Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books May 9, 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.

United States
Read More
20 Issues

in this issue

2 min.

ALEX ABRAMOVICH is the author of Bullies: A Friendship. NATALIE ANGIER writes about science for The New York Times. She is the author of The Beauty of the Beastly: New Views on the Nature of Life, among other books. KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH teaches philosophy at NYU. His latest book, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, is based on his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures. LISA APPIGNANESI is Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She is the author of Mad, Bad, and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors and Losing the Dead. Her most recent book is Everyday Madness. ANNE DIEBEL works as a private investigator in New York City. She was formerly the Robert L. Belknap Faculty Fellow at Columbia. J.H. ELLIOTT is Regius Professor Emeritus of Modern History at Oxford. His…

17 min.
‘a painter not human’

Ingrid D. Rowland Antonello da Messina an exhibition at the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia di Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, December 14, 2018–February 10, 2019. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Giovanni Carlo Federico Villa. Rome: Mondomostre, 127 pp., €19.00 (paper) Antonello da Messina an exhibition at the Palazzo Reale, Milan, February 21–June 2, 2019. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Caterina Cardona and Giovanni Carlo Federico Villa. Milan: Skira, 299 pp., €40.00 In October 1608, the fractious painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio made a daring escape from a Maltese prison and set sail for the Sicilian port of Messina. Perhaps he chose Messina because he could count on a network of friends and protectors there, but perhaps, as the Italian art historian Mia Cinotti has suggested, he went for an entirely different reason: to…

1 min.
exceptional art + architectural history

1 A is for Archive: WarholÕs World from A to Z by Matt Wrbican; Published in association with The Andy Warhol Museum 2 Wright and New York: The Making of AmericaÕs Architect by Anthony Alofsin 3 Renoir: The Body, The Senses edited by Esther Bell and George T. M. Shackelford; Distributed for the Clark Art Institute 4 Whistler in Watercolor: Lovely Little Games by Lee Glazer, Emily Jacobson, Blythe McCarthy, and Katherine Roeder; Distributed for Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian 5 The Young Victoria by Deirdre Murphy; Published in association with Historic Royal Palaces 6 The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists by Linda S. Ferber; Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington 7 The Rise of Everyday Design: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and America by Monica Penick and Christopher Long; Published in association with…

1 min.
exciting new titles in the life sciences

The incredible true story of how an English gardener saved the Japanese cherry blossom tree from extinction “Engrossing…. A portrait of great charm and sophistication, rich in its natural and historical range, guaranteeing that you won’t look at cherry blossoms the same way again.” —The Guardian “Carlos is an inspiration to me. He’s the perfect spokesperson for the plants of the world.” —Jane Goodall “Absorbing…. Mlodinow skillfully weaves scientific findings with stories of people, events, and the natural world.” —The New York Times Book Review “The science behind addiction comes alive in its sorrow and grandeur. When you pick up this book get ready for an intense ride…. [Grisel] juxtaposes stark examples from her own tortured past, methodically connecting each experience to the hard science of addiction neurobiology.” — Dr. Paul H. Earley, President-elect, American Society of Addiction…

18 min.
kidnapping: a very efficient business

Anne Diebel We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages, and Ransom by Joel Simon. Columbia Global Reports, 189 pp., $15.99 (paper) Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business by Anja Shortland. Oxford University Press, 249 pp., $24.95 In Argentina in the early 1970s, leftist guerrillas started snatching executives of multinational companies and demanding ransoms. This culminated in the payment of $60 million to the Montoneros, a Peronist guerrilla group, for the release of the brothers Juan and Jorge Born, executives at the grain-exporting firm Bunge & Born and the sons of its president. The ransom seems noteworthy for its heft—at about $275 million in today’s money, it stands as the largest one paid in a conventional kidnapping case. (In 2017 Qatar reportedly paid $1 billion to an al-Qaeda affiliate and Iran to win the release of a royal…

18 min.
houdini with a brush

David Salle Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes an exhibition at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, June 22–September 23, 2018; the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium, October 14, 2018–January 13, 2019; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., November 8, 2018–April 21, 2019. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Dirk Luckow. London: Koenig, 240 pp., $95.00 A good painting focuses our attention in a matter of seconds—what is sometimes called wall power—and it also holds our gaze over time. It repays prolonged looking. A good painting appeals to both the eye and the mind, the one refreshing the other. There is no one thing or set of things that a painting must do. A good painting can look like anything at all, or like nothing we’ve seen before. All painting is, in a way, a…