May 08, 2006
Alan Wolfe: What the immigration debate tells us about who Americans are, and who they want to be.
May 03, 2004
SINCE THE 1960S, WHEN Michael McClure imagined Billy the Kid humping Jean Harlow in The Beard and Barbara Garson had Lyndon Johnson whacking Jack Kennedy in MacBird, it has grown obvious that actual people, often still among us, have become the grist of American playwriting. In one recent week alone, a musical opened by Michael John LaChiusa called First Lady Suite, featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, and Mamie Eisenhower, along with a semi-fictional comedy by A.R. Gurney called Mrs. Farnsworth, about a Vassar woman who may or may not have been impregnated by George W.
Freedoms and Feelings
April 07, 2003
I. The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein (Alfred A. Knopf, 292 pp., $25) Early in 1834, at the height of his war with the Second Bank of the United States, President Andrew Jackson received at the White House several deputations of businessmen, who pleaded with him to change course. Believing that the Bank was an unrepublican, unaccountable monopoly, Jackson had vetoed its federal recharter and ordered the government's deposits in it removed.
April 07, 2003
Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy by Susan Neiman (Princeton University Press, 343 pp., $29.95) It is not a good thing for philosophy to find it everywhere. Most of experience, and even most of thought, is decidedly not philosophical--which is precisely what makes philosophizing so valuable. Yet Susan Neiman's book errs in just this way. It treats a phenomenon that is, unfortunately, ubiquitous; but it then falls into the trap of believing that serious reflection on this phenomenon is similarly ubiquitous. As a result, Neiman's interesting book winds up making philo
March 03, 2003
Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, 1914-1982 Edited and translated by Anthony David Skinner (Harvard University Press, 512 pp., $35) Click here to purchase the book. I. I. When the Baal Shem Tov had to do something very hard, he went out into the woods, lit a fire, and said a prayer, and the task was done. In the next generation, when his disciple had to do a difficult thing, he also went out into the woods. He could no longer light the fire, but he said the prayer, and that was enough.
They the People
March 03, 2003
A few days after the September 11 attacks, I received a note from a former student in Tehran. "[Y]ou won't believe it," she wrote, "but the whole country is in mourning. You should have been here for the demonstrations and candlelight vigils for America, it's all true: the tears, the long-stemmed roses, the candles, ... and then of course the hoodlums attacked and started beating us, especially the young kids, and arresting them. ... The funny thing about it is that those bastards felt betrayed by the love we showed `the imperialist Zionist enemy.' ...
September 09, 2002
The Language of War: Literature and Culture in the U.S. From the Civil War Through World War II by James Dawes (Harvard University Press, 300 pp., $39.95) "The real war," Walt Whitman wrote soon after Appomattox, "will never get in the books." In "The Wound Dresser" and other poems, Whitman tried to transcribe his Civil War experience in a Washington hospital, where he tended the dismembered and the dying. But he sensed that there was something new about the carnage of modern war, something that resisted literary convention and ultimately language itself. He was not alone.
The Struggle Continues
August 05, 2002
Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, and the Holocaust by Dan Diner (University of California, 286 pp., $45) Click here to purchase the book.What is the connection between the collective memory of Germans and Jews and the epistemology of historical scholarship about the Holocaust? What roles do political history and social history play in this enterprise? Why has there been a trend toward universalizing the causes of the Holocaust in both collective memory and historical method, and what are the arguments for a reassertion of historical specificity?
The Power to Enchant
April 26, 1999
Later Auden By Edward Mendelson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 570 pp., $30) W.H.