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 some distance the worst writer of English. Even Dreiser’s woozier passages in Sister Carrie cohere… More Squeeze play: The Octopus
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 a few drops of milk from the breast of a young woman. When he seemed… More ‘The coins had to be prised from their clenched fists’
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 time to take stock of his achievements. But the organizer of the March on Washington… More ‘I’m gay, he’s black, and he’s older than you’
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 FDR had nothing to do with Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Joseph Kennedy, and the rest; it’s… More History is bunk: The Sphinx
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 him to cling even tighter to the label — “a mantra for persistence and determination,”… More ‘A capacity for living with doubt, revaluation and crisis’
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 in his catalog, taking its cue from the pie-eyed mooncalf at its center. Named Doc… More Inherent Vice: California dreaming
Colm Toibin – Nora Webster The title character, newly widowed, practices the art of losing faster, faster, and it isn’t hard to master. She doesn’t want the house her husband bequeathed her — she wants to sell it and use the money to pay for the tuition of her four children, none of whom really… More Colm Toibin and Henry Adams
Gilded Age nothing—think of the last quarter of the nineteenth century as the Bearded Age. The average citizen may not be able to distinguish Rutherford B. Hayes from Chester Arthur, but there’s no way those men could have served as president in any other time. One of the pleasures of reading The Politicos, Matthew Josephson’s… More Money, money, money: The Politicos
By all means let’s discuss the influence of Moses on the founding of the Republic and ignore Madison. Texas has made it easier: The Texas State Board of Education, whose decisions can have national ramifications, on Friday approved nearly 100 textbooks despite criticism the books exaggerated the influence biblical figures had in forming the U.S.… More ‘I don’t think there is any reason to fear these books’
I can’t start a new week without noting that a beloved author from my childhood died a few days ago. Second only to founder Edward Packard in the number of titles written under his name, R.A. Montgomery also wrote the weirdest of the Choose Your Own Adventure books*. Readers of The House of Danger choose… More What’s another word for buried treasure?
Look at the winners of Tuesday’s midterm elections. Joni Ernst? The United Nations is going to take your children and guns. Tom Cotton? The Affordable Care Act is a food stamp bill. Nelson Rockefeller could have paid for seventeen special commissions to investigate every one of their charges and it wouldn’t have changed things. While… More If you don’t like the effect, don’t produce the cause: Nelson Rockefeller
“[The president] had the happy faculty of feeling [at one with] himself and this was one of the most extreme cases of it that I have ever seen because he must know hat we are all against him on Gymnast,” wrote the secretary of war in August 1942. Henry Stimson, despite his talents, could never… More And WHAT a mantle!