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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books February 27, 2020

For over 50 years, The New York Review of Books has been the place where the world's leading authors, scientists, educators, artists, and political leaders turn when they wish to engage in a spirited debate on literature, politics, art, and ideas with a small but influential audience that welcomes the challenge. Each issue addresses some of the most passionate political and cultural controversies of the day, and reviews the most engrossing new books and the ideas that illuminate them. Get The New York Review of Books digital magazine subscription today.

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2 мин.

T. H. BREEN is the author of The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America, published last September. MICHAEL GORRA’s books include Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece and The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, which will be published later this year. He teaches at Smith. ROBERT G. KAISER is a former Managing Editor and Associate Editor at The Washington Post, for which he reported from Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and Washington. His most recent book is Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t. ANDREW KATZENSTEIN is on the editorial staff of The New York Review. NICHOLAS LEMANN is a Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker. His books include…

20 мин.
young woman from the provinces

Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser. Ecco, 816 pp., $39.99 Susan Sontag began to read philosophy and criticism as a teenager at North Hollywood High, when she still signed her editorials in the school newspaper as “Sue.” She read Kant and La Rochefoucauld, Oswald Spengler and Rudolf Steiner. She read Kenneth Burke, who would become her teacher at the University of Chicago, and of course many novels, Thomas Mann above all; an entry in her diary recalls getting caught stealing a copy of Doctor Faustus at a Los Angeles bookshop. One day at a newsstand she picked up Partisan Review and began to tremble as she read Lionel Trilling’s “Art and Fortune,” his 1948 attempt to determine if the novel remained a living form. That set her future. That was when…

1 мин.
a bone of contention

A fox-terrier and a spaniel were fighting over a steakbone. Merciful heavens, they went for each other with teeth, claws, shoves, barks and kicks. “Get away from my bone!” “This bone belongs to me!” “Mongrel!” “Flotsam!” “I’ll throttle you with your own tail!” “I’ll throw you to the cats!” “Oaf!” “Fleaface!” “Lickspittle!” “Perpetrator!” It was a fearful spectacle, for both dogs were bleeding out of a dozen wounds. Considering this opportunity, a young hawk, inexperienced in the sad ways of the world, came down from a tree in order to pick up the bone for himself. The dogs stopped fighting at once. “Who’s this?” rasped the spaniel. “A foreigner!” the fox-terrier howled. “Brother dogs, unite!” And both dogs flung themselves on the bird. The hawk was lucky he escaped alive that day with…

27 мин.
what do we want history to do to us?

Two women are bound at the waist, tied to each other. One is a slim, white woman, in antebellum underskirt and corset. A Scarlett O’Hara type. She is having the air squeezed out of her by a larger, bare-breasted black woman, who wears a kerchief around her head. To an American audience, I imagine, this black woman could easily read as “Mammy.” To a viewer from the wider diaspora—to a black Briton, say—she is perhaps less likely to invoke the stereotypical placidity of “Mammy,” hewing closer to the fury of her mythological opposite, the legendary Nanny of the Maroons: escaped slave, leader of peoples. Her hand is held up forcefully, indicating the direction in which she is determined to go, but the rope between her and the white woman is…

18 мин.
fear and loathing and the fbi

Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law by James B. Stewart. Penguin, 372 pp., $30.00 Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI by Josh Campbell. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 276 pp., $28.95 Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy by Mike German. New Press, 339 pp., $27.99 We’ve been arguing about the FBI since President Theodore Roosevelt established it in 1908. The bureau is a secretive, nosy national police force in a country that originally made law enforcement the responsibility of the states. Under the ugly and aggressive leadership of J. Edgar Hoover from 1924 to 1972, it kept showing up on the edges of our politics, or right in the middle of them, from the Palmer Raids in search of radicals and anarchists…

14 мин.
becoming the nightmare

Wozzeck an opera by Alban Berg, in a production by William Kentridge, at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, December 27, 2019–January 22, 2020 Alban Berg’s Wozzeck has no overture. In its place, in William Kentridge’s new production at the Met, there is the set on which the curtain goes up in silence while the house lights are still on and the audience chatting in their seats or milling in the aisles. On first glance it seems an homage to misalignment and clutter, a warren of carpentry thrown together out of discarded planks, its walkways awry and awkward of access, its open areas tentative and ungenerous. It might be many things: a shantytown raised on the outskirts of some soulless metropolis, a playground for homeless children, the remnants of an abandoned…