Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books January 16, 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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20 Issues

in this issue

2 min.

Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary War and the Animated Film Donna Kornhaber “Extraordinarily engaging, psychologically penetrating, and intellectually absorbing. In short, this is a new classic of topical film studies and the literature of art and war.”—Booklist Cloth $35.00 The Ruins Lesson Meaning and Material in Western Culture Susan Stewart “The book explores the varied, volatile forms in which we imagine and remember and care for, or fail to care for, the made and given world. That care shows itself in Stewart’s own quality of attention, the range of her curiosity, the depth of her scholarship, the risk of her thought.”—Kenneth Gross, University of Rochester Cloth $35.00 Dark Lens Imaging Germany, 1945 Françoise Meltzer “Meltzer’s Dark Lens is based around a couple of dozen snaps which her mother took of ruined German cities immediately after the war. This personal angle whets the reader’s…

2 min.

DAVID W. BLIGHT is Sterling Professor of American History at Yale. His biography of Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom, received the Pulitzer Prize for history. PETER BROOKS has written several books on narrative and the novel, including Reading for the Plot. A new book, Balzac’s Lives, will be published next fall. He is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Yale. ROBYN CRESWELL is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale. He is the author of City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut. FREEMAN DYSON is Professor of Physics Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. MERVE EMRE is Associate Professor of English Literature at Oxford and a Fellow of Worcester College. Her latest book is The Ferrante Letters: An Exercise in Collective Thinking. NOAH FELDMAN is the Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard…

20 min.
the designated mourner

Mourning becomes Joe Biden. “I have found over the years,” he writes in his recent best-selling memoir Promise Me, Dad, “that, although it brought back my own vivid memories of sad times, my presence almost always brought some solace to people who have suffered sudden and unexpected loss.… When I talk to people in mourning, they know I speak from experience.” The most moving thing in that book is not even Biden’s restrained and heartbreaking account of the slow death of his beloved son Beau. It is the two brief appearances of Wei Tang Liu, whose son, Wenjian Liu, was one of two police officers murdered in New York City on the Saturday before Christmas 2014. Biden visited the family home in Brooklyn to pay his respects. The father, an immigrant…

17 min.
love in plague time

To Calais, in Ordinary Time by James Meek. Edinburgh: Canongate, 392 pp., £18.99 The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner. New York Review Books, 399 pp., $16.95 (paper) It is 1348. Berna has stolen a book from her father’s library, and now she is getting the gardener to cut her a rose from the grounds of their manor house in Gloucestershire. These crimes, she explains to her cousin Pogge, are nothing compared to the one she had been planning, which was to take her own life by throwing herself into the moat. “Your moat’s not profound enough for drownage,” her cousin points out drily. And anyway, she has a new plan, to which the book and the rose are accessories. Her father is forcing Berna, who is fifteen, to marry a man of fifty.…

17 min.
is trump above the law?

Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives marks just the third time in history that a president of the United States has had to face trial in the Senate. The charges in the articles of impeachment drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee against Trump differ in important ways from those brought against Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and they deserve close scrutiny. Trump’s possible defenses also merit careful analysis. Even if Trump does not send a lawyer to the Senate to defend him, he will be defended by Republican senators. And because it appears highly unlikely that he will be convicted by the requisite two thirds of the Senate, it is also worth exploring the implications of impeachment without removal from office, both for Trump’s presidency and…

1 min.

Some people despise doing laundry, but I don’t mind it, and I think we can all agree it feels so good to engage in something you don’t mind. To have a neutral feeling. My only two childhood memories are hearing the song EVERYBODY’S WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND and seeing the bumper sticker THE LABOR MOVEMENT: THE FOLKS WHO BROUGHT YOU THE WEEKEND. I gathered the weekend is the portion of life that is understood to matter. Now that I’m grown, I know that just means sex. THE LABOR MOVEMENT: THE FOLKS WHO BROUGHT YOU SEX. Though of course there are other things to be enjoyed. I DON’T WANT TO BE PITIED said my neighbor, after explaining to me she hated her children—not children in general, just her own. Her idea…