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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books November 19, 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.

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. MARK DANNER is the Class of 1961 Endowed Chair at the University of California at Berkeley and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard. He is the author of The Massacre at El Mozote, Stripping Bare the Body, and, most recently, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. ANDREW DELBANCO is the Alexander Hamilton Professor of American Studies at Columbia and the President of the Teagle Foundation. His most recent book is The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. BARBARA DEMICK is the author of Eat the Buddha: Life and…

22 min.
learning to grieve

Say Something Back and Time Lived, Without Its Flow by Denise Riley, with an afterword by Max Porter. New York Review Books, 143 pp., $16.00 (paper) The Anatomy of Grief by Dorothy P. Holinger. Yale University Press, 283 pp., $27.50 “Maybe I didn’t die properly,” says Jamie (played by Alan Rickman) in Anthony Minghella’s early film Truly, Madly, Deeply. “Maybe that’s why I can come back.” His partner, Nina (Juliet Stevenson), has been driven mad with grief, following his sudden death while undergoing minor surgery. He wasn’t dangerously ill, and she hadn’t said good-bye. It is some years since his death, but she has made no progress at all in overcoming her grief; her despair has simply grown more acute. She cannot face her life without him. And she is so desperate for Jamie to return…

26 min.
on the election—i

Jerry Brown I’m sitting at my ranch in western Colusa County, an hour’s drive northwest of Sacramento. When my grandmother grew up here, 140 years ago, there were dozens of vibrant homesteads, successful farms, enough kids to fill the local schoolhouse. There was even a proper cemetery. The Leesville–Ladoga stagecoach came through each day, headed to the mines or to the several hotels beside the mineral springs that dotted the area. On this land now—except for myself and my wife and one other family—only cattle graze. The people and their livelihoods left long ago. It is Trump country. A man I know from town stopped by the other day. He wanted to bring us some rice and recipe ideas. When I asked him how he was doing with the virus all around,…

22 min.
things as they are

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, February 9–September 19, 2020. Catalog of the exhibition by Sarah Hermanson Meister, with contributions from Julie Ault, Kimberly Juanita Brown, River Encalada Bullock, and ten others. MoMA, 176 pp., $55.00 In 1966 the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective devoted to Dorothea Lange—its first-ever solo exhibition of work by a female photographer. Lange’s photographs have now become part of our collective memory of the Great Depression. Migrant Mother (1936)—a portrait taken in a pea pickers’ camp in California of a woman holding her baby and surrounded by her children—is perhaps one of the most reprinted images in history. But beyond her better-known photographs of the Depression and the Dust Bowl migrations, Lange produced a…

20 min.
the representative

This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman by Ilhan Omar with Rebecca Paley. Dey St., 275 pp., $27.99 After the election of 2018, the US Congress became the most racially and ethnically diverse it had ever been. The freshman class contained a record number of incoming women (thirty-six), including the four young progressives who came to be called “the Squad”: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The current Congress boasts the largest Black caucus in congressional history—fifty-five members in the House and Senate, including Lucy McBath, a Black woman and gun-control advocate from Georgia whose son was shot and killed by a white man for playing music too loudly—and the first two Native American women ever…

2 min.
the son

This song is dedicated, this song goes out, is for. I wrote it in a dream, the second-oldest song in the world. It’s about hours without wages, blue hours, and the lyrics are loosely based; the lyrics recall. They’re anonymous and attributed like rain. I want everybody out there to sing along, even the stones. I want all the lovely people laboring in the dark. Wind in the poplars, overheard speech, traffic noise, receding sirens, people picking glass from the recycling, the whistle and report of illegal fireworks, the report of gunshots, laughter through a wall, the laughter of children—these are my people, swaying imperceptibly. You know all the words because there aren’t any, but there is an addressee, you are the implied recipient of the words in the song…