In the age of the Internet, do we really need footnotes? For a book to be taken seriously, does it have to take us to the yellowing page of some crumbling edition in the depths of an austere library, if the material could equally well be found through a Google search? Has an element of fetishism perhaps crept into what was once a necessary academic practice?
Novelists have long been attuned to the psychology of interior design. But such connections were less common in nonfiction before the publication in 1958 of Mario Praz’s La casa della vita, which appeared (in Angus Davidson’s lustrous translation) as The House of Life a half-century ago this year.
In his address to the nation, Obama made the case for a large-scale, long-term military offensive to “destroy” a group that now holds significant territory in two countries. Such a lengthy military intervention amounts to war, the very sort of engagement that the framers felt should be undertaken only if approved by the legislative branch.
Li Yinhe: During the first thirty years of its rule, the Communist Party was anti-sex. So studying sex is controversial. Even in my current book, the section on laws about sex was eliminated. You can’t publish it.
Over at Forbes, Mark Adomanis claims to have found eight errors in my piece on Michelle Parsons’ and Nicholas Eberstadt’s books on Russian demographics. I can go on and detail all the cherry-picking and misinterpretations in Adomanis’s piece, but the careful reader can easily do that herself. So I’ll concentrate on the substance of his criticism.
Among the many stories concerning foreigners setting out to fight in Syria, the allegations about Chinese Uighurs arrested in Thailand—many of them women and children—stand out. They have triggered a quiet tug of war between China, which is pressuring Thailand to send them back, and the West, which has argued that deporting them would expose them to savage mistreatment.
Because of the photography of their day, we tend to think of the world wars in black and white. Peter Walther’s The First World War in Colour feels like looking at a familiar scene through a different pair of eyeglasses. The first thing that stuns you is the brilliant colors of the uniforms. The French army of 1914 was the most snappily dressed in Europe.
The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine has to be seen to be believed. On a sixteen-mile stretch of road from the village of Novokaterinivka to the town of Ilovaysk, I counted the remains of sixty-eight vehicles, in which a large but as yet unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers died trying to flee the area.
Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.
In 1973, when I moved to New Hampshire, wines were available only in state liquor stores in selections so limited and of such mediocre quality that someone like me, coming from California and accustomed to an immense variety of wines available everywhere, had a reason to panic. To remedy the situation, I and a couple of friends who shared my love of wines used to make monthly trips to Boston and Cambridge to diversify and replenish our supply. We did this for years, until the state loosened the regulations. What became obvious over the years is not just the increase in quantity, but the improved quality of the wines that are being drunk. Since I associate wine with good life and civilization, knowing that everyone from the old Greek and Romans to our Founding Fathers drank it too, Benjamin Franklin even claiming that wine is a proof that God loves us, I find this to be a most felicitous development.