Same Old, Same Old
February 22, 2012
Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law By Richard A. Epstein (Harvard University Press, 233 pp., $29.95) Richard Epstein is the same as he ever was. Part erudite scholar of Roman law and the common law, part provocative intellectual who promotes a view that he calls “classical liberalism,” Epstein is relentlessly true to himself, and this gives his works a unity of tone and content that both pleases and distresses.
The End of Nature v. Nurture?
November 15, 2011
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series further exploring “The Two Year Window,” my feature story on babies, the brain, and poverty that appears in the new issue of TNR. Click here to access all of the supplemental material. The debate over nature versus nurture has frequently exploded into politics.
October 26, 2011
The Collapse of American Criminal Justice By William J. Stuntz (Harvard University Press, 413 pp., $35) William Stuntz, who unfortunately died young, before this book was published, was a leading criminal law scholar, and this volume is exceptionally rich, insightful, provocative, and well-written. It is bound to have great influence on academic thinking, and perhaps in time on the criminal justice system itself.
The Age of Comparison
July 28, 2011
The Book that Changed Europe: Picart & Bernard’s “Religious Ceremonies of the World” By Lynn Hunt, Margaret C. Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt (Harvard University Press, 383 pp., $32.95) A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason By Guy G. Stroumsa (Harvard University Press, 223 pp., $35) The scene is familiar. A family is sitting around a table, in a well-appointed eighteenthcentury dining space. Only if you look closely, and only if you know what to look for, do you realize that this is a Passover seder.
Poetry and Reason
June 09, 2011
The Essential Tagore By Rabindranath Tagore Edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty (Harvard University Press, 819 pp., $39.95) In his book Raga Mala, Ravi Shankar, the great musician, argues that had Rabindranath Tagore “been born in the West he would now be [as] revered as Shakespeare and Goethe.” This is a strong claim, and it calls attention to some greatness in this quintessentially Bengali writer—identified by a fellow Bengali—that might not be readily echoed in the wider world today, especially in the West.
Into the Wilde
March 23, 2011
Imagine the portrait that is the subject of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the famous story of a beautiful youth whose portrait alters to reflect the depravity of his life, while his face remains forever unchanged. Wilde describes it as a picture of a “young Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves.” In one artist’s vision, Dorian’s long black coat is tight-fitting, with a white flower in the lapel, and his white shirt is crisply starched.
A Literary Glass Ceiling?
February 07, 2011
The first shots were fired last summer, when Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult called the New York Times Book Review a boys’ club. (I weighed in then, too, calling on the Times to respond to statistics posted by Double X regarding the disparity between books by male authors and female authors reviewed in their pages.) Now, the war is on. A few days ago, VIDA, a women’s literary organization, posted on its website a stark illustration of what appears to be gender bias in the book review sections of magazines and literary journals.
When Philosophy Mattered
January 13, 2011
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.
Out of the Margins
October 16, 2010
Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South By Stephanie McCurry (Harvard University Press, 449 pp., $35) We are going to be hearing a great deal about the Civil War. November 6 will mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election; December 20, the secession of South Carolina, the first Southern state to withdraw from the Union; April 12, the firing on Fort Sumter; July 21, the First Battle of Manassas, the first major engagement of the war. States North and South have established sesquicentennial commissions, which are planning a wide range of observances.
September 04, 2010
For more on Bernard Knox, please read an extraordinary report of his heroism in World War II and a collection of his best pieces for TNR. The death of Bernard Knox has impoverished not just contemporary classical scholarship but the humanities as a whole. In choosing him as its Jefferson Lecturer in 1992, the National Endowment for the Humanities could not have found a more ardent or eloquent spokesman for its mission.