Books

A Translation of Silk
April 15, 2009

One can shove his face against silk& breathe in centuries of perfumeon the edge of a war-torn morningwhere men fell so hard for ironthey could taste it. Now, todaya breeze disturbs a leafy pagodaprinted on slow cloth. A creekbegins to move. His brain trails,lagging behind his fingers to learnsuggestion is more than radianceshaped to the memory of hands,that one of the smallest creaturesknows how to be an impressive god.A flounce of light is the only praiseit ever receives.

The Collector
April 15, 2009

Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963By Susan SontagEdited by David Rieff(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 318 pp., $24)I.It is somehow appropriate that the voice of deep and anguished ambivalence that you hear at the beginning of Susan Sontag's early journals and notebooks does not belong to Susan Sontag. Self-doubt, after all, was not a quality you generally associated with her.

Black Is Brilliant
April 15, 2009

Alain Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher By Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth (University of Chicago Press, 432 pp., $45) In conversation in London with the British Conservative leader David Cameron this past summer, Barack Obama lamented the frantic over-scheduling that encourages micromanagement and with it the temptation to try and "solve everything and end up being a dilettante." Instead, he concluded, "the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking." His remark, not meant to be made public but caught on tape, d

Shorting Reason
April 15, 2009

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global CapitalismBy George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller(Princeton University Press, 264 pp., $24.95)The economics profession has been greatly embarrassed by the economic crisis. The crisis began last September, with the crash of the banking industry (broadly defined, as it should be in this deregulatory era, to include investment banks and other financial intermediaries besides commercial banks), and of the stock market and other financial markets.

The Shah of Venezuela
April 01, 2009

is the editor of Letras Libres and the author of Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996 (Harper Perennial). This essay was translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. I.The sacralization of history is an ancient practice in Latin America. In the region's Catholic countries, stories of the past, with their heroes and their villains, became instant paraphrases of the Holy Story, complete with martyrologies, holy days, and iconic representations of secular saints.

Night and Cog
April 01, 2009

The Kindly Ones By Jonathan LittellTranslated by Charlotte Mandell (Harper, 984 pp., $29.99) The Kindly Ones has all the trappings of a Very Important Novel. It is a doorstop: 975 pages (plus appendices) in its English translation, heroically accomplished by Charlotte Mandell. Its cover heralds it as an "international best-seller" (although this cynical American suspects that only in Europe can a book of such bulk and pretension sell nearly a million copies).

Wishin' and Mopin'
April 01, 2009

Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods By Annie J. Randall (Oxford University Press, 219 pp., $24.95) We do our best to keep up, those of us tottering into the back of The New Republic's book once a fortnight. So I have my work and my life as well as those of my wife and children. I have revenues to raise and taxes to pay. On Super Bowl Sunday, I cared just about enough to watch the game, though I was more certain to watch Chelsea versus Liverpool, live, in the West Coast morning. I hope to read a couple of books a month. I worry, but I like to have time for doing nothing.

Art
April 01, 2009

I thought I was hearing the heat coming on ticking the pipes but it was a can of paint being shaken, it was a thumb cocked on a nozzle before the word was called into being-- then came the hiss of breath and a name. It was very late and I was up reading, alight on the thumb fly on the wall and did not call the cops on the sound. By Lia Purpura

Becoming France
April 01, 2009

Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914By Robert Gildea(Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) The history of France in the "long nineteenth century" is bookended by slaughter. At one end stand the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and at the other, World War I, both of which left the country traumatized, exhausted, and grieving for a lost generation. Remarkably, though, these two exercises in exsanguination have failed to overshadow the years in between as heavily as one might expect.

The Shah of Venezuela
April 01, 2009

The ideas that keep Hugo Chavez in power.

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