Rachel Kushner’s novels are the product of enormous research, but she rarely shows her work; history and creation knot together like threads in a tapestry. Her voice is always authoritative, direct, and knowledgeable, so that even the fictions she creates have the certainty of fact. This talent for verisimilitude shapes The Mars Room. Kushner has described how she worked on the novel by spending time in prisons meeting inmates and “covertly” following criminology students as they toured the facilities. The amount of detail she presents here, some amassed and some imagined, is astonishing.
Jenny Diski covered nearly every conceivable topic in her essays for the London Review of Books: shoes, Stanley Milgram, the women’s movement, Karl Marx. But the essays are always as much about herself as the subject at hand. “I start with me, and often enough end with me,” she once …
Pundits often marvel at how quickly Germany’s far-right AfD has acquired power. But if the party has gained prominence, in some polls even surpassing the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), it is because the anti-immigrant sentiment it represents has, in fact, been present as an undercurrent in German politics for years. Even if the AfD, constantly beset by internal conflicts and scandal, implodes, he says, “there will be another right-wing populist party” to take its place.
At the core of the anti-abortion movement is the tenet that a fetus is a person whose rights need to be protected. The Trump administration is taking this argument to an absurd and cruel extreme. A fetus in the United States requires the full protection and support of American law. As for its undocumented, adolescent mother—well, if she wants her rights, she should leave the country.
The apparent calm of the election belied the real concerns of the German public, concerns evident in the election results. Chancellor Angela Merkel barely campaigned. To the eyes of the public, the two major parties seemed nearly identical. This provided the far-right party with an opening to be the opposition. If people turned to a party that said the unspeakable, it was partly because very speakable things weren’t being said at all.
In El Salvador, gangs dictate a significant part of the economy, while the government’s law-and-order strategy has failed to reduce one of the highest murder rates in the world. Turning citizens into informants, the town of San José Guayabal claims to have defied this trend, anticipating violence before it happens. But it’s unclear whether its approach can be replicated at the national level.
The Renaissance accountant Matthäus Schwarz often took note of the outfits in which he looked particularly fine. In 1520, at age twenty-three, he hired an artist to draw his most notable getups and collected these in a book that he continued to fill throughout the rest of his life.
In The Address Book, the French artist Sophie Calle found an address book on a Paris street, photocopied its pages, and returned it to its owner. She then interviewed the people listed within and published the results in the French daily Liberation. Critics of Calle’s work often describe it as mere snooping. She may be a an excellent stalker, but in her pursuit of strangers, Calle presents a kind of artistic Zeno’s paradox: the closer you get to someone else, the more you realize the distance separating you.
Simon Rattle’s last year as the head of the Berlin Philharmonic—he has been conducting the orchestra to great acclaim since 2002—is the last chance to see his energetic conducting style at work in the orchestra’s acoustically superb concert hall.