The Libelous Truth
July 13, 2011
Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America By Alan Ackerman (Yale University Press, 361 pp., $35) Mary McCarthy preferred the old-fashioned way. You might not know this from her three divorces and the anatomical precision of her bedroom scenes, but she had a strong streak of cultural conservatism. She rejected feminism and lamented the disappearance of Latin from the schoolhouse. The modern fascination with technology annoyed her.
The Unrealistic Realist
July 13, 2011
On China By Henry Kissinger (Penguin, 586 pp., $36) Henry Kissinger may be the most influential figure in the making of American foreign policy since the end of World War II, and he is certainly the most prolific. Since stepping down as secretary of state in 1977, Kissinger has written eight books, totaling more than seven thousand pages and several million words. And this is to say nothing of the five books he wrote before attaining high office, and the innumerable articles, essays, and speeches he has produced since.
May 18, 2011
In 2007, a Russian businessman named Oleg Derapaska applied for a multiple-entry visa to enter the United States. Derapaska certainly had some impressive credentials—he is one of the richest men in Russia, with a fortune of $10.7 billion as of 2010, which he made initially by cornering Russia’s aluminum market. He is well traveled, and is the owner of a £25 million home in the Belgravia neighborhood of London. The State Department nevertheless turned him down (though it did grant him a one-time entry visa in 2009).
April 29, 2011
In Moscow on Thursday, health ministers from around the world gathered to discuss a serious global health crisis: the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, depression, and cancer. Their goal is to replicate the successes of a similar meeting held nearly a decade ago, when the United Nations General Assembly convened a special session to combat HIV/AIDS.
April 21, 2011
Of all the countries in the world that one would expect to be a target of terrorist attacks, Belarus surely ranks near the bottom of the list. Unlike its neighbor, Russia, where a January bomb that killed 35 people at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport was just the latest in a string of attacks related to the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, Belarus is not fighting an Islamic insurgency—or, in fact, any type of insurgency. It’s an ethnically and religiously homogenous nation mostly composed of Orthodox Christian Slavs, kept in the tight grip of its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
The Age of the Wolfhound
April 07, 2011
The Road By Vasily Grossman Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova (New York Review of Books Classics, 372 pp., $15.95) What should we call the literary age of Vasily Grossman, who wrote Life and Fate, the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century? There was the “Golden Age,” from Turgenev and Goncharov to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. The “Silver Age,” interrupted by the Revolution of 1917, had Blok, Gumilev, the young Mandelstam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Khodasevich, Mayakovsky, Bely, and the future Nobelist Bunin.
Russia’s Deep Despair
March 03, 2011
Every night for a week and a half, I stayed up until four in the morning in my Moscow hotel room, watching Egypt’s glorious revolution. It was a routine prompted partly by a bad case of jet lag, but mostly by captivation with an uprising that appeared to have acquired its own unstoppable momentum.
The New Middle East
February 10, 2011
The president has found his fall guy, his collective fall guy, for his failure to see that several sort-of U.S. allies were in terrible trouble: The intelligence community, we are now told, was to blame. But the truth is that, if anyone is at fault for misreading the Arab world, it is Barack Obama himself. Not that many other presidents and their administrations have seen these realities clearly. (John Foster Dulles, secretary of state to Dwight Eisenhower, believed he could transform the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser from a Soviet satrap into a pro-Western republic.
February 09, 2011
Black Swan was a spectacular idea. This is not a movie about ballet—it is a ballet: Tchaikovsky’s evening-length Swan Lake transposed into a modern psychosexual thriller, an edgy cinematic re-make of a dance classic. The film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, spent years circling the cloistered world of ballet trying to find a way in: he watched dancers work and perform and talked to them about their art; he marveled at ballet’s uncanny mix of melodrama, camp, eroticism, and high art, and above all at its grueling physical demands.
January 27, 2011
When Dmitri Medvedev became Russia’s president in 2008, he projected a very different image from that of his predecessor. Vladimir Putin is a buff former KGB agent who is fond of rugged pursuits, such as hunting and fishing, and is frequently photographed engaged in them without his shirt on. Medvedev is an elfin St. Petersburg-trained lawyer who enjoys chess and photography, practices yoga daily, and is the proud owner of the complete recordings of Deep Purple on vinyl.