THE LAST FOUR YEARS have created what economists call a “natural experiment” in economic policy. As a consequence of deregulation and globalization, Britain and the United States experienced the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way. Large parts of the banking system collapsed and had to be rescued; the real economy went into a nosedive and had to be stimulated. But after 2010, the United States continued to stimulate its economy, while Britain chose the stonier path of austerity. The British are no more wedded to the idea of fiscal austerity than are the Americans.
It's hard not to laugh, or at least smile, when you see, say, Larry McMurtry give glowing praise to Gore Vidal's new memoir in the New York Review of Books. After all, this is the publication commonly known as the New York Review of Each Other's Books. But on the incestuous reviewing front, I was glad to see that National Review is giving NYRB a run for its money. In the latest issue, the first back-of-the-book essay heaps fawning praise on John O'Sullivan's new history of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II (all heroes of freedom, coincidentally).
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Random House, 462 pp., $25.95) A genre is hardening. It is becoming easy to describe the contemporary idea of the "big, ambitious novel." Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: he is Dickens. Such recent novels as The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mason & Dixon, Underworld, Infinite Jest, and now White Teeth overlap rather as the pages of an atlas expire into each other at their edges.
That lumbering beast, the Washington scandal, is awake again and growling to be fed. Dinner--trembling and cowering and looking very tasty--is to be Charles Z. Wick, head of the United States Information Agency. Flogging the beast vigorously to keep it enraged and hungry is William Safire, conservative columnist for The New York Times. Someone leaked Safire evidence that Wick had been tape-recording his phone calls. Confronted, Wick stupidly insisted that he had never recorded a conversation without telling the other pairty, then later admitted he sometimes had.