Jonathan Lieberson (1949–1989) was a philosopher, editor and critic. Lieberson taught at Barnard and Columbia. His book of essays, Varieties, included reflections on personalities as diverse as Diana Vreeland, Paul Valery and Clifford Geertz.

TV: A Day in the Life

Some years ago, I fell seriously ill and had to go to a hospital, where I was fitted out with catheters and intravenous tubing on both arms and could read only with great difficulty. I tried to divert myself with an enormous book on the several generations of a distinguished …

Bombing in Bayreuth

The opera festival in Bayreuth, which performs only Wagner’s works—usually Der Ring des Nibelungen, and two or three others—continues to induce in some spectators the feeling expressed by Mark Twain when he attended it in the Nineties, that he was “a sane person in a community of the mad.” Because …

The Prophet of Broadway

David Mamet, whose new play, Speed-the-Plow, is having a successful run in New York, grew up in Chicago, where he sought a career in the theater by, among other things, working as a busboy at the Second City and (because his uncle was director of broadcasting for the Chicago Board …

The Sense of Santayana

John McCormick’s biography of George Santayana—a long and detailed account of a slow and rather uneventful life—is part of a recent effort to revive, or exhume, the thought and reputation of the philosopher, whose autobiography, Persons and Places, was republished last year. One senses that this effort may be an …

Chopping Up ‘The Cherry Orchard’

With the support of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the British stage director Peter Brook has restored the Majestic Theater on Fulton Street in Brooklyn for two productions, the immense Indian epic The Mahabharata, which has completed its run, and now Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. The old theater has not …

Nixon in Brooklyn

Nixon in China is an opera by Alice Goodman, a poet living in Cambridge, England, and John Adams, a composer who until recently was new music adviser at the San Francisco Symphony. The opera was commissioned by four companies—the Houston Grand Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, De Nederlandse Opera, …

The Unimportance of Being Oscar

For those who like to take things to extremes, Oscar Levant was a hero. Before he died in 1972, he had completed a great arc of self-destruction that ruined his career as a pianist, a radio and film star, and that had put him into a series of hospitals to …

Too Many People?

Between 1949 and 1973 the population of China increased 64 percent and today it is over one billion. The Deng regime claims that high rates of population growth, lower rates of death caused by modern medicines, and a generally poor and badly educated population have forced China to spend too …

The Reality of AIDS

AIDS has become one of the most discussed subjects in the US, yet some of its most important characteristics are not understood. From the beginning it was thought of as a homosexual’s disease, created by “promiscuity.” When a virus, HTLV-3, was found in the blood of most persons with AIDS, …

Lovely to Look At

Since 1976, when Einstein on the Beach, written with the composer Philip Glass, was performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Robert Wilson has acquired a reputation as an all-around showman, a hip, Texan Wagner who produces enormous, expensive “intermedia” spectacles in Europe and is followed by swooning disciples and donors. Few …

Putting Freud to the Test

Freud thought that he was the founder of a science. In one of his later papers, he wrote that psychoanalysis is “a part of the mental science of psychology.”[^1] But his detractors, a number of whom have lately mounted several sensational efforts to discredit his character, have contended that he …

Method Acting

On the first page of his new book, the well-known British sociologist W.G. Runciman defines the classic and often ferocious debate he wants to deal with. It is, he writes, the debate between “those who affirm and those who deny that there is a fundamental difference in kind between the …

Snapshots of the Photographer

The photographer Diane Arbus—the subject of Patricia Bosworth’s new biography—was born in 1923 in New York and forty-eight years later killed herself in her apartment in an artists’ community in the same city. Her parents, David and Gertrude Nemerov, were well-to-do Jews whose fortune derived from Russeks, a fur and …

Richesse d’embarras

Diana Vreeland, once the editor of Harper’s Bazaar and then of Vogue, and now a curator at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a familiar figure to readers of fashion magazines: a spidery woman with the face of an American Indian chief, usually snapped by a …

Interpreting the Interpreter

According to Clifford Geertz, anthropology—“long one of the most homespun of disciplines, hostile to anything smacking of intellectual pretension and unnaturally proud of an outdoorsman image”—has, together with much else in social science, been changing in recent years. He says that its golden age, when there was widespread agreement on …

Anatomy of an Epidemic

Since it was first recognized in 1979 and until very recently, the incidence of the diseases grouped under the acronym AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) roughly doubled every six months, with about five cases being reported a day in the US (and about two a day in New York City).

Making It

“People no longer do anything with respect to what they’re doing,” writes Mr. Aronson, “they do everything with respect to that third eye, which is the eye of People magazine.” Our culture is “sorely menaced” by what he calls “hype,” “the merchandising of a product—be it an object, a person, …

The Romantic Rationalist

Apart from his celebrated writings on the “open society” and its enemies, Karl Popper is chiefly known as a logician of science who has denied that science employs induction, and who has claimed that what demarcates science from nonscience, in particular metaphysics, is that scientists seek the truth by vigorously …

The ‘Truth’ of Karl Popper

Karl Popper is the author of a striking treatise on scientific method, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, as well as the celebrated wartime tract against totalitarianism notorious for its irreverent denunciations of Plato and Hegel, The Open Society and Its Enemies. He is an independent, versatile, lucid, and eloquent philosopher, …

The Silent Majority

The “modernization” of peasant societies is one of the great themes of contemporary history. No longer as acute an issue in Europe as it once was, it is more urgent than ever in Asia and Africa and Latin America. “Peasants”—i.e., self-supporting land laborers and cultivators living in small village communities—make …

The Choices of Isaiah Berlin

At the center of the thought of the philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin is a conception of man as a free and never wholly predictable agent, expressing his interests through diverse values, cultural settings, ways of thinking, acting, feeling. In the previous issue, we described Berlin’s views on …

The Questions of Isaiah Berlin

Edmund Wilson once described Isaiah Berlin as “an extraordinary Oxford don, who left Russia at the age of eight and has a sort of double Russian-and-British personality. The combination is uncanny but fascinating.” But even these words from such a usually restrained source fail to do justice to the variety …

Est Is Est

After viewing the discarded crutches, eyeglasses, ear trumpets, and other paraphernalia at Lourdes, Anatole France is said to have inquired: “What—no wooden legs?” One could ask a similar question about the cures promised by most self-help books—of frustrations, bad tempers, unsatisfactory orgasms, migraines, insomnia, and other symptoms of the unhappy …