For the Love of Culture
February 04, 2010

IN EARLY 2002, the filmmaker Grace Guggenheim--the daughter of the late Charles Guggenheim, one of America's greatest documentarians, and the sister of the filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who made An Inconvenient Truth-decided to do something that might strike most of us as common sense. Her father had directed or produced more than a hundred documentaries. Some of these were quite famous (Nine from Little Rock). Some were well-known even if not known to be by him (Monument to a Dream, the film that plays at the St. Louis arch).

Why Do People Love 'Catcher in the Rye'?
January 28, 2010

To remember J. D. Salinger is, of course, to remember The Catcher in the Rye—though not, perhaps, how some critics didn't like it in 1951. Catholic World noted its "formidably excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language," and there seemed to be some question as to whether an alienated, hard-drinking, chain-smoking flunkie like Holden Caulfield was going to prove a good influence on the young. Other critics did say it made them "chuckle and ... even laugh aloud," and many immediately compared Holden to Huck Finn.

For the Love of Culture
January 26, 2010

Can American culture survive Google?

Fright Night, DC Style
October 23, 2009

With just over a week until trick or treat, NY mag's "Vulture" has posted its very helpful list of 7 Halloween Costumes to Avoid (paired with savvier alternatives.) I'm in complete agreement with all, especially the ban on dead celebs (despite my fondness for Farrah hair) and on Sarah Palin (unless you can get a hold of that va-va-voom jogging suit she's sporting on the cover of her new book). I'm also enchanted by the vision of scores of "Levi Johnston's" trooping around New York wearing only body stockings and strategically placed copies of Playgirl.

Out Of Africa
August 02, 2009

South Africa, to be precise, where I had been previously on four occasions. I promised in my last posting upon my arrival eleven days ago to write when I could. I assured you that I had wi-fi and that the places at which I was staying had wi-fi also. Well, they didn't ... quite. So I piled up my impressions and waited till I returned. Which I have now done. From the warm climes of a South African winter to the torrential rains of a cold east coast summer. Let me own up to the proximate reasons for my visit to South Africa. They were two. The first was wine tasting.

Will Shakespeare's Come And Gone: Does The Bard's Poetry Reach Us Like August Wilson's? Come On--really?
May 19, 2009

Reading the deserved critical huzzahs for the current production of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone has me thinking about a bee always in my bonnet.

Supreme Leader
June 16, 2007

Jeffrey Rosen on Anthony Kennedy's moralistic tendencies.

The Gift
October 16, 2006

Marcel Mauss: A Biography By Marcel Fournier Translated by Jane Marie Todd (Princeton University Press, 442 pp., $35) The outward lives of great intellectuals do not always make lively reading, even for other intellectuals. For every tragic, monstrous, or heroic thinker whose biography resembles pulp fiction, there is another who passed his days quietly at his desk, reading and writing, returning home every evening to a cocoon of bourgeois respectability. For every Shelley, a Kant; for every Foucault, a Weber. A great mind does not need to experience the abyss to find originality.

The Moral Baby
March 14, 2005

Wodehouse: A Life By Robert McCrum (W.W. Norton, 530 pp., $27.95) I.Deliberately unserious writers are very rare in literature; even most children's books are dark with agenda. Sheer play is much rarer than great seriousness, for nonsense demands from most of us an unlearning of adult lessons, a return to childhood--which anyway, being a return, lacks childhood's innocent originality. P.G. Wodehouse, who was always described by those who knew him best as an arrested schoolboy, must be the gentlest, most playful comedian in the English novel.

War Time
June 07, 2004

Vachel Lindsay, the poet who was for a time the film critic of The New Republic, published a book in 1915 called The Art of the Moving Picture, a pioneer work in the field. In one of its many comprehensions, he said: "The supreme photoplay will give us things that have been but half expressed in all other mediums allied to it." I thought of Lindsay while I was watching Troy, the latest in a very long line of films made to give us those things that other mediums could not provide.