The most surprising thing about Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, is that a lot of it is boring. How could that be? Donald Rumsfeld was not boring; his life was not boring; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were and are not boring. What other contemporary public figure attained brief
I. Painting a word-picture of a woman at a restaurant, the titular narrator of British author Jonathan Coe's new novel, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, writes, "She had long black hair, slightly wild and unkempt. A thin face, with prominent cheekbones." Prominent cheekbones? Just as the cliché
If the history of ideas told a sensible story, the enduring lesson of the cold war would be that fighting and winning a nuclear war is at best a futile proposition but more likely an insane one. Alas, history is never sensible. As Ron Rosenbaum reminds us in his new book, How the End Begins, ideas
When T.C. Boyle swaggered onto the literary scene in the 1980s, brandishing flamboyantly bizarre short stories in one hand and wildly satirical novels like Water Music and Budding Prospects in the other, the exuberance of his sentences was often more impressive than the depth of his characterizations.
One of literature's most seductive questions was asked by the Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai in "Embers," his exquisite novel of friendship and betrayal, published in Budapest in 1942, but not translated into English until 2001, 12 years after his death. "Do you want it to be the way it used to be?"
Pain is private, and its privacy has long been a subject of interest to philosophers. Wittgenstein famously compared pain to a beetle in a box: "No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle." When we talk about pain, we have to take
James Gleick's first chapter has the title "Drums That Talk." It explains the concept of information by looking at a simple example. The example is a drum language used in a part of the Democratic Republic of Congo where the human language is Kele. European explorers had been aware for a long time
Before he was a writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor was merely a war hero, having earned his first fame from deep-cover exploits with the Greek Resistance. During World War II he hid in the rugged mountains of Crete, leading cat-and-mouse strikes against the German occupiers—experience that surely served