WASHINGTON--Here's a story you may have missed because it flies in the face of the dreary conventional wisdom: When advocates of public programs take on the right-wing anti-government crowd directly, the government-haters lose. This is what happened in two statewide referendums last week that got buried under all of the attention paid to the governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey. In Maine, voters rejected a tax-limitation measure by a walloping 60 percent to 40 percent.
Robert Altman: The Oral Biography By Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 592 pp., $35) Here is your exam question: who is the last American movie director who made thirty-nine films but never won the Oscar for best director? Name the film by that director that cost the most money, and name the film of his that earned the most. Clue: The Departed, which must have been around Martin Scorsese’s thirtieth picture, and did win the directing Oscar, cost $90 million (four times as much as any of this man’s films cost)--so don’t go that way.
Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment. If you have not seen this CNN clip, watch it now. Here is the transcript, which hardly does justice to the 2-minute clip of what was happening in that room. Unidentified participant: "My husband has traumatic brain injury. His health insurance will not cover him to eat and drink. And what I need to know is: Are you going to help him? We left the nursing home, and they told us we are on our own. He left with a feeding tube.
I. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperFlamingo, 546 pp., $26) Barbara Kingsolver is the most successful practitioner of a style in contemporary fiction that might be called Nice Writing. Nice Writing is a violent affability, a deadly sweetness, a fatal gentle touch. But before I start in on Kingsolver's work, I feel I must explain why I feel that I must start in on it. I do so for a younger version of myself, for the image that I carry inside me of a boy who was the son of a sadistic, alcoholic father, and of a mother who was hurt but also hurtful, and abusive.