Only Words To Play With
June 25, 2008

The Delighted States: A book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, & Accompanied by Maps, Portraits, Squiggles, Illustrations, & a Variety of Helpful Indexes By Adam Thirlwell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 559 pp., $30)  Does style in the novel count for much? The evidence of the novelists themselves is somewhat mixed. A few prominent novelists, such as Dreiser, have been wretched stylists.

Genes and Identities
June 25, 2008

Jacob's Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History By David B. Goldstein (Yale University Press, 148 pp., $26) Early in my career as a specialist in blood diseases and cancer, I cared for a middle-aged man who had melanoma. The cancer had spread from an early lesion on his trunk to his lungs, liver, and bones. He was a successful businessman, intelligent and outgoing, with a sharp sense of humor. Through the course of his treatment, we developed a warm relationship, and he made it clear that, when the end came, he wanted to be at home.

The Country of the Damned
June 25, 2008

Collected Poems 1919-1976By Allen Tate(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 218 pp., $16) In the galaxy of American modernism, Allen Tate is now a black hole. The authority that made him, in the 1930s and 1940s, one of the most formidable figures in American poetry, mentor and superego to a generation, has collapsed. Neither his strenuously ambiguous poems nor his orotund essays in literary interpretation (he was one of the deities of the New Criticism) are still commonly read.

Car Dealership at 3 a.m.
June 25, 2008

Over the lot a sodium aurawithin whichabove the new cars spraysof denser many colored brightnessesare rising and falling in a time lapseof a luminous and ghostlygarden forever flourishingup out of its own decay. The cars, meanwhile, modest as angelsor like angelichoplites, are arrayedin rows, obedient to ordersthey bear no trace of,their bodies taintless, at attention,serving the sheen they bear,the glittering they are,the sourceless dazzlethat the show case windowthat the show room floorweeps forwhen it isn't there--like patent leather, even the black wheels shine. Here is the intenseamnesia

John Clare's Finches
June 25, 2008

I thought the first one was a leaf falling faster Than any leaf could fall--no coasting the updrafts, None of those sinuous floating undulations That body forth the longing of anything falling To return to the branch--and then it dipped and stalled And touched its featherweight of gold to the fencepost, And there we were, risen at dawn to breathe while we could The vanishing cool of early late summer morning And see the goldfinches should they chance to return-- And they came, but on a wind that never blew before: I saw as in a rain-pool slicking the roadway Or a shard of mirror lodged in a Ro

The Man Without Categories
June 11, 2008

The Assistant By Robert Walser Translated by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 301 pp., $16.95) I. By now the snapshot of the dead Robert Walser has become one of German literature's most often reprinted and commented-upon photographs, its unstaged, accidental existence only reinforcing the image's iconic charge: the last moments of an almost-forgotten great author in an age of mechanical reproduction. Not surprisingly, descriptions of the photograph all bear a striking resemblance to one another.

Three Possibilities
June 11, 2008

Like that time when all I wanted was to hole up in my room. I had allowed myself to be forgiven, and there I was feeling this pathetic, incriminating gratefulness. Or at my favorite professor's dinner party when I gave birth to what I thought was a new idea, and the room fell quiet with tolerance. I still hear that tolerance. Or that evening I forgave her her betrayal because it lessened mine, and found myself for once the forgiver, trying to enjoy that rare high ground. Poisonous, the air up there.

Missions Accomplished
June 11, 2008

The Roman Triumph By Mary Beard (Harvard University Press, 434 pp., $29.95) Everybody over the age of four knows how important it is not to be a "sore loser"--and how difficult. When you lose your whole fortune to your sister at Monopoly, you are not supposed to burst into tears, accuse her of cheating, call her a greedy old moneybags, hit her, tear up the paper dollars, hurl the pieces across the floor, or run screaming from the room. You are supposed to be gracious in defeat: congratulate the winner, allow her to enjoy her victory, stifle your sorrow, and pretend not to mind too much.

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