A coterie of officers and British supremacy at sea.
Nov 23, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 11 • By JOSEPH F. CALLO
The Fleet Street journalist Tom Pocock was among the best recorders of Lord Nelson’s heroic status.
Valiant yet vulnerable, Nelson has fascinated for two centuries. He continues to be the subject of books, paintings, plays. . . . He can seem a contemporary and it requires no great leap of the imagination to think of him being interviewed on television.
An enigmatic tale of the prehistoric East.
Nov 23, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 11 • By DOMINIC GREEN
Sleepless and sweaty in the “great heats” of July 1840, Ralph Waldo Emerson reached for something sublime and sensual: “There was nothing for me but to read the Vedas, the bible of the tropics.” The problem was that the “grand ethics” of Vedic mythology, and the “unfathomable power” of Vedic cosmology, were traduced by a fetish for sacrificial rites. A modern seeker had to sift “primeval inspiration” from “endless ceremonial nonsense.”
How do we know what we think we know?
Nov 16, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 10 • By JAMES M. BANNER JR.
Jeremy Black’s previous book, Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures, is a sparkling defense of the legitimacy and utility of counterfactual history—of what ifs—and the best single work on its subject available. He turns here to a not unrelated, and equally weighty and vexing, issue: the uses and misuses of historical knowledge outside, as well as within, academic circles. No one reading this work, and surely no professional historians, will come away from it untroubled by its implications.
A world war seen from the German-speaking side.
Nov 16, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 10 • By ANTHONY PALETTA
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.
In search of a decent ghost story? Consider E. F. Benson.Nov 16, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 10 • By COLIN FLEMING
If you’re a connoisseur of ghost stories you are probably aware that the best reading experiences take the form of individual, pithy narratives rather than book-length efforts. This is true for almost all of the masters, from M. R. James to Henry James, Charles Dickens to Saki, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Ambrose Bierce. Collections assembled as round-ups are frequently patchy, with the mood of several chilling tales intruded upon by a lackluster yarn.
Breastfeeding enters its Maoist phase.Nov 9, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 09 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
I’m a kind of poster child for bottle-feeding instead of breastfeeding. I’m a first-born, and my mother, bless her heart, decided to nurse me from her own nipples instead of the more “scientific” formula that was the middle-class aspirational standard of the 1940s. (Breastfeeding was strictly for hillbillies back then.) Six weeks later, I was nearly dead. My mother simply didn’t have the milk. A pediatrician took one look at my shriveled self and told her to stop.
The quest for (literary) immortality in 19th-century England.
Nov 9, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 09 • By SARA LODGE
Why do some authors stay famous, while others fade from history’s roll of honor? When it was published in 1811, Mary Brunton’s racy novel Self-Control was a runaway bestseller. Although its theme was moral fortitude, it was wildly exciting. An ardent suitor, Hargrave, kidnapped the heroine, Laura Montreville. Despite loving her captor, she resisted his improper advances and passionate mood swings. Her daring escape from Quebec involved piloting a birch bark canoe over a waterfall:
The AAUP’s devotion to freedom has its limits.
Nov 9, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 09 • By JONATHAN MARKS
If I were dismissed from my college faculty for writing for The Weekly Standard, the American Association of University Professors, founded in 1915, would be on my side. It wouldn’t matter that, as seems likely, many of its 45,000 members loathe TWS and all that it stands for. After all, the AAUP supported Mike Adams, a professor denied promotion at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, allegedly because of columns he had written for the conservative website Townhall.
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.
A fictional (?) version of France’s prospects.
Nov 2, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 08 • By GRAHAM HILLARD
That Submission, the sixth work of fiction by the French provocateur Michel Houellebecq, was published in France on the day of the Charlie Hedbo assassinations feels like something out of a publicist’s morbid daydream. It considers a near-future in which the French Muslim Brotherhood finds common cause with the socialists—and in a darkly comic twist, Sarkozy’s center-right UMP—and takes control of the government. What follows is at once outrageous and eerily plausible.
The fatal limits of FDR’s pragmatism.
Nov 2, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 08 • By TERRY TEACHOUT
Of the making of books about Franklin D. Roosevelt, there is no end—and nearly all of them are admiring, often to the point of outright adoration. It started with the memoirists, most of whom took the utmost care to paper over Roosevelt’s flaws in their obsequious haste to document their own proximity to the throne.
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.
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?”