Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

Ian Buruma reviews Marcel Ophuls's documentary 'The Memory of Justice,' released in 1976 but rarely seen since: "We need films like this masterpiece by Ophuls more than ever to remind us of what happens when even the memories of justice fade away."

Glossing Africa

"Whenever African writers are on a panel together, we are asked about the continent as a whole," writes Namwali Serpell. "Whenever African writers get together on our own, we talk about glossaries."

Our Trouble with Sex: A Christian Story?

Annette Gordon-Reed reviews 'Sex and the Constitution' by Geoffrey R. Stone: "Over the years, courts have accepted Christian traditions on matters relating to sex despite our nation’s commitment to the separation of church and state....Judges have had to dress up in secular garb what were essentially religious principles. They did this by distinguishing between the 'moral views' they said they drew on and the 'religious views' they claimed they did not."

The Highest Form of Flattery

"Like the nineteenth century, our own moment is one at which the expansion of museums and new technologies for the dissemination of images have combined to make the history of art-making seem open to view as never before. Elizabeth Prettejohn's elegant new book reminds us that pastiche and ironic 'appropriation' are not the only possible responses to that experience," writes Ruth Yeazell.

Ain’t It Always Stephen Stills

"Several years ago an academic colleague and I embarked on what we called a 'Stills-off': we would listen to our record collections and narrow the musician Stephen Stills’s oeuvre down to its top five songs. Then we’d see whose list was better," writes Lorrie Moore.

Rwanda: Kagame’s Efficient Repression

"With each election, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has tightened his grip on power, and the elections have increasingly turned into a performance of his authority," writes Anjan Sundaram.

Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters

"Because Thomas Jefferson was at the heart of so many aspects of the American founding for such a long time we have had many occasions to ponder Jefferson’s complex nature and legacy," writes Annette Gordon-Reed. "Perhaps coming fully to grips with the paradoxes that Jefferson’s life presents is what being an American is about."

Teju Cole: At the Border of the Visible

Julian Lucas: Teju Cole's "Blind Spot" is "a record of Cole’s extensive travels between 2011 and 2017, but it is less concerned with his own itinerary than with the paths of others."

In the Flower Garden of the Brain

Gavin Francis: "It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that brain structures began to be uncovered, by a Spanish microscopist called Santiago Ramón y Cajal. As an undergraduate in neuroscience and then medicine I was given Cajal’s drawings to study—they have a timeless elegance and enduring value for students. A new book, 'The Beautiful Brain,' collects some of his finest."

Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright

Of Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin Filler writes, "Once he shifted into an unbroken two-decade professional upswing after the late 1930s, he spent even more time exploiting his public persona. The degree to which he became America’s most recognizable architect between Stanford White and Philip Johnson through his skillful manipulation of mass media speaks to his acute understanding of celebrity culture in this country."

On Optimism and Despair

Zadie Smith on optimism and despair, history and progress, the “failure” of multiculturalism and whether “human beings themselves have changed and are now fundamentally incapable of living peacefully together despite their many differences”

Loving the Vicious Race

"With the start of the Vuelta a España, Chris Froome will be attempting to become the first cyclist to win the Tour de France-Vuelta double in the same year since 1995," writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft. "Even those with no interest in bike racing might try watching on television. The grand tours are the best possible travelogues."

Southern Comfort

Historian James M. McPherson on the Confederacy and the myth of the Lost Cause

The Lonely Struggle of Lee Ching-yu

Richard Bernstein writes, "Lee Ming-che in a sense is like other political prisoners in China, a man stripped of rights, facing in solitary fashion the organized power of the Chinese state, but he is also different because he is from Taiwan. He is in fact the only Taiwanese ever to be charged with subversion of state power, and this imparts a special meaning to his case."

The Books We Don’t Understand

"What is going on when a book simply makes no sense to you?" writes Tim Parks. "Perhaps a classic that everyone praises. Or something new you’re being asked to review....Can anything useful or enlightening be said about these misunderstandings or blind spots?"

Nuclear Diplomacy: From Iran to North Korea?

Jessica T. Mathews, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reviews two books on nuclear diplomacy.

John Hope Franklin: Race & the Meaning of America

What we need to do “as a nation and as individual members of society,” the historian John Hope Franklin wrote, “is to confront our past and see it for what it is. It is a past that is filled with some of the ugliest possible examples of racial brutality and degradation in human history. We need to recognize it for what it was and is and not explain it away, excuse it, or justify it.”

Ending at the Beginning

John Banville reviews Reiner Stach’s ‘Kafka: The Early Years,’ a book which “completes one of the great literary biographies of our time—indeed, of any time.”

God’s Gift to Men

"Sadly, whatever fresh potency Wonder Woman has acquired from the wardrobe department is offset by the film’s anxious insistence on demonstrating the femininity that lies beneath her breastplate," writes Zoë Heller.

Why Autocrats Fear LGBT Rights

"The appeal of autocracy lies in its promise of radical simplicity, an absence of choice," writes Masha Gessen.

The City Strikes a Pose

"Jamel Shabazz is a kind of anti-Walker Evans," writes Tobi Haslett. "He has documented New York street life with a cheerful guilelessness. A new collection of his work from his beginnings in 1980 to the present, displays Shabazz’s wish to honor and flatter, to fashion touching tributes to a certain kind of black, urban life."

Trump’s Cruel Deportations

"A fair immigration system would consider family and community ties before ordering deportation, but US law generally ignores them, and Trump’s policies are taking this to new extremes," writes Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

Our Hackable Democracy

"The recent news that thirty electronic voting machines had been hacked for sport at the Def Con hackers’ conference, some in a matter of minutes, should not have been news at all," writes Sue Halpern.

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

"Almost half of the rental apartments in New York City are stabilized—about 990,000 units, with 2.6 million people living in them....In view of this extraordinary level of regulation, it may seem surprising that New York faces a crisis in affordable housing. But rent-stabilized apartments are disappearing at an alarming rate," writes Michael Greenberg in an article about the city’s housing emergency.

Unruly and Unerring

Cathleen Schine on Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger: “Is it an angry polemic? Is it an apologia? Is it a confession? Is it social commentary? TV criticism? A collection of magazine pieces? Self-help musings? A tell-all by a literary celebrity? A memoir of sexual abuse? Hunger is none of those things and a little bit of all those things, but mostly it is true, so true it sometimes feels almost commonplace; and it is uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that one realizes it should not feel commonplace to anyone, ever.”

The Terrorists Go Shopping

'Nocturama,' a film "about a cadre of photogenic young Parisians who coordinate a series of terrorist attacks," J. Hoberman writes, "might best be seen as a surrealist thought experiment. At once timely and timeless, it sets the aftermath of two centuries of French history to a hypnotic, trancelike beat."

The Nose of the Master

"Henry James and American Painting," an exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum, includes a profile in oil that John La Farge made in 1862. "James was just nineteen," writes Michael Gorra, "and his hair looks a burnt red; he seems pensive and unhappy—uncertain too—and the background has a touch of storm in it."

Wagner on Trial

Larry Wolff writes, "In Barrie Kosky’s new production of 'Die Meistersinger,' which opened the 2017 Bayreuth Festival, the musical cobbler Hans Sachs has been restyled as his creator Richard Wagner, isolated in the witness box at the Nuremberg Trials, and we the audience have now become the tribunal, passing judgment on him."

Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

Ian Buruma on ‘The Memory of Justice,’ the four-and-a-half-hour documentary that has rarely been seen since 1976 but is considered by its director, Marcel Ophuls, to be his best.

A New View of Grenada’s Revolution

Angela Davis said of Grenada's 1979 revolution, "my experiences here have confirmed in a very powerful way where we are all headed—what the future of the entire planet ought to look like." Joshua Jelly-Schapiro reviews a new documentary on the revolution, and the US's subsequent invasion of the island in 1983.

The True American

Eight new books explore the many contradictions of Henry David Thoreau

The Highest Form of Flattery

Ruth Yeazell considers Elizabeth Prettejohn's new book, which sets out to answer the question, Why would an artist risk being classified as a mere imitator?

A Possible Keats

In Fleur Jaeggy's 'These Possible Lives,' one poetic essay tells the life story of John Keats: "It's said that Keats's very first passion was for a stranger he’d seen for half an hour. He was waiting for her to smile at him but she never did."

Ain’t It Always Stephen Stills

Lorrie Moore writes about Stephen Stills

Rwanda: Kagame’s Efficient Repression

Today, millions of Rwandans are casting their votes even though they know in advance the election’s outcome: President Paul Kagame will win by a landslide, extending his rule to at least 2024, for a total of thirty years in power.

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

“It’s like we’re bad inventory they want to off-load to some warehouse so we’re not in the way anymore.”

Teju Cole: At the Border of the Visible

Julian Lucas writes on Teju Cole’s photographs

Our Trouble with Sex: A Christian Story?

Annette Gordon-Reed: “How do people decide which sexual acts, conducted in private, have a public impact and, therefore, become the public’s business? For our purposes, why do Americans think as we do about sex, and how have we used the Constitution, and the laws of the fifty states, to instantiate those beliefs? In his deeply researched new book, Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century, Geoffrey R. Stone gives his answer to these and other questions about our country’s regulation of sex, with a special emphasis on same-sex activity.”

Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright

Martin Filler reviews ‘Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive’ at MoMA The Museum of Modern Art

The Mysterious Music of Georg Trakl

The poet Georg Trakl’s work was important to both Wittgenstein and Heidegger. But they responded to Trakl’s mysterious poems in sharply divergent ways. Christopher Benfey reviews a new translation, and considers how Trakl’s words “shift their meanings, like a piece of music in multiple performances.”

Nuclear Diplomacy: From Iran to North Korea?

Jessica T. Mathews, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reviews two books on nuclear diplomacy. “If anything were needed to underline how much safer the Iran deal has made the United States, the menace of North Korea’s nuclear development surely qualifies,” she writes.

God’s Gift to Men

Zoë Heller on Wonder Woman: “The imperative to eradicate any hint of bossiness or anger from her character weighs heavily on the film, threatening to turn it into one long, dispiriting exercise in allaying male fears about powerful women.”

The End of the End of Obamacare

Elizabeth Drew on the Republicans’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act

The Radical Success of Comme des Garçons

Rei Kawakubo's sculptural designs have been derided by the press as "lumps and bumps," but she has a cult following among the fashion-forward. Stephanie LaCava writes, "despite how well-suited Kawakubo’s designs are for display in a museum," as they are now at the Met, "Kawakubo has been extremely influential in the larger, mainstream clothing markets...Comme des Garçons is one of few labels that have built a viable business while truly challenging industry conventions."

Why Autocrats Fear LGBT Rights

Masha Gessen: "With few exceptions, countries that have grown less democratic in recent years have drawn a battle line on the issue of LGBT rights....Trump promises to shield Americans from the strange, the unknown, the unpredictable. Queers can serve as convenient shorthand for change."

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

Last year more than 127,000 different men, women, and children slept in New York City’s homeless shelters. “The economy of New York leaves little room for the poor,” writes Michael Greenberg, in a devastating article on rising rents, landlord harassment, the mayor’s building plans and the city’s housing emergency.

A New View of Grenada’s Revolution

"Director Damani Baker's ambition, in his new documentary 'The House on Coco Road,' is to connect the US's 1983 invasion of Grenada to the saga of African-American struggles for freedom reaching back to the toil of his sharecropper forebears in Dixie and forward to the Black Lives Matter movement today," writes Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.

A Possible Keats

"Fighting was to John Keats like eating or drinking," writes Fleur Jaeggy in her new book 'These Possible Lives,' on Keats, Thomas De Quincey, and Marcel Schwob. "He sought out aggressive boys, cruel boys, but their company, as he was already inclined to poetry, must have provided some comic and burlesque treats."

South Korea’s Real Fear

"Koreans are by now long used to living within close firing range of Pyongyang and do not think it will attack unless provoked. What really worries them is Trump," writes Anthony Spaeth, Editor in Chief at South Korea’s JoongAng Daily.

The Nose of the Master

"For Henry James’s seventieth birthday in 1913 a group of his admirers commissioned John Singer Sargent to paint him," writes Michael Gorra. "A compact but wonderfully heterogeneous show at The Morgan Library & Museum includes a comprehensive selection of Jamesian portraits along with other paintings of and by his friends."

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