Homage to Caledonia
December 03, 2008

The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History By Hugh Trevor-Roper (Yale University Press, 282 pp., $30) Hugh Trevor-Roper seemed to be an Oxford don supplied by central casting. An erect Northumbrian with a distinctly patrician air, he commanded a grandee position impregnably within the Establishment.

The Imperial Vice Presidency
November 19, 2008

Angler: The Cheney Vice PresidencyBy Barton Gellman (Penguin Press, 384 pp., $27.95) As Americans prepare to choose a new president, it may seem a curious exercise to rehearse the manifest failures of the current one. But either Barack Obama or John McCain is going to be stuck with the burdensome legacy of the Bush years, and the rest of us will be too--possibly for a long time. The war in Iraq is still with us. So are Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The Wall Street cataclysm will ramify, locally and globally, for many months, perhaps years.

Welcome To The Party
November 19, 2008

On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and PartisanshipBy Nancy Rosenblum (Princeton University Press, 576 pp., $29.95) Partisanship is resurgent in America, and hardly anyone likes it. To say that American politics has become polarized along party lines is tantamount, for most people, to acknowledging that something has gone wrong with the country.

The Discovery Of Pride
November 19, 2008

Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus GarveyBy Colin Grant (Oxford University Press, 530 pp., $27.95) I. In the pantheon of the past century's African American leaders, Marcus Garvey holds an exceedingly ambiguous place.

Song: Infernal
November 19, 2008

I was lost in the middle of my life when the planes hit the towers, lost in the middle of my life when the glass gods, one at a time, cowered and fell, when a bomb of blue sky exploded a bride where she stood-- I was lost in the middle of my life, far from a leopard, far from a dark wood--  when the night clerk at Circle K handed me back too much change, I was lost in the middle of our life's way, when an army of wings arranged  on flatbed trucks brushed past me on the road, I was lost in the hallways of a glass dream, trying to find my way out to the ground turning in circles, crying secretly

Paste and Future
November 19, 2008

Scrapbooks: An American HistoryBy Jessica Helfand (Yale University Press, 244 pp., $45) Mark Twain had one. So did Anne Sexton, Lillian Hellman, Harry Wolfson of Harvard, and little Hattie Briggs of rural Michigan. I also had one, and I suspect that you did, too. I am referring to the scrapbook--that odd assemblage of memorabilia and mucilage that once ruled the roost when it came to recording the details of one's life and one's sentimental education.

The Revolt
November 19, 2008

Picture a certain banker's house and its crawl space, then imagine a circumstance in which he has to crawl. If you want to take part, imagine rats' nests and a leaking pipe, and all the plumbers in the world tired of shit, not answering their phones. For I have come to my banker's house, already having unscrewed what down below was screwed tight. I've rung his bell, and have been made to wait in the garden and take off my shoes.

The Lonely Workman
November 19, 2008

Descartes' Loneliness By Allen Grossman (New Directions, 70 pp., $16.95) At the start of Descartes' Loneliness, the tenth collection of poetry by Allen Grossman, the speaker has posed a question to the world that we, the readers, have arrived too late to hear. The book begins, in the title poem, with the world's response: Toward evening, the natural light becomes intelligent and answers, without demur: "Be assured! You are not alone..." Perhaps the question expressed solitude, even the fundamental solitude of the uncertain and inconsolable human mind.

Choosing Life
November 05, 2008

Memoirs By Hans Jonas Edited by Christian Wiese Translated by Krishna Winston (Brandeis University Press, 320 pp., $35)   The Life and Thought of Hans Jonas: Jewish Dimensions By Christian Wiese (Brandeis University Press, 292 pp., $50)   I. Hans Jonas was a philosopher, not a prophet, but his teachings speak as powerfully to our age of global warming, global markets, and Manichaean geopolitics as they did to the century of world wars in which he developed them.

July 20, 1969
November 05, 2008

Snail-track of jism? No, that was the moon     silvering the tongue-and-groove of floor,     my parents arguing outside on the stair, the primal "We should get a divorce" scene (sound up and over: from The Guiding Light).     I slept. I woke.