The Father of Spin Control
February 01, 1993
For King and Country: The Maturing of George Washington, 1748-1760 by Thomas A. Lewis (HarperCollins, 203 pp., $27.50) Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by Richard Norton Smith (Houghton Mifflin, 424 pp., $24.95) George Washington is a hard man to get to know. Despite repeated attempts to humanize hint, beginning with Parson Weems's efforts in 1800 to demonstrate that the young Washington could cut down cherry trees but never tell a lie, he remains to this day, as historians like to say, more a monument than a man.
The Old Magician
April 27, 1992
Reading the aged Tolstoy stirs the heart. He will not yield to time, sloth, or nature. He clings to the waist of the life force. Deep into old age, he
The Child Monarch
September 09, 1991
President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon (Simon and Schuster, 948 pp., $24.95) An American Life by Ronald Reagan (Simon and Schuster, 748 pp., $24.95) I. Maybe the local time just seems slower because the current occupant of the White House is a hyperactive gland case. Anyhow, it's hard to believe that only a couple of years have passed since the Reagans went away. It was a touching moment, we now learn.
One Nation Under a Groove
July 15, 1991
I. My dream was to become Frank Sinatra. I loved his phrasing, especially when he was very young and pure….
Field of Dreams
September 04, 1989
From Beirut to Jerusalem By Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 525 pp., $22.95) Thomas Friedman’s account of his journey as a reporter from Beirut to Jerusalem is rich in precisely the qualities that made his dispatches from those two capitals so memorable, and so breathtaking. We have to go back to David Halberstam, and perhaps to Homer Bigart, for another American foreign correspondent so unerringly alert to the illuminating detail.
The Human Factor: Are Characters Like People?
May 08, 1989
The idea of character, once taken to be central to the reading of novels, has come into critical disrepute. Literary theorists are eager to dismember
Excerpt From: “Talk Talk”
February 16, 1987
Now that the schools have more or less abandoned the responsibility, passing judgment on speech has become semi-institutionalized in our society in the columns and commentaries of the so-called 'pop grammarians.' The label is a little unfair, since talking about talk is, or ought to be, a kind of right of cultural citizenship.
The Improlific Appetite
July 01, 1985
Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-century England by Louis Crompton (University of California Press, 419 pp., $24.95) The central subject of this book is declared in its subtitle rather than in its title. Homophobia (fear and hatred of homosexuals) played a particular role in English life. No executions for homosexual acts are recorded in Continental Europe after 1791, but the figures remained constant at about two a year in England for the three decades after 1806. Executions for every other capital offense declined dramatically.
A New Deal Hero
July 01, 1985
Harold Ickes of the New Deal by Graham White and John Maze (Harvard University Press, 263 pp., $20) The title of this book gives the reader hope that the authors will open a window on the idealism, the accomplishments, and the significance of the people who made up the Roosevelt administration. But that hope quickly dims. The book presents only a minuscule part of the story of the New Deal that transformed the stark capitalism of the 1920s into the welfare state of the 1930s.
In Praise of Spying
July 01, 1985
Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition by Stansfield Turner (Houghton Mifein, 304 pp., $16.95) "Arrogant, insensitive, absurd ideas … [he] has ruined the place. …" That was the common run of rightward Washington comment on Stansfield Turner as director of Central Intelligence by the end of 1977, his first year in office. By then Jimmy Carter no longer maintained his deceptive pretension to bi-Pauline balance.