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  • Trump to Democrats: no immigration talk until U.S. government reopened January 20, 2018
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers took a tough stance on Saturday after the U.S. Congress failed to fund federal agencies, saying they would not negotiate on immigration until Democrats help end the government shutdown.
  • In New York, tourists left high and dry as Statue of Liberty shuts down January 20, 2018
    NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tourists who came to Battery Park in lower Manhattan hoping to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor got an unpleasant surprise on Saturday, learning the must-see destination was closed because of the U.S. government shutdown.
  • Women's March protesters blast Trump as president touts gains January 20, 2018
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of women and their male supporters turned out on Saturday for the second Women's March, a nationwide series of protests against U.S. President Donald Trump marking the end of his tumultuous first year in office.
  • In Pennsylvania, women who voted for Trump voice support after first year January 20, 2018
    (Reuters) - The first year of Donald Trump's unorthodox presidency may have been a dizzying ride, but Belinda Miller has never regretted voting for him in 2016.
  • Trump decries 'permissive' U.S. abortion laws at rally January 19, 2018
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump criticized U.S. abortion laws as among the most permissive in the world in a speech to anti-abortion activists at the annual March for Life on Friday, and pledged his administration would always defend "the right to life."
  • Kentucky man will plead guilty to attacking Senator Rand Paul January 20, 2018
    (Reuters) - A Kentucky man accused of attacking U.S. Senator Rand Paul outside his home has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of assaulting a member of Congress, but has told investigators his action was not politically motivated, officials said on Friday.
  • Trump signs bill renewing NSA's internet surveillance program January 20, 2018
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he signed into law a bill renewing the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance program, sealing a defeat for digital privacy advocates.
  • Two Americans, two Canadians freed after kidnapping in Nigeria: police January 20, 2018
    KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Two Americans and two Canadians have been freed after being kidnapped in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, a police spokesman said on Saturday, as it emerged that five oil workers had been abducted in the southern Niger Delta region.
  • U.S. health agency revokes Obama-era Planned Parenthood protection January 19, 2018
    WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. health officials said on Friday they were revoking legal guidance issued by the Obama administration that had sought to discourage states from trying to defund organizations that provide abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood.
  • Ex-Manson Family follower denied parole by California Governor January 20, 2018
    (Reuters) - For the second year in a row California Gov. Jerry Brown overturned the parole recommendation to free Leslie Van Houten, who as a follower of cult leader Charles Manson took part in a notorious murder spree in 1969, media reports said late Friday.

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  • Correction: Women's Marches story
    In a story Jan. 19 about women's marches, The Associated Press misidentified the city of Portsmouth as New Hampshire's state capital, which is Concord. The story also said 1 million marched around the world in rallies protesting President Donald Trump's inauguration; global crowd estimates were in the millions....
  • Geysers yes, Ellis Island no: Some US parks open, some not
    YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) -- Visitors could still ride snowmobiles and ski into Yellowstone National Park Saturday to marvel at the geysers and buffalo herds, despite the federal government shutdown....
  • Trump's first year in office has been a can't-miss drama
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bleak description of "American carnage." A forceful rollback of his predecessor's achievements. A blatant falsehood from the White House podium....
  • Missouri governor: 'no blackmail,' 'no violence' in affair
    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- In his first interview since acknowledging an extramarital affair, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Saturday that there was "no blackmail" and "no threat of violence" by him in what he described as a months-long "consensual relationship" with his former hairdresser....
  • GOP, Democrats show no sign of retreat on shutdown's 1st day
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans and Democrats showed no signs of ending their standoff over immigration and spending Saturday as Americans awoke to the first day of a government shutdown and Congress staged a weekend session to show voters it was trying to resolve the stalemate....
  • Mudslides take heavy toll on immigrants serving posh town
    Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe give Montecito its star power, but it's people like Antonio and Victor Benitez who keep the wealthy Southern California community running....
  • IOC says North Korea to have 22 athletes in 5 Olympic sports
    LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- A Korean unity deal for the Pyeongchang Olympics will bring 22 North Korean athletes across the border to South Korea, where they will march as one under a unification flag at the opening ceremony and compete together in one sport....
  • Signs of government shutdown spotty but symbolic
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Symbols of American promise became emblems of American dysfunction on Saturday when a dispute in Congress over spending and immigration forced scores of federal government agencies and outposts to close their doors....
  • Paul Bocuse, modest but grandiose French chef, dies at 91
  • AP FACT CHECK: Trump disdained jobless rate, now loves it
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, would not like the way Trump, the president, is crowing about today's unemployment rate. He'd be calling the whole thing a "hoax."...

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The Grand Tour

Top Book News provided by The Chronicle of Higher Education©

The New York Review of Books©

  • Coetzee’s Boyhood Photographs
    In Boyhood and its sequels, Youth and Summertime, J.M. Coetzee uses family photographs as aides-memoire but makes no mention of his own adolescent passion for taking them. How fascinating it was, then, to see the images made in boyhood in dialogue with the words of an older man looking back, and to imagine the way the ethics and aesthetics of the former might have forged the latter; also, to consider what the image reveals that the word cannot, and vice-versa.
  • George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time
    What unsettled me about Black No More (1931) the first time I read it was that George Schuyler was so merciless—about everyone. At a moment when black writers were finally awakening to the beauty of black culture, Schuyler had moved on to the part where we deconstruct race. He showed neither sentimentality nor chauvinism for his own race or any other. He hated everyone, and there is a strange purity to his loathing, a kind of beauty to his cynicism. It is his resistance to pandering, to joining tribes and clubs that feels so refreshing. It is the loneliness of Schuyler’s position that makes me trust it.
  • The Bitter Secret of ‘Wormwood’
    If Errol Morris had simply recounted the facts, even in a way that emphasized the real suffering of the victims, that would have shocked nobody. They are the stuff of every spy movie, a genre that has successfully turned state surveillance and assassinations into seductive excitement. But unlike that genre, Wormwood—a word for a bitter poison, used by Hamlet to describe bitter truths—doesn’t produce dramatic tension by exploiting our desire to be in on the secret. It exposes us to the baser side of that desire: the narcissism, mean-spiritedness, and contempt that are so often the psychological realities of secrecy.
  • Where the Lemon Trees Bloom
    To the Editors: In his review of Rüdiger Safranski’s Goethe: Life as a Work of Art [“Super Goethe,” NYR, December 21, 2017], Ferdinand Mount concludes: When [Goethe] finally made his long-dreamed-of trip to Italy, he remained impervious to the Christian art he saw. He was disappointed even by the classical monuments he saw in Rome, […]
  • Whither Somalia?
    To the Editors: It was pleasing to read Jeffrey Gettleman’s description of how, despite so many problems, “Somalia Rebounds.” In my experience Somalis tend to be brave, tough, and hardworking; but that does not quite explain where the money is coming from to rebuild Mogadishu.
  • Lend Me Your Ear
    To the Editors: The recent article by Jerome Groopman ends with a discussion of cochlear implants that paints a picture of the implantee experience that is far less positive than it is in reality.
  • The Emperor Robeson
    It is hard to find anyone under fifty who has the slightest idea who Paul Robeson is, or what he was, which is astonishing—as a singer, of course, and as an actor, his work is of the highest order. But his significance as an emblematic figure is even greater, crucial to an understanding of the American twentieth century.
  • To Be, or Not to Be
    Thirty-nine years ago my parents took a package of documents to an office in Moscow. This was our application for an exit visa to leave the Soviet Union. More than two years would pass before the visa was granted, but from that day on I have felt a sense of precariousness wherever I have been, along with a sense of opportunity. They are a pair.
  • ‘Dignity and Justice’: An Interview with Patrisse Khan-Cullors
    Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Over the last four and half years, we’ve seen BLM go from a phrase to a hashtag to a political platform to a movement. In the development of Black Lives Matter, we’ve seen the growth of black leadership and the rise of white nationalism. We’ve seen the rise of white men who have really invested time and energy in trying to undermine our movement. Part of the work that we’ve done is to remind people across the globe that black people are critical to the fabric of American democracy.
  • Trump’s Debt to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Style
    Though Ron Paul is often described as an orthodox libertarian, his ideology is more accurately described as paleolibertarian, which shares the limited government principles of traditional libertarianism but places a heavier emphasis on conservative social values, white racial resentment, and isolationist nationalism. It is, in many ways, a forerunner of today’s alt-right. The appeal of Paul and Trump to many Americans is not so much their specific policy ideas as their anti-establishment temperament and rhetoric, and, more specifically, a feverish anti-elitism that inevitably leads to conspiracy-mongering.
  • The Cutting-Edge Art of Matta-Clark
    Within a very few years, he single-handedly established a new genre of environmental art, in which he used abandoned buildings as raw material and radically transformed them into stunning found sculptures. A prime example was Splitting: Four Corners (1974), in which he took an unoccupied wood-frame house in Englewood, New Jersey, and made a two-story-high vertical incision from the roof to its raised masonry foundation, which caused the rear half to lean back slightly, although the whole did not collapse. 
  • ‘Studies in Power’: An Interview with Robert Caro
    Many biographers working on a long project complain that their subject has eaten up their life. Did that happen to you? Robert Caro: No. Because I don’t really regard my books as biographies. I’ve never had the slightest interest in writing a book to tell the life of a great man. I started The Power Broker because I realized that there was this man, Robert Moses, who had all this power and he had shaped New York for forty-four years. I regarded the book as a study of power in cities. After I finished that, I wanted to do national power. I felt I could learn about how power worked on a national level by studying Lyndon Johnson. I regard these books as studies in political power, not biography.
  • The Assault on Reason
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts, as United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying. But it is not merely facts that are under assault in the polarized politics of the US, the UK, and other nations twisting in the winds of populism. There is also a troubling assault on reason. Authoritarian tendencies know that warping the facts is only a start. Warping reason and logic and clarity of thought is the holy grail.
  • The Nuclear Worrier
    Daniel Ellsberg in his youth and Daniel Ellsberg in his age are the same man—a born worrier quick to spot trouble, take alarm, and issue warning. He is best known for worrying about the American war in Vietnam, which time in the war zone convinced him was a crime, and for doing what he could to bring it to an end. In that case he copied and illegally released a huge collection of secret documents about the war, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. But Vietnam was not the first or the biggest thing that worried Ellsberg after he went to work in his late twenties as an analyst for the RAND Corporation in 1959. His first and biggest worry was the American effort to defend itself with nuclear weapons.
  • Between Nouveau and Deco
    The imaginative fervor that gripped avant-garde master builders and artisans around 1900 in Vienna, the capital of the vast and culturally diverse Austro-Hungarian Empire, paralleled equally radical innovation in other creative realms, including the music of Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg, the painting of Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, and the writings of Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. Yet the singular contributions to the visual arts that the Viennese made during this epoch have never loomed large enough in general chronicles of modernism.
  • Patty Chang’s Arbitrary Acts of Devotion
    Alternating between particular and general experience in “The Wandering Lake,” Patty Chang demonstrates the power of arbitrary acts, executed with devotion, to produce their own truth. This is a guide to mourning; but Chang widens the scope to include political conflict and environmental degradation, and argues that, despite the losses we’ve incurred, we are still collaborators in the making of our worlds.
  • The Pattern and Passion of ‘Phantom Thread’
    The metaphor of couture is hard to avoid in a film so centrally involved with measuring and cutting and sewing, stitching and unstitching. The very visible boldness of the editing, the leaps and ellipses, keep the idea of cutting very much at the forefront. A crucial scene in which a wedding dress must be repaired overnight evokes both an emergency medical operation and the race against time to reshape a film in the editing room.
  • Cashing In on Céline’s Anti-Semitism
    Paris during the Occupation was a place of moral ambiguity, of cowardice, treason, and courage living side by side. Today, though, the morally ambiguous attitude of the publisher Gallimard has no justification. Its urge to re-issue the violently anti-Semitic prose that Céline himself did not want to reprint is questionable; its decision to do so quickly and carelessly was even more dubious.
  • Street Fighting Woman
    With its economic instability, mass immigration, corrupting influence of money on politics, and ever-increasing gap between the rich and everyone else, our current era bears more than a slight resemblance to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dubbed by Mark Twain the Gilded Age. There are also striking differences. Back then, larger-than-life radical organizers—Eugene V. Debs, Emma Goldman, Bill Haywood, and others—traversed the country, calling on the working class to rise up against its oppressors. Today’s critics of the capitalist order such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren seem tame by comparison.
  • Homeless in Gaza
    In Gaza more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of twenty-five, and it is among the young that the deepest despair often takes root. Some are turning to radical Islam, others to drugs. As many as eighty suicides are reported in Gaza each month, according to local aid groups, many among the young. Most of Gaza’s younger generation have nevertheless remained remarkably resilient, preparing against the odds for a better future, while also making an effort to learn about their past.
  • Will the Court Kill the Gerrymander?
    The Wisconsin redistricting case before the Supreme Court, Gill v. Whitford, underscores how the justices’ failure to act on gerrymandering when they last had the chance, over a decade ago, has warped American electoral politics almost beyond recognition. It has allowed Republicans to turn the last three elections for Congress and many statehouses into a strange simulacrum of competition, in which the parties compete vigorously for votes even though GOP control has often been all but assured from the outset. At stake in Gill is the question of whether election outcomes can be made once again to provide at least a rough reflection of the popular will.
  • Trump to Undocumented Teens: Give Birth or Get Out
    At the core of the anti-abortion movement is the tenet that a fetus is a person whose rights need to be protected. The Trump administration is taking this argument to an absurd and cruel extreme. A fetus in the United States requires the full protection and support of American law. As for its undocumented, adolescent mother—well, if she wants her rights, she should leave the country.
  • Memories of Mississippi
    I had done it. Deep in the South I had reached one of the towns central to an uprising that would sweep away legal segregation, bring the vote to black people in the thirteen states that had made up the Confederacy, and overthrow the system of racial oppression called Jim Crow that had been re-imposed in those states after the Civil War. Over my shoulder was a Nikon F reflex. “You got a camera,” James Forman—then SNCC’s executive secretary—said to me when we met at the Freedom House. “Go into the courthouse. They got a big water cooler for whites and a little bitty bowel for negroes. Go take a picture of that.”
  • Art in a Time of Terror
    For the most part, “Age of Terror: Art since 9/11” is sobering, serious stuff. Still, the British press does not seem have been especially impressed. More than one review has criticized the show and even its premise as trite or banal. Some have argued that art is simply unequal to the magnitude of the event. But isn’t that a given? Who can forget Karlheinz Stockhausen’s shocking observation, six days after the Twin Towers fell, that the attack was “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos”?
  • Balzac’s Novel of Female Friendship
    Balzac's The Memoirs of Two Young Wives is less about two women and their stories than a trenchant dialogue about love and marriage by a writer who never hesitated to weave direct commentary and social argument into his story, contrasting these women not by their style or their voices, as Rousseau himself urged (and as a modern writer surely would), but by their clashing ideas.
  • Bitcoin Mania
    The first time I bought virtual money, in October 2017, bitcoins, the cryptocurrency everyone by now has heard of, were trading at $5,919.20. A month later, as I started writing this, a single coin sold for $2,000 more. “Coin” is a metaphor. A cryptocurrency such as bitcoin is purely digital: it is a piece of code—a string of numbers and letters—that uses encryption techniques and a decentralized computer network to process transactions and generate new units. Its value derives entirely from people’s perception of what it is worth. The same might be said of paper money, now divorced from gold and silver, or of gold and silver for that matter. Money is a human invention. It has value because we say it does.
  • Is Trump Certifiable?
    The irony of Trump now suggesting that his former chief strategist Steve Bannon “has lost his mind” is evident. But laudable as their call may be, psychiatrists can do little more than trumpet danger—unless Twenty-Fifth Amendment proceedings determining the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” are set in motion. At that point, the vice president or the Cabinet or Congress can call for a full mental health test and diagnostic assessment. But what will guard against the president’s excesses and remove him from office is more likely to be politics than the mind doctors.
  • ‘The Biggest Taboo’: An Interview with Qiu Zhijie
    You don’t feel that things are harsher or tighter now? Qiu Zhijie: It’s like this: because the anticorruption crackdown was so harsh, officials don’t dare act or do anything. Everyone speaks in formulaic language, and reads the Party’s documents. That kind of atmosphere isn’t good. Actual measures are few, but you do feel a kind of authoritarianism that’s worse than before.
  • Zeus: The Apology
    I came of agelessness just after heaven and earth were formed, when there weren’t many rules yet about behavior, since I’d hardly made any. If someone broke an oath, I threw a thunderbolt—that was one of the few. Nor was there any “workplace culture” on Olympus to speak of. That’s no excuse, I know now. I will leave it for others to judge whether the fact that my father cut off my grandfather’s genitals and flung them into the ocean and ate all my siblings makes any difference. One way or another, clearly I have needed to channel some kind of insecurity, and over the last few weeks I’ve asked Athena to put together a phalanx of gods and mortals to help me wrestle with those demons that come with the territory of being able to mess with everything at will. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • The Novelist’s Complicity
    Great television is taking over the space occupied by many novels, and taking with them many excellent writers. And by and large, it’s delivering the same rewards to its audience. But what about novels that exploit the opportunities that are available only to the form of the novel, such as novels that explore interiority, or rely on the novel’s versatile treatment of time and causation? Who will speak for such novels?
  • Fred Bass, Maestro of the Strand
    The news this week of the death, at age eighty-nine, of Fred Bass, the legendary bookseller who made the Strand into the cultural landmark it is, put me in mind of an afternoon I spent with him more than a decade ago. I had gone to the Strand to learn something about the store’s highly-trafficked used-book buying counter, and the people who worked there. Like any number of young literary-minded New Yorkers with more ambition than money (or storage space), I had long made the trek to 12th Street and Broadway, my satchel laden with review copies. There was something ignoble in this, but it was an authentic part of a hoary, if not frequently discussed, literary tradition.
  • Divine Lust
    In a career lasting more than seventy years Michelangelo reigned supreme in every art: sculpture, painting, architecture, drawing, poetry. So absolute was his mastery, and so Olympian were his creations, that he seemed more than mortal to his contemporaries. They called him “divine,” said his works were the most sublime ever made, even greater than those of antiquity, and used a new term, terribilità, to describe the awesome majesty of his art.
  • Can Trump Obstruct Justice?
    The constitutional standard for an impeachable offense—“treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”—is best understood to require serious official misconduct, but not the commission of a crime. But since Alan Dershowitz’s view implies that any presidential termination of an investigation is constitutionally authorized, impeachment for such an action could not be legally permissible. The dispute over this view is no abstract, academic debate. As a matter of practical politics, a long-running controversy among legal experts on this point could give political cover to Republican members of Congress to resist taking up an obstruction charge.
  • Being Chris Ware
    Chris Ware has a deadpan self-abnegation that is, by all accounts, genuine. But in such an enormous book as this, which is fairly bursting with photographs of his accomplishments and friends, and all the amazing drawings documenting his rise from lonely, fatherless child to fifty-year-old genius, it does seems a terrific struggle to keep the humble pie hot through 275 pages. About halfway through, Ware’s aw-shucks attitude became, at least for me, hard to take. He needn't be so abashed about all he has done.
  • Lauren Greenfield’s Gilt Edge
    Greenfield’s raw material, materialism, is candy-colored and stimulating. It is also almost uniformly depressing. In “Generation Wealth,” she shows us the self-starved bodies of the affluent young, among their parents’ magma-flow of possessions. We see their marmoreal homes, their beauty regimes, and their fathers’ younger, heliotropic second wives. The overall affect of the exhibition’s packed two floors and the accompanying book, a dense gold brick with some 650 images, is nihilism. At times, it even feels gleefully so. 
  • Murderous Majorities
    Majoritarian politics results from the patiently constructed self-image of an aggrieved, besieged majority that believes itself to be long-suffering and refuses to suffer in silence anymore. The cultivation of this sense of injury is the necessary precondition for the lynchings, pogroms, and ethnic cleansing that invariably follow.
  • This Land Is Our Land
    The usurpation of land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is taking place long after the age of colonialism came to an end, sixty-nine years after the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in defiance of international law. Jewish settlements violate Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own people into occupied land. And this is happening in full view of the media in one of the most reported conflicts in the world.
  • A Soviet New Year, With Mayonnaise
    Without mayonnaise, there could be no New Year in the Soviet Union. But you could never just buy mayonnaise. You could only get it, sometimes in a favor exchange, sometimes at a special distribution center for important people, like party members or employees of the commerce sphere, most of whom were party members also, so it was one and the same thing. Some trade union members could access mayonnaise, too, though I never figured out which ones; my mother’s union couldn’t.
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Single Mom
    Every time my car broke down during those years, or I had to fill out renewal forms for our food stamps, my stomach clenched in selfishness and guilt. We were struggling like this because I had chosen to get an art degree instead of work. Being on government assistance, that didn’t seem like an option for me, let alone one to accept, even though it never felt like there was any other option but that. I was a writer. I had to write.
  • Dominica: After the Storm
    Lennox Honychurch, historian of Dominica, told me his story of experiencing the worst storm ever to strike his island. He described the steep uphill battle that Dominica is still facing three months later, after the most damaging Caribbean hurricane season on record. Even to begin a rebuilding process will take years, and in the meantime, the world’s spotlight moves on.
  • Yeltsin’s War in Chechnya
    To the Editors: In his review of William Taubman’s biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, Strobe Talbott also comments on two subsequent rulers of Russia: Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin, like the last leader of the Soviet Union, writes Talbott, “was loath to use force or risk instability as the world’s largest territorial state dismantled itself,” whereas Putin pursued a “scorched-earth strategy in subduing Chechen secessionists.” Yet it was Yeltsin in late 1994 who first chose force to crush Chechnya’s separatist movement, by launching a devastating war that entailed massive indiscriminate bombing of the capital city Grozny and smaller Chechen towns.
  • Damage Bigly
    The greatest damage done during Trump’s first year concerns neither domestic nor foreign policy, but something far deeper: it is the harm he has caused to America’s political system and to the democratic norms that underlie it. No evaluation of the impact Trump has had as president could be complete without addressing his attacks upon the rule of law, upon notions of political and racial tolerance, upon national unity, upon the freedom of the press, upon civil discourse, upon truth itself. The result has been to fray the bonds that hold American society together.
  • Consciousness: Where Are Words?
    Parks: So, nothing is stored in the head. Manzotti: All the objects we encounter, the objects we call experience, continue to be active in our bodies and brains, continue to be our experience. It is the nature of our fantastically complex brains that they allow these encounters to go on, and to go on going on. The encounters are not “stored” and are certainly not static. They are continuing to happen. They are us.
  • Conor Cruise O’Brien at 100
    By the end of the two-day symposium at Trinity, a more measured and nuanced appreciation of this extraordinary man was clear than during much of his life, or even at the time of his death. Cruise O’Brien has been called one of those people whose role it is to be brilliantly wrong. He was certainly wrong some of the time, as in his anti-anti-communist days when he speciously downplayed the character of Soviet tyranny, or later when he, likewise speciously, opposed a boycott of South Africa, which gave his enemies an opportunity to label him, wrongly, as an apologist for apartheid. But the two most impassioned speakers suggested that he was right often enough.
  • Uncanny Christmas
    My love of the doll imagery of Joseph Cornell and James Ensor, for instance, is partly born of the sense of childhood kept alive. Their work preserves the uncanny perception of dolls’ attractive creepiness, a seeming consciousness. Received ideas are unwittingly incarnated in the manufactured rubber objects and identities emerge. Using artificial breasts, snakes, naked baby-dolls, and other props, I give that consciousness expression, satirizing what was unwitting and making it manifest and visceral: a weird vision ripe with resonant gender tensions, aesthetic hierarchies, neuroses, and perhaps, spirituality.
  • Christmas in July
    My family is very passionate about Christmas trees. We insist—or rather, my wife and our two sons insist—that the search for the tree must be arduous. We are surrounded in bosky Amherst by small Christmas tree farms, as I meekly point out, but instead we drive over an hour to remote Ashfield, up near the Vermont border, to a particular farm. There, outfitted with saws and a large cart, a sort of wheeled gurney, we hike to where the trees are, a half hour’s climb up the sloping path. Then, with much discussion—should cuteness be a factor, or some elusive element of character?—we select our tree.
  • South Africa’s Cattle King President
    Jacob Zuma, an unschooled man of the countryside, once derided “clever” blacks—by which he meant people like Cyril Ramaphosa, educated and urban, disconnected from their roots. Through his cattle, Ramaphosa seeks to demonstrate a reconnection with the land and the heritage of his people. “I am not Robert Mugabe,” he is saying. “This will not be Zimbabwe. Read my book and you will see. My own family knows the pain of dispossession. But I now own the most magnificent herd of cattle in the country, and I am a successful farmer. I have been on both sides. That’s why I can do the job.”

The Grand Tour

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