Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books August 16, 2018

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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20 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

CHRISTOPHER BENFEY is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke. He is the author of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival. IAN BOSTRIDGE is an opera singer and a song recitalist. He is the author of Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession and Witchcraft and Its Transformations, c. 1650–1750. JASON DEPARLE is a reporter for The New York Times. His book on global immigration will be published next year. ARIEL DORFMAN, an emeritus professor of literature at Duke University, is the author of numerous books, including the play Death and the Maiden, the book of essays Homeland Security Ate My Speech, and the novel Darwin’s Ghosts. He served as a cultural adviser to President Salvador Allende’s Chief of Staff in 1973. DEBORAH EISENBERG’s fifth collection of short…

19 min.
hail to the chief

Soon, according to a June report in The Washington Post, the moment of truth will arrive. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the president, his administration, and his campaign, will deliver his verdict on whether Donald Trump obstructed justice. On the larger and more complicated question of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, Mueller may take longer to issue a second report. But it is widely expected in Washington—which has been wrong about such matters before—that a first report, on obstruction, will drop before Labor Day. Assuming it happens, it will follow shortly after Mueller’s July 13 indictment of twelve Russian military intelligence officers. Those indictments have to do with the larger collusion story, and they suggest that more indictments might well be on the way. Even as Trump gave Putin…

21 min.
family secrets

My baby’s headstone stands taller than everyone else’s. I mean this literally—it is a great, solid slab of Hornton stone that dwarfs the surrounding memorials in the graveyard in an almost embarrassing way, given his tiny dates: June 19th–20th, 1996. There is a practical reason for this mismatch. When my partner and I bought the plot, we learned that each eight-by-two-and-a-half-foot patch of earth could accommodate two and a half people. Better leave room to write in ourselves, we thought. Why waste the space? And I was rather comforted by the notion that I knew where I was headed in the end. But my partner and I are no longer together, and now when I think of the headstone I imagine my parents’ names inscribed below my son’s, and their…

17 min.
crying out loud

Singing in the Age of Anxiety: Lieder Performances in New York and London Between the World Wars by Laura Tunbridge. University of Chicago Press, 239 pp., $55.00 The late-eighteenth-century cult of sensibility unleashed a torrent of weeping all over Europe. Chatterton handkerchiefs, printed in red or blue, flooded the market, depicting the distressed teenage poet in his garret; the suicide in 1770 of this literary prodigy and forger was later encoded into Romantic myth by Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley. Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther, published four years after Thomas Chatterton’s death and a smash hit, pushed crying to its erotic limit. Reading Klopstock together, Werther and his beloved but off-limits Charlotte touch (barely) and weep. “By releasing his tears without constraint,” Roland Barthes wrote, Werther “follows the order of the amorous body, which…

16 min.
the american nightmare

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham. Broadway, 298 pp., $16.00 (paper) Donald Trump’s campaign to deter illegal immigration by separating children and parents at the border began with an Easter morning tweet, after Fox & Friends showed a caravan of Central American families traveling through Mexico to escape gang violence at home. “NEED WALL!” he fumed. In the three-day eruption that followed, he blamed congressional Democrats, Barack Obama, and the Mexican government for the influx, while threatening to pull out of NAFTA and cut off aid to Honduras. Though illegal crossings rose this spring, they have generally been decreasing: last year the number of people apprehended at the border fell to a forty-six-year low. Three days after Easter, Trump announced that…

15 min.
loving assassins

The Tyrant-Slayers of Ancient Athens: A Tale of Two Statues by Vincent Azoulay, translated from the French by Janet Lloyd, with a foreword by Paul Cartledge. Oxford University Press, 276 pp., $35.00 The Transformation of Athens: Painted Pottery and the Creation of Classical Greece by Robin Osborne. Princeton University Press, 285 pp., $49.95 In 514 BC the city of Athens, then under the control of the tyrant Hippias, witnessed a daring assassination, the first known political murder in European history. A pair of male lovers, the older named Aristogiton and the younger Harmodius, plotted to kill Hippias at the Panathenaic procession, a public ritual instituted by Peisistratus, Hippias’s father and the city’s previous ruler. But when Harmodius and Aristogiton saw their target in conversation with someone who knew about their plot, they assumed they…