Another damned, thick, square book, eh, Mr. Gilbert?
Gibbonian in scale, the latest volume of Martin Gilbert’s Churchill has all the great virtues, idiosyncracies, and short-comings of its predecessors. This is not merely, as the cliché has it, a monument of historical scholarship—always a doubtful compliment, since monuments are generally viewed from the outside. This is a museum of historical scholarship, a vast, neoclassical museum in which the ...Read »
To M.S. Gorbachev:
I welcome the present policy of democratization of Soviety society and, as much as I am able, I would like to participate in this process.
I request my immediate freedom and permission to return to Moscow, where my family lives, as I did, before my arrest.
February 26, 1987Read »
Over fifty years ago the great historian Sir Lewis Namier wrote three volumes about eighteenth-century England in which he argued that the high-sounding principles which Whig and Tory politicians mouthed bore little relation to their political actions. Here the spoils of office and the patronage of rival grandees were far more important. His books, written with a style and panache that few historians can rival, were a great success and ...Read »
The following interview took place on March 5 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, five days after the Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya arrived in the US, and ten weeks after she and her husband left the Soviet Union, where she had been released from prison. The interview was conducted in Russian.
EWA KURYLUK: Because of your birthday party yesterday, I know that you were born on March 4 ...Read »
“You can put anything you like in a novel. So why do people always go on putting in the same thing? Why is the vol-au-vent always chicken?” Thus spake D.H. Lawrence (in his essay, “The Novel,” in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine). Julian Barnes is a writer worth watching because he seems to share Lawrence’s wish to vary the ingredients of our fictional diet. After producing ...Read »
To the Editors:
I was shocked by Helen Vendler’s venomous review of my book in “The Hunting of Wallace Stevens” [NYR, November 20, 1986]. A letter from Professor Vendler to me in June prepared me for the fact that she would take exception to my approach to Stevens; she informed me of this on the basis of having only “glanced through” the page proof copy I had sent her ...Read »
The most telling parts of the Tower Commission’s report are not to be found in the report itself—which leaves many questions open—but in the appendixes. These quote abundantly from interviews held by the special review board, from documents written by the White House staff, and from the messages Colonel Oliver North and Admiral Poindexter sent each other on the “PROF System”—“an interoffice mail system run through ...Read »
To the Editors:
Your readers may be interested in the following open letter to General Secretary Gorbachev from Aleksandr Bogoslovski, the forty-five-year-old archivist and historian who was arrested in June 1984 and is now in prison. Mr. Bogoslovski, as a letter of protest from members of PEN published in these pages in 1984 made clear, is a nonpolitical scholar of Russian poetry and prose. No serious charges were made against ...Read »
On January 28, 1987, Hungarian police confiscated all of the items—thirty-nine pieces—of a dissident art exhibition in Budapest.
Last summer an international fine art competition was announced in The New York Review of Books [August 14, 1986] by the dissident Hungarian art group “Inconnu.” Its members include: Peter Bokros, 33, Tamás Molnár, 32, and Robert Pálinkás, 22. The theme of the competition was “The Fighting City,” in commemoration ...Read »
To the Editors:
In early October 1938 my husband, Laurence Vail, and I paid a visit to a friend of over ten years’ standing. He lived in Rapallo, and some time in the past he had presented a bronze bust of himself to the town. There it stood in the square, larger than life, which was always what he wanted to be.
It was a few days after Neville Chamberlain ...Read »
To the Editors:
Ernst Honigmann is the sixth academic so far to explain away Edmund Ironside as an imaginary plagiarism at an imaginary date [NYR, February 12]; I have already refuted such fantasies in a new preface for my second edition (Wildwood House, 1986). He has also missed the announcement by the New York documents expert Charles Hamilton that the Ironside MS is indeed in Shakespeare’s own handwriting. Any ...Read »
The Broadway Theatre, where Les Misérables opened on March 12 amid great fanfare and with a record-breaking $11 million in advance ticket sales, is situated on the Fifty-third Street corner of The Great White Way. Much of the area to its south, Times Square and the Broadway hub, is soon to be demolished by authority of the Times Square Redevelopment Corporation. This destruction, like Baron Haussmann’s revision of Paris ...Read »
To the Editors:
Martha Nussbaum [NYR, January 29] is right that I have a quarrel with The Free Press, who did not show me the jacket blurb for Sexual Desire. It is not true, as stated in that blurb, that “The Conservative Philosophy Group” advises Mrs. Thatcher, though it is true that I am partly responsible for founding it. Nor is it true, as Ms. Nussbaum says in her review ...Read »
On September 27, 1986, Senator Jesse Helms (Republican of North Carolina) accidentally inserted a dial-a-porn message into the Congressional Record. The transcript began:
Hi. I’m Nellie from High Society and I’m so busy getting ready for my June wedding. Why don’t you and I have a private shower….
Helms’s office later explained that the text had been included through “staff oversight,” but it tells us something ...Read »
That Cleanth Brooks, after a long and distinguished career as a literary critic, should now produce a book about language may surprise some readers. But it must be remembered that language was one of his strong early interests: among his first publications were The Relation of the Alabama-Georgia Dialect to the Provincial Dialects of Great Britain (1935) and “The English Language of the South” (1937, often reprinted). Besides, he is ...Read »
I saw them coming, an army of two with banners. He was tall, pale, eyes narrowed from cigarette smoke of his own making (an eighty-a-day man for years); she was small, round faced, somewhat bloated. In the gracious plywood-paneled room, the hard stuff was flowing, and the flower of British book-chat and publishing was on hand to drink it all up in honor, not quite the noun, of my return ...Read »
R.P. Blackmur was much possessed by failure, by what René Wellek calls an insight into human insufficiency. Perhaps the most brilliant member of a brilliant generation of critics—he was born in 1904, died in 1965—Blackmur worried more than any of them over what can’t be said, can’t be faced, over the places in history and personal life where hope winds down and possibilities seem to ...Read »
In his impressive short book, Star Wars, Dr. Robert Bowman, the president of the Institute for Space and Security Studies, reminds us that the pursuit of SDI presages not only the abrogation of the 1972 ABM Treaty—which said that the parties will not “develop, test, or deploy ABM systems or components which are…space-based”—but the death knell of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and even of the ...Read »
Well, we’ll live
as the soul directs,
not asking for other bread.
And I will get myself a tame mouse
while having a dog is impossible.
And he and I will go along,
read letters in the corner.
He’ll climb into my bed
without wiping the soot from his paws.
And if letters suddenly stop—
(after all, anything could happen on the way!)—
he, the gray one, then ...