Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books October 11, 2018

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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in this issue

2 min.

KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH teaches philosophy at NYU. His new book, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, is based on his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures. MARTIN FILLER’s Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin, a collection of his writing on architecture in these pages, is out in September. MARK FORD’s fourth collection of poetry, Enter, Fleeing, was published earlier this year. GAVIN FRANCIS is a physician and writer in Edinburgh. He has won several awards for his books, which include Empire Antarctica, Adventures in Human Being, and most recently Shapeshifters: A Journey Around the Changing Human Body. JIAN GHOMESHI is a broadcaster, musician, producer, and bestselling author. He was the host and co-creator of the cultural affairs program Q on CBC Radio and TV from 2007 to 2014. LINDSEY HILSUM is…

17 min.
superman’s feet of clay

Jim Brown: Last Man Standing by Dave Zirin. Blue Rider, 320 pp., $27.00 Unbendable, unbreakable, and on the playing field unbeatable, the football great Jim Brown once loomed as the standard against which other men were measured and found lacking. In a Sports Illustrated profile in 2015, Tim Layden conveyed the majesty of Brown’s dominance of the NFL as a fullback for the Cleveland Browns: “Brown towered over the league, a physical and intellectual force like none other in American sports history.” At his most exalted Brown was christened the “Black Superman,” his powers far beyond those of mortal beings. (His ill-fated friend Richard Pryor joked in one stand-up set that fire was afraid of Jim Brown, imitating Brown brushing off flames as if they were annoying dandruff.) Even now, at the age…

17 min.
‘i can’t believe i’m in saudi arabia’

Salman’s Legacy: The Dilemmas of a New Era in Saudi Arabia edited by Madawi Al-Rasheed. Oxford University Press, 367 pp., $49.95 Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif. Simon and Schuster, 295 pp., $16.00 (paper) In June the circus came to town. Nothing remarkable, you might think, except that the town was Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where until two years ago all forms of entertainment were banned. The previous week, the head of the General Entertainment Authority—sometimes called the Ministry of Fun—had been fired because a female performer in another circus had worn a tight-fitting, flesh-colored outfit that had sparked protests on Twitter (75 percent of Saudis use social media, about the same as Americans). The mutaween—the religious police—had carefully vetted the circus I attended, and the ankle-length black leggings and…

18 min.
male trouble

The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Warren Farrell and John Gray. BenBella, 493 pp., $25.95 Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism by Michael Kimmel. University of California Press, 263 pp., $29.95 White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement—and How I Got Out by Christian Picciolini. Hachette, 275 pp., $15.99 (paper) This March, in a four-part series on Fox News called “Men in America,” Tucker Carlson sat in front of the American flag and listed a set of downward trends for men in school, work, and emotional well-being. Compared to girls, Carlson told viewers, boys far more often fail in school, are diagnosed with ADHD (and take medication for it, which carries a risk of depression later in life), play video…

12 min.
mann’s river

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., March 4–May 28, 2018; the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, June 30–September 23, 2018; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, November 16, 2018–February 10, 2019; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 3–May 27, 2019; the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, June 17–September 22, 2019; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, October 19, 2019–January 12, 2020. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Sarah Greenough and Sarah Kennel. National Gallery of Art/Peabody Essex Museum/Abrams, 331 pp., $55.00 The work of a photographer cannot help but be autobiographical. Every image produced has been seen by the photographer’s eye and transmitted, by way of the photographer’s hand, to the film, plate, or digital apparatus that…

16 min.

Studies of Laughter in Interaction edited by Phillip Glenn and Elizabeth Holt. Bloomsbury, 295 pp., £110.00; £28.99 (paper) The physician must have at his command a certain ready wit, as dourness is repulsive both to the healthy and the sick. —Hippocrates Medicine is a serious business; when clinical conversations are scrutinized doctors can be seen to laugh less often than patients. But they do laugh—linguistic analysis suggests that physician laughter performs important interpersonal and therapeutic work. When patients laugh, it’s to make a show of alignment or affiliation with the doctor, signal a problem, or demonstrate superiority to their complaint. Anatole Broyard, in a 1990 essay written while he was being treated for prostate cancer (“Good Books about Being Sick”), wrote of one cheerful doctor: Bernie Siegel, a doctor who says “call me Bernie,” is…