The Invention of Space
December 14, 2011
Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science By Hans Belting Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider (Belknap Press, 303 pp., $39.95) In many respects this is a bold book, first of all because of its premise: a veteran art historian dares, after half a century as an active scholar, to take another look at a classic art-historical problem—the formulation of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Florence.
A Painting That Belies Matisse's Reputation For Simplification
December 07, 2011
Matisse’s The Painter and His Model—in the exhibition devoted to his work at the Eykyn Maclean Gallery in New York—is a candy box of a composition, a hymn to rococo excess. Set in a room in Nice overlooking the Mediterranean, Matisse’s fairytale canvas is jam-packed with incident, a crowded interior rendered with oil colors thinned to the translucency of watercolor. The light is soft, suggesting honey or champagne.
Italy’s Going Under, But Don’t Blame Berlusconi
November 09, 2011
The eurozone debt crisis simply refuses to go away. Last month’s latest and greatest plan put forward by European leaders has already been judged by financial markets to be insufficient. And while it is political uncertainty in Greece that has thrown the whole process into question, the main victim has actually been Italy; in the days since the rescue package was announced, Italy has found its borrowing costs rising to record levels as investors continue to expect the worst. But why are investors picking on Italy?
Obama’s Middle East Is in Tatters, Utter Tatters
September 20, 2011
It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world.
Letter From Libya: The Rebel Fleet Prepares For Its Final Battle
August 24, 2011
Off the coast of Misrata—On the dark blue sea of the Mediterranean, Libyan rebels are planning their final offensive to bring down Muammar Qaddafi. More than a hundred fighters set out from Benghazi Tuesday, transforming two tugboats into the official rebel fleet. The passengers are aware that Qaddafi’s military barracks have fallen to the opposition. The rebels, most of whom are observing the Ramadan fast, pass their time reading the Koran and quietly celebrating their victory.
When the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with a victory for the United States, John Hay, U.S. ambassador in London, felt moved to celebrate. In a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, he described it as a war “begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave.” It was, in short, “a splendid little war.” The fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya has inclined many contemporary commentators to similarly effusive bursts of cheer. But does the war in Libya deserve all the praise being bestowed upon it?
What Explains the Remarkable Rise of Greek Yogurt?
August 13, 2011
Since breaking into the American mass market more than 50 years ago, yogurt has evolved variously with consumer tastes; it’s been dyed, sweetened, lightened, liquidized, mixed with fruit, honey, and candy, and even squeezed into portable plastic tubes. But few iterations can be said to have experienced a more meteoric rise that that of Greek yogurt. Indeed, the Greek yogurt market in the U.S.
The Freedom to Bumble
July 13, 2011
The Free World By David Bezmozgis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pp., $26) To call a short-story writer Chekhovian is among the worst of the book reviewer’s clichés, a lazy shorthand that no longer means anything other than that the person writes very good short stories. But what is often forgotten amid the contemporary adulation of Chekhov as the master of the form—in fact he was the master only of a certain kind of short tale—is that, after a couple of early attempts, he declined to write novels.
Yes, We Can’t
May 20, 2011
Jerusalem—It was a nation of ambivalent Israelis that listened to President Obama’s latest Middle East plan—an interim agreement based on ending the occupation of the Palestinians while somehow ensuring the security of the Israelis. Israeli ambivalence is peculiar: It has nothing to do with uncertainty or confusion. Instead, to be an ambivalent Israeli is to be torn between two conflicting certainties.
May 19, 2011
Serving as the ambassador to Malta should have been a breeze for Douglas Kmiec. A prominent pro-lifer and Catholic Republican who campaigned for Obama in 2008,the conservative turncoat had been rewarded for his efforts with the Mediterranean post in July 2009. Having previously worked as dean of Catholic University’s law school and as legal counsel to both Reagan and Bush Senior, he had some managerial chops.