Stanford University

Roth’s influence is anything but theoretical. His effects on society are far-reaching.

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After another shrill battle over organic food, meet a scientist who's found a less polarizing way to think about the future of farming.

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Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things  By Peter-Paul Verbeek  (University of Chicago Press, 183 pp., $25) JUST WEST OF SEOUL, on a man-made island in the Yellow Sea, a city is rising. Slated for completion by 2015, Songdo has been meticulously planned by engineers and architects and lavishly financed by money from the American real estate company Gale International and the investment bank Morgan Stanley.

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Nobility Eclipsed

Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew PoetryBy Alan Mintz (Stanford University Press, 520 pp., $65) I. ON DECEMBER 17, 2007, on the storied stage of the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Hebrew language—its essence, its structure, its metaphysic— entered American discourse in so urgent a manner as to renew, if not to inflame, an ancient argument. The occasion was a public conversation between Marilynne Robinson and Robert Alter: a not uncommon match of novelist with literary scholar.

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When Michael Ratner argued in a February 2002 lawsuit that British citizen Shafiq Rasul had a legal right to challenge his detention at Guantanamo Bay, there was little reason to believe he and his colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) would play any role in shaping America’s national security landscape. The country was still seething with anger over the attacks of 9/11, and longing for revenge. The few legal precedents that existed were not very encouraging.

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Robert Kagan. Eliot Cohen. Michael Hayden. Dov Zakheim. Michael Chertoff. Skim through the names of Mitt Romney’s recently announced foreign policy team, and you will be struck by the high level of experience, erudition, and pragmatism across the list. Indeed, since Romney announced his advisors on October 6, he has won praise for a foreign policy group that is unusually large and uncommonly strong. But one name sticks out: Walid Phares, a Lebanese Christian academic who has come under fire from Muslim advocacy groups and academics alike since his inclusion on Romney’s team.

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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.

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Capital Tracks

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

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Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe By Shachar M. Pinsker (Stanford University Press, 487 pp., $60) Elias Canetti, the German-language writer, born to a Bulgarian Sephardic family, who won the Nobel Prize in 1981, tells in his memoirs of his daily meetings in a Viennese café during the 1920s with a certain Dr. Sonne. A man of broad culture who radiated a quietly powerful sense of authority, Dr. Sonne was known by Canetti, somewhat to his perplexity, to be a Hebrew poet.

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I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

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