June 11, 2008
A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances, and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century By John Burrow (Knopf, 553 pp., $35) History was born in Greece in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E. It has flourished ever since then, in diverse but recognizably related forms, and it still exists today, as a form of inquiry into the past, a literary genre, and a set of practices plied and taught in universities. That's our story, in the West, and we're sticking to it. Or at least John Burrow is.
A Close Shave
February 27, 2008
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street(DreamWorks) ForeignersBy Caryl Phillips (Knopf, 235 pp., $24.95) Records of Shelley, Byron, and the AuthorBy 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 End of the Journey
July 02, 2007
I. In late 1988, when I set out to write a life of Whittaker Chambers,the cold war had reached its ceremonial endgame: Mikhail Gorbachevacknowledging the autonomy of peoples long after they had liberatedthemselves, valiant students halting tank columns in TiananmenSquare. It was an impressive, if occasionally hollow, spectacle,and it inspired a chorus of sweeping pronouncements in the UnitedStates.
Getting the Word Out
January 22, 2007
In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000 Edited by Michelle P. Brown (Smithsonian, 360 pp., $45) The numinous objects displayed in "In the Beginning," the exhibition of Bibles from before the year 1000 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., are beautiful, and their arrangement helps the visitor to the show (and the student of its extraordinary catalogue) see important things in a new light. Beauty first: the archipelago of dimly lit vitrines that stretches through several dark rooms reveals hand written Bibles as genuine works of art.
July 26, 2004
Kim Clark explores the financial dimensions of Greece's preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
April 07, 2003
Just when it seemed we had heard the last from the United Nations on the subject of Iraq, the battle of Turtle Bay resumed last week. An army of European statesmen regrouped and declared that, having been defeated in their efforts to constrain U.S. power before the war, they intend to pick up where they left off as soon as it ends. The European Union issued a formal statement insisting that "the U.N. must continue to play a central role" in Iraq, and the EU president, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, exhorted "the U.N.
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
Tablets to Books
May 14, 2001
Libraries in the Ancient World By Lionel Casson (Yale University Press, 177 pp., $22.95) One of the inscribed clay tablets in the library of Ashurbanipal, who was the king of Assyria from 668 B.C.
The Sea and the Text
July 12, 1999
The Returns of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity by Irad Malkin (University of California Press, 331 pp., $45) Celebrating Homer's Landscapes: Troy and Ithaca Revisited by J.V. Luce (Yale University Press, 260 pp., $35) For the modern traveler, Greece and its environs seem surprisingly small, a sea-girt checkerboard most often first glimpsed from the air. Most of the Aegean islands are on nodding terms with each other.
July 05, 1999
Last Summer, when President Clinton picked Richard Holbrooke to be his new ambassador to the United Nations, Holbrooke's confirmation by the Senate seemed like a virtual formality. After all, even those who don't like Holbrooke's brash style concede that he's one of the Clinton administration's most effective foreign policy hands; and, as a political operator and self-promoter, Holbrooke's talents are legendary. But it won't be until June 17, exactly a year after Clinton announced Holbrooke's selection, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally gets around to holding hearings on Holb