Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books June 27, 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.

PETER ADAMSON teaches ancient and Arabic philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Medieval Philosophy, the fourth volume of his series of books based on his podcast A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, will be published in September. DAVID A. BELL is Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of History at Princeton. His book Men on Horseback: Charisma and Power in the Age of Revolutions will be published next year. 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. ELAINE BLAIR is a regular contributor to The New York Review. CALEB CRAIN is the author of the novel Necessary Errors and the critical study American Sympathy. His second novel, Overthrow, will be published in August. MARTIN…

16 min.
cornering the word market

The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Languageby Peter Martin.Princeton University Press, 358 pp., $29.95 Under certain circumstances, the question of whether a particular string of letters constitutes a word can assume a momentary prominence, with money or honor on the line. Passionate squabbles can erupt over a game of Scrabble or over how Jeff Bezos asserts his right to privacy. In his February online post accusing the National Enquirer of blackmail, the billionaire founder of Amazon used the doubtful word “complexifier,” twice, as in, “My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me.” Commentators were quick to point out that “complexifier” is indeed a word, although a verb, in French.1 Poor Bezos, they seemed to imply, deserved some linguistic latitude for having employed a combination of…

2 min.
yale reads

PAUL STARR, Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies “With the depth of historic and political insight he is celebrated for, Starr gives us a new and crucial lens through which to view what is happening in America—the entrenchment of great wealth through political power.”—Robert B. Reich, author of The Common Good and Saving Capitalism ANTHONY ALOFSIN, Wright and New York: The Making of America’s Architect “A watershed investigation of Wright’s life in the 1920s, when he landed, adrift, in New York. The city proved antagonistic, irresistibly so, and transformed him. Alofsin’s erudition, compelling prose, and first-rate detective work will alter how you perceive both Wright and Manhattan.”—Judith Dupré, author of Skyscrapers WITOLD RYBCZYNSKI, Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City “In this engaging and fascinating…

2 min.
ideas with impact

War over Peace One Hundred Years of Israel’s Militaristic Nationalism Uri Ben-Eliezer “Brilliantly demonstrates how the very cultural foundation of Israel has stood in the way of its pursuing peace. Israel’s leading sociologist of the military, Uri Ben-Eliezer, reveals the destructive effects of the country’s particular brand of nationalism and its penchant to solve political problems by military means.” —Joel Migdal, author of Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East Fruit from the Sands The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat Robert N. Spengler III “Spengler takes the reader on a kaleidoscopic and dazzling journey: from the rice paddies of southern China, the stands of melon vendors at the bazaars in Samarkand, and the archaeological excavations in remote mountain regions of present-day Kazakhstan to the reader’s own kitchen table. A mustread.” — Sören Stark, Institute…

15 min.
ukraine’s new leading man

The Ukrainian television series Servant of the People, which aired from 2015 until this year, is the story of Vasyl Holoborodko, a dedicated history teacher in his late thirties who lives with his parents. His father is a taxi driver, his mother a neurologist, and his sister a train conductor. This mixture of familial professions would be surprising in an American setting, but it is perfectly logical in Ukraine, where doctors in the public sector belong to the beleaguered lower-middle class, at best. (The average salary for a Ukrainian doctor is around $200 a month.) Vasyl is divorced, with a young son: his marriage was destroyed by money worries. His father tells him he’s wasting time by going to work, since unemployment payments are bigger than a teacher’s salary. The…

2 min.
columbia university press

CUP.COLUMBIA.EDU Emancipation After Hegel Achieving a Contradictory Revolution TODD MCGOWAN “This is the book we were waiting for … With Todd McGowan, the revolutionary Hegel is back—however, it is not the old Marxist Hegel but the Hegel AFTER Marx, the Hegel who makes us aware that revolution is an open and risked process which necessarily entails catastrophic failures…. Read this book … or ignore it at your own risk!” —Slavoj Žižek Time and the Generations Population Ethics for a Diminishing Planet PARTHA DASGUPTA “[A] wonderfully wide-ranging, brilliant, and generous book.” —Simon Blackburn, Trinity College, Cambridge Hot Carbon Carbon-14 and a Revolution in Science JOHN F. MARRA “With precision and verve, oceanographer John F. Marra profiles the most important isotope on earth.” —Science Magazine The Limits of Tolerance Enlightenment Values and Religious Fanaticism DENIS LACORNE Translated by C. Jon Delogu and Robin Emlein “[Lacorne] gives no pat answers, but an implicit…