C.S. Lewis as seen from his old hometown.
Nov 2, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 08 • By FRANK FREEMAN
There is always a danger in bringing up C. S. Lewis in a conversation with people you do not know well. As a professor once told me, “most people either love him or hate him.” And sometimes the ones who hate him have not read him very well or deeply.
The life and vision of Alexander von Humboldt.Nov 2, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 08 • By CHRISTOPH IRMSCHER
Hailed as the greatest scientist of his time, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) had the tiniest handwriting I have ever seen. One of the most fascinating pages in Andrea Wulf’s new biography shows his lecture notes: a jumble of cards, envelopes, and scraps of paper, stacked on top of each other, with remnants of wax on them.
The Indiana governor who would be president.
Oct 26, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 07 • By RYAN L. COLE
In the early 1920s, a small pack of American Legionnaires convened a regular card game above the Princess Theatre in downtown Bloomington, Indiana. During one session, a member of the group mused, out of the blue, “It would be kind of nice to be president of the United States, wouldn’t it?”
Fearsome productivity and equally fearsome artistry.
Oct 26, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 07 • By ANN MARLOWE
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) may be the best-kept literary secret in English—a secret hiding in plain sight. His collected works take up a long bookshelf: 47 novels and 18 works of nonfiction. Once, most educated English and American households owned some of those volumes; today, there are still plenty of Trollope boxed sets in bookstores—probably because his works are in the public domain so publishers needn’t pay royalties—yet he is culturally almost invisible.
Bean-counting in Berlin leads to bombing in Barcelona. Oct 26, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 07 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The Spanish Civil War is among the 20th-century military conflicts about which the most continues to be published, and in many languages. Often, new volumes on the three-year (1936-39) bloodbath recapitulate old themes: the ideological drama of fascist militarism versus a leftist republic; subversion of the republic by its alleged allies in Moscow; and heart-rending details of cruelty, on both sides of the trenches.
A city under siege from man and nature.Oct 26, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 07 • By AMY HENDERSON
Fog has played a defining role in some of our favorite movies, instantly setting the stage for either romance or menace.
One way of putting the Holocaust in perspective.
Oct 19, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 06 • By ANDREW NAGORSKI
Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin was both critically acclaimed and fiercely denounced. Its detractors accused the Yale historian of relativizing the Holocaust by placing it in the context of the other acts of wholesale violence in the region, particularly the terror unleashed by Stalin against his own people.
A poet who contends with the world as it is.
Oct 19, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 06 • By WILL BREWBAKER
Nick Flynn writes in defiance of despair, and the poet’s fourth collection is as emotionally fraught as its title. Even the dust jacket art, which depicts an abandoned laundromat, is exhausted. My Feelings confronts suffering without flinching. The speaker sounds emotionally spent, but these poems endure in the midst of exhaustion.
The art of writing about art.Oct 19, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 06 • By MAUREEN MULLARKEY
The British painter Howard Hodgkin came to the Frick Collection some years ago to lecture. After pained attempts to deliver a prepared talk, he abandoned his notes for a monologue. Zig-zagging through art in general, his own work, and the historical canon, he came to that curious contemporary genre: art writing. Hodgkin dismissed legions of contemporary art writers with one sentence: “Too many people think they can write without ever having had to read.” It was a nimble curtsy to his longtime friend Julian Barnes.
In the wrong hands, ‘shaming’ can lead to coercion.
Oct 19, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 06 • By STEFAN BECK
When Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor in the department of environmental studies at New York University, was a child, she persuaded her mother to buy her a book called 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. One of the simple things that the book induced her to do was to shame her parents into boycotting canned tuna.
The life of chess, from birth to checkmate.
Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By MARTIN MORSE WOOSTER
After the workday, far too many of us come home and turn on our televisions or our computers. But some of us indulge in more traditional, non-electronic hobbies, and these hobbies have rituals, which seem mystifying to the outsider. For example, the now-defunct North American popular culture trivia championship awarded the winner a championship belt, which was acquired somehow from a defunct minor wrestling league.
In prose and verse, the speaking voice of Charles Simic.
Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By JOHN SIMON
Charles Simic and I both grew up in Belgrade—then Yugoslavia and now Serbia—he later and harder than I. Immigrating, he has become a notable American poet and prosaist, winning numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship. He has published 20 volumes of poetry and several of prose, as well as verse translations from diverse Yugoslav dialects. Until recently, he taught at the University of New Hampshire. He appears now with The Lunatic, a volume of verse, and The Life of Images, selected prose.
By spoiling a Young Adult favorite.Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
I thought I’d wait for the furor to die down a bit before I said anything. It’s been more than two months since Go Set a Watchman was published. Presumably reviewers, pundits, liberal arts professors, people with heightened sensitivity to the role race plays in contemporary society, and the 200 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 who were frog-marched through To Kill a Mockingbird in high school are calmer now.
When Britain was an outpost of an earlier empire.
Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
You can find them here and there, scattered across England: the small green mounds, the hillocks and filled-in ditches, the hints of straight lines that once cut through the landscape. Just beneath the long grass lies the rich silt, piled up by the wind or washed in by the rain in the 62 years since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I I. In the 177 years since Victoria took the throne. The 949 years since a determined William of Normandy landed on the English shore. The 1,418 years since St. Augustine came to Canterbury, a prayer book in his hand.
A way to look at dueling, then and now.Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By JAMES BOWMAN
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.