Books

Drink and the Old Devil
May 21, 2007

The Life of Kingsley AmisBy Zachary Leader (Pantheon Books, 996 pp., $39.95) WHAT ESSENTIAL ingredients go to make up a satirist? In particular,what high-octane social gases are needed to fuel, and to spark, his (seldom, till the feminist revolution, her) process of internal combustion? Facit indignatio versum, snarled Juvenal, that poverty-stricken and passé gentleman place-seeker, two millennia ago: it is resentment that drives me to write.

Heavy Thinker
May 21, 2007

Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative DestructionBy Thomas K. McCraw (Harvard University Press, 719 pp., $35) I KNEW Joseph Schumpeter only in the last five years of his life, from 1945 until his death in 1950, at the age of sixty-six. To say that I knew him is actually a bit of an exaggeration. First as a returning undergraduate and then as a doctoral student in economics at Harvard, I attended his courses on advanced economic theory andthe history of economic thought. The theory lectures bordered onincoherent; they alluded to everything but analyzed nothing.

Military History
May 07, 2007

In the current issue of TNR, I argue that military history is being neglected by major U.S. universities, and that we can't understand the war on terrorism--nor any violent conflict--without a better grasp of the wars and strategies of the past. To that end, here are some books that help illuminate the history of war.   • Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Up From Bullshit
October 30, 2006

On Truth By Harry Frankfurt (Alfred A. Knopf, 101 pp., $12.50) I. In his prime, and without benefit of a keyboard, Samuel Johnson could write twelve thousand words a day. I doubt that there are many more than half that number in Harry Frankfurt’s diminutive book On Bullshit, which was an unexpected best-seller for Princeton University Press last year, shyly peeking out next to the cash registers in bookshops everywhere.

The Pen and the Baton
October 09, 2006

Divas and Scholars:  Performing Italian Opera  By Philip Gossett 

Mourning in America
May 01, 2006

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING By Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf, 227 pp., $23.95) THE BEST DAY THE WORST DAY: LIFE WITH JANE KENYON By Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin, 258 pp., $23) It has long been a sociological truism that we live in a world with few meaningful public forms, social customs, or religious ceremonies. Yet it is only when we face such devastating events as the death of a loved one that we learn what such truisms mean in lived experience: at the time of our most desperate need, we find ourselves abandoned to our own devices.

America the Ruthless
August 08, 2005

Born Losers: A History of Failure in AmericaBy Scott A. Sandage Harvard University Press, 362 pp. You might approach a book about losers with a certain hauteur. And Scott A. Sandage's opening anecdote about an unidentified loser who died in 1862 lends itself to your hunch that his book is going to be a dutiful trudge through a gallery of garden-variety failures. "I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he had no ambition," a friend grieved at the man's funeral. That's page one.

The Missing Joy
July 04, 2005

  Perfect Madness By Judith Warner (Riverhead, 327 pp., $23.95)   How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-At-Work Moms By Wendy Sachs (Da Capo, 205 pp., $19.95   White House Nannies By Barbara Kline (Tarcher/Penguin, 238 pp., $23.95) I Midway through my first pregnancy, I began to receive mailings from a company called “One Step Ahead,” which promised “thoughtfully selected products to help with baby … every step of the way.” My son’s needs were still simple, satisfied by umbilical cord and placenta, but once he arrived, I came to understand, matters would get more complicated.

The Missing Joy
July 04, 2005

Perfect Madness By Judith Warner (Riverhead, 327 pp., $23.95)    How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms By Wendy Sachs (Da Capo, 205 pp., $19.95)   White House Nannies By Barbara Kline (Tarcher/Penguin, 238 pp., $23.95)    I. Midway through my first pregnancy, I began to receive mailings from a company called "One Step Ahead," which promised "thoughtfully selected products to help with baby ...

The Gene Wars
May 02, 2005

The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington By Oren Solomon Harman(Harvard University Press, 329 pp., $49.95) In the half-century after the identification of the structure of DNA in 1953, a generation of biologists forged the revolution of molecular genetics. They deciphered the genetic code, invented biotechnology, and found themselves entangled in the high-stakes and sometimes tempestuous politics of genetics and society.

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