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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books June 11, 2020

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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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United States
20 Issues

in this issue

2 min.

CHRISTOPHER DE BELLAIGUE’s latest book is The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times. EMILY BERRY is the Editor of The Poetry Review. She is the author of the poetry collections Stranger, Baby and Dear Boy. DEBORAH EISENBERG’s latest collection of short stories is Your Duck Is My Duck. She is also the author of a play, Pastorale. R. J.W. EVANS is a Fellow of Oriel College and Regius Professor of History Emeritus at Oxford. He is the author of Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: Central Europe, c. 1683–1867, among other books. PETER E. GORDON is the Amabel B. James Professor of History and a Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard. His books include Migrants in the Profane: Critical Theory and the Question of Secularization, which…

1 min.
new in paperback from basic books

“Dying of Whiteness brilliantly demonstrates the tremendous impediment that white racism and backlash politics pose to our society’s wellbeing.”—DOROTHY ROBERTS, author of Killing the Black Body“This fierce, capacious, and startlingly intelligent defense of a whole political, social, and moral order is essential reading for our time.”—STEPHEN GREENBL AT T, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern“A work of deep scholarship and powerful storytelling.”—VICTOR SEBEST Y EN, Sunday Times (London) basicbooks.com…

13 min.
the sickness in our food supply

“Only when the tide goes out,” Warren Buffett observed, “do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” For our society, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ebb tide of historic proportions, one that is laying bare vulnerabilities and inequities that in normal times have gone undiscovered. Nowhere is this more evident than in the American food system. A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and…

17 min.
sex and sincerity

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 223 pp., $26.00 What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell. Picador, 194 pp., $17.00 (paper) Mitko by Garth Greenwell. Miami University Press, 96 pp. $15.00 (paper) When, in 1993, the editor in chief of Literary Review, Auberon Waugh, together with the critic Rhoda Koenig established the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, their declared goal was to expose what they saw as the deplorable ubiquity of “crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” Extracts by the shortlisted and winning novelists in the many years since might well leave a reader thinking there really is nothing harder to write about than fucking. (Without a doubt they will leave the reader rolling on the floor.) Back in the days before most…

23 min.
the housing vultures

Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream by Aaron Glantz. Custom House, 398 pp., $27.99 “They control the people through the people’s own money.”—Louis Brandeis 1. In an alternate reality, the one progressives wanted, the government wouldn’t have bailed out the banks during the 2008 crash. When mortgage-backed securities began catching flame like newspaper under logs, the government would have prioritized struggling homeowners instead. It would have created a corporation to buy back the distressed mortgages and then worked to refinance those mortgages—lowering monthly payments to reflect the real underlying values of the homes or adding years to the mortgages to make the monthly payments more manageable. If a homeowner missed mortgage payments, rather than…

21 min.
an invitation from jeanne lee

The Newest Sound Around an album by Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake. RCA Victor (1962) The Newest Sound You Never Heard: European Studio Recordings 1966/1967 an album by Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake. A-Side Records, 2 CDs, $25.00 Free Standards: Stockholm 1966 an album by Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake. Barcelona: Fresh Sound Records, $10.91 Twenty years ago, I fell in love with a jazz singer. Jeanne Lee had died earlier in 2000 of cancer, but she couldn’t have been more alive to me. A hip woman I knew had given me BMG’s reissue of The Newest Sound Around, Lee’s 1962 debut album with the pianist Ran Blake. You’ve never heard anything like it, my friend promised, and I hadn’t, until I realized I’d heard that soft, warm, and inviting contralto before (don’t all infatuations begin with a sense of déjà vu?).…