Tag Archives: Books

The quiet man: Stalin

Why the English-speaking world needs another Stalin biography becomes a moot point when a writer as incisive as Stephen Kotkin pens one. Published last autumn, Stalin is the best I’ve read since Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror but not as … Continue reading

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Squeeze play: The Octopus

To qualify as realist, early twentieth century American fiction needed the smell of the stockyards and signs that the novelists read newspapers. Frank Norris isn’t as widely read as Crane, Dreiser, or The Jungle, and I understand: he is by … Continue reading

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‘The coins had to be prised from their clenched fists’

As Pope Innocent VIII tried to die, sycophants performed the obligatory acts of Christian charity: He slept almost continuously…He grew grossly fat and increasingly inert, being able, toward the end of his life, to take for nourishment no more than … Continue reading

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‘I’m gay, he’s black, and he’s older than you’

He was seen in a flash in Selma, recognizable to those who knew by the hornrims and shock of erect salt and pepper. hair. The career of Bayard Rustin was like that: the indispensable man who receded when it was … Continue reading

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History is bunk: The Sphinx

Reading The Sphinx is like listening to a grandmother recount an oft told tale, each telling with a shift of emphasis, different point of entry, and, for the blessed, a new detail. What I learned in Nicholas Wapshott’s book about … Continue reading

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‘A capacity for living with doubt, revaluation and crisis’

Beautifully put: Unlike the other distinguished graduates of Partisan Review, Howe never surrendered the banner of socialism. The fact that he remained fairly isolated in his adherence to the old faith irked him. And it was his isolation that caused … Continue reading

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Inherent Vice: California dreaming

Paranoia, fear of Manson-like cults, and suspicion of long hairs and hard hats alike fail to dim the honeyed light with which Inherent Vice is suffused. Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s loopy 2009 novel is the mellowest item … Continue reading

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