Brownsville

Quarantined
February 08, 2012

Some months ago, I phoned my 84-year-old grandmother on a quiet Saturday afternoon after enduring a torrent of pleading from my father. I hadn’t spoken to her in two or three years, and she was lonely, he said.

The Dissenter
November 23, 2011

On July 30, 2011, thousands of public school teachers rallied on the southwest corner of the Ellipse, near the White House. Union members mingled with the occasional communist pamphleteer, and, on a temporary stage, a series of activists, students, scholars, and teachers put forward variations on a theme: Standardized tests and corporate interests are ruining public education. Late in the program, the actor Matt Damon showed up and began chatting amiably with an older, gray-haired woman sitting next to him on the stage. It turned out he wasn’t the only star in attendance.

The Inner Clamor
October 26, 2011

Alfred Kazin’s Journals Selected and edited by Richard M. Cook (Yale University Press, 598 pp., $45)  “As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers.” Alfred Kazin reveled in William Blake’s words in 1944, at the age of twenty-nine, as he stood in the Huntington Library turning the pages of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. When he described this epiphany in New York Jew, the third volume of his memoirs, Kazin clearly wanted the reader to be swept up, as he was, by the sovereignty of the Blakean self: “All is within the vaulting leaping mind of man,” he continues.

Downtime
September 22, 2010

It’s the height of chutzpah for me to envy the mother in Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep—she’s a bitterly poor immigrant in a walk-up in Brownsville, New York; I’ve got a babysitter and an apartment on Riverside Drive—but I felt a twinge of envy anyway when I reread the novel last year. After interrupting her sweeping to give her five-year-old son, David Schearl, a drink of water, David’s mother gently asks, “Aren’t you ever going down into the street? The morning grows old.” And down he goes, this mama’s boy, to the street and its little Jewish toughs.

How Mexican Drug Homicides Are Good For Business
October 26, 2009

This may only be of interest to fellow members of the El Paso diaspora, but it's pretty damn interesting to me. From today's Wall Street Journal:  The violence in Mexico has provided an unexpected economic boost to El Paso, a city of more than 600,000 residents at the westernmost tip of Texas.

The Troubadour Intellectual
March 26, 2008

Alfred Kazin: A Biography By Richard M. Cook (Yale University Press, 452 pp., $35) I. Alfred Kazin had one great, abiding subject. He wanted to tell the world what it felt like to become a writer in mid-century America. In three autobiographical volumes published over a period of a quartercentury, he dug so deep into his own life story, which had begun in hardscrabble Brooklyn and climaxed in the glamorous Manhattan of the 1960s, that he managed to tell the story of an entire generation.

The Contract with K Street
December 04, 1995

When 367 Republican House candidates signed the Contract with America on September 27, 1994, they pledged to create "a Congress that is doing what the American people want and doing it in a way that instills trust." As they stood on the steps of the Capitol, Texas Representative Dick Armey declared, "[W]e enter a new era in American government. Today one political party is listening to the concerns of the American people, and we are responding with specific legislation.