Paris

That is So! That is So!
February 22, 2012

The Sense of an Ending By Julian Barnes (Knopf, 163 pp., $23.95) Is it worth it? Life, I mean—is it worth it? Julian Barnes isn’t sure. “I am certainly melancholic myself,” he says in Nothing to Be Frightened Of, a memoir-cum-meditation-on-death, “and sometimes find life an overrated way of passing the time.” Martha Cochrane, in England, England, thinks about “the thinness of life, or at least life as she had known it, or chosen it.” “She had done little in her time,” Jean Serjeant thinks in Staring at the Sun, and Gregory, her son, had done less.

No Book Will Fix What’s Wrong With American Parenting
February 22, 2012

The other day, a friend and I were walking down a crowded sidewalk when we noticed a little boy of about three. We noticed him not because he was adorable (though he was), but because he was hitting his father with a giant stick. As they passed us—the boy hitting, the father ignoring—the boy’s flailing stick hit my companion. Only the boy’s mother, running after them, seemed to notice. “Sorry,” she flung out breathlessly, smiling. We were, of course, in Brooklyn, the epicenter of permissive parenting.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Nudes and Others
February 08, 2012

Crazy Horse Return The Hunter Where is Frederick Wiseman taking us now? Beginning in 1967, when our pre-eminent maker of documentaries brought us into a hospital for the criminally insane in Titicut Follies, Wiseman has shown us American lives in—among many other places—high schools, a hospital, a monastery, a welfare agency. Lately he has been drawn to France, to some Parisian institutions: the Comédie-Française and the ballet of the Paris Opera.

Where Do We Come From?
February 08, 2012

Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790 By Jonathan I. Israel (Oxford University Press, 1,066 pp., $45) I. There’s something about the Enlightenment. Today, few educated men and women spend much time debating whether Western civilization took a disastrously wrong turn in the High Middle Ages. They do not blame all manner of political ills on Romanticism, or insist that non-Western immigrants adopt Renaissance values. But the Enlightenment is different. It has been held responsible for everything from the American Constitution to the Holocaust.

The Honor of Aleppo
February 07, 2012

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. I. Last November a protester on the outskirts of Damascus held up to the cameras a placard that mocked the people of Aleppo: “URGENT! ALEPPO REBELS—IN 2050!” It was hardly heroic, the caution of Aleppo, particularly against the background of a rebellion that had scorched Deraa and Hama and Homs and Banias and so many unheralded Syrian towns.

How Martin Scorsese Pulls Off Hugo’s Nostalgia
January 31, 2012

With Hugo, Martin Scorsese reclaims some of Hollywood’s old power as the great unifier, uncomplicated and sophisticated at the same time. This hymn to the unfettered imagination—Scorsese’s first work in 3D—is terrific popular entertainment, a magnificent children’s adventure story, with heroes and villains so delicately drawn that even the melodramatic moments have a comic wit.

The Ass and the Meaning of Life
January 28, 2012

I adore Crazy Horse, Frederick Wiseman’s documentary about the Crazy Horse Saloon, the Parisian nude revue putting on a show called, appropriately, “Desirs.” Like many of Wiseman’s earlier films, this one uses shadows to illuminate its subject—in this instance, the intense anguish and the fantastical, melancholy, delicious illusions underlying carnal love.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Troubled Worlds
January 25, 2012

The Front Line Norwegian Wood Khodorkovsky It used to be said that, paradoxically, a war film, even if its intent was anti-war, unavoidably conveyed excitements that were attractive. This paradox has seemed in recent years to be dwindling. For prime instance, Clint Eastwood’s companion films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima were as bareboned and glory-free (yet appreciative) as possible. Generalizations are risky in this vast genre, but at least some relatively recent war films have tried to be unseductive. Such is The Front Line from South Korea.

The First Fine Careless Rapture
January 25, 2012

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907-1922 Edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon (Cambridge University Press, 431 pp., $40) Hemingway: A Life in Pictures By Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway (Firefly Books, 207 pp., $29.95) With a flourish of publicity and as much shameless hype as one of the oldest and most prestigious academic publishers in the world can get away with, the first of an estimated sixteen volumes of Ernest Hemingway’s correspondence has been released.

Edward J. Epstein Makes History...Again
January 25, 2012

I was reminded of this devastating analysis of the sloppy case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn when I read that his wife, Anne Sinclair, is taking over the French version of The Huffington Post. This factoid was reported in Mediabistro, an online publication founded almost a decade ago by Laurel Touby and whose financing was put together by the sagacious investor Bill Ackman and by less sagacious me.

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