May 21, 2010
Children of the Gulag By Cathy A. Frierson and Semyon S. Vilensky (Yale University Press, 496 pp., $55) Several years ago, a friend who helped me to find my way around the Russian State Archives in Moscow asked if I would like to meet another woman who was also working there. She was not doing research for a book, and she was not a scholar. Instead, she was indulging her curiosity and her nostalgia. Forty years earlier, she had worked as a baby nurse in a children’s home inside one of Stalin’s labor camps.
The Prisoner Intellectuals
May 05, 2010
The key to understanding radical Islam and Communism? Prison culture.
A Non-Fighting Faith
May 05, 2010
When Barack Obama first appeared on the national scene, he set himself apart with his demonstrated willingness to intellectually engage his opponents. “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree,” he promised. This has been Obama’s hallmark at the Harvard Law Review, in the Illinois statehouse, and as president, where he’s dined with conservative pundits and held unprecedented free-form wonkfests with the Republican opposition. In his commencement address last weekend at the University of Michigan, Obama called for “civility” in public life.
April 30, 2010
Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch By Eric Miller (Eerdmans, 394 pp., $32) In a moving tribute to Christopher Lasch written shortly after his death in 1994, Dale Vree, a Catholic convert and the editor of the New Oxford Review, wrote that “Calvinism was his true theological inspiration.” Lasch was certainly not one of the faithful.
Busboys and Pundits
November 09, 2009
Today's Washington Post reports on the feud brewing between GOP consultant and pundit Bradley Blakeman and Andy Shallal, the Iraqi-American founder of Busboys and Poets.
October 01, 2009
Jewish history in the 20th century is full of might-have-beens, most of them too sorrowful to bear thinking about. The brief cultural moment that Kenneth B. Moss resurrects in Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) is one of the least known and most fascinating of those aborted futures: a two-year period when writers, artists, and activists in Russia and Ukraine believed they were midwiving the birth of a new Jewish culture.
The Deadly Jester
December 02, 2008
In Defense of Lost Causesby Slavoj Žižek(Verso, 504 pp., $34.95)Violenceby Slavoj Žižek(Picador, 272 pp., $14)I.Last year the Slovenian philosopher SlavojŽižek published a piece in The New York Times deploring America's use of torture to extract a co
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.
The Reason for Everything
January 16, 2006
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success By Rodney Stark (Random House, 304 pp., $25.95) "Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect," concludes Rodney Stark in his new book, "most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls." I had always known that Jesus Christ was a pretty important person, but I had not quite realized that were it not for him, there would be no one to buy Rodney Stark's books. Jesus, Stark goes on, is responsible for more than liberating us from scrolls; t