Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the fascist Vichy government was never a secret. But, until now, many have simply ignored it; or, to use the critic Frederic Jameson’s phrase, given over to the “innocence of intellectuals.” Stein’s avid support for Petain, the Nazi collaborator who headed the Vichy government, has often been written off as merely the tragic consequence of many a brilliant artists. What mattered was her prose, not her politics.
Over the weekend, you may have caught the engrossing New York Times profile of a New York society don—one Alan Z. Feuer—who had a mysterious past. I didn’t bother reading it when I first picked up my Sunday print copy—it was buried in the paper, in the scrappy Metropolitan section. But then I got one email after another, from family members, friends, recommending it, all with that guilt-inducing epigram: “must read.”
Dave Eggers, the literary wunderkind, almost mustered some courage. This week he refused to go to Germany to accept the prestigious, $50,000 literary award created by Gunter Grass—the Nobel laureate who recently caused on international uproar over his poem chastising Israel for threatening global stability. But Eggers’ seeming act of courage was more apparent than real. Essentially, he declined the award because he didn’t wan
A couple of weeks ago, a Passover rap video—all in Hebrew, and with beat-boxing—went viral. It featured two fairly typical looking American Jews dressed up as Pharaoh, Moses, and a sleuth of other biblical characters. Then there were scenes of a Jewish girl in an Israeli-flag bikini; the two main singers playing poker in a retirement community; and then them again, rapping on a beach lined with skyscrapers. I thought, Wait, I know that place: Florida.
For the first half of her life, the woman born Adrienne Cecile Rich, in Baltimore, 1929, lived the life you would have expected. She was baptized and raised in the Episcopalian church; her father was a medical professor at Johns Hopkins; her mother a pianist and composer. Adrienne went to Radcliffe and wrote poetry. By 1950, the kingmaker of mid-century poets, W.H. Auden, helped her publish her first collection, “A Change of World,” which featured accomplished if rather dull formal English verse—punctual meters, rhymes, etc.
When I saw that the new issue of The New Republic had Robert Alter reviewing a new work by Nathan Englander, I instinctively thought it’d be of Englander’s new translation of the Passover Haggadah. Given that Alter is a widely admired translator of the Hebrew Bible, it was only natural for me to assume as much.
When Arthur Miller’s “Death of A Salesman” first opened on Broadway, in 1949, Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times’ chief theater critic, could not have been more enthusiastic—“masterly,” he called, “heroic” and “superb.” It is safe to say that the same adjectives can be used to describe the current Broadway revival that opened this week. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the lead role of Willy Loman, brings renewed complexity to a classic American character who