The group blog of The New Republic

June 20, 2013

When the American writer Max Eastman asked James Joyce why Finnegans Wake was so hard to read, Joyce replied that he desired to keep critics "busy for 300 years." This may sound pompous, but even those of us who have never read Finnegans Wake can understand why someone might be willing to spend decades studying Joyce. 

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In an important step, the American Medical Association voted to condemn the FDA’s longstanding ban on gay men donating blood at its biannual conference Tuesday.

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An immigration reform advocate I spoke to yesterday had a fine way of summarizing the tenuous mix of hope and frustration he feels watching comprehensive immigration reform take shape in the Senate: “Even when the ball moves, it doesn’t.” 

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Is Christine Quinn Famous Enough To Be New York’s Mayor?

The post-Bloomberg political/fame calculus.

Christine Quinn is a lifelong local political operative. Of course, that locality just so happens to be New York City, which goes part of the way in explaining why Quinn’s  recently released memoir was excerpted in Vogue and she has been heavily courted by fashion-industry insiders. Quinn also happens to be relatively young and an out lesbian running for mayor, and so that helps, too, in ginning up interest from glamorous national publications.

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Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner apparently suggested to House Republicans that he wouldn’t move an immigration bill without the support of half of House Republicans—the so-called Hastert Rule. If so, immigration reform is in trouble and so is the Republican rebrand.

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The New York Times’s Brazil bureau chief, Simon Romero, opens his latest dispatch from São Paulo with an anecdote whose symbolism no newspaper reporter could have resisted: While the protests swelled on his city’s streets last week, Mayor Fernando Haddad was not home. He was not even in Brazil. “He had left for Paris to try to land the 2020 World’s Fair—exactly the kind of expensive, international mega-event that demonstrators nationwide have scorned.”

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In a piece published in the National Post yesterday, Alice Munro—hours after winning the Trillium Book Award for her short story collection Dear Life—told a reporter that she was “probably not going to write anymore.” “Not that I didn’t love writing,” she added, “but I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way.

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Late last night, Exodus International, the foremost advocate of gay conversion therapy in the U.S., announced that it will shut down its operations—voluntarily. At least for now, their disbandment doesn't appear to be the end result of management malfeasance, sex scandals, or internal squabbles, but the product of a sincere change in the ethics of the group's president, Alan Chambers.

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It’s time for the biannual, or is it quadrennial, push for a national program. The old Democratic Leadership Council made this a major priority in the 1990s. Now the Aspen Institute seems to have come on board with a column in Politico declaring that “national service is the key to national strength.”  Joe Klein echoes these sentiments in a new issue of Time.

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June 19, 2013

The closest Tony Soprano ever comes to saving his appalling soul is late in Season 1 of “The Sopranos.” His daughter Meadow’s friend has become depressed to the point of cutting herself (“a suicidal gesture,” Dr. Melfi memorably clarifies) and the cause, Tony learns, is that the talented high school soccer coach—his daughter’s soccer coach, with unfettered access to his daughter—has been sleeping with Meadow’s friend. Tony is all set to kill the coach: Tony Soprano has killed men for much smaller offenses; he kills for business.

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