Culture & Literature
The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books October 25, 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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20 Issues

in this issue

2 min.

CHRISTOPHER R. BROWNING is Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author, most recently, of Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp. DREW GILPIN FAUST is President Emerita and Lincoln Professor of History at Harvard. She is the author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, among other books. IAN FRAZIER is the author of eleven books, including Great Plains, Family, On the Rez, and Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces. JAMES GLEICK’s most recent book is Time Travel: A History. VONA GROARKE’s latest book is her Selected Poems. She teaches at the University of Manchester and is a 2018–2019 Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. ADAM HOCHSCHILD’s books include King Leopold’s Ghost, To End All Wars, and, most…

15 min.
catching up to pauli murray

Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage by Pauli Murray, with an introduction by Patricia Bell-Scott. Liveright, 587 pp., $22.95 (paper) Pauli Murray’s autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat, first appeared in 1987, two years after her death. A young law professor, Pat Williams—today better known as the distinguished legal scholar, Nation columnist, and Mac-Arthur “genius award” winner Patricia Williams—reviewed it respectfully for The New York Times. Yet she found Murray’s hopefulness in the face of her narrative of racism and injustice “to contain a certain pathos.” “The militance of my generational perspective,” Williams wrote, ran “counter to the persistent gentlewomanliness” of Murray’s tone and message. Murray’s day seemed to have passed. In The Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley appeared awestruck, yet puzzled by the story of a life so accomplished…

18 min.
‘every time i look at it i feel ill’

René Magritte: The Fifth Season an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 19–October 28, 2018. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Caitlin Haskell. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art/DAP/Distributed Art Publishers, 151 pp., $29.95 In October 1952, René Magritte’s New York dealer, Alexander Iolas, a champion of the Surrealists in the United States and elsewhere, wrote him in protest. He had recently unpacked Personal Values (1952), the first of what are sometimes called Magritte’s hypertrophic images, in which oversized objects appear to crowd their settings. In this case, a lusciously painted tortoiseshell comb, a vivid blue-green glass, a gargantuan bar of soap, and other personal items dwarf a modest bedroom. The colors made him sick, Iolas reported. Had the work been hastily painted? He begged Magritte for an explanation: I…

16 min.
the suffocation of democracy

As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference. In the 1920s, the US pursued isolationism in foreign policy and rejected participation in international organizations like the League of Nations. America First was America alone, except for financial agreements like the Dawes and Young Plans aimed at ensuring that our “free-loading” former allies could pay back their war loans. At the same time, high tariffs crippled international trade, making the repayment of those loans especially difficult. The country witnessed an increase…

15 min.
making herself the subject

A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin. Penguin, 334 pp., $27.00 Asked in 2011 if there might be a memoir in her future, Claire Tomalin, the author of sterling biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, and Charles Dickens, among others, demurred. She had lived for too long through her subjects. She retained little sense of herself. “I know it sounds pathetic,” she told her interviewer, “but I don’t know who I am.” It stood to reason. The biographer has devoted years to thinking with someone else’s mind. While she has lived any number of lives she has traveled each time as a stowaway. Better than most, she knows that we are strangers to ourselves, omniscient only when it comes to others. Seven years later Tomalin has reconsidered. She claims to have…

18 min.
the autocracy app

Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan. Oxford University Press, 276 pp., $24.95 Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. Henry Holt, 146 pp., $18.00 1. Facebook is a company that has lost control—not of its business, which has suffered remarkably little from its series of unfortunate events since the 2016 election, but of its consequences. Its old slogan, “Move fast and break things,” was changed a few years ago to the less memorable “Move fast with stable infra.” Around the world, however, Facebook continues to break many things indeed. In Myanmar, hatred whipped up on Facebook Messenger has driven ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. In India, false child abduction rumors on Facebook’s Whats App service have incited mobs to lynch innocent victims. In the Philippines, Turkey,…