Summer Reading
August 11, 2010

This summer my son learned to read. Like all the childhood milestones, it seemed to happen all at once. One day he was wobbling on his seat, teetering back and forth, liable to fall on his face at any moment; the next he could sit up. One day he could cruise around the room only by holding onto the furniture; the next he was taking a single independent step, and then another, and then another.

The READ: The Chosen Ones
June 16, 2010

Perhaps it’s just a sign of encroaching curmudgeonliness, but I find that as my own age climbs inexorably through the thirties, the less interested I am in the work of writers who are younger than I am. Looking over the much-ballyhooed New Yorker list of “20 under 40,” which came out last week, I felt mostly impatience.

Certified By The (New York) Times
May 16, 2010

Twice in two years (once in 2007 and a second time in 2008), The New York Times puts its mantle of approval on Tariq Ramadan who almost everybody on the Upper West Side saw as an innocent victim of dictatorship because the Bush administration had barred him, under provisions of the Patriot Act, from entering the United States.

Is The Press Undercovering The Oil Spill? A Historical Look
May 11, 2010

Reading through The New York Times every day, it can seem like the press has been covering the Gulf disaster obsessively. Indeed, some fishermen in Louisiana are now worried that the media is too focused on the oil spill—to the point where it could harm business even in unaffected areas. But how does all this coverage compare historically? I asked Drexel sociologist Robert Brulle for his thoughts, and he put together some fascinating data.

The TNR EXCHANGE: Trust Fall
April 15, 2010

James Risen, a Washington-based writer, and Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jerusalem-based writer, have been friends since they both crashed the Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago as student reporters 30 years ago. They have been joking and arguing about news and politics ever since, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.  This e-mail exchange began in the shadow of the dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit
March 13, 2010

Raymond Carver: Collected Stories By Raymond Carver (Library of America, 1019 pp., $40)   Raymond Carver: A Writer’s LifeBy Carol Sklenicka (Scribner, 578 pp., $35) In the summer of 1984, the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami and his wife traveled to the remote coastal town of Port Angeles, Washington, to visit Raymond Carver in the glass-walled “Sky House,” overlooking the ocean, which he shared with his partner, the poet Tess Gallagher. It was more of a pilgrimage than a social call.

Humanities and Inhumanities
February 17, 2010

The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in The American University By Louis Menand (W.W. Norton, 174 pp., $24.95) The last hour has come, the times are very bad. As it was in the twelfth century, when Bernard of Cluny began his bitter satire On Contempt of the World with those words, so it is now, in the halls of the humanities. Our space is shrinking: only one-third of American undergraduates still major in the arts and sciences, and less than a third of them in the humanities.

Has Germany Undermined The Case For Stimulus?
August 14, 2009

Reading this Wall Street Journal piece about how France and Germany are emerging from their recessions at least a quarter before the U.S., it might be tempting to conclude that fiscal stimulus is just a waste of money. After all, amid calls for Germany to spend more in the run-up to the G-20 meeting in March, German chancellor Angela Merkel took a famously hard line against additional stimulus. But, in fact, Merkel soon reversed course and acceded to more spending.

Lay Off Zeke
August 11, 2009

This right-wing smear campaign against Zeke Emanuel is complete and utter bulls**t. Please read this excellent Salon debunking to see why. (Via Yglesias.) Reading it, you can't help thinking Betsy McCaughey was in some ways Sarah Palin 15 years before Sarah Palin. (And I'm honestly not sure who loses in that comparison...)

Disturbances of Peace
May 20, 2009

Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology Translated and edited by David Hinton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 475 pp., $45) Du Fu: A Life in Poetry Translated by David Young (Knopf, 226 pp., $16.95) The oldest poems translated in David Hinton’s magnificent anthology Classical Chinese Poetry date to the fifteenth century B.C.E., long before the Bible was written. For the English-speaking world, however, this ancient art is effectively less than a hundred years old.