With the recent wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East, Western observers have had the chance to face up to an important realization: that the oldest of clichés about Middle Eastern politics, "the Arab street," is both a pernicious myth and a dynamic reality. For decades, Orientalist
James Carroll writes that his new book is "about the lethal feedback loop between the actual city of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic fantasy it inspires." No one who reads the headlines or watches the evening news can possibly doubt that such a Zion-fixated end-time fantasy looms in the minds of many
We haven't always put a high premium on originality in writing. Alexander Pope defined "true wit" as "Nature to advantage dress'd, / What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd"; in other words, the best poet makes memorable lines out of what everybody already knows. It was the Romantics, in
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?"