Books

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    Witold Gombrowicz (1904–69) began his monumental Diary, spanning the years 1953 to 1969, with the words “Monday / Me. // Tuesday / Me. // Wednesday / Me. // Thursday / Me.” While the statement might appear to be an expression of unbridled egocentrism, it also signals the author’s commitment to escape the role of the writer as a prophetic bard, a voice of the nation, which is so common to Polish literature. Gombrowicz will always remain...

  • April 28-May 5, 2014

    One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. His mark on the 20th century is writ so large that it does not seem that long ago. Perhaps that is because his major accomplishments still have a considerable effect on American life: the Federal Reserve system, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, all created in his first term; and universal suffrage and the ratification of the 19th Amendment,...

  • April 21, 2014

    A lapsed Catholic, Robert Stone considers his loss of religion one of the pivotal events of his life. If nothing else, it provides inspiration for his award-winning fiction and for the religious impulse behind his work. In his eighth novel, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, religion shapes the lives and aspirations of the main characters but not in ways one would expect.

  • April 21, 2014

    When John Maynard Keynes said that the world is ruled by the ideas of economists and political philosophers, “both when they are right and when they are wrong,” he left out that often it is not evidence or logic that determine which ideas “rule the roost”; it is Karl Marx’s dictum that the ruling ideas would be “nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships.”

  • April 21, 2014

    After he finished reading an earlier biography of himself, Norman Mailer told me, with a mixture of rue and triumph, “He missed the twinkle.” His new biographer, J. Michael Lennon, does not miss the twinkle or much else about the writer who swaggered across a half century of American life, writing novels, plays, poems, essays, journalism, even some theological speculation along with directing movies.

  • April 21, 2014

    The achievements of John Henry Newman are staggering. He did nothing less than craft a language that enabled many 19th-century men and women to affirm the awe-inspiring mystery of God in not merely a conventional notional manner, but with a real apprehension that influenced and changed their lives (to use a distinction that permeates his work).

  • April 14, 2014

    The respected Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has written a remarkable book about the deeds and misdeeds of his beloved country. My Promised Land offers a compelling, soul-searching mix of history, politics, culture and military strategy.

    The three most riveting chapters examine Israel’s brutal expulsion of Palestinians from the Lydda Valley in 1948, the controversial decision to build nuclear weapons and the ongoing...

  • April 14, 2014

    More people now die in the United States by suicide than in automobile accidents. There were 28,364 deaths by suicide in 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available) and, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate is rising, particularly among middle-aged adults. Jennifer Michael Hecht’s book is a plea directed to both those who are considering taking their own lives and those who may be in a position to intervene.

  • April 14, 2014

    Most of the poetry that came out of the Great War was ironical, as Paul Fussell showed in his brilliant and moving The Great War and Modern Memory, but none of its veteran unironical writers, whom he doesn’t mention or glances over, ever denied war’s shattering effects. J. R. R. Tolkein, for instance, spoke of “sheer animal horror,” and C. S.

  • April 7, 2014

    The Cursillo de Cristiandad is a nearly 60-year-old, lay-led Catholic renewal movement with origins on the island of Mallorca, Spain, whose signature event is a 72-hour short course in Christianity. The Cursillo movement was inaugurated in 1944 by Eduardo Bonnín Aguiló, a Mallorcan Catholic layman who, sadly, had been overlooked until recently as the founder of the movement.