The Ascetic Beauty of Brancusi

Hugh Eakin

Constantin Brancusi in his studio, Paris, 1946

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.”

Of Badgers and Bunnies: Jeremy Thorpe’s Career in the Closet

James Kirchick

Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott and High Grant as Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal

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.

The Art of Falling

A story by Viken Berberian

The Louvre, Paris

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.

The Challenge of ‘Chronic Lyme’

Rachel Pearson

Nicolas Poussin: Et In Arcadia Ego (Arcadian Shepherds), 1637–1638

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.

Russia’s Responsibility in the Syrian Reconquest of Idlib

Kenneth Roth

A Syrian woman and boy walking past a Syrian government checkpoint in western Idlib province, June 1, 2018

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, Free on the Streets

Garnette Cadogan

Olodi-Apapa, 2006

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.

‘Sorry to Bother You’: Boots Riley’s Trojan Horseplay

Namwali Serpell

Tessa Thompson as Detroit and Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, 2018

Acting white is the premise of Boots Riley’s raucous new film, Sorry to Bother You. And no one knows better than black people that acting white—putting on the trappings of privilege, speaking as if you belong, as if you deserve to take whatever you want—has always yielded dividends in America. How do you think we got the Huxtables? And acting white is the premise of Boots Riley’s raucous new film, Sorry to Bother You. What tumbles forth from this premise is a wild, campy romp. Indeed, smuggled inside Riley’s rollicking mashup of surrealism and sci-fi is a cutting critique of race and class.

Why Trump’s Hawks Back the MEK Terrorist Cult

Trita Parsi

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi presiding over a rally in memory of the group’s members killed in Iraq in 2013, Tirana, Albania, September 1, 2017

How an organization that was only delisted by the US Department of State as a terrorist group in 2012 could so soon after win influential friends at the heart of America’s current administration is the strange and sinister story of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, better known by its initials, MEK. Commonly called a cult by most observers, the MEK has a historic record of terrorism, human rights abuses, and murder of US citizens. One would think, then, that senior American officials like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton wouldn’t go near the MEK, let alone fraternize with its members or take its fees. But when it comes to Iran, the usual rules don’t apply.

Ten Questions Brett Kavanaugh Must Answer

David Cole

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listening as President Donald Trump announced his nomination at the White House, Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018

Supreme Court nominees all too often avoid answering questions about their views by simply describing existing Court doctrine and then insisting they cannot say how they would vote on any particular matter that might come before them. But in speeches and writings while a judge, Brett Kavanaugh has repeatedly expressed his own views on many matters that might come before him, including whether presidents should be subject to civil and criminal lawsuits; if he could express his views there, he should not be permitted to avoid expressing them on other topics in the Senate confirmation hearing. Here, then, are ten questions I suggest the senators ask Kavanaugh.

World Cup 2018: Football Sans Frontières

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

France celebrating their win against Croatia with the World Cup Trophy, Moscow, July 15, 2018

Social democracy isn’t just the way to win at public health outcomes; it’s the way to win at sport, too. But there is something more potent to recognize, as football now heads home (though not to England, with apologies to fans of Harry Kane). For the game now returns to its roots, which are not in stadiums or on TV, but in vacant lots, on streets, and in playgrounds around the globe. Until recently, the kids playing pickup games, lending their own vocabulary to a universal grammar, were calling themselves Messi. Soon, it may be Mbappé. Wherever they’re growing up, they don’t want to live walled off in a ghetto. They want to live in the world. Football is how they do it.