During the British election this past year, the press reported that a certain Janek (or John) Zylinski, a Polish prince living in Britain, had taken umbrage at the anti-immigration rhetoric of Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence party, and so did what has long come naturally to Polish princes by challenging Farage to a duel—with swords, in Hyde Park. Nigel Farage, who claimed not to own a sword, laughed it off, as did everyone else.Read more
It’s a pity that The Speechwriter will be judged, both for good and ill, in the light of the media sensation created six years ago by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Famous for not hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford is Barton Swaim’s former employer and the principal character—under the less-than-cryptic pseudonym of “the governor”—in this immensely sad yet very funny book.Read more
To judge by what is fittingly called the “head shot” of Frances Larson on the jacket of her book, she is a young and pretty woman with a remarkably long neck. If one were a headsman—that is, if headsmen were still plying their ancient trade, outside the desert wastes of Iraq and Syria and Saudi Arabia—one might well be licking one’s lips while thumbing the blade of one’s axe.Read more
Let’s face it. Should Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker staff writer, offer us her mere, unadorned autobiography as something to pack along with our pail and shovel as a good beach read, she might risk the odd sarcastic comment from a friend or accusations of presumption or arrogance from those less well-disposed toward her. And yet, she’s proud of her life and has the professional writer’s urge to share.Read more
The art of biography, as it is practiced today, nearly always involves the biographer as mediator between past and present, a bridge over the ever-widening gap between the two. As history has more and more become the record of what we feel we ought to be ashamed of our ancestors for, the biography-worthy great men of centuries gone by require new champions to explain why they, at least, weren’t so bad as most of their benighted contemporaries.Read more
Much has been written about the origins and earliest years of baseball, and much, much more has been written about the period after the founding of the American League and the introduction of the rule to make foul balls strikes in 1901, from which point most people date the modern game.Read more
‘Modern proverbs” is surely a contradiction in terms—unless “modern” is being used in its unmodern sense of “commonplace,” as in Shakespeare’s “wise saws and modern instances.” The word “proverb” inevitably connotes the idea of age and seasoning—wisdom that has been tried by time. Indeed, a proverb is usually so old that its original author is unknown.Read more
Mary Ann Glendon begins her chapter on Rousseau by recounting the story of Napoleon’s visit to the grave of that worthy on the estate of the Marquis René Louis de Girardin at Ermenonville and saying, “It would have been better for the peace of France if this man had never lived.” When the marquis sensibly pointed out that, without the impetus given by Rousseau’s writings to the French Revolution, Napoleon himself would not have existed, at least not as Napoleon, the first consul replied that only the futureRead more
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