A Paler Shade of White
June 24, 2002
Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past by David R. Roediger (University of California Press, 323 pp., $29.95) "What is a White Man?" asked Charles Chesnutt in the pages of the Independent, a mass-circulation weekly, in 1889. This was no mere academic question.
February 11, 2002
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa translated by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 404 pp., $25) "There are no limits to deterioration: it can always be worse." This observation by Alejandro Mayta, the disenchanted guerrilla fighter of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, who returns to his birthplace after many years, freed of ghosts but devoid of hope, came to mind in March, 1990.
Thorny of Thornies
February 04, 2002
Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy Cityby Bernard Wasserstein(Yale University Press, 412 pp., $29.95)The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalemby Kanan Makiya(Pantheon, 349 pp., $26)It is often said that, of the many problems standing in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Jerusalem is the most intractable. Such issues as the 1967 borders, the future of the Jewish settlements, the fate of the Palestinian refugees, Palestinian demilitarization, economic relations, water rights, and so on are all justly held to be thorny.
October 29, 2001
Playing It Safe: How the Supreme Court Sidesteps Hard Cases and Stunts the Development of Law by Lisa Kloppenberg (New York University Press, 304 pp., $38) For many years, Israel's General Security Service has engaged in certain forms of physical coercion, reasonably described as torture, of suspected terrorists. Suspected terrorists have been repeatedly shaken, in a way that causes their heads and necks to dangle and to vacillate rapidly. They have been tied in chairs for long periods of time, their heads covered in opaque and foul-smelling sacks, while very loud music is played.
October 15, 2001
Alexander Hamilton: Writings edited by Joanne B. Freeman (The Library of America, 1,108 pp., $40)Poor Alexander Hamilton! Once the darling of conservative Republicans, he has now fallen drastically out of favor. Some conservative activists are even seeking to take Hamilton's portrait off the ten-dollar bill and replace it with the image of Ronald Reagan.
The Marble Cell
September 24, 2001
I. The Education of Laura Bridgman: The First Deaf and Blind Person to Learn Language by Ernest Freeberg (Harvard University Press, 264 pp., $27.95) The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl by Elisabeth Gitter (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 341 pp., $26) Helen Keller: A Life by Dorothy Herrmann (Alfred A.
September 24, 2001
Ornamentalism by David Cannadine Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $25) When Hitler wished to relax after a hard day at the office, he liked to watch films in his private screening room. Nazi propaganda movies were not his favorite entertainment; they felt too much like work. Hitler liked swashbuckling Hollywood films, and one picture in particular: Lives of a Bengal Lancer, starring Gary Cooper and C.
March 26, 2001
Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by H.J. Jackson (Yale University Press, 324 pp., $27.95) A certain Cambridge classics teacher named Walter Whiter suddenly became fairly famous when a peculiar book of his, A Specimen of a Commentary on Shakespeare, originally published and scorned in 1794, was rediscovered and for a while admired in the twentieth century. The brief vogue of the Specimen prompted some research into its author, so we know that Whiter was for some years the close friend of Richard Porson, the great Greek scholar.
Jazz Lips: On Louis Armstrong
November 22, 1999
There came a time when Louis Armstrong decided that his importance as a musician and his status as a worldwide American entertainer were of such magnitude that he should produce his own documentation of his career.
Doctors and Deities
October 13, 1997
A Review of Anne Fadiman's 'The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down'