Postmarked (Ars Poetica)
November 12, 2007

Shouting silently in the operating theatre, I become multiple, as all pandemonium's angels arose from one idea. Later at Mount Pleasant, neither mountain nor, I hover over slicing letters, parcels tumbling between destinations. I discern my own estranged members, more than parings if less than limbs. A dungeon's devices are indistinguishable from early surgical tools. I am coming home, I am leaving for good with no expectation of rest. At last the day is sorted. Whether growths or creations, my chattels jostle in their sacks and renounce me. By Carrie Etter

Counsel, Legal and Illegal
November 09, 2007

The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush AdministrationBy Jack L. Goldsmith(W.W. Norton, 256 pp., $25.95)Jack Goldsmith's book is quite possibly the first sober account of the pressures that a post-9/11 president faces in the attempt to respond under the rule of law to the security threats facing this country.

Jihadi Murat
November 07, 2007

For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central AsiaBy Robert D. Crews(Harvard University Press, 463 pp., $29.95)Russia's Islamic ThreatBy Gordon M. Hahn(Yale University Press, 349 pp., $35)I.Poskrebi russikogo i naydyosh tatarina: scratch a Russian and you will find a Tatar. The origin of this quip is uncertain (attributed to Napoleon, it is found in Michelet, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Marx, and Lenin); but its accuracy has made it into something of a Russian proverb.

Nice Genes
November 05, 2007

is an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary Program on Science Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University. He is the author of The Man Who Invented the Chromosome (Harvard University Press, 2004) and the co-editor of Rebels, Mavericks and Heretics in Biology (Yale University Press, 2008). The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origin of GoodnessBy Lee Alan Dugatkin (Princeton University Press, 188 pp., $24.95) I. The saga of man's quest to crack the mystery of altruism is a weird, uplifting, and sometimes tragic affair.

Counsel, Legal and Illegal
November 05, 2007

is a law professor at Georgetown University. He previously served as National Security Adviser at the U.S. Justice Department and successfully argued the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which struck down the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals last year. The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration By Jack L. Goldsmith(W.W. Norton, 256 pp., $25.95) Jack Goldsmith's book is quite possibly the first sober account of the pressures that a post-9/11 president faces in the attempt to respond under the rule of law to the security threats facing this country.

Animal Kingdom
November 05, 2007

Birdsong, antiphonal, shuttles the maples between Temple and Cliff Ave with gold. My splayed titian cocker glosses my fir floor. Smoke-dark, my cat droozling this page. Don't let me leave the earth too soon.I don't sleep at night. I am nothing, a mossy-lipped, granite, abandoned farm well full of iron-icy, deep, black well water. Where are the people, Melissa? I don't know. Oh, don't let me leave the earth too soon. By Melissa Green

Getting to the End
May 21, 2007

The Road By Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, 241 pp., $24) IN ADDITION to the 9/11 novel, and the 9/11 novel that is pretending not to be a 9/11 novel, an old genre has been re-awakened by new fears: the post-apocalyptic novel (which may well be, in fact, the 9/11 novel pretending not to be one). The possibility that familiar, habitual existence might be so disrupted within the next hundred years that crops will fail, warm places will turn into deserts, and species will become extinct—that areas of the earth may become uninhabitable—holds and horrifies the contemporary imagination.

The Thin Line
May 21, 2007

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil By Philip Zimbardo (Random House, 551 pp., $27.95) WHY DO human beings commit despicable acts? One answer points to individual dispositions; another answer emphasizes situational pressures. In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the importance of individual dispositions in describing terrorists as “simply evil people who want to kill.” Situationists reject this view. They believe that horrible acts can be committed by perfectly normal people.

Kaddish’s Nose
May 21, 2007

The Ministry of Special CasesBy Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf, 339 pp., $25) IN ONE OF the best-known stories in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, the collection of short stories that shot Nathan Englander into the literary stratosphere seven years ago, a middle-aged WASP sitting in a taxi cab has the sudden and inexplicable revelation that he is Jewish. The next day he visits a rabbi in Brooklyn, who informs him that he is a gilgul, or reincarnated soul, and sends him off with a copy of The Chosen.

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.