Paul Desmond

Close To Zero

The problem with a moral vocabulary about politics and policy is that it not only makes politicians and policymakers feel bold, it also demands that they act bold. Eloquence creates expectations; and so in Washington, even for America’s first black, Jewish, and gay president, the goal is often to separate the high ground from its practical imperatives, so that an aura of rectitude may be acquired without recourse to significant action. Washington is the capital of idle talk about justice.

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Smugged by Reality

Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York By Adam Gopnik (Alfred A. Knopf, 336 pp., $25) I SOMETIMES WONDER if Adam Gopnik was put on this earth to annoy. If so, mission accomplished. Mind you, he finds himself in fine company in my illustrious literary perp walk. Francine Prose, with her pinched perceptions and humorless hauteur—every time she brings out a new book (she is depressingly diligent), I find myself grumbling, “Her again?” I’ve never gotten the point of Paul Auster and his swami mystique and probably never shall, unless I move to Brooklyn and achieve phosphorescence.

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