When it comes to anniversaries, the publishing industry usually resembles distant relatives, readiest with gifts that are redundant or farcical. Look no further than 2013’s bandolier of useless insights into the Kennedy assassination. The recent centenary of another assassination, at Sarajevo, while serving up plenty of similar dross, has happily filled some very welcome gaps in English-language scholarship on that conflict, especially memorably in the form of this volume, relating the ill-told tale of the most consequential Central Powers.Read more
"Cultural biography” is not the sort of classification that usually inspires much confidence. It’s generally a sure sign that the reader will be spending most of his time with everyone in contemporary society but the subject: more pages on loom weavers than on Elizabeth Gaskell, more on the Irish Famine than on Emily Brontë.Read more
Whatever our national fascination with decay, when it comes to railroads, Americans seem decidedly to prefer the history of our boom years—of mustachioed barons and valiant strikers, Promontory Point and the Iron Horse—to those of subsequent decline.Read more
Paradise is generally something that seems very far away, especially in mid-winter. Paradise Planned is a compendious reminder that paradise, or a decent shot at its earthly manifestation, is rarely far off at all.Read more
For all of the just wars that have been fought over the cultural canon, one genuine benefit of the (still somewhat undulating) critical consensus is that it’s a pretty genuine aid for determining what you really needn’t bother reading right away. Or, as a professor once said while wielding Samuel Richardson’s 1,534-page doorstop Clarissa, “I’ve read it. You don’t have to.” So it is with most longitudinal surveys of literature.Read more
Now that Gettysburg hotels sell out for the July battle anniversary by December, and the Virginia peninsula might as well be rezoned as a historical theme park, it’s worth looking back to a time when plenty of American history wasn’t the stuff of vacation plans. There was no permanent monument at Yorktown until the battle’s centennial in 1881, and nearby lodging for its dedication was so sparse that visitors to the commemoration were housed in tents.
In the current age of print saturation it’s always a shock to encounter a book billing itself as a “first exposé” on a topic. Yet that’s exactly what Intern Nation is. When between one and two million American students hold internships each year, and the nearest thing to an objective examination an Amazon “intern” search reveals is a Dominique Swain film, it’s time for a more serious look. Ross Perlin has accomplished the task, and very credibly.Read more
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