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The New York Review of Books

The New York Review of Books September 27, 2018

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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

4 min.

COLIN B. BAILEY is the Director of the Morgan Library and Museum. His books include Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris and Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting. SYLVIE BAUMGARTEL ’s first book of poetry, Song of Songs, will be published next year. IAN BURUMA is the Editor of The New York Review. His memoir, A Tokyo Romance, was published this year. SIMON CALLOW is an English actor and director who has written about Orson Welles, Charles Dickens, Charles Laughton, and Oscar Wilde. His latest book is Being Wagner: The Story of the Most Provocative Composer Who Ever Lived. DEBORAH COHEN is Peter B. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern. She is writing a book about American foreign correspondents who reported from interwar Europe and Asia. DAVID COLE is…

18 min.
tenn’s best friend

The Luck of Friendship: The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin edited by Peggy L. Fox and Thomas Keith. Norton, 392 pp., $39.95 There can scarcely be a better documented dramatist in the Western world than Tennessee Williams. His most recent, and best, biographer, John Lahr, counts forty books written about him since his death in 1983.1 Not that he was exactly unknown during his lifetime. After his epoch-making Broadway debut in 1945 with The Glass Menagerie and his subsequent and precipitate anointment as the savior of the modern American theater, his progress both as a writer and as a man was closely interrogated by the usual authorities. In this process Williams, like many a guileless artist before him, colluded, responding with a running commentary on the phenomenon of himself; in…

1 min.
books drawn on for this article

In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea by Danny Goldberg. Akashic, 360 pp., $16.95 (paper) New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative by Paul Goodman. PM Press, 194 pp., $20.00 (paper) The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America by Doug Rossinow. Columbia University Press, 500 pp., $36.00 1968: The Rise and Fall of the New American Revolution by Robert C. Cottrell and Blaine T. Browne. Rowman and Littlefield, 291 pp., $38.00 1968: Radical Protest and Its Enemies by Richard Vinen. Harper, 446 pp., $29.99 Ballots and Bullets: Black Power Politics and Urban Guerilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland by James Robenalt. Lawrence Hill, 376 pp., $27.99 Struggle for a Better South: the Southern Student Organizing Committee, 1964–69 by Gregg Michel. Palgrave McMillan, 323 pp., $60.00 The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition by Theodore Roszak. University of California…

19 min.
aquarius rising

1. Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory—1789, 1861, 1914. One of the more recent additions to the list is 1968. Its fiftieth anniversary has brought a flood of attempts to recapture it—local, national, and transnational histories, anthologies, memoirs, even performance art and musical theater. Immersion in this literature soon produces a feeling of déjà vu, particularly if one was politically conscious at the time (as I was). Up to a point, repetition is inevitable. Certain public figures and events are inescapable: the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King; the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence…

6 min.
v.s. naipaul (1932–2018)

V. S. Naipaul’s fastidiousness was legendary. I met him for the first time in Berlin in 1991, when he was being feted for the German edition of his latest book. A smiling young waitress offered him some decent white wine. Naipaul took the bottle from her hand, examined the label for some time, like a fine art dealer inspecting a dubious piece, handed the bottle back, and said with considerable disdain: “I think perhaps later, perhaps later.” (Naipaul often repeated phrases.) This kind of thing also found its way into his travel writing. He could work up a rage about the quality of the towels in his hotel bathroom, or the slack service on an airline, or the poor food at a restaurant, as though these were personal affronts to…

11 min.
fatal shore

David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, July 13–September 30, 2018. Catalog of the exhibition edited by David Breslin and David Kiehl. Whitney Museum, 383 pp., $65.00 (distributed by Yale University Press) There is a certain irony in the fact that the first major retrospective of David Wojnarowicz’s work since his death in 1992 appears in the spare, modern rooms of the Whitney Museum of American Art, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, today one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. From the heights of the Whitney’s exterior staircase one can look down on the Hudson River and what were once the West Side piers, now devoted to bike lanes, parks, and ambitious development projects. When Wojnarowicz lived and worked in New York, in…