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

May 07, 2008

City with the loveliest name, Syracuse; don't let me forget the dim antiquity of your side streets, the pouting balconies that once caged Spanish ladies, the way the sea breaks on Ortygia's walls. Plato met defeat here, escaped with his life, what can be said about us, unreal tourists. Your cathedral rose atop a Greek temple and still grows, but very slowly, like the heavy pleas of beggars and widows. At midnight fishing boats radiate sharp light, demanding prayers for the perished, the lonely, for you, city abandoned on a continent's rim, and for us, imprisoned in our travels. By Adam Zagajew

Correspondence: Leon Wieseltier Responds To Andrew Sullivan
April 24, 2008

I still do not see why a Catholic cannot call a Muslim a fraud or a Jew call a Protestant a liar or an agnostic call a believer a cynic, or why one's identity should have any bearing upon the truth or falsity of anything one says, or why the Christianization of Republican politics should not be attributed directly to Christians, but about one thing I wish to be piercingly clear: I do not believe that Andrew Sullivan is an anti-Semite. No, it is more than a matter of my own belief.

The End of the End of History
April 23, 2008

is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund. His new book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, will be published by Knopf later this month. I.In the early 1990s, optimism was understandable. The collapse of the communist empire and the apparent embrace of democracy by Russia seemed to augur a new era of global convergence. The great adversaries of the Cold War suddenly shared many common goals, including a desire for economic and political integration.

'What We Know About Murdered Peoples'
April 09, 2008

Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive By Samuel D. Kassow (Indiana University Press, 523 pp., $34.95) I. This may well be the most important book about history that anyone will ever read. It is also a very important book of history, telling the story of an extraordinary research project in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1940 and 1943. As a tale about why doing history matters, Samuel D. Kassow's book has few equals in our collective record.

How Much Can We Stand?
April 09, 2008

A Secular AgeBy Charles Taylor(Harvard University Press, 874 pp., $39.95) I. 'Bored" and "uninformed" was how Philip Larkin felt on entering a church, wondering: "when churches fall completely out of use / What we shall turn them into." Unlike Britain, where the pews are generally empty, America is not likely to see its churches fall into disuse anytime soon. The apparent vitality of religion on this side of the Atlantic has long been invoked as a conspicuous contrast with the increasing de-Christianization of Europe.

The Smirk
April 09, 2008

I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation By Francis Picabia Translated by Marc Lowenthal (MIT Press, 477 pp., $39.95) 'He had 7 yachts, 127 automobiles, and that is little compared to his women, " Francis Picabia's last wife wrote of him in 1949, with the painter's grinning complicity. Spanish and Cuban on his diplomat father's side, related through his mother to the conservative Parisian haute bourgeoisie, Picabia was born into a life of privilege in 1879 and, by virtually all accounts, he never grew up.

Late Pieta
April 09, 2008

Because, in spite of the splendor it's revealed in him, in spite of a lifetime unbinding its homeliest and sublime expression from locked, stone-fast torpor, the body is not at the end godlike, bends in the wrong places, drags its feet and head sloppily, incontinent--let it dangle here, pregnant with true origin and destiny. And because at the end someone must be there, some one or two (for it is heavy) to suffer its new demands, let them be tender, a worn father, a young mother, like his, though neither would comprehend anymore his need now--dim memory?

The Purposes of Circuses
March 26, 2008

I used to know a guy, at least I wish I did Who could stand on one finger for a minute flat.   I never said he could dance at the same time. Did I? I never said I really knew him.   But I saw him once at the Greatest Show Well... at that time... on Earth. Saw him true   With these very eyes. We even got to counting down Or counting up depending on your numbers system   Fifty one, fifty two, like that. And by the end, We were all cheering like raspberries were in season.   I tried it once myself when I was in the Navy And full of beans.

Jeanne's Way
March 26, 2008

Madame Proust: A Biography By Evelyne Bloch-Dano Translated by Alice Kaplan (University of Chicago Press, 310 pp., $27.50) IT HAS NEVER BEEN CLEAR what, if anything, should be made of the fact that Proust's mother was a Jew. This genealogical fact means that in the patently irrelevant terms of Jewish law, he, too, could be called a Jew, while in the equally irrelevant terms of biology he was half-Jewish.