Rights of Passage
February 25, 2002
A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Mary Ann Glendon (Random House, 333 pp., $25.95) Are rights universal? Can diverse people, across religious and ethnic differences, agree about what rights people have? Might it be possible to produce agreements about the content of rights among people from different nations--not simply England, America, Germany, and France, but China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Cuba, and Japan, too? What would such an agreement look like?
A Child of His Century
February 24, 2002
The epic tale of Sandinista poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra.
Jed Perl on Art: Bookings
December 17, 2001
I. Picture books are the first books that any of us know. Before we can decode words or even letters, we are clutching their covers and awkwardly turning their pages. These books are our introduction to the mysteries of metaphor, to a combination of paper and printer's ink that can take us anywhere, reveal anything, whether fact or fiction or some mix of the two. You might say that picture books, even when we are too young actually to read them, are our primal reading experiences.
September 24, 2001
A thousand horrible questions present themselves, but one is how, as appears to have happened, four teams of terrorists could have hijacked four airliners simultaneously. How did they get their weapons through security? How did they take over aircraft so rapidly that, apparently, no distress calls were sent by pilots? This article was written within hours of the attack and, therefore, the possible answers it offers are highly speculative.
Signs of the Times
July 30, 2001
John Ruskin: The Later Years by Tim Hilton (Yale University Press, 656 pp., $35) In the second volume of John Ruskin's three-volume study The Stones of Venice, which appeared in 1853, there is a chapter titled "The Nature of Gothic." It opens conventionally enough, with Ruskin promising to describe the "characteristic or moral elements" of the Gothic; but readers who were familiar with Ruskin's earlier works, Modern Painters and The Seven Lamps of Architecture, and who had been dazzled by his word-pictures of works of art and scenes of nature, could not possibly have expected a straightforwar
Plottings, Real and Otherwise
July 02, 2001
Radical political figures attract film-makers. Those figures seem the available equivalents of saints or idealistic heroes; and since a good number of them ended badly they have some of the aura of tragedy. But in most cases such figures are cinematic snares--not because of the character or the heroism, but because of the politics. Warren Beatty's Reds (1981) is the best film he has made, but it never became much more complex than a biography of John Reed's love life against a revolutionary background.
July 02, 2001
George w. Bush's trip to Europe last week offered America's highbrow press something delicious: a big, new foreign policy idea. Europe and the United States, we were told over and over, are drifting apart because of a conflict over values. During the cold war, Europe resented America for what it did; today, Europe resents America for what it believes. Global warming, missile defense, the death penalty, economic policy--each dispute further illustrated this transatlantic cultural gulf. A clash of civilizations! What fun. Too bad it probably isn't true.
May 14, 2001
Mario Vargas Llosa on the premature obituary of the book.
December 18, 2000
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Karen V. Kukil (Anchor Books, 732 pp., $18) Saturday exhausted, nerves frayed. Sleepless. Threw you, book, down, punched with fist. Kicked, punched. Violence seethed. Joy to murder someone, pure scapegoat. But pacified during necessity to work. ... Baked a lemon meringue pie, cooled lemon custard and crust on cold bathroom windowsill, stirring in black night and stars. Set table, candles, glasses sparkling crystal barred crystal on yellow woven cloth ...
April 17, 2000
As Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic waited limply in the dock last month, Claude Jorda, the French judge who serves as president of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, lingered over his judgment before a crammed courtroom gallery. He described village upon Muslim village that Blaskic's Croat forces had ravaged. He conceded that Muslim forces had also committed abuses but rejected the argument--so often made by defendants in these courtrooms and by belligerents on the ground--that one group's crimes excused another's.