It’s always exciting to think about works of art or literature in relation to the person who made them, especially if you have some direct acquaintance with the artist. The usual order of events, of course, is that you grow familiar with the work and later meet the man or woman behind it, at an opening or a reading or some social event. What matters, then, is that the artist be on a par with the art, and for a serious admirer, disappointment is almost inevitable. But things are quite different when you know the artist well before you see the work, and even more so when you actually grew up with him.
Henry James called them “traps to memory” in The American Scene, the book he wrote about his visit to the United States in 1904 after a twenty-year absence. Walking on West Fourteenth Street and Lower Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, he shuddered at how much the neighborhood had changed. His parental home, the massive stone church that stood nearby, the old building that housed the original Metropolitan Museum of Art, and much else in the city had now “vanished as utterly as the Assyrian Empire.” What remained were these “traps” which “baited themselves with the cheese of association,” and into which anyone who had once known the city might fall.
It is difficult to define the legacy of murderous regimes. While it is easy (and just) to unleash a torrent of the bitterest denunciations of the Khmer Rouge, stepping back, language always fails to rise to the occasion. The most appropriate way to describe the legacy of the Khmer Rouge was the utter nothingness that was left in the wake of the regime.
At Cambridge University in the 1960s, we marched against the Vietnam War to the songs of Bob Dylan, but romanced young ladies to the poetry and songs of Leonard Cohen. Together, the poetry of Dylan and Cohen was the epitome of good taste—demanding political commitment, spiritual yearning, romantic obsession, and a great deal of intense discussion.
I wish to respond to an article written by Stéphanie Giry, published on your blog under the title: “Necessary Scapegoats? The Making of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal,” as follows: First, by saying that “[Cambodian Foreign Minster Hor Nam Hong] was the Ambassador to Cuba for the regime of General Lon Nol,” the writer is really insane and ignorant. Secondly, His Excellency Hor Nam Hong has never been a schoolmate with Ieng Sary for a simple reason that they are from different generations. Third, regarding a 2002 US Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, His Excellency Hor Nam Hong has already sent a letter of protest to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 18 July, 2011.
Several Western directors have tried to make movies in Japan. Most are terrible. Now we have Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love. The actors are all Japanese, and the story takes place entirely in and around Tokyo. The ultimate modern metropolis, with its neon-lit commercial graffiti and buildings that look like a pastiche of everywhere and nowhere, it is perfect for Kiarostami’s story of closeness between strangers. To most foreign visitors, Tokyo looks uncannily familiar and yet deeply strange. Kiarostami is a stranger in Tokyo, but his depiction of the city is extraordinarily intimate and delicate.
Despite their considerable efforts the Republicans were not able to buy or steal the election after all. Their defeat was of almost Biblical nature. The people, Democratic supporters of the president, whose votes they had plotted, schemed, and maneuvered— unto nearly the very last minute—to deny rose up and said they wouldn’t have it. If people had to stand well into the night to cast their vote they did it. The lines were the symbol of the 2012 election—at once awe-inspiring and enraging.
What public service do we expect from Mitt Romney? He will no doubt return to augmenting his vast and hidden wealth, with no more pesky questions about where around the world it is stashed, or what taxes (if any) he paid, carefully sheltered from the rules his fellow citizens follow.
In 1904, three years after the first Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the French poet Sully Prudhomme, the English Football Association chose not to participate in the formation of an International Football Federation (FIFA). They could not see the point. Nor in 1930, the year in which Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel, did England participate in the first World Cup: the English objected to the prospect of a ten-day ocean crossing to Uruguay to play teams that meant nothing to them. The first international football game, they pointed out, had been between England and Scotland, in 1872—a time when Alfred Nobel was still focused on improving his dynamite. Who needs Argentina or Brazil when you have Scotland to play?