Any of us could list the differences between the two cities of mirages, Las Vegas and the North Korean capital Pyongyang. The one is a shameless efflorescence of capitalism that is, for its enemies, a glittering symbol of the decadence and emptiness of the West; the other the world’s last by-the-book, state-controlled monument to Stalinist brutality. Yet both cities are products of a mid-twentieth-century spirit that saw what power and profit could be found in constructing mass fantasies ab nihilo
Four years ago, the Japanese fishing town of Namie lived through an experience of malediction biblical in scope. It was struck by an earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale, a fifteen-meter tsunami, and finally, a blanket of radioactivity from the nearby Fukushima reactor. As Japan resumes nuclear power this week, Namie is a reminder of the price we must be prepared to pay.
Today’s renewed interest in William F. Buckley, Jr. presents him as having an outsize impact on his time. With biographies in the works, a recent documentary about his televised clashes with Gore Vidal, Best of Enemies, and new book, Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties, the interest may, in fact, be fueled by overstatement. Buckley did not make history. He made good copy.
Yet one more horror in a war that has delivered them almost daily, the mass exodus of Syrians through a narrow opening in a chain-link fence at the Syrian-Turkish border this past June nevertheless stood out for what it showed about the sheer complexity of the human catastrophe now unfolding in Syria. The US has accepted fewer than one thousand Syrian refugees so far—more made it through that hole in the fence during a few hours.
Yukio Ninagawa’s production of Kafka on the Shore at Lincoln Center in July—a surreal play that mixes slices of contemporary Japanese life with a ghostly spirit world, based on the 2002 novel by Haruki Murakami—was a brilliant example of Japan’s modern theater tradition. The words “modern” and “tradition” may appear contradictory, but in this case they are not.
A new documentary, Homme Less, opening on August 7 at the IFC Center in Manhattan, is a reminder of how far the homeless population now reaches in New York. Mark Reay, fashion photographer and former model, has been living on the fire-escape of a private building for three years. With Promethean effort he has managed to hold the dooming signs of destitution (the odor, the accreted grime) at bay. Though he is isolated in his double life, he is far from alone.
On July 25, the NYR Daily published a post by Richard Bernstein on the first part of a New York Times investigation into workplace conditions at New York City nail salons, which Bernstein argued was a “misleading depiction of the nail salon business as a whole.” The editors of the Times have published a letter responding to Bernstein’s post. Richard Bernstein replies here.
Milan Simich: After the gig Ornette Coleman gave me his address and invited me to visit. About a week later on a Sunday afternoon, I went to the West Village. I forget the street, he had a basement apartment. I hesitated, couldn’t ring the bell, and walked away. Thing is, I was nineteen, what was I going to talk to him about?
Roberto Bolaño wrote that Alan Pauls was “one of the best living Latin American writers”—curious readers unacquainted with Pauls’s work might begin with his new novel A History of Money, a desolate, delighted history of our impermanent valuations.
As a former New York Times journalist who also has been, for the last twelve years, a part owner of two day-spas in Manhattan, I read the Times’s recent exposé of the nail salon industry with particular interest. But it was troubling to discover that many of the story’s claims and sources, on which sweeping conclusions were based, were flimsy and sometimes wholly inaccurate.