February 27, 2008

The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial By James Q. Whitman (Yale University Press, 276 pp., $40) I. To be convicted of a crime in our courts, a defendant must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This rule is both fundamental to the criminal justice system of the United States and uncontroversial.

The Land of Lost Content
February 13, 2008

The Letters of A.E. Housman Edited by Archie Burnett (Oxford University Press, 2 volumes, 643 pp. and 585 pp., $330) I. FOR MORE YEARS than I care to think about, I have been haunted in a variety of ways by the acerbic and enigmatic ghost of A.E. Housman. It began with A Shropshire Lad, which I discovered (when else?) early in adolescence.

Stolarska Street
February 13, 2008

The small crowd by the American consulate ripples like a jellyfish in water. A young Dominican strides down the sidewalk and passersby yield piously. I'm at home again, silent as a Buddhist. I count the days of happiness and fretting, days spent seeking you frantically, finding just a metaphor, an image, days of Ecclesiastes and the Psalmist.   I remember the heatstruck scent of heather, the smell of sap in the forest by the sea, the dark of a white chapel in Provence, where only a candle's sun glowed. I remember Greece's small olives, Westphalia's gleaming railroads and the long trip to bid m

The Vital Centrist
February 13, 2008

Journals: 1952-2000 By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (Penguin Press, 894 pp., $40) I. FEW HISTORIANS write personal journals that deserve publication, which is not surprising. How much interest can there be in the academic controversies and petty jealousies that dominate the lives of working historians, much less in the archives, the private libraries, and the lecture halls where they spend so much of their time?

Hope's Mistakes
February 13, 2008

  Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages By Jonathan Elukin (Princeton University Press, 193 pp., $24.95)  ALL HISTORIES have their sorrows,but those of Jewish history are more studied than most. The chronicles of Israel’s sufferings—the groaning under Pharaoh in Exodus, the Lamentations over lost Jerusalem, Isaiah’s consolations for her captivity—have helped the countless faithful of numerous religions explain God’s puzzling tendency to afflict his followers on earth.

Bicycle History
February 13, 2008

The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War By Graham Robb (W.W. Norton, 455 pp., $27.95) FOR A BOOK OF “historical geography,”The Discovery of France has received remarkable attention and acclaim: long and appreciative reviews in British and American newspapers, the title of “notable book of the year” from The New York Times, rapturous applause in The New York Review of Books, and so forth. The reason is not hard to see. Graham Robb is an engaging and gifted writer, known for his enjoyable and instructive biographies of Hugo and Rimbaud.

To Awaken the Dead
January 30, 2008

David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture National Building Museum.   I.  What makes a writer a "children's book writer"?

Arthur Englander's Back in School
January 30, 2008

Dear Mrs Masters, as you probably know, almost half our Fifth Grade Class is Jewish--not a majority but lots, without even counting our teacher Miss Husband, who's getting married (next June) to a gentile husband! --that has to change more than her name, doesn't it? Well, your office records must show who's really Jewish and who's not, and for some of us who just happen to be Jewish, those records might be the only sure indication of our race or faith or whatever makes us Jews, and therefore different from the other kids (no one really knows). But this week our Rabbi told us this wei

Let Saigons Be Saigons
January 30, 2008

Ho Chi Minh: A Biography By Pierre Brocheux Translated by Claire Duiker (Cambridge University Press, 288 pp., $35) I. In Vietnam, the United States lost the war but is now well on the way to winning the peace. Could that be Vietnam's real lesson for the American involvement in Iraq? A gateway to both northeast Asia and southeast Asia, Vietnam is a hinge country with enormous strategic significance. Much of the credit for America's positioning to win the peace in Vietnam belongs to communist China.

Scandale Française
January 30, 2008

David Golder, The Ball Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair   By Irène Némirovsky   Translated by Sandra Smith (Everyman's Library, 340 pp., $25) Fire in the Blood   By Irène Némirovsky Translated by Sandra Smith (Alfred A. Knopf, 138 pp., $22)   Irène Némirovsky: Her Life and Works By Jonathan Weiss (Stanford University Press, 195 pp., $24.95)     I. The writer: a Jew who had fled to the French countryside seeking refuge from occupied Paris, eventually deported to Auschwitz, where she would die in a typhus epidemic soon after her arrival.