The notion of Trump in certain precincts of the media as a Manchurian candidate, a Russian asset owned and run by the Kremlin, is ridiculous to Burton Gerber, a thirty-nine-year veteran of the CIA. He says, “Trump is basically a man with low self-esteem, which he has worked against by being a bully and a narcissist… The Russians would never want to recruit him, just continuously have access to him and be able to influence him.” Gerber compares Trump to Harry Hopkins, an architect of the New Deal whom the Soviets cajoled because of his closeness to Roosevelt, rather than to Alger Hiss, whom the KGB actively recruited as a spy within the US government. “If you’ve got someone like Trump, an agent of influence,” he asks, “why would you then try to make him more than what he is? It would be irresponsible from an intelligence point of view.”
To celebrate The New York Review’s fifty-fifth anniversary, we are featuring one article from each year of the magazine’s publication. Today we survey the end of the 1970s, with Saul Bellow on boredom, Elizabeth Hardwick on Billie Holiday, Simon Leys on Maoist China, Susan Sontag on illness, and Michael Wood on Apocalypse Now.
In an effort to persuade the American people that the president has done nothing wrong, Trump and his supporters have blamed those they identify as their political adversaries—from President Barack Obama to Jim Comey, and including entire institutions such as the FBI and CIA, and an ill-defined “Deep State.” But the most compelling evidence that the president may have obstructed justice appears to come from his own most senior and loyal aides. The greatest threat to his presidency is not from his enemies, real or perceived, but from his allies within the White House.
Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer turned playboy turned right-wing politician, swept Pakistan’s elections last week. Pakistanis, drained after the drama of electoral vigils, delayed results, and allegations of rigging and meddling, will likely cleave to the promise of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry. They console themselves by believing that they’ll one day “see that day that has been promised” them, as Faiz’s famous lines go. That they do not have a united vision for this future day seems not to be of Imran Khan’s—or anyone’s—concern.
For years, Brancusi made hardly enough money to eat. In 1926, a version of one of his most extraordinary subjects, Bird in Space, was famously held up at the US border because customs officials didn’t think it was art. Sometimes, he even baffled his own cohort. Picasso (or perhaps Matisse) is said to have likened Brancusi’s 1916 Princess X, a glistening bronze torso of Princess Marie Bonaparte, to a large phallus. Yet, by the time of his death in 1957, the increasingly reclusive Romanian was regarded as one of the century’s greatest sculptors. Peggy Guggenheim, who began buying his work in the 1940s and took artist-worship seriously, called him “half astute peasant and half real god.”
Upon the release of his book about the rise and fall of the Liberal politician, John Preston observed that “If homosexuality had been legal, none of this would’ve happened.” In an ideal world, where homosexuality was not only never legally proscribed, but also never the target of intense and widespread social stigma, this would be true. But to emphasize the repressive power of the closet minimizes the responsibility of Thorpe, who, superficial charm aside, was a deeply unsympathetic figure. Unlike other public figures who used the unwelcome exposure of their homosexuality to fight for gay acceptance and legal equality, Thorpe never contributed much to that cause. Indeed, he denied being gay all his life.
An aging, beautiful, woman with a height of sixty-five inches, roughly the same as the canvas, slipped in front of a Jackson Pollock. It was Madame Moreau falling down, her limbs splayed across the floor in every direction. I am unable to trace now the trajectory of Pollock’s random drips dried on the canvas, but I will never forget the portrait of seduction that lay sprawled before me. She wore a gray wool skirt, a crow-black cardigan, and a cloche hat with a flamboyant silvery bow. Her tender feet, which I discovered that very same afternoon, were covered in elegant hold-up stockings.
That chronic Lyme exists in the realm of experience doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When medicine does not acknowledge the reality of the subjective—the thick reality of lived experience—we fall laughably short in our efforts to serve patients. When it comes to tick-borne Lyme disease itself, we all need to expand our horizons. That suffering is real. It must be attended to. But to insist beyond all plausibility that one’s suffering is related to a tick bite is not feminist; it’s absurd. And to prey on suffering people who crave that certainty, offering them expensive, intensive, and dangerous treatments is worse than absurd; it’s cruel.
The endgame of the war in Syria is likely to come down to the northwestern province of Idlib, on the Turkish border, where some 2.3 million people are now trapped. As Russian-Syrian forces now finish retaking the smaller southwestern province of Daraa, Idlib will be the last significant enclave in anti-government hands. Russia clearly has the necessary leverage over the Assad government to avoid a bloodbath there. The key is getting Russia to use that leverage. Assad’s reputation is beyond repair—his main aspiration is to stay in power and avoid prosecution—but Putin still aspires to be treated as a respected global leader. He must be persuaded that he will fail in that quest so long as he continues to underwrite Assad’s atrocities.
Football invites you to lose yourself in other people’s stories; their play becomes yours as you follow the ball and intertwine your enthusiasm with theirs. The ritual of watching bodies at play draws us to them and allows us—our bodies—to join a shared rhythm. Football is therefore not just competition, but is generous, collective participation. The photographer Andrew Esiebo is preoccupied with rituals of the everyday—the myriad ways they show creativity, empowerment, and survival. As if in gentle rebuke, he turns his lens to activities that highlight how simple daily experiences carry the shine of magnificence, revealing the significance of the overlooked and the dignity of the excluded.