We continue our fifty-fifth anniversary tour through the Review’s archives with five pieces from the early 1990s: Janet Malcolm on morals for journalists, John Gregory Dunne on the beating of Rodney King and its aftermath in Los Angeles, Joyce Carol Oates on Muhammad Ali, a poem by James Fenton, and Charles Lane on the sources for The Bell Curve.
I have been writing long pieces of reportage for a little over a decade. Almost from the start, I was struck by the unhealthiness of the journalist-subject relationship, and every piece I wrote only deepened my consciousness of the canker that lies at the heart of the rose of journalism.
John Gregory Dunne
Perhaps the tape’s most extraordinary aspect was what it did not show: not a single one of the nineteen other uniformed officers moving in to stop the beating, even when Rodney King, on the pavement, stunned by the Taser, was clearly no threat.
Joyce Carol Oates
Professional boxing is the only major American sport whose primary, and often murderous, energies are not coyly defected by such artifacts as balls and pucks.
For Andrew Wood
What would the dead want from us
Watching from their cave?
Would they have us forever howling?
Would they have us rave
Or disfigure ourselves, or be strangled
Like some ancient emperor’s slave?
For all the shock value of its assertion that blacks are intractably, and probably biologically, inferior in intelligence to whites and Asians, The Bell Curve is not quite an original piece of research.