During his early writing years in Chicago, Philip Roth began each morning by shouting at the young face peering out from the mirror at him: “Attack! Attack!” The force of Roth’s attack, sustained for more than a half-century, is what made his retirement so startling. It is also the quality that, more than anything, sustains his Why Write?: Collected Nonfiction 1960–2013.
The Twilight Zone‘s most prevalent themes are probably best distilled as “you are not what you took yourself to be,” “you are not where you thought you were,” and “beneath the façade of mundane American society lurks a cavalcade of monsters, clones, and robots.” Rod Serling had served as a paratrooper in the Philippines in 1945 and returned with PTSD; he and his eventual audience were indeed caught between the familiar past and an unknown future. They stood dazed in a no-longer-recognizable world, flooded with strange new technologies, vastly expansionist corporate or federal jurisdictions, and once-unfathomable ideologies.
In the spring of 2017, and all through the year, social media feeds in Venezuela were filled with images of deprivation and despair: long lines of people hoping to purchase food; women fighting over a stick of butter; mothers who could not find milk to buy; children picking through garbage in search of something to eat; empty shelves in pharmacies and stores; hospitals without stretchers, drugs, or minimum levels of hygiene; doctors operating on a patient by the light of a cell phone; women giving birth outside of hospitals. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions.
The collaboration between Frank O’Hara and Italian artist Mario Schifano is fully realized in the eighteen-page-long Words & Drawings, just published in its entirety in a beautifully designed and printed edition by the Archivio Mario Schifano in Rome. Throughout the book, handwritten words—ranging from intensely lyrical poetic fragments to stray conversational fragments and lists of names—are O’Hara’s, stenciled words are Schifano’s—words that are also drawing. Life has been swallowed by art. The schematic quality of things is not cold, but melancholic.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin’s “leadership,” called him “brilliant,” and said he would “get along” with him. For Russian-Americans like myself, this was when Russia came home. “Holy autocrats” and “Father Tsars” have ruled our motherland for centuries, so we can spot the type even when he comes in the guise of “Make America Great Again.” We agonized when our American friends told us Trump could not win. Our memories of totalitarianism were too fresh to discount gut feeling in favor of opinion polls.
Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing honors paying attention: seeing, listening, and, finally, singing. The novel inspires me to think that we need new songs, new ways of seeing, new ways of listening.
The American Revolution has returned to Philadelphia. After almost two decades of planning and fund-raising, the Museum of the American Revolution opened its doors last April 19, the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its thousands of artifacts, with the support of the latest interactive digital technology, recount a provocative story of how ordinary men and women of different races and ethnicities experienced military conflict and then, having achieved independence from Great Britain, created a republic that has survived for more than two centuries.
The International Criminal Court’s inability to deal with crimes committed by the world’s superpowers, or by states protected by the superpowers, has caused resentment in some countries that have made themselves vulnerable to prosecutions by ratifying the treaty for the ICC and that do not enjoy protection by permanent members. The fact that only African leaders have been subject to prosecutions has greatly increased such resentment. Some African governments have come to regard the court as an instrument of the world’s superpowers for punishing African criminality.
To the Editors: In his review of Rosemary Ashton’s One Hot Summer, Tim Flannery errs in crediting Benjamin Disraeli with enactment of Jewish emancipation in 1858, a bit of myth-making that most of Disraeli’s many biographers indulge in and that he himself practiced wholesale.
To the Editors: In “The Art of Pleasure,” Jed Perl praises Jean Renoir’s 1958 Renoir, My Father but denigrates my newly published biography, Renoir: An Intimate Biography.