Although Bernard Bailyn is one of the most distinguished historians in the Western world, he is not as well known as he should be. He rarely appears in the popular media, and he has never published a book that has sold millions of copies. But all those who are seriously interested in the history of early America know his work. He has authored a baker’s dozen of major books, edited at least a half-dozen more, and written numerous important articles.
For Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Windsor’s declaration that “you can’t be too rich or too thin” was holy writ. Born into poverty in 1883, she was worth the equivalent of almost $1 billion before she was 50. To the age of modernism, she contributed a streamlined female silhouette that radically transformed the shape of women’s bodies: By jettisoning armors of undergarments and pounds of voluminous fabric, she created a fashion that cloaked women with an explicitly modern identity.
In 1732, Jonathan Swift wrote a friend that, while he had lost all hope of favor with those in power in Dublin, he had won “the love of the Irish vulgar” and inspired “two or three dozen signposts of the Drapier in this city.” Here, he was referring to Dublin’s gratitude for the eloquent stand he had taken against a debased halfpence, a stand that constituted one of the first stirrings of Irish nationhood—albeit a distinctly Anglo-Irish nation:
Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is partitioned between a “Republic of Serbs” and a “Muslim-Croat Federation,” have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.
The country’s incoming college students have been exhorted, repeatedly, to major in something “useful,” rather than something intellectual. The idea is that there is a split between “useful” majors, which teach a specific skill (like marketing, computer science, or architecture) and “useless” majors, which are designed to impart, gasp, knowledge (think the humanities, natural sciences, etc). Major in something “useful,” the argument goes, and expect to be showered in riches. Those who major in something “useless,” meanwhile, can look forward to a future on the unemployment line.
When the sociologist Timothy Nelson asked low-income men who didn’t live with their children what the ideal father was like, eight of them spontaneously mentioned the same man: Ward Cleaver, the dad from Leave It to Beaver. That might make sense if Nelson’s interviews had taken place in the 1950s-60s, when the show aired; but these men were interviewed in the late 2000s. Why did they hark back to a man old enough to be their own grandfather?
What is America’s greatest contribution to the arts? Time was when many, perhaps most, people would have pointed to the Broadway musical as the likeliest candidate for admission to the pantheon. Theatergoers around the world have long rejoiced in the delights of the genre, including some whom one might well have thought too snobbish to admit its excellence.
When I tell you that, in my opinion, the three novels now known as the Fifty Shades Trilogy are the worst books I have ever read all the way through, I am not telling you anything interesting. To criticize E. L. James’s publishing version of winning the Irish Sweepstakes is to attack a cultural phenomenon entirely beyond the reach of criticism. These three books, originally published as a series of posts on a fan-fiction website, ended up earning their author $95 million in a single year.
Failing upwards is a Washington tradition, but even The Scrapbook was taken aback by the promotion of Jennifer Psaki from State Department spokesperson to White House director of communications. Psaki, along with her State Department colleague Marie Harf, had acquired quite the reputation for putting the “foggy” in Foggy Bottom.
This is a meticulous account of the 90-year debate over the teaching of evolution in Florida’s public schools, and it is full of high drama and raw emotion. It is populated by dozens upon dozens of passionate culture warriors on both sides of the divisive issue. But unless you are a dedicated student of this strand of intellectual history, or a longtime resident of Florida’s Gulf Coast counties around Tampa, you are unlikely to have heard of a single one of them.
Chicago -- It was the skin—smooth and hairless as a newborn’s forearm—that I fastened on when I saw Sara Andrews, the first “transwoman” I had ever met, at the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club in Boystown, on Chicago’s North Side. The ambiance at the club was glitter balls, silver-leather banquettes, Busby Berkeley dance loops projected onto the walls, and as entertainers a bevy of dressed-to-the-hilt, lip-synching “divas,” as the Kit Kat calls its drag lineup.
In an earlier life, The Scrapbook worked at the Washington Times under the storied foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave, whose long career at Newsweek was already the stuff of legend when he became editor in chief of the Times in 1985. As an underdog, upstart, scrappy competitor of the Washington Post, the Times had an eccentric newsroom in those days.