Books

Novel or Nothing
May 28, 2008

The Journey Abandoned: The Unfinished NovelBy Lionel TrillingEdited by Geraldine Murphy(Columbia University Press, 256 pp., $26.95) I. One of the several advantages of living long is the chance to witness the trajectory of other lives, especially literary lives; to observe the whole, as a biographer might; or even, now and then, to reflect on fame with the dispassion of the biblical Koheleth, for whom all eminences are finally diminished.

We Shall Be Happy
May 28, 2008

Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems Edited by Mark Ford (Knopf, 266 pp., $30) The poet Frank O'Hara is buried under a gravestone bearing a phrase from his poem "In Memory of My Feelings": "Grace to be born and live as variously as possible." Fate contrived that O'Hara should be born various: he had the mind and the heart of a musician, an art critic, and a poet. He himself took care of living variously--as sibling, friend, traveler, partygoer, lover.

The Blog of War
May 28, 2008

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of CivilizationBy Nicholson Baker(Simon and Schuster, 567 pp., $30) I."The ideal Gawker item," Nick Denton, the owner of Gawker Media, wrote in an instant message, "is something triggered by a quote at a party, or an incident, or a story somewhere else and serves to expose hypocrisy, or turn conventional wisdom on its head."And it's 100 words long."200 max."Any good idea can be expressed at that length." According to The New York Times, Denton was, when he wrote that, one of the most influential figures in online journalism.

Ein Leben
May 28, 2008

In the month of her death she stands at the window,a young woman with a permanent wave, elegant,thoughtful, gazing outside.In the brown photograph. From outside an afternoon cloud of '34gazes at her, blurred, out of focus,but faithful to her permanently. From insideI gaze at her, four years old, almost, I stop my ball,and slowly leave the photograph and grow old,aging cautiously, quietly,so as not to frighten her. By Dan Pagis; Translated from the Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier

Bulbs And Bubbles
May 28, 2008

TulipMania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age By Anne Goldgar (University of Chicago Press, 425 pp., $30)   Deep within the massive masonry structure of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, an archive is tucked away among the domed vaults of the north aisle.

Cosmic Realism
May 28, 2008

The Boys in the Trees By Mary Swan (Holt Paperbacks, 224 pp., $14) Words have become too self-conscious, too anxious, to sit still on the page. In a world blaring with YouTube videos and buzzing with blog posts, there is, especially in fiction, an apparent need to justify the extended use of text. Why write a story when you can film one? Why read when you can watch? Writers, when they react to this new instability, tend either to defiantly renounce the page or to defensively embrace it.

Depravity's Rainbow
May 07, 2008

Beautiful ChildrenBy Charles Bock(Random House, 417 pp., $25) If you ate breakfast in America during the 1980s, you probably remember the milk-carton children. A face staring out next to your bowl of cereal, identified only by the barest of data--name, date of birth, height, weight, date last seen--and accompanied by the vaguely implicatory question: Have you seen this child?

The Tangled Truth
May 07, 2008

Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948By Hillel CohenTranslated by Haim Watzman(University of California Press, 344 pp., $29.95) I. The hills of the West Bank--Judea and Samaria--are dotted with well-ordered, red-roofed Jewish settlements. Clearly, they make the partition of the land of Israel/Palestine into two states more difficult, and as such they constitute an obstacle to peace. This is certainly the view in Washington, Brussels, and Tel Aviv, the bastion of center-left Israel.

The Old Frontiers
May 07, 2008

Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea By Richard Kluger (Knopf, 628 pp., $35) In 1893, more than twelve million Americans traveled to Chicago to attend a national exposition celebrating the quadricentennial of Columbus's voyage of American discovery. "The World's Columbian Exposition" summoned Americans to celebrate the astonishing rapidity of their own ascent to continental dominance and international power.

Sea-Change
May 07, 2008

We slip under the skinof ocean, slide intothe brine, float belly-down. A Barracuda scours.Gold dangles: fishing lures.Blue Tang scuttle in sync. Further below a Tarpon,lengthy as any man,cruises the sand-floor. Mothers, we hover: blue fins wavewhile hair ripples, escaping.Will he doubt our authority? Dripping, we pull our weightonto the deck. Bats plunge.Clouds tinge coral. We raise our young to know the oceanheaves every grain. Night falls.Suspended between timber and foam, buoyed, then dropped,we pitch, catch hold. The seacradles the sighing hull. --Elise Paschen By Elise Paschen

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