Christopher de Bellaigue: "For all the gestures of inter-communal solidarity that have been given much publicity since the June 18 attack outside a London mosque, the more significant and ominous sentiment has been one of vindication."
In the new issue of The New York Review, Bryan Stevenson writes about the United States’ legacy of racial inequality, and how the presumption that people of color, particularly young black men, are guilty and dangerous has shaped our criminal justice system. “There is still an astonishing failure to acknowledge, discuss, or address the history of lynching,” he writes.
Fintan O'Toole: "To understand the sensational outcome of the June 8 British election, one must ask a basic question. What happens when phony populism collides with the real thing?"
Robert Storr on Raymond Pettibon, whose exhibition “TH’EXPLOSIYV SHOYRT T” is closing after its final day tomorrow at David Zwirner Gallery.
Elaine Blair on the unnerving comedy of Louis C.K, including the show Louie, his latest stand-up special 2017, and the web series Horace and Pete
Health care under the Affordable Care Act is too costly and too chaotic. The Senate’s disastrous proposed replacement bill would make things worse.
Max Nelson on Stan Brakhage: "What his films shared was an obsession with light—the patterns it makes, its effects on the eye and the brain, how different shooting methods and editing strategies could make it behave."
Martin Filler on the "quietly brilliant" architectural transformation of Times Square
Ingrid Rowland: "The Florentine exhibition 'Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance,' organized around the work of the acclaimed American video artist Bill Viola, has brought the paragone—the age-old debate about the most expressive form of art—into the twenty-first century."
Laura Poitras filmed Julian Assange for six years to make her new film Risk, which follows the WikiLeaks founder as he goes from, in Sue Halpern’s words, “a bit player on the international stage to one of its dramatic leads.”
"Matisse, unsurprisingly, had strong feelings about the objects of his daily life. They delighted, inspired, or confounded him, in their humble ordinariness and in all that they evoked," writes Claire Messud in her review of "Matisse in the Studio," which presents Matisse's favorite objects alongside the works that draw upon them, now at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Marcia Angell reviews two new books that tell the story of the battles over Roe v. Wade throughout the years. Angell writes, "The 1980 Republican platform called for a constitutional amendment to protect the life of the unborn, and the new president, Ronald Reagan, who, like Trump, had once favored abortion, now, like Trump, opposed it."
"There are no nasty questions in 'The Putin Interviews,' Oliver Stone's new four-part documentary series," writes Robert Cottrell.
Judge Jed S. Rakoff on how he changed his mind about the death penalty: "Unless one acknowledges that rational human beings can feel such revulsion at the taking of an innocent life as to wish the taker dead, one misses part of the reason that the death penalty continues to enjoy significant popular support."
Fintan O’Toole writes, "I am not sure whether the National Rifle Association has ever thought of having an official Nobel literary laureate. But if it did there is no doubt that it would choose Ernest Hemingway."
Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband on our sick health care system, and how to fix it
"No matter how many troops the US decides to send to Afghanistan this summer, it will not rectify the political crisis in Kabul," writes Ahmed Rashid.
"For any materialist vision of consciousness, the crucial stumbling block is the question of free will," writes Tim Parks, introducing his most recent dialogue with Riccardo Manzotti on consciousness.
David Grossman has been awarded this year’s Man Booker International Prize for his novel A Horse Walks into a Bar, about an aging Israeli stand-up comedian. In his review, Stephen Greenblatt called the book “unbearably bleak,” and writes that it enters into a “Kafka-zone where tragedy and comedy are braided together.”
Sarah Kerr on the feminist backstory of Wonder Woman: “Hiding in her kitschy story lines and scant costume were allusions to and visual tropes from old struggles for women’s freedom, and an occasional framing of battles like the right to a living wage and basic equality that have yet to be decisively won.”
An account of the 1761-1767 Danish expedition to Arabia was first published in English in 1964 as 'Felix Arabia.' And "it was only then," writes Colin Thubron in his introduction to a new edition, just published by NYRB Classics, "that the full drama and strangeness of the expedition was widely revealed."
"Recent events in Egypt have raised the question of whether the tradeoff General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has offered the Egyptian public—keeping them safe in exchange for an authoritarian state and far-reaching restrictions on civil society—is working," writes Joshua Hammer.
James Guida surveys Portuguese writer José Maria de Eça de Queirós's fiction, on the occasion of a new translation of 'The Illustrious House of Ramires'
"The new face of Russian protest is barely pubescent," writes Masha Gessen. "As long as some Russians, including some very young ones, are willing—as they were on Monday—to brave streets filled with riot police, they keep an unreasonable hope alive."
Our colleagues Daniel Drake and Allison Hughes have launched a new venture offering a wide range of editorial services for writers. See the link below for more information.
Francine Prose on the importance of language in former FBI Director James Comey's recent testimony: "Comey's hearing proved that it is still possible for politicians to speak in complete sentences, to display a familiarity with history, to strive for linguistic and moral clarity: to make sense."
Happy birthday to W.B. Yeats, who was born on this day in 1865. In the February 19, 1998 issue, Denis Donoghue writes, "When we try to get a sense of Yeats’s life as a whole, we come—it seems to me—upon a comprehensive project....I think the first consideration was his need to transform himself from the shy, disheveled man he knew he was into a poet of power and authority."
Two new books about Louis Kahn show the architect to be a wildly conflicted person, writes Martin Filler: “intellectually ambitious yet insufficiently educated save in his specialty; seemingly warm and generous but often aloof and monstrously selfish; endlessly loquacious yet maddeningly obscurantist; at once a wise man and a spoiled child.” What Kahn achieved, though, was “nothing less than a complete realignment of architecture’s deepest priorities.”
Esther Allen on the Brazilian artist Lygia Pape, whose first solo exhibition in the US is a retrospective, now at the Met Breuer: "Pape's 'Divisor (Divider)' is a forty-square-meter stretch of white canvas regularly punctuated with slits like large buttonholes. Groups of participants are invited to don the work by slipping their heads through the slits and moving around collectively. The experience looks joyously playful...It’s easy to forget that 'Divider' is a work of political protest."
Charles Simic writes about the the poet Philip Levine, who described his own work as “Nothing epic, just the small heroics of getting through the day when the day doesn’t give a shit, getting through the world with as much dignity as you can pull together from the tiny resources left to you.”
Is it possible that a Congress in which the Republicans control both or even one chamber would consider impeaching Trump? At what point might their patience with Trump be exhausted? Elizabeth Drew considers.
"Last year’s triumph for Brexit has often been paired with the rise of Donald Trump as evidence of a populist surge," writes Fintan O'Toole. "But Britain's election showed us what happens when phony populism collides with the real thing."
"Like many children of the 1970s, I first encountered Saul Steinberg’s drawings on the cover of The New Yorker," writes Chris Ware. "Or, to be more precise, I first saw printed reproductions of his drawings on New Yorker covers plastered all over the walls of my family’s bathroom in Omaha, Nebraska."
"Modern society, as a whole, tends toward a sort of institutional optimism," writes Tim Parks. "Hence the kind of truth pessimists tell us will always be a subversive truth."
"The first phase of the Berlin Painter’s career coincided with the birth of democracy in Athens, and the early works—which portray ordinary people caught in simple moments of daily life in much the same way that other vase painters treated gods and heroes—demonstrate the humanism of that political evolution," writes James Romm.
"Stan Brakhage’s movies could be abstractions made by painting, scratching, or collaging directly onto the film stock itself, or intimate records of his family life. There is a disquieting tension in many of the films he made about his family during his first marriage," writes Max Nelson.
On the problem of vote-splitting and the results of the French presidential election, Nobel Prize–winning economists Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen write, "As an extremist, Marine Le Pen was able to 'divide and conquer' her way into the final round." With this in mind, they explain the rationale for reforming the US's Electoral College in favor of majority-rule voting.
"Snøhetta’s quietly brilliant reconfiguration of Times Square is an exemplar of how much can be achieved in city planning without the gigantic financial outlays and dire social displacements that typified American postwar urban renewal projects," writes Martin Filler.
In this article from 2011, Hugh Eakin reports from Qatar on the emirate’s role as a “gadfly in Middle East diplomacy,” and how it is trying to stay ahead of the changes sweeping through the region.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, in his foreword to a new edition of Chinua Achebe's "African trilogy," writes, "Achebe enables us to hear the voices of Igboland in a new use of our own language. A measure of his achievement is that Achebe found an African voice in English that is so natural its artifice eludes us."
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War. David Shulman reviews five books that consider how Israel’s occupation of most of the territories captured in 1967 was made permanent. The anniversary “invites us to take stock of the moral consequences of our decisions,” Shulman writes.
"The curators at the Bodleian Libraries brought out treasures and raided the archives for 'Volcanoes: Encounters through the Ages,'" writes Jenny Uglow. In this exhibition and book "we follow the struggle of men and women to comprehend, explain in words, and depict in pictures the pulsing red-hot power beneath the earth."
Diane Ravitch analyzes the proposed budget for the US Department of Education: “a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students”
Two excellent new books, ‘Women Against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century,’ by Karissa Haugeberg, and ‘About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America,’ by Carol Sanger, tell the story of the battles over Roe v. Wade. Marcia Angell reviews.
Fintan O’Toole on Ernest Hemingway, male impersonator
Tim Flannery, author of ‘The Weather Makers’ and ‘Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis,’ argues that while Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is “potentially disastrous for the planet, it is even more catastrophic for America.”
“If genius means anything anymore,” writes Robert Storr, “then the artist Raymond Pettibon is one.” Storr reviews two exhibitions that put Pettibon’s mordant humor, vivid imagery, and daunting, chaotic vision on display.
Roderick MacFarquhar reviews ‘The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao’ by Ian Johnson.
Geoffrey O’Brien: "The Ernst Lubitsch retrospective about to unfold at Film Forum will offer a theater of free-floating desire and inextinguishable humor ingeniously stitched together out of the fabric of Austrian operettas and French farces and the plot devices of a hundred forgotten Hungarian plays, flavored by delicate irony and risqué innuendo, where sex is everywhere but just out of sight."
Judge Jed Rakoff’s brother was murdered in 1985. “Had the prosecutor recommended the death penalty, I would have applauded,” he writes. “It took many years before I changed my mind.”
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