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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books December 17, 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

4 min.

King of the World The Life of Louis XIV Philip Mansel “Copiously, beautifully, and intelligently illustrated, complemented by excellent maps and diagrams (notably a ground-plan of Versailles), King of the World is one of the most stimulating and enjoyable works on European history to have been published for many a long year.”—Wall Street Journal Cloth $35.00 Mental Traveler A Father, a Son, and a Journey through Schizophrenia W. J. T. Mitchell “A kaleidoscopic and erudite memoir of madness and sanity, this is also, at its core, a stunning account of what endures in the wake of catastrophic tragedies: love, art, and vast stores of human hope.”—Rachel DeWoskin, author of Banshee and Two Menus Cloth $22.50 Louder Than Bombs A Life with Music, War, and Peace Ed Vulliamy “An impressively rich aff air.… [Louder than Bombs] is not only a testament to a life-long…

3 min.

ATOSSA ARAXIA ABRAHAMIAN is a Senior Editor at The Nation and the author of The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen. HILTON ALS is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. JULIAN BELL is a painter based in Lewes, England. He is the author of What Is Painting? ELAINE BLAIR is a regular contributor to The New York Review. HENRI COLE’s latest collection of poems, Blizzard, was published this year, and his recent memoir is Orphic Paris. NOAH FELDMAN is the Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard Law School, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, and host of the podcast Deep Background. His most recent book is The Arab Winter: A Tragedy. IAN FRAZIER is the author of eleven books, including Great Plains, Family, On the Rez, and Travels…

1 min.
pup culture

DOG-EARED Poems About Humanity’s Best Friend “Cats get all the credit for being mysterious, but dogs are deep. Duncon Wu, a fierce dog-lover himself, knews this truth.”—MAUREEN COR R IGAN, book critic, NPR’s Fresh Air“Duncan Wu has curated a collection of poems that conjure both the pleasures of great poetry and the delights that dogs bring— or sometimes don’t!”—AMINAT TA FORNA, author of Happiness“Dog have held a special place in the hearts of men and women for as long humans have been humans. Duncan Wu has collected the best of these sentiments across history into a remarkable collection, proving that dogs are, and always have been, our best friends.”—GREGORY BERNS,author of What It’s Like to Be a Dog basicbooks.com…

16 min.
the body in swooping close-up

Artemisia an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, October 3, 2020–January 24, 2021 (temporarily closed November 5–December 2). Catalog of the exhibition by Letizia Treves, with contributions by Elizabeth Cropper, Patrizia Cavazzini, Francesco Solinas, Sheila Barker, and Larry Keith. National Gallery, 256 pp., $45.00 (distributed by Yale University Press) The half-stripped woman picked out against the dark in Artemisia Gentileschi’s Lucretia is viewed from above, yet as I stand before this yard-high canvas, she seems to bear down on me. Light, here, is weight: the gleam on shoulder, knee, breasts, arm, and neck presses on my eye and there is no distance from the presented flesh. I have to do with this stout woman as if I were wrestling or embracing her. For whether you interlock with someone in anger or desire, that…

1 min.
new & notable

Imogen Cunningham A Retrospective Paul Martineau Thoroughly researched and beautifully produced, this book offers a comprehensive look at the motivations and extraordinary work of the American photographer. Fluxus Means Change Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive Marcia Reed An exploration of the radical artists who transformed the ways art is conceived, exhibited, and collected, through the Dada, Surrealist, and Fluxus collections of Jean and Leonard Brown. Hollywood Arensberg Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A. Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler “Beyond being an awe-inspiring dive into the art holdings of the Arensbergs, the book offers a complex portrait of two people working to shape multiple fields.” —Andrew Russeth,Architectural Digest William Blake Visionar Edina Adam and Julian Brooks, with an essay by Matthew Hargraves A richly illustrated, comprehensive introduction to the British artist who continues to inspire musicians, poets, performers, and visual artists worldwide. Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta A Sixteenth-Century Calligraphic…

15 min.
the meaning of home

Lot by Bryan Washington. Riverhead, 222 pp., $25.00; $16.00 (paper) Memorial by Bryan Washington. Riverhead, 303 pp., $27.00 In March 2019 Bryan Washington published Lot, a book of short stories set in Houston that created, in brilliant, fragmentary form, the portrait of a person, of a family, and of a large and shifting community. Its Houston was not that of elite institutions and oil-and-gas affluence, but of immigrant communities from Mexico, the Caribbean, and beyond, at the hardscrabble end of a ruthless economy. It was an astonishing debut—the sudden appearance of a technically dazzling writer commanding total confidence in his grasp of an underexplored subject, or set of subjects. Washington has now followed Lot with a novel, Memorial, also set in part in Houston, about a disintegrating affair between two young men, one Black,…