Pleasure Harvest
July 01, 2009

When she took a position in a distant city he knew He could not follow and in the months afterwards he built Them a home where she was still with him even Though they never lived together. Mornings they made coffee In this kitchen, washed the berries, read books on the long couch, Their legs touching in some configuration, and one would interrupt The other's reading to make some observation on the art They both practiced.

Negligent Worldicide
June 17, 2009

The bear climbed over the mountain,and what do you think he saw?History raging and ravaging, carving upthe one and only body of the earth,the new century already broken into,ransacked, roads unsafe,war playing in the background,infants crawling on the landfill. The earth was heaven once, and now it's hell.Since it's already begun to embalm itself,let's assume that that these are close toour last words. That's what I meant by urgent. Oh fuck, I'm going to have to take itin my arms again.

Now We Know
June 17, 2009

Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev (Yale University Press, 637 pp., $35) If one were trying to define the lowest point in the long and venerable tradition of American anti-communism, surely it came in 2003, with the publication of Ann Coulter's Treason.

Resurrection of John Keats
June 17, 2009

First, brace yourself. The romantic is back, feet propped, convalescing from the fiction of an interventionist god. Tough journey. Long. Oxymoronic lovechild of nature and art, tell it slant on that red guitar: that nightingale is not a bird. It's a folio of Homer, a cashcow on fire.

A Byzantine Heart
June 17, 2009

C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems Translated, with introduction and commentary, by Daniel Mendelsohn (Alfred A. Knopf, 624 pp., $35) C.P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems Translated, with introduction and commentary, by Daniel Mendelsohn (Alfred A. Knopf, 144 pp., $30) I. Greece, as a nation-state, has only existed since 1832. The Greece that most of us have at the back of our minds, that of archaic and classical antiquity, consisted of a collection of quarrelsomely independent city-states, united only by language, cult, and a contempt for the Barbarian Other.

Marvelously Selfish
June 17, 2009

Kazan on Directing Edited and with commentary by Robert Cornfield (Knopf, 368 pp., $32.50) If anyone wants to make the case for Elia Kazan as one of the outstanding twentieth-century Americans, there is a famous text to call in support. I refer to A Life, Kazan's autobiography, published in 1988 at 848 pages (it was cut to make it a reasonable length), and one of the most forceful and engrossing books ever written about a life in the arts or show business.

The Way of Distortion
June 03, 2009

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'ConnorBy Brad Gooch(Little, Brown, 416 pp., $30)'I am one of those people who could die for his religion sooner than take a bath for it," Flannery O'Connor wrote during the spring of 1958, after her rich Savannah cousin Katie Semmes had paid for a pilgrimage to the healing waters of Lourdes for O'Connor, who was suffering from lupus, and for her mother, Regina.

The Miracle At Bethel
June 03, 2009

Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding FathersBy Richard S. Newman(New York University Press, 359 pp., $34.95)Few Americans know the extraordinary story of Richard Allen, who rose from slavery in colonial America to become a prosperous entrepreneur and inspirational preacher in the early republic. In this bold biography, Richard Newman rescues Allen from obscurity to achieve a larger goal: to recognize African Americans as active makers of the American republic.

Human Condition
June 03, 2009

Hard not to wake at least somewhat cheerfulwhen you can listen to Angela Hewitt playing Couperinin the morning and the dogwood's bloomingand you have a lover--not a perfect one,mind you, but it's hardly a world meantfor perfection anyway--and, yes, back painof course, high cholesterol, very little socked awayfor retirement, but so what?

Surging and Awakening
May 20, 2009

  The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 By Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press, 394 pp., $27.95) I. FROM CENTRALITY TO banality: perhaps no other event in modern American history has gone from being contentious to being forgotten as quickly as the war in Iraq. Remember the war? It consumed a trillion American dollars, devoured a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, squandered a country’s reputation, and destroyed an American presidency.