Melville

In this 1976 piece written for the nation’s bicentennial, Alfred Kazin reflects on the conversion of the American Revolution into a metaphor, a milestone that is both essential to the construction of our national myth and responsible for the elevation of individualism. The Revolution, Kazin argues, made great men out of politicians, agitators, and writers—allowing themselves to identify with a revolution that inspired intellectuals and rebels abroad.

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The great popular artists have an instinctive relationship with the audience. That was true of Maurice Sendak, who died on Tuesday at the age of 83. He followed his gut. He kowtowed to no one. He knew that when pop culture really matters, it’s grounded in personal experience—in something the artist feels so strongly that other people cannot help but feel it too. Sendak had been involved with more than 50 children’s books by the time he became a national sensation in 1963 with Where the Wild Things Are.

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Gerhard Richter Painting We Have a Pope Jiro Dreams of Sushi Only a few months after a German documentary about a famous artist, Anselm Kiefer, here is another from Germany about a famous artist. Gerhard Richter Painting is, like the earlier film, a kind of residence with its subject rather than a report. Corinna Belz, the director, in fact spent three years off and on with Richter, with his beginnings of works, his changes, his resumptions, his conclusions. She had made an earlier short film about Richter, and evidently she had his full confidence.

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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.

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I wrote that headline initially as a joke. In the decade and a half since it first started delivering to our doorsteps everything from bestsellers to diapers, Amazon.com has become so entrenched as an icon of evil business policies that any person who loves books can no longer look upon it with an unskeptical eye.

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I hear vuvuzelas everywhere. On the streets, in the shopping malls, and of course in the stadiums, but I even hear them now when they aren't there. Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep in the little house where I'm staying in Melville, I was certain I heard a crowd of them, honking relentlessly somewhere far off. Then I realized the heater in my room happens to drone at a B flat, the same tone made by most vuvuzelas. Would you ever confuse a crowd of Mexican soccer fans shouting "Puto," or a group of Brits singing "Rule Brittania," with a home electrical appliance? No.

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DPRK

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- I watched Brazil’s 2-1 win over North Korea in a bar in the hipsterish neighborhood of Melville, where my brother, nephew and I are renting a small house for two weeks. Brazil shirts abounded, as they always do. The run a distant second to South Africa’s ubiquitous shirt, but the two kits combined make yellow the dominant street color of this World Cup.  I like Brazil for all of the usual reasons -- grace, possession, elan, the inevitable jaw-dropping ball-on-a-string move or physics-defying shot.

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Dancing In the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression By Morris Dickstein (W.W. Norton, 598 pp., $29.95) Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits By Linda Gordon (W.W. Norton, 536 pp., $35) American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty In U.S. Literature, 1840-1945 By Gavin Jones (Princeton University Press, 248 pp., $38.50)   “Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a story of 1926, at the height of the economic boom and his own creative powers.

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Kindled

The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future By Robert Darnton (Public Affairs, 218 pp., $23.95)   On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books & Bookstores By Jean-Luc Nancy Translated by David Wills (Fordham University Press, 59 pp., $16)   I. The airplane rises from the runway. Bent, folded, and spindled into the last seat in coach class--the one that doesn’t really recline--I pull my Kindle out of the seat pocket in front of me, slide the little switch, and lose myself in Matthew Crawford’s story of his passage from policy wonk to motorcycle mechanic.

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The 'Going Rogue' Index

Sarah Palin’s autobiography Going Rogue doesn’t have an index. Why? Well, I’m not exactly sure. But it sure makes finding gems in the text--such as the defense of that $150,000 clothing bill, the petty attacks on Katie Couric, and Palin-isms like “maverick” and “dang!”—a pretty tough slog. So, here’s an index. A really, really long and thorough one. Want to know where Palin celebrated one of her baby showers with her gal pals? It’s in here. Want to know how she feels about the ACLU, or Ashley Judd, or Steve Schmidt? In here, too.

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