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  • Mass killer, cult leader Charles Manson dies at 83 November 20, 2017
    (Reuters) - Charles Manson, the wild-eyed cult leader who orchestrated a string of gruesome killings in Southern California by his "family" of young followers, shattering the peace-and-love ethos of the late 1960s, died on Sunday, prison officials said. He was 83.
  • Second woman accuses U.S. Senator Franken of groping: CNN November 20, 2017
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A second woman has accused Democratic Senator Al Franken of inappropriately touching her, this time in 2010 after he had been elected to public office, CNN reported on Monday.
  • In win for Trump, Nebraska approves Keystone XL pipeline route November 20, 2017
    LINCOLN, Nebraska/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Nebraska regulators approved a route for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline through the state on Monday, lifting the last big regulatory obstacle for the long-delayed project that U.S. President Donald Trump wants built.
  • Zarrab trial in U.S. is a 'clear plot against Turkey', government says November 20, 2017
    ANKARA (Reuters) - A U.S. court case against a wealthy Turkish gold trader is a "clear plot against Turkey" that lacks any legal basis, Ankara's government spokesman said on Monday, ratcheting up rhetoric ahead of a trial that has strained diplomatic relations.
  • U.S. general sets two-year goal for driving back Afghan Taliban November 20, 2017
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said on Monday he believes he could help Afghan forces drive back the Taliban enough to control at least 80 percent of the country within two years, compared with about two-thirds today.
  • Pennsylvania police in manhunt for suspect in killing of officer November 20, 2017
    (Reuters) - Authorities were searching on Sunday for a gunman who killed a Pennsylvania police officer during a traffic stop, and raised the reward to $43,500 while asking for tips in the case.
  • Tyson puts Kansas plant on hold, to build facility in Tennessee November 20, 2017
    (Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc said it was putting on hold plans to build a chicken production plant in Kansas following opposition from local residents and the No. 1 U.S. meat processor said it would build a new $300 million facility in Tennessee.
  • Trump open to dropping healthcare provision in Senate tax bill: aide November 19, 2017
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday.
  • Bangladesh arrests militant suspect in U.S. blogger killing November 19, 2017
    DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police said on Sunday they had arrested a suspected leader of an Islamist group wanted in connection with the death in 2015 a U.S. blogger critical of religious extremism.
  • New Orleans's first female mayor to lead city during its 300th anniversary November 19, 2017
    (Reuters) - A New Orleans City Council member who launched a political career after helping her neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina was elected as the city's first female mayor this weekend in a runoff that pitted her against another woman.

RSS AP Big Story

  • Trump says US will declare NKorea a state sponsor of terror
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. will designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror amid heightened nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula....
  • For many, Charles Manson cult killings ended era of love
    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In summer 1969, a scruffy ex-convict with a magnetic hold on young women sent some of his disciples into the night to carry out a series of gruesome killings in Los Angeles. In so doing, Charles Manson became the leering face of evil on front pages across America and rewrote the history of an era....
  • Zimbabwe's Mugabe, facing impeachment, calls Cabinet meeting
    HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe's ruling party on Monday ordered impeachment proceedings to begin against longtime President Robert Mugabe and expressed confidence that he could be voted out within two days, while the world's oldest head of state ignored the party's midday deadline to resign and instead summoned ministers to a Ca […]
  • 2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of improper conduct
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of improper conduct, saying he put his hand on her bottom as they posed for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010 - after he had begun his career in the Senate....
  • Nebraska panel approves alternative Keystone XL route
    LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A Nebraska commission approved an alternative route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state on Monday, removing the last major regulatory obstacle to building the long-delayed $8 billion project....
  • Trump promises Americans 'huge tax cut' for Christmas
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Monday promised a tax overhaul by Christmas, a day after the White House signaled its willingness to strike a health care provision from Senate tax legislation if it's an impediment to passing the tax bill....
  • Trans teen's war with his body started when he was just 10
    HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- Theo Ramos learned how to cut himself when he was in fifth grade, when his body seemed to revolt....
  • 3-2-1, BAM! Georgia Dome imploded in downtown Atlanta
    ATLANTA (AP) -- One of the nation's largest domed stadiums collapsed Monday into a pile of jagged concrete and a vast cloud of dust in a scheduled implosion in downtown Atlanta....
  • Gun ads continue after mass shootings but with new scrutiny
    ATLANTA (AP) -- The ads leap out from the pages of almost any gun magazine: Soldiers wearing greasepaint and camouflage wield military-style rifles depicted as essential to the American way of life. A promotional spot by the Mossberg brand boasts of weapons "engineered to the specs of freedom and independence."...
  • Roy Moore accuser says she was not paid to tell her story
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A woman accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of initiating sexual contact when she was 14 said Monday she wanted to confront him years ago but didn't because he was powerful and the encounter gutted her self-confidence. She said she came forward to tell her story only after other women agreed to....

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The Grand Tour

Top Book News provided by The Chronicle of Higher Education©

The New York Review of Books©

  • It’s the Kultur, Stupid
    In a poll shown on German television on election night, 95 percent of Alternative für Deutschland voters said they were very worried that “we are experiencing a loss of German culture and language,” 94 percent that “our life in Germany will change too much,” and 92 percent that “the influence of Islam in Germany will become too strong.” Feeding this politics of cultural despair is a milieu of writers, media, and books whose arguments and vocabulary connect back to themes of an earlier German right-wing culture in the first half of the twentieth century. This is a new German right with distinct echoes of the old.
  • Lewd and Ludic: the Stampography of Vincent Sardon
    The Stampographer, a new catalogue of Vincent Sardon’s work, is exuberantly bizarre, often foul-mouthed, sometimes boring, sometimes tender. There are jolly naked cowboys, and blue-and-red biff-boff cartoon fights (Republicans and Democrats?), obscene photos and deliberately blasphemous images—not that anyone would disagree with Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa as an illustration for “the orgasm over time.”
  • Puerto Rico’s DIY Disaster Relief
    Two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, aid remained a bureaucratic quagmire, mismanaged by FEMA, the FBI, the US military, the laughably corrupt local government. The island looked like it was stuck somewhere between the nineteenth century and the apocalypse. But leftists, nationalists, socialists—the anarchist and feminist Louisa Capetillo’s sons and daughters—were stepping up to rebuild their communities. Natural disasters have a way of clarifying things. They sweep away once-sturdy delusions, to reveal old treasures and scars. 
  • What’s in a T-Shirt?
    MoMA's “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” refers less to a period of time than to a way of relating to time itself—of dealing with and mingling the past, present, and future. The show features items that have been invented anew, used for present needs, or re-appropriated self-consciously to signal one’s identity, for political purposes, for nostalgic reasons, or simply as irony. Together, the exhibition and catalog present what could be considered a fashion “canon” for contemporary life.  
  • Norwegian Woods
    Edvard Munch was never simply a Norwegian artist. His appeal, like his own life, has always been both local and cosmopolitan at the same time. He may be best known internationally for his anguished paintings of the 1890s, especially for the group of works he created between 1893 and 1910 and called, in German, Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). In Norway, on the other hand, he is at least as well known, and deservedly so, for his monumental paintings in the Festival Hall, dedicated to the sun and its pale, oblique Nordic light. Two recent exhibitions, one just closed in Oslo, one just opening in New York, suggest the broad range of this complicated but consistently capable artist.
  • Russia’s Gay Demons
    Early in Vladimir Putin’s first presidency I spoke to a Moscow banker, with reason to care on this point, who said he detected no trace of anti-Semitism in Putin personally, but that Putin would encourage popular anti-Semitism in a second if he thought that doing so would serve his interests. So far, Putin has not felt the need to demonize Russia’s Jews. He has instead identified the enemy within as Russia’s homosexuals, whose persecution is one of the main themes of The Future Is History, Masha Gessen’s remarkable group portrait of seven Soviet-born Russians whose changing lives embody the changing fortunes and character of their country as it passed from the end of Communist dictatorship under Mikhail Gorbachev to improvised liberalism under Boris Yeltsin and then back to what Gessen sees as renewed totalitarianism under Putin.
  • Let Them Buy Cake
    When David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Denver, Colorado, five years ago, they had no inkling that the encounter would take them to the United States Supreme Court. All they wanted was a wedding cake.
  • Year One: Trump’s Foreign Affairs
    Until a year ago, the US was setting a lead of a very different sort. America’s first black president seemed about to make way for the first woman president. Once again, the US was offering an example to the world, affording a glimpse of what twenty-first century democracy might look like. Instead, Trump has provided a glimpse into a gloomier future, one of lies, ethnic division, authoritarianism, and the ever-looming prospect of war. It’s fair to say that most outside the US are counting down the days, like a prisoner scratching marks onto the wall, waiting for Trump to be gone, so that the world might feel steadier, and safer, again. 
  • Marseus in the Land of Snakes
    No one quite knows what led Otto Marseus van Schrieck to the invention of the sottobosco, but it was certainly in the spirit of the times. Born around 1620, Marseus grew up amid the great scientific flourishing of the seventeenth century. This included, among much else, the development of the microscope, which soon led to a widespread enthusiasm for all things minute. Around when Marseus is thought to have been born, the poet and composer Constantijn Huygens looked through an early microscope, later marveling in his memoirs that, “It really is as if you stand before a new theater of nature, or are on a different planet.” The sentiment captures much of the joy of Marseus’s paintings, which at their best give the impression of seeing a world through the eyes of someone encountering it for the first time.
  • Year One: Stress Testing the Constitution
    Trump’s lawyers deny that the president’s continued receipt of business from foreign, federal, and state governments violates the Constitution. They may be right. And it may be difficult to persuade a court that anyone has standing—the appropriate injury—that would permit a lawsuit in the first place. But while profiting from the presidency may not violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses, refusing to follow routine conflict of interest practices shows a contempt for norms. We might quibble about what counts as an emolument, but we should raise questions about a president unconcerned about mixing private profit and public duty.
  • Year One: Rhetoric & Responsibility
    The Trump problem is probably somewhat self-limiting, he and his ilk being so very strange. But there are older, deeper problems. A substantial part of the American public seems to have lost interest in ideas, therefore in substantive controversy. This worrisome depletion has affected the whole of society, universities included. In saying this, I am making a criticism of institutions I value profoundly, as I do the politics of democracy, more for their splendid potential than for their present influence.
  • Tove Jansson: Beyond the Moomins?
    For anyone familiar with Tove Jansson from the Moomins alone, the most surprising works in the exhibition—which aims to rectify the fact that less attention has generally been paid to her range as a visual artist—will be her early self-portraits and her wartime political cartoons. The exhibition’s progression has two somewhat contradictory results. On the one hand, by opening with unfamiliar parts of Jansson’s oeuvre it emphasizes her breadth. On the other, it gets that out of the way before moving on to better-known material. Its momentum ends up flowing toward the Moomins rather than away from them.
  • The Afterlife of a Memoir
    The writer of a memoir must necessarily reveal a great deal about herself or himself, and often about other people, too. You sacrifice your own privacy, and you sacrifice the privacy of others to whom you may have given no choice. To be the author of a memoir is also to become a confessional for other people. All over the world, people tell me their stories. Sometimes, sharing their stories with me is all they want, and it is enough. Sometimes, they want a wider recognition for their stories. To them, I say this: write, but only if you are sure you want to live with the consequences every day for the rest of your life.
  • Year One: When Black Women Lead
    It was in 1991—the year legal theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality”—that Anita Hill came forward with sexual harassment allegations against a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. If Hill had been believed, it could have sunk his appointment. But such claims from a black woman were not taken seriously. Believing Hill decades ago could have changed access to the ballot and who occupies the White House. Americans should have listened to a black woman then. They should listen to black women now.
  • Poems from the Abyss
    Czesław Miłosz, the Polish poet, writer, diplomat, exile, and Nobel laureate, was a figure whose own life seemed to embody the turmoil of the twentieth century. He lived through both world wars and the Russian Revolution, experienced fascism, communism, and democracy, lived in Eastern and Western Europe and, later, the United States, and he returned again and again to these events in his writing. “To me Miłosz is one of those authors whose personal life dictates his work…. Except for his poems, all of his writing is tied to his...personal history or to the history of his times,” Witold Gombrowicz, the other great Polish writer in exile, said of him. I agree, but would not exclude Miłosz’s poems and don’t believe he would either, since he regarded his highest achievement as a poet to be his ability to fuse history and his personal experience.
  • The Bells of Balangiga
    To commemorate the forty-eight men they lost in the battle of 1901—or perhaps to avenge them—American troops brought the three bells of Balangiga home from the Philippines with them. When President Donald Trump travels to Asia this November, he will meet with the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who recently called for the return of the bells. At the heart of the dispute is the question of how we ought to remember a little-known, inglorious war in which American and Filipino troops alike committed acts of valor and war crimes.
  • Hugh Edwards: Curator, Mentor, Friend
    By the spring of 1962, when I met him, Hugh Edwards had been responsible for more than twenty exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, including a selection by Edward Weston and a survey of Alexander Gardner’s Civil War pictures. On a visit to the museum after we had met, he said to me, “Go downstairs and see that show.” It was Robert Frank’s first solo exhibit.
  • Year One: The Mad King
    “We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” said Senator Jeff Flake (Republican of Arizona). But the reality is that the GOP has, in fact, accepted the Trump New Normal. Even though other Republicans shared Flake’s views, few were willing to speak out, and the GOP’s surrender seems complete. Less than a year into his presidency, we hear the same question again and again: What will it take for Republicans to break with their Mad King?
  • Persia’s Hybrid Art
    “Technologies of the Image,” now at the Harvard Art Museums, is fascinated by precisely the thing that repelled many Europeans about art of the Qajar period (1779-1925)—its hybrid aesthetic, a combination of “native styles” with European sources and technology. The curators are especially interested in what they call “remediation,” that is, images made in one medium subsequently emulated in another: a painting that incorporates a photographic model, for example, or a lithograph based on a sculpture. The longer one studies them, the more absorbing they become.
  • Soap and South Africa’s ‘Fatal Intimacy’
    Soap has been at the center of some of the most visceral private and public expressions of racism in South Africa. For all the “apart-ness” that the government tried to enforce through both “grand apartheid” and “petty apartheid,” which worked to control the public interaction between black and white bodies in public toilets, benches, trains, buses, swimming pools, and other facilities, a contradictory intimacy developed in everyday private interactions as black people still labored, and even lived, in the workplaces, kitchens, nurseries, bedrooms, and bathrooms of white South Africans. The uses—and alleged non-uses—of this ordinary household item are thus entwined in the country’s history.
  • Year One: Resistance Research
    Probably the greatest misconception about the resistance is that it’s a youth movement. By an overwhelming majority, the leaders of the groups are middle-aged women—middle-aged white women, to be exact. A great many of them have never been involved in electoral politics before. Many never even went to a protest before they got on a bus to the Women’s March back in January. “The Democratic Party is really good at misreading energy on the ground,” says L.A. Kauffman, the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism. I’m afraid that consultants will swoop in, vacuum up phone and email lists, import kids from Brooklyn to get out the vote, then vanish again. If people newly roused to political action are going to stay roused, then the Democratic Party had better pay attention and follow their lead.
  • Ricketts to Reporters: Drop Dead
    Was the shutdown of the online news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist purely an act of spite? Ricketts’s acquisition of Gothamist in March suggests that he had been determined to make the business work. He seemed willing to continue to try to “crack the code” of profitability at DNAinfo only if his reporters had no bargaining power. News organizations’ only recourse at present is to hope that Congress may enact antitrust legislation that takes into account the monopolistic evolution of the Internet.
  • Bolshevism’s New Believers
    Yuri Slezkine’s monumental new study, The House of Government, situates the Russian Revolution within a much larger drama, placing the Bolsheviks among ancient Zoroastrians and Israelites, early Christians and Muslims, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Puritans, Old Believers, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rastafarians, and other millenarian sects. As sworn enemies of religion, the Bolsheviks would have hated this casting decision and demanded to be put in a different play, preferably with Jacobins, Saint-Simonians, Marxists, and Communards in supporting roles. Slezkine, however, has claimed these groups for his story as well, insisting that underneath their secular costumes they too dreamed of hastening the apocalypse and building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The Bolsheviks, it seems, were condemned to repeat history—a history driven not by class struggle, as they thought, but by theology.
  • Virgil Revisited
    David Ferry’s previous outings with Virgil, in his matchless Eclogues and Georgics, had already convinced me that he has some sort of uncanny connection to the great poet. Especially when reading the Eclogues, one hears a new-old voice, as if Virgil had miraculously learned English and decided it might do as well as Latin. This kind of translation almost needs a new name, to distinguish it from all the other worthy efforts to bring the ancient poets to life: it is an iteration, another version, but also—perhaps, almost—the thing itself.
  • Year One: It’s Up to Us
    In a weak democracy, an authoritarian leader like Trump could do widespread and lasting damage. Such leaders often control the legislature, are immune from court oversight, and suppress civil society institutions. But our hallowed traditions of judicial independence, civil liberties, and a robust political culture have—thus far, at least—held Trump in check to an important degree. The courts cannot stand up to President Trump alone, however, and it would be a great mistake to think they could. In the end, the most important guardian of liberty is an engaged citizenry.
  • Putin’s Russia: Revolution, What Revolution?
    Russia is no longer a country forged in the crucible of revolution; it is the land of the tsars and the Orthodox Church. Out went the relics of communism, with its mass demonstrations and portraits of Lenin; in came the relics of the Orthodox Church, with its miracles and icons. In the new lyrics of the national anthem, still sung to the old Soviet tune, “The unbreakable union of free republics” becomes “Russia, our sacred dominion.” In this revised version of Russian history, Vladimir Putin appears as the savior tsar. 
  • Year One: My Anger Management
    It feels as if the world has taken a bad turn on its axis and we are now in a different, awful era that will go on for the rest of my life, and maybe my daughter’s life as well. Things are happening that cannot be so easily undone: the parade of arch-conservative federal judges about to be appointed, for starters, because Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was only the beginning; climate change; environmental damage; the mobilization of a confident proto-fascist movement. How can I not rage at the people who are bringing all that about? Away with them! Away with us. Our minds have been hijacked and colonized by a ridiculous con artist and reality TV showman, and we are of no real use to anyone anymore.
  • The Heroic Age of New York Movie Theaters
    A new study by Ben Davis, Repertory Movie Theaters of New York City: Havens for Revivals, Indies and the Avant-Garde 1960–1994, with copious photographs, has just been published. I confess I approached it with trepidation, fearing it would get wrong somehow the passion to which I had given so much time and energy, rather like going to a mass political demonstration and coming home to see it distorted in the nightly news. As it turns out, Davis has done a superb job (I was almost disappointed not to be disappointed) of capturing the phenomenon of New York repertory movie theaters and placing it in historical context. His prose is clear, intelligent, engaging; his anecdotal examples colorful and often humorous; his research impeccably extensive.
  • Year One: Our President Ubu
    I hate everyone you hate, was Trump's message over and over again, and these numbskulls who can’t even tell the differences between an honest man and a crook nudged each other, knowing exactly whom he had in mind. Since Trump became president, every time I told myself this man is bonkers, I remembered Ubu Roi, realizing how the story of his presidency and the cast of characters he has assembled in the White House would easily fit into Alfred Jarry’s play without a single word needing to be changed.
  • The Pity of It All
    Ken Burns achieved renown with lengthy film histories of the Civil War, World War II, jazz, and baseball, but he describes his documentary The Vietnam War, made in close collaboration with his codirector and coproducer Lynn Novick, as “the most ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken.” Ten years in the making, it tells the story of the war in ten parts and over eighteen hours. Burns and Novick have made a film that conveys the realities of the war with extraordinary footage of battles in Vietnam and antiwar demonstrations in the United States.
  • The Case of Isabel Archer
    The Portrait of a Lady can rightfully claim to be the novel that began to edge fiction out of a Victorian concern with spectacle and plot and to introduce us to what became, in the early twentieth century, in the hands of Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, and others, fiction that is concerned with the ebb and flow of individual consciousness as it ranges across the mundane events of daily life. James frequently pauses the action and allows us to eavesdrop on Isabel Archer’s most intimate thoughts, feelings, and fears, in a manner that readers in 1881 would have found both startling and thrilling. John Banville’s seventeenth novel, Mrs. Osmond, seizes the narrative baton from James.
  • Under the Banner of New York
    New Yorkers choose to gather under the banner which says “New York”—which is so elastic it really means nothing at all—and that is exactly what I love about this place. The capacity to gather without precise definition I experience as a form of freedom, here where we do not have to be the clerk to the heir of wherever, where we can be unattached to our old European pedigree, or lack of same, and loosened from the bonds of distant villages, with their strictures and demands, their ideas regarding our sexuality or gender, their plans for our future.
  • How to Solve the Catalan Crisis
    Catalonia does not have a right under international law to unilaterally declare independence from Spain. But if it becomes clear that a large part of the people, possibly a majority, favor independence, then the only sensible thing for Madrid to do is to hold a dialogue with the leaders of that region. Negotiations do not imply that the government is going to accept independence, any more than the British government accepted a united Ireland in the Good Friday negotiations. The conservative government in Madrid, however, has always refused any such dialogue.
  • Why the Kurds Are Paying for Trump’s Gift to Iran
    Trump’s decision to decertify the nuclear deal followed an extensive policy review to come up with a new Iran strategy. By supporting Iraq, the administration intends to contain Iran’s influence in the region. An independent Iraq today could block Iran’s access to its ally in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, and from there to the territory in Lebanon controlled by its proxy, Hezbollah. With this larger strategic picture in mind, sacrificing the Kurds may be an acceptable price to pay—especially as they had declined to follow US advice on the referendum. There is, however, an obvious flaw in this approach.
  • A Short History of Style
    Joey Arias at Jackie 60, 1997 The disposition of her arms Is a case of Nothing ventured, nothing Gained. Her violet ear Makes sense if Something wicked is Being said. The angle Of her nose is a challenge, A crime against nature. Her Throat a fine line. Lover Where have you been? Mistakes come back […]
  • War of All Against All
    The battle against ISIS in Syria is nearly over—attacked by the regime and its allies on one hand and the US-backed coalition on the other, its leadership is on the run, and the territory it controls diminishes by the day. Elsewhere in Syria, a frequently violated, Russian-orchestrated “cessation of hostilities” is in place. The revolution failed, and the wars it spawned are either changing form or limping to a bitter, ragged, whimpering end. The lines on the map are still shifting, but although Syria may never be unified in the way it was before 2011, the Assad government, with Russian and Iranian help, is reconsolidating power in the main urban centers. New conflicts are brewing.
  • Fake Tradition
    To the Editors: Tim Flannery does an excellent job reviewing recent books about fishing and its long-term impacts on human development. However, he overstates the case considerably in tying Japanese traditions of fishing for dolphins to current industrial dolphin slaughters and whaling.
  • A Banquet of Words
    To the Editors: I would like to comment briefly, in Hayden Pelliccia’s discussion of Iliad translations, mine included, on the much-debated “reading” by Zenodotus of daita (feast, banquet) rather than the otherwise unanimous pasi (all) at the very beginning of the Iliad, changing the fate of the Greek battlefield corpses at Troy from being “carrion for dogs and all birds [of prey]” to “carrion for dogs, for birds a feast.”
  • Correction
    In Simon Winchester’s review of Michael Ignatieff’s The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World [NYR, November 9], the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, not the Carnegie Endowment, sponsored the research project that Ignatieff writes about in the book. He undertook the project when he served as the Council’s Centennial Chair.
  • The Problem With ‘Problematic’
    It’s undeniable that the literary voices of marginalized communities have been underrepresented in the publishing world, but the lessons of history warn us about the dangers of censorship. Unless they are written about by members of a marginalized group, the harsh realities experienced by members of that group are dismissed as stereotypical, discouraging writers from every group from describing the world as it is, rather than the world we would like.
  • Why This Is Not Trump’s Watergate
    Never mind the obvious factual differences in the stories—the allegations of Russian collusion are far more grave—American law, politics, and journalism is far too different now to think that matters will unfold the way they did in the 1970s. As complex a story as Watergate was, it reads like a children’s book compared to what Mueller and his team are dealing with. As vicious and as partisan as the events were back then, they seem quaint in comparison to the poisonous atmosphere in which the current scandal is unfolding. That is why the comparisons to Watergate are so facile.
  • The Short, Sad Story of Stanwix Melville
    “He seems to be possessed with a demon of restlessness,” Stanwix’s mother remarked. But his real demon was motionlessness. After eighteen months in California, Stanwix reports: “I am still stationary." After Bartleby’s employer suggests that he might consider “going as a companion to Europe, to entertain some young gentleman with your conversation,” Bartleby replies, “I like to be stationary.” To which his exasperated employer responds: “Stationary you shall be then.” Published two years after Stanwix’s birth, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” could not be based on Stanwix. But could Stanwix be based on Bartleby? Could Herman Melville, the distant, depressed father, have helped create the conditions for a Bartleby?
  • Small-Town Noir
    I often wonder if David Lynch is the era’s most original artist, or at least the creator of its most haunting images—the severed ear in Blue Velvet, the Red Room in Twin Peaks, the Mystery Man in Lost Highway—but his works feel too schlocky, seedy, tearful, too male, too white for me to want to say this often in conversation. His cinema is disreputably baroque, brimming with meaning that it seems to disavow.
  • Black Lives Matter
    In Kara Walker’s new exhibition, it is as though she has drawn her images of antebellum violence from the nation’s hindbrain. Walker has been creating her historical narratives of disquiet for a while, and they are always a surprise: the inherited image is sitting around, secure in its associations, but on closer inspection something deeply untoward is happening between an unlikely pair, or suddenly the landscape is going berserk in a corner.
  • Can Kim Jong-un Control His Nukes?
    Unlike a conventional military, where tanks, trucks, even planes are relatively simple instruments of war, owning nuclear weapons is a huge, expensive, and complex responsibility. Perhaps the world should worry less about the threat of a North Korean-instigated nuclear war and more about the risk of a nuclear accident. The most frightening question raised by Kim Jong-un’s pursuit of the ultimate weapon is also the simplest: Can he control his nukes?
  • When Pierre Boulez Went Electric
    The piece is written for three separate groups: an orchestra, six soloists, and what the score calls an electro-acoustic system of computers and loudspeakers. No two performances of Pierre Boulez's Répons are the same, bringing to light seemingly new interactions between the electronically treated soloists and the acoustic orchestra, among the soloists themselves, and even a difference in the way that the sounds, captured and dispersed by the electronics, travel through space itself.
  • An Icy Conquest
    “We are starved! We are starved!” the sixty skeletal members of the English colony of Jamestown cried out in desperation as two ships arrived with provisions in June 1610. They suffered from exhaustion, starvation, and malnutrition as well as from a strange sickness that “caused all our skinns to peele off, from head to foote, as if we had beene flayed.” During those pitiless months of “starving time” they turned to eating dogs, cats, rats, mice, venomous snakes, and other famine foods: mushrooms, toadstools, “or what els we founde growing upon the grounde that would fill either mouth or belly.”
  • The Perfectionist
    Harvey Sachs’s lifelong study of Toscanini has paid off in his gigantic and extraordinary new book about the conductor. Indeed, I cannot think of another biography of a classical musician to which it can be compared: in its breadth, scope, and encyclopedic command of factual detail it reminds me of nothing so much as Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker.
  • China’s Silk Road Illusions
    The Chinese government’s marketing of the Belt Road Initiative has played upon myths and half-remembered facts about China’s past—“the glory of the silk routes,” in Xi Jinping’s words. And the narrative gives credence to the notion that, until the age of Western aggression, China was the master of the region. But China has enough problems on its own borders without dreams of reliving the achievements of the Ming dynasty master mariner Zheng He. Where will the BRI be in 2030?
  • Swagger & Pomp: Jamaica’s Dancehall Style
    Jamaica, as island politicians and historians of pop music have grown fond of saying, is a country whose cultural impact has been wildly disproportionate to its size. The imagery of Jamaican music, not just the sound, has captured the global imagination for decades. Beth Lesser's photographs from the Eighties document the zenith of dancehall—often described as reggae's raucous younger sibling.
  • The Resistance So Far
    Almost ten months into the Trump administration, how are the Democrats doing as an opposition party? The first instinct of rank-and-file liberals is always to dismiss them as ineffective (just as, not coincidentally, it is the first instinct of conservatives to bemoan Republicans’ congenital lack of spine). And the first instinct of the mainstream press is to feed that narrative with a steady supply of “Democrats in disarray” articles. It’s an old storyline and a mossy one; my friends and I, in e-mails, mockingly use the hashtag #demsindisarray when we note articles that overhype some new Democratic calamity. Yet there is some truth to both claims.
  • Who’s Cheating Kenyan Voters?
    Two weeks ago, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the election rerun scheduled for October 26, claiming that nothing had been done to remedy the problems that marred the first one, which was nullified September 1. Why isn’t the US doing more to pressure President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the blatant election issues? America may not be as neutral in Kenya’s electoral contest as it claims to be.
  • Fatal Genes
    Diagnosis of a disease before the onset of symptoms can benefit patients in many ways. It can circumvent an exhausting investigative odyssey; it can inform reproductive decisions; it can help a patient to plan; it can allow him or her to connect with others with the same condition, which is not only reassuring for the patient but also helpful to research scientists. But it can also cause despair. To what extent is information about an unpreventable genetic disease that has not yet caused any symptoms a gift and to what extent is it a burden?

The Grand Tour

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