Yale University

Reviewing the Unreviewable

How to assess the promising, posthumous work of a 22-year-old

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.

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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.

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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.

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Deal With It

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 seventy-four surveyed in a National Council on Aging study in 2002 thought of themselves as middle aged or young, as did a third of those over seventy-five.” But the datum rep

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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. He wanted to force schools to accept women as students, let them into classes, and hire them as professors. And he wanted to make professions that require higher education accessible to women.As the law, which prohibits educational programs that take federal money from discriminating on the basis of sex, celebrates its fortieth birthday on Saturday, the changes Bayh was after have, to a stunning degree, happened—women have been earning more undergraduate degrees than men since 1996 and in 2009 overtook them in the attainment of doctoral degrees; 47 percent of legal degrees and 48 percent of medical degrees were conferred on women in 2010, compared to 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 1972. Title IX has become most famous for ushering female athletes onto the playing field—an application of Bayh’s law that he told me didn’t cross his mind when he was defending it in the Senate.Another of the most lasting—and most controversial—legacies of Title IX is, likewise, in an area referenced nowhere in its 37 words: sexual harassment. The law made national headlines once again last spring when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that it would investigate whether Yale was violating Title IX by allowing a hostile sexual environment. How did a law written to open the doors of classrooms become the staging ground for lawsuits over sexual misconduct?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Inner Clamor

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.

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