What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.
KAFKA: THE DECISIVE YEARS By Reiner Stach Translated by Shelley Frisch (Harcourt, 581 pp., $35) THERE IS A TANTALIZING gap between our increasingly detailed knowledge of Kafka's life and our imperfect understanding of his achievement as a writer. His work seems to cry out for biographical readings and has often been subjected to them, characteristically along psychoanalytic lines. Yet the obvious connections between life and work have not explained much about the work.
William Sebastian Cohen was born fifty-seven years ago in Bangor, Maine, the first son of a mixed marriage. Cohen's mother, Clara Hartley, was an Irish Protestant from Aroostook County, one of the poor state's poorest rural backwaters, and she was notable both for her beauty and her independence. "She does not care about public opinion," Cohen once told Yankee magazine. "She dismisses it.
Harry Truman may not have given his party victory at Philadelphia, but he gave it self-respect. It was fun to see the scrappy little cuss come out of his corner fighting at two in the morning, not trying to use big words any longer, but being himself and saying a lot of honest things that needed to be said. Unaccountably, we found ourself on top of a pine bench cheering. We have always thought of Truman as Mr. Average Man himself, nice and likable and commonplace and mediocre. These attributes make something of a problem when one is President.