Reviewing the Unreviewable
April 06, 2014
The act of reviewing—or even just having critical thoughts about—juvenilia produced by someone who cannot defend herself seems both loathsome and pointless. But this book calls for it.
Anti-Semitism in Western Music
December 21, 2012
The Music Libel Against the JewsBy Ruth HaCohen (Yale University Press, 507 pp., $55) IN NOVEMBER 1934, Privy Councilor Wilhelm Furtwängler, vice president of the Third Reich’s Music Chamber and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, imprudently took to the pages of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung to defend the composer Paul Hindemith against the charge of “Jewishness” with which Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda and enlightenment of the people, had justified a prohibition on the performance of his work.
Richard Burton Was a Great Writer
December 20, 2012
The Richard Burton DiariesEdited by Chris Williams (Yale University Press, 693 pp., $35) JUNE 14, 1969, and for a dawn moment he was calm, remembering Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas: “I love my wife. I love her dearly. Honest. Talk about the beauty, silent, bare.... Sitting on the Thames with the river imitating a blue-grey ghost. My God the very houses seem asleep.
Deal With It
June 22, 2012
ONE OF THE blessedly few statistics in Losing It, William Ian Miller’s book about his experience of aging, and a tour-de force of hypochondriacal free association, informs his readers that “more than half the people between the ages of sixty-five and
When former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh* wrote Title IX forty years ago, his goal was very simple: to make sure women could get a good education.
They Died for Westphalia
June 08, 2012
WHAT A SPELL of cultural miseries. Oprah Winfrey commended “Pierre de Chardin” to the graduates of Spelman College and exhorted them to “let excellence be your brand.” Yale University elected to have its commencement addressed by Barbara Walters. Al Sharpton appeared in the pages of The New York Times Book Review, which warmly noted that its reviewer has lost a lot of weight and eats fish twice a week and many vegetables. And Daniel Bell was made responsible for the Iraq war.
The Alibi of Ambiguity
June 07, 2012
Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy DilemmaBy Barbara Will (Columbia University Press, 274 pp., $35) IdaBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Logan Esdale (Yale University Press, 348 pp., $20) Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected EditionBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Susannah Hollister and Emily Setina (Yale University Press, 379 pp., $22) ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1951, an oddly dressed young woman appeared in an alley adjacent to the municipal hospital in Angers, a town southwest of Paris.
Pride and Poetry
May 18, 2012
Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life By Lev Loseff Translated by Jane Ann Miller (Yale University Press, 333 pp., $22) Joseph Brodsky caught the attention of the outside world for the first time in 1964, when he was tried in Leningrad for the crime of writing poetry. That is not how the indictment read, of course: his “crime” was that he did not have a regular job, and was therefore a “parasite.” But a scurrilous article attacking Brodsky in the Evening Leningrad newspaper not long before his trial gave the game away.
One Year Later: The Failure of the Arab Spring
January 24, 2012
I. A year has passed since liberal America and the liberal opinion class, in particular, went ecstatic over the Arab debut into the modern world. I know that my standing in that class is suspect. So, being a bit flummoxed myself by the not altogether dissimilar developments in the vast expanse from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia, I conquered my doubts and made a slight stab for hope. But I quickly realized that I was wrong and left the celebration.
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.