Avant-Garde Persuasions
March 29, 2012

The Steins Collect Metropolitan Museum of Art   Van Gogh: Up Close Philadelphia Museum of Art   Van Gogh: The Life By Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Random House, 953 pp., $40) Nobody in the history of culture has known more about the art of persuasion than the avant-garde painters, sculptors, writers, composers, choreographers, and impresarios who transformed European art from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.

Literary Resolutions For the New Year
December 30, 2011

Last year, I gave the traditional New Year’s resolutions a literary spin by resolving to become a better reader in 2011. Now it’s time to take stock. Did I keep my promises? And what should I resolve to do this year? 1. Lose weight. I pledged to make 2011 the year of my big switch to e-galleys, freeing myself of the mountains of paper weighing down my shelves and cluttering my apartment. Alas, this didn’t go as smoothly as planned. I signed up for both Netgalley and Edelweiss, but my electronic requests for review copies were often unanswered or (bizarrely) denied.

Afternoon Reading Assignment
November 02, 2011

[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] The great Tim Noah, who is napping on a beach finishing his book, has an excellent regular feature on this eponymous blog called Morning (or Afternoon) Reading Assignment, where he recommends articles or reports to readers. This is slightly off-topic, but I want to recommend to people not a new article but a new (or rather relaunched) magazine. It's called The Caravan: A Journal of Politics and Culture. After being discontinued almost 25 years ago (it was established in 1940), Caravan came back with a vengeance last year.

The Inner Clamor
October 26, 2011

Alfred Kazin’s Journals Selected and edited by Richard M. Cook (Yale University Press, 598 pp., $45)  “As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers.” Alfred Kazin reveled in William Blake’s words in 1944, at the age of twenty-nine, as he stood in the Huntington Library turning the pages of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. When he described this epiphany in New York Jew, the third volume of his memoirs, Kazin clearly wanted the reader to be swept up, as he was, by the sovereignty of the Blakean self: “All is within the vaulting leaping mind of man,” he continues.

The Internet Intellectual
October 12, 2011

Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live  By Jeff Jarvis  (Simon & Schuster, 263 pp., $26.99) In 1975, Malcolm Bradbury published The History Man, a piercing satire of the narcissistic pseudo-intellectualism of modern academia. The novel recounts a year in the life of the young radical sociologist Howard Kirk—“a theoretician of sociability”—who is working on a book called The Defeat of Privacy.

The New Republic Commemorates 9/11 at the Kennedy Center
September 10, 2011

On Thursday, September 8, The New Republic, in partnership with the Kennedy Center and the Pentagon, commemorated the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11. Moderated by Christiane Amanpour, the event featured addresses by former Secretaries of State Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright; readings of verse by actress Melissa Leo; and musical performances by Wynton Marsalis, Emmylou Harris, and the National Symphony Orchestra, among others. Watch the event in its entirety at National Anthem: 00:00:00 The U.S.

Happy Birthday, ‘Catch-22’: Reading the Novel in a Time of War
July 06, 2011

I initially read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 while squirreled away in a Toronto hotel room during the 1997 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention. It was December, and I had just finished my first semester teaching English at West Point. Heller’s novel was a revelation—an outrageous fiction opening a window onto the various paradoxes and pathologies that characterize institutional cultures everywhere. More important, it helped me to make sense of my recent introduction to military culture. Heller’s glorious caricatures—ex-P.F.C.

Palin’s Emails: What Her Remarkably Lucid Prose Says About the Art of Teaching Writing
June 16, 2011

Sarah Palin’s emails are telling us something about remedial writing classes at our universities and colleges, and it’s not what you think.

Not Always Bingo
April 06, 2011

Even if the crime rate in New York City had not dropped over the last few decades to a level that makes Broadway feel more like Main Street, the murder of Daniel Malakov, an orthodontist shot at a Queens playground in 2007, would have been notable. Malakov and his estranged wife, both doctors, were immigrants from Uzbekistan who lived among a tightly knit community of Bukharan Jews, a group known for their secrecy and impenetrability to outsiders. The couple were embroiled in a tense divorce and custody battle over their four-year-old daughter.

In Defense of Reforming Teacher Evaluations
February 08, 2011

One of the hot debates in education policy centers around the use of quantitative measures to evaluate teachers -- measuring student achievement and tying teacher compensation, in some way, to that. Jim Manzi has some interesting, though flawed, thoughts about the problems with such measuring systems: I’ve seen a number of such analytically-driven evaluation efforts up close. They usually fail.