Jackboots and Whole Foods
March 12, 2008

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning By Jonah Goldberg (Doubleday, 496 pp., $27.95) In graduate school I had a professor, a famous Marxist, who devoted a significant portion of a lecture to the subject of artifacts.

A Close Shave
February 27, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (DreamWorks) Foreigners By Caryl Phillips (Knopf, 235 pp., $24.95)Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author By Edward John Trelawny (New York Review Books, 308 pp., $12.95) I. As Sweeney Todd croons to his razor, "My friend, my faithful friend," more in love with its sharp blade than with Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, you may find yourself wondering what it is about opera and its ubiquitous vengeful barbers.

The Pleasures of Reaction
February 27, 2008

They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons By Jacob Heilbrunn (Doubleday, 320 pp., $26) Can I get a show of hands?

February 27, 2008

Ortega y Gasset makes much fuss somewhere speculating that Goethe, glorious Goethe, mismanaged the project of realizing his selfhood, that he was one of those "I"'s who aren't truly at one with themselves, who in construing themselves betray the "I" they could/should have been.     This is as I recall it, though possibly I, who for the greater part of my life have been involved in an adversarial relation with myself, berating, accusing, demanding I be someone I'm not, shouldn't be wholly trusted in this: Ortega may well have meant something entirely else (what, though?).     Anyway, put things

Behind the Veil
February 27, 2008

Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy By John Rawls Edited by Samuel Freeman (Harvard University Press, 476 pp., $35)   Ever since ancient times, philosophers have sought to define the proper goals of political life. Yet in the age of modern democracy, when citizens themselves are held to decide through the various institutions of government the laws and the norms under which they will live together, political philosophy can look profoundly undemocratic.

Science and Sorrow
February 27, 2008

The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder By Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield (Oxford University Press, 287 pp., $29.95) I. In the early 1970s, annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) were home to angry showdowns between the gay rights lobby and organized psychiatry. Activists picketed convention sites, shouted down speakers, and waged ad hominem attacks on psychiatrists who sincerely believed that homosexuality was a sickness.

February 27, 2008

The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial By James Q. Whitman (Yale University Press, 276 pp., $40) I. To be convicted of a crime in our courts, a defendant must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This rule is both fundamental to the criminal justice system of the United States and uncontroversial.

The Land of Lost Content
February 13, 2008

The Letters of A.E. Housman Edited by Archie Burnett (Oxford University Press, 2 volumes, 643 pp. and 585 pp., $330) I. FOR MORE YEARS than I care to think about, I have been haunted in a variety of ways by the acerbic and enigmatic ghost of A.E. Housman. It began with A Shropshire Lad, which I discovered (when else?) early in adolescence.

Stolarska Street
February 13, 2008

The small crowd by the American consulate ripples like a jellyfish in water. A young Dominican strides down the sidewalk and passersby yield piously. I'm at home again, silent as a Buddhist. I count the days of happiness and fretting, days spent seeking you frantically, finding just a metaphor, an image, days of Ecclesiastes and the Psalmist.   I remember the heatstruck scent of heather, the smell of sap in the forest by the sea, the dark of a white chapel in Provence, where only a candle's sun glowed. I remember Greece's small olives, Westphalia's gleaming railroads and the long trip to bid m

The Vital Centrist
February 13, 2008

Journals: 1952-2000 By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (Penguin Press, 894 pp., $40) I. FEW HISTORIANS write personal journals that deserve publication, which is not surprising. How much interest can there be in the academic controversies and petty jealousies that dominate the lives of working historians, much less in the archives, the private libraries, and the lecture halls where they spend so much of their time?