Imperial Illusions
December 31, 2007

I. As I entered secondary school in the mid-1940s in what was still British India, I remember thinking that, despite our irritation with the British, it was rather agreeable that the favorite military music of the British Army was "Beating the Retreat." There was little sign in 1944 that the British were about to evacuate the country, despite the swelling torrent of the Indian national movement led by Gandhi and other political leaders; but the decisive moment was not far off.

The Judge
December 10, 2007

Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1920s and 1930s: The Shores of Light, Axel's Castle, Uncollected Reviews By Edmund Wilson Edited by Lewis Dabney (The Library of America, 958 pp., $40) Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s and 1940s: The Triple Thinkers, The Wound and the Bow, Classics and Commercials, Uncollected Reviews By Edmund Wilson Edited by Lewis Dabney (The Library of America, 979 pp., $40) Edmund Wilson, a man of idiosyncratic temperament and unpredictable taste, has solidified in retrospect into a marmoreal figure, a sort of jowly Supreme Court justice of the literary imaginati

December 10, 2007

My Grandfather's Son: A MemoirBy Clarence Thomas(Harper, 289 pp., $26.95)Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence ThomasBy Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher(Doubleday, 422 pp., $26.95)A society overwhelmed by the culture of celebrity will not suffer from a surfeit of reverence for authority. Authority, after all, requires a mystique, even and perhaps especially in a democracy, where the leveling impulse that is a feature of egalitarian politics can spill over into something ugly, into a cynical, envious, or voyeuristic appetite for the degradation of leaders.

December 10, 2007

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary Translated by Robert Alter (W.W. Norton, 518 pp., $35) "Whatever David says in his book pertains to himself, to all Israel, and to all times," declares Midrash Tehillim, the early rabbinic commentary on the Book of Psalms. If the rabbis erred, it was not on the side of exaggeration. It is not just Israel that placed the Book of Psalms, traditionally but falsely ascribed to King David, at the center of its spiritual vocabulary.

Nice Genes
December 03, 2007

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.

Get Serious
November 29, 2007

Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global TerrorBy Ian Shapiro(Princeton University Press, 208 pp., $24.95)The effects of the Iraq war upon the discussion of American foreign policy have come in waves. The first wave was all about competence. In book after book, in article after article, the bungling of the war by the Bush administration has been made outrageously clear.

Health Care Special Issue: The Questions Cure
November 12, 2007

is a professor of social medicine at Columbia and president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. He is also associate director of the Prescription Project, working to strengthen conflict-of-interest policies at academic medical centers. How Doctors Think By Jerome Groopman(Houghton Mifflin, 320 pp., $26) Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance By Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 273 pp., $24) Medicine today is both a wonder and a disaster.

Get Serious
November 12, 2007

was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, and was world affairs commentator for Sky News for the last two years. Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global Terror By Ian Shapiro (Princeton University Press, 208 pp.,$24.95) The effects of the Iraq war upon the discussion of American foreign policy have come in waves.

The Most Mysterious Right
November 12, 2007

Out of RangeBy Mark V. Tushnet(Oxford University Press, 156 pp., $19.95)In 1991, Warren E.

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