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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books April 23, 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.

RAE ARMANTROUT ’s newest book of poems, Conjure, will be published in September. DAVID A. BELL is Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of History at Princeton. His book Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolutions will be published in the spring. JAKE BERNSTEIN is a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist. A movie of The Laundromat, his most recent book, was released last year. JASON FARAGO is an art critic for The New York Times and the editor of the anthology Out of Practice: Ten Issues of “Even,” 2015–2018. In 2017 he was awarded the inaugural Rabkin Prize for art criticism. MARTIN FILLER ’s latest book is Makers of Modern Architec ture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin, a collection of his writing on architecture in these pages. ERICA GETTO ’s…

37 min.
pandemic journal

The New York Review is publishing dispatches from around the world documenting the coronavirus outbreak. Read the full series, and listen to writers reading their contributions, at nybooks.com/pandemic. —The Editors OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, March 17—By Thursday afternoon, downtown San Francisco, already void of tourists, had turned ghostlier still. From behind the glass door of a shuttered Illy café on Battery Street, the Italian manager waved at me, his hand in a blue disposable glove, with an apologetic smile. For days, his parents, quarantined in Florence over the coronavirus epidemic, had been imploring him to stay away from people. It seemed as if they got their wish granted. I boarded a bus east in the strangely empty Salesforce Transbay Terminal, carrying a couple of hand-sanitizers as a parting gift from my colleagues at the bank where…

19 min.
resistance is futile

Overthrowby Caleb Crain.Viking, 404 pp., $27.00 On or about December 2011, human character changed. That month the pope sent his first message on Twitter, which had just rolled out a substantial redesign whose “Discover” tab would glean your data to push you personalized news and updates. A new service called Snapchat debuted, with which you could string together short videos of your daily activities into “stories” (it became a teen obsession, and was the first social media app to make me feel old). Facebook introduced its “Timeline,” a reverse-chronological biography of your posts, photos, and likes that together told what Mark Zuckerberg called “the story of your life.” In 2011 Apple released the iPhone 4S, with a new voice-operated assistant called Siri—and, more enduringly, it introduced a new keyboard with little…

20 min.
the fundraising pulpit

In mid-March, as infection rates in his home state grew, Devin Nunes, Republican congressman from California, tweeted to his almost million followers a Breitbart article titled “Democrats Pushed Impeachment While Coronavirus Spread.” Nunes has exploited President Trump’s impeachment at every opportunity, often for his personal benefit. In February, shortly after Trump’s acquittal by the US Senate, he sent an e-mail addressed to his “top supporters.” It read: “GET THE EXCLU-SIVE IMPEACHMENT SCOREBOARD T-SHIRT!” When recipients clicked the accompanying graphic of a white T-shirt stamped “IMPEACHMENT: DONALD TRUMP 01, DEEP STATE 00,” they landed on a page offering the shirt for any amount between $25 and $2,800. Since this purchase was a federal contribution to the Nunes campaign, donors were instructed to state their employment status. A prominent red-framed box with…

17 min.
the brilliant plodder

Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: A Tour of His Botanical Legacyby Ken Thompson.University of Chicago Press, 255 pp., $25.00 On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Edenby Elizabeth Hennessy.Yale University Press, 310 pp., $30.00 Evolution Before Darwin: Theories of the Transmutation of Species in Edinburgh, 1804–1834by Bill Jenkins.Edinburgh University Press, 222 pp., $110.00 Charles Darwin is ever with us. A month seldom passes without new books about the man, his life, his work, and his influence—books by scholars for scholars, by scholars for ordinary readers, and by the many unwashed rest of us nonfiction authors who presume to enter the fray, convinced that there’s one more new way to tell the story of who Darwin was, what he actually said or wrote, why he mattered. This flood…

18 min.
modernism, inc.

Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernismby Nicholas Adams.Yale University Press, 288 pp., $65.00 1. During the Great Depression, among the few opportunities for nongovernmental architectural work in America were temporary exhibition buildings for the world’s fairs and regional expositions that proliferated even while the country’s economic recovery languished. Ready to seize upon this niche market were two enterprising young Indiana-born architects, Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings. Owings vaulted to prominence at age thirty when he was named head of design for Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition after the fair’s celebrated master planner, Raymond Hood, under whom he worked, became fatally ill. Three years later the pair established a Chicago office with a branch in New York City, where their firm—renamed Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) with the arrival of a…