Hamlet

Three grades of evil can be discerned in the queer world of verbal transmigration.

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The Richard Burton DiariesEdited by Chris Williams (Yale University Press, 693 pp., $35)   JUNE 14, 1969, and for a dawn moment he was calm, remembering Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas: “I love my wife. I love her dearly. Honest. Talk about the beauty, silent, bare.... Sitting on the Thames with the river imitating a blue-grey ghost. My God the very houses seem asleep.

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Do American movies still aspire to greatness?

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Soon after I first listened to Bob Dylan’s intense new album, Tempest, a friend who’d also heard it wanted to know what a historian made of its line, early on, about the British burning down the White House. I replied that I had no idea. And many listenings later, I still don’t.

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Deal With It

ONE OF THE blessedly few statistics in Losing It, William Ian Miller’s book about his experience of aging, and a tour-de force of hypochondriacal free association, informs his readers that “more than half the people between the ages of sixty-five and seventy-four surveyed in a National Council on Aging study in 2002 thought of themselves as middle aged or young, as did a third of those over seventy-five.” But the datum rep

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[Guest post by Molly Redden] This election cycle, one congressional race is already a comforting reminder that when a lawmaker spends more time making splashy headlines than substantive policy, he sometimes actually pays for it. That lawmaker is Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois, a Tea Party incendiary with such legislation to his name as the “Save Christmas Act”, not to mention an unsavory habit of yelling at constituents, and his competition is—well, it’s actually not clear yet.

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This weekend in Little Rock, Bill Clinton and an all-star cast of political alumni will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his formal entry into the 1992 presidential race. But the candidate decision that did the most to bequeath Clinton the Democratic nomination did not occur until December 20, 1991.

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The Real McCoy

For a political party that seems to derive its ideology from Ayn Rand’s embrace of heedless ambition, the Republicans are going through an unexpected Ferdinand the Bull phase. Many of the GOP’s top presidential prospects prefer smelling the flowers—or taking a New Jersey state helicopter to a son’s baseball game—to becoming Teddy Roosevelt’s man in the arena, scrapping for every vote in the Iowa caucuses. And while Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty long for the roar of the crowd, Republican voters are caught up in the allure of the non-combatant.

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Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos By Peter E. Gordon (Harvard University Press, 426 pp., $39.95) I. The Swiss town of Davos was once famed as a sanatorium. It provided pastoral balm for mental breakdown (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner), relief from chronic illness (Aby Warburg), and an Alpine antidote to tuberculosis (Robert Louis Stevenson finished Treasure Island there). This concentration of ailing artists and intellectuals produced its own distinctive cultural life, immortalized by Thomas Mann in 1924 in The Magic Mountain.

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Cheesehead

The New Orleans Saints’ strategy in last month’s NFC championship game was primitive and perfectly suited: Take advantage of quarterback Brett Favre’s 40-year-old body by inflicting a caveman’s clubbing. Hundreds of pounds of muscle and anger and adrenaline hit him at high speed a total of 17 times, and Favre, perhaps playing the last game of his career, managed to withstand the punishment until the third quarter, when he severely hurt his ankle. He limped on the sidelines and was basically immobile and should have taken himself out of the game then, regardless of the stakes.

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