Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books April 18, 2019

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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in this issue

3 min.

NEAL ASCHERSON is the author of Black Sea, Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland, and the novel Death of the Fronsac. He is an Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. G.W. BOWERSOCK is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His most recent book is The Crucible of Islam. EDWARD CHANCELLOR is the author of Devil Takes the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation and the editor of Capital Returns: Investing Through the Capital Cycle: A Money Manager’s Reports 2002–15. DAVID COLE is the National Legal Director of the ACLU and the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center. His most recent book is Engines of Liberty: How Citizen Movements Succeed. EAMON DUFFY is Emeritus…

14 min.
heaven can’t wait

I Am God by Giacomo Sartori, translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall. Restless, 206 pp., $17.99 (paper) Cathleen Schine I Am God is an almost outrageously charming book. In the first of his seven novels to be published in English, Giacomo Sartori takes a simple, playful premise and sets the universe crazily spinning. The Italian writer has conjured up a delicious, comical stream of omni consciousness: a pensive diary by the original omniscient narrator, God. Sartori’s God, a being of authentic complexity and paradoxical humanity, of both other worldly dignity and satirical absurdity, is an irresistible character. He is also in love. Imagine how disconcerting this is for God. “The probability that my eye should come to rest on that particular girl is far less than the chances that a particular grain of sand should…

2 min.
yale reads

TERRY EAGLETON, Humour Written by an acknowledged master of comedy, this study reflects on the nature of humour and the functions it serves. Packed with illuminating ideas and a good many excellent jokes, Terry Eagleton critically examines various well-known theories of humour and its social and political evolution over the centuries. PHYLLIS ROSE, Alfred Stieglitz: Taking Pictures, Making Painters “No biographer has a sharper sense of focus for the competing narratives that underlie a marriage. This double portrait of Stieglitz and O’Keeffe is the work of a master.”—Judith Thurman, author of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette ▪ Jewish Lives JOHN SEXTON, Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age, FOREWORD BY GORDON BROWN ▪ “One of the leading educators of our time provides an incisive analysis of the…

1 min.

The dirt track has been pounded by the sunfor these four months of drought.No horse would run here but the horse would runin barren laps of thoughtas, in my long anger, my thoughts have done, rounding the curve on old injusticesdown the straightaway of revenge,raising dust while the music of cicadasscreams like a rusty hinge,rises and fades away and again rises (reminding me of what Socrates saidabout those so thrilled by songthat they forgot to eat and drink, and diedwithout even knowing,and became cicadas): rises like the hard voices of the couple who have come hereto play out their last act,heedless and bickering in the noontime glarebeside leering herms and crackedsmall-bellied terracotta vases, but are just actors off-book, running lines. Soon theyare resting beneath the ilex,drinking cool water, laughing quietlyat the violence of their…

1 min.

The Privileged Poor How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students Anthony Abraham Jack “Challenges us to think carefully about the campus lives of poor students and the responsibility elite institutions have for not only their education but also their social and economic mobility.” —Washington Post In Search of Deeper Learning The Quest to Remake the American High School Jal Mehta & Sarah Fine “The best book on high school dynamics I have ever read.” —Jay Mathews, Washington Post American Sutra A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War Duncan Ryūken Williams “A searingly instructive story about America from which all Americans might learn.” —Smithsonian Belknap Press The Creativity Code Art and Innovation in the Age of AI Marcus du Sautoy “Fact-packed and funny, questioning what we mean by creative and unsettling the script about what it means to be human, The Creativity Code is a brilliant…

19 min.
the godfather

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster. Little, Brown, 508 pp., $35.00 1. As a young architecture writer I resolved to steer clear of all enterprises that involved Philip Johnson, convinced that this charming cultural corrupter, as I saw him, was the very antithesis of my socially conscious role model, the architecture critic Lewis Mumford. Avoidance of Johnson, however, was easier imagined than accomplished, since the first decades of my career—the 1970s and 1980s—coincided with the professional apogee of the man then reflexively called “the dean of American architects” or, less reverently, “the Godfather of American architecture” because of the powerful but largely hidden influence he wielded, not unlike that of a mafia don. He decided who got reputation-making exhibitions, conferred architectural commissions awarded through…