New York Review

Quote Of The Day

Garry Wills pithily summarizes the Vatican's recent statement criticizing American nuns in the June 7 New York Review of Books (in a column previously posted online April 24): "Now the Vatican says that nuns are too interested in 'the social Gospel' (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist)." 

Finlandize Me

From Diane Ravitch's latest piece in the New York Review of Books: No nation in the world has eliminated poverty by firing teachers or by handing its public schools over to private managers; nor does research support either strategy. But these inconvenient facts do not reduce the reformers’ zeal. The new breed of school reformers consists mainly of Wall Street hedge fund managers, foundation officials, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and policymakers, but few experienced educators.

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The Browbeater

Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain By Dwight Macdonald Edited by John Summers (New York Review Books, 289pp., $16.95) Dwight Macdonald, the greatest American hatchet man, applied his merciless craft also to himself. When he collected his essays, he added footnotes, appendices, and other forms of addenda taking issue with his own writings.

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[with contributions from Matt O’Brien and Darius Tahir] Now that I’m finally done with that feature article, which you’ll be able to read here next week, I want to circle back to a few items I put aside because I was busy reporting. One of them is Ezra Klein’s article on the Obama Administration’s economic policy failures, real and imagined. Actually, it’s a pair of articles. One was a lengthy, stand-alone piece in the Washington Post. The other was a review of Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men.

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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.

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Elizabeth Drew's latest New York Review of Books piece is the familiar recapitulation of recent political developments for NYRB subscribers who don't follow the news. But then, 4,500 words into a nearly 5,000 word piece, there's this bombshell: But despite all the confrontational rhetoric between the two parties about budget priorities, the White House and Republican congressional leaders, in private talks, have agreed on the need to try to reach a bipartisan “grand bargain” over the budget—a sweeping deal that could include entitlements and tax reforms as well as budget reduction.

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“If he’s so smart, and so sane, why has he fallen short of his spectacular potential so far?” No need to wonder who Frank Rich is writing about in this sentence, which gives the headline to this recent New York Review of Books essay: “Why Has He Fallen Short?” Only President Obama could inspire that particular blend of admiration and disillusionment among liberals.

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One strange human quirk I’ve just noticed is that people often ignore the substance of what you’re saying and focus instead on how much time you spend saying one thing versus another. A couple days ago, I wrote a reply to Peter Beinart’s much-discussed New York Review of Books manifesto on Israel.

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Not long ago, I ran into an AIPAC staffer at a social gathering. We debated the Middle East for a bit, and continued the discussion over lunch. I told him that I thought the political estrangement of liberalism and support for Israel posed a long-term existential threat, and that his organization was contributing to the problem. We agreed to disagree. Former TNR editor Peter Beinart has a sharp, attention-grabbing essay in The New York Review of Books making this case not just against AIPAC but most of the mainstream American Jewish organizations. Indeed, he goes much further.

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The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people under the Nazis was not the end of the story. Renewal came to Jewry in the creation of the State of Israel, a society rooted in the tradition, at once spiritual and rational, but also intimately tied to the modern sensibility of science and human development. The six million Jews who live as citizens of the United States are also an historic milestone: This is the first cohort of Jews since the Second Commonwealth who live—and live richly—under laws of both equality and justice. The third phenomenon may at first glance seem almost trivial.

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