I read very little historical fiction, but I do read Umberto Eco.
Theo Tait for the Guardian, 4 November, David Bell, "Conspiracy Porn," TNR, 9 November (subscriber only), Michael Dirda for the Washington Post, 9 November, Lisa Appignanesi for the Independent, 11 November, and Daniel Levin for the Daily Beast, 12 November, review Umberto Eco's The Prague Cemetery.
Dwight Garner, "Mass Slaughter on a Personal Level," NYT, 10 November, reviews Peter Englund's The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War. Trans. by Peter Graves.
Arthur Herman, "Parallel Lives," WSJ, 10 November, reviews Susan Hertog's Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, New Women in Search of Love and Power.
Arthur Phillips, "Hemingway at Sea," NYT, 10 November, reviews Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon, eds., The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol I, 1907-1922, Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway, Hemingway: A Life in Pictures, and Paul Hendrickson's Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.
Henry Kissinger, "The Age of Kennan," NYT, 10 November, reviews John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life. Michael Getler reviews Derek Chollet and Samantha Power, eds., The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World for the Washington Post, 11 November.
John Scalzi, "Omelas State University," whatever, 10 November, thinks some things should be obvious to adults. Thanks to David Silbey for the tip.
David Mikics, "The Unexamined Socrates," The Book, 10 November, reviews Paul Johnson's Socrates: A Man for Our Times.
Stephen Bates, "Medieval monarchs' books showcased by British Library," Guardian, 10 November, reviews "Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination," an exhibit at London's British Library. Charles McGrath, "Separating Royal Myth From Fact," NYT, 8 November, is a biographical sketch of Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great's most recent biographer.
Edward Rothstein, "Museum's New Center of Gravity," NYT, 10 November, reviews the $70,000,000 renovation of the New York Historical Society in Manhattan.
Toby Ash interviews Juliet Gardiner on 1930s Britain for The Browser, 10 November, for her recommendation of five essential books on the subject. Andrew Roberts, "New Biography Explores the Life and Myth of Eva Braun," Daily Beast, 10 November, reviews Heike Görtemaker's Eva Braun: Life with Hitler.
Phil Baker, "Beastly Aleister Crowley," TLS, 9 November, reviews Richard Kaczynski's Perdurabo: The life of Aleister Crowley – the definitive biography of the founder of modern magick and Tobias Churton's Aleister Crowley, The biography: Spiritual revolutionary, romantic explorer, occult master – and spy. James Campbell, "Boris Vian, the Prince of Saint-Germain," TLS, 9 November, reviews "Boris Vian," an exhibit at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Beverly Gage, "Were J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson lovers?" Slate, 10 November, reviews "J. Edgar," Clint Eastwood's new film that features the controversial relationship between the FBI's top (and bottom?) twosome.
Jennifer Schuessler, "Ranking History's Atrocities by Counting the Corpses," NYT, 8 November, features the work of the ultimate amateur, Matthew White, his The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities, and his website. He's won praise from Harvard's Charles Maier and Steven Pinker. Scott McLemee, "Under the Sign of Saturn," IHE, 9 November, reviews Teofilo R. Ruiz's The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization.
Christopher Benson reviews Darryl Hart's From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism for Books & Culture, 8 November.
Adam Kirsch, "The Art of Making Art," Tablet, 9 November, reviews Stephen Sondheim's Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011). With Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes, and Miscellany.
Gilles Bransbourg, "All Roads Lead to (Ancient) Rome," Daily Beast, 6 November, argues that Roman Europe and the European Common Market had a single currency. Why the difference?
Chris Campbell, "The China Rule & Cult of Confucius," Genealogy of Religion, 6 November, suggests that if you test your favorite generalization against ancient or modern China's example, it's likely to fail.
Peter Monaghan, "Galileo's Art of Thinking," CHE, 30 October, reviews Mark A. Peterson's Galileo's Muse: Renaissance Mathematics and the Arts. Do yourself a favor and also have a look at Thony C's "The blatherings of Mr Wrong," The Renaissance Mathematicus, 22 January.
Gershom Gorenberg, "The Mystery of 1948," Slate, 7 November. The first of three excerpts Slate will publish from his new book, The Unmaking of Israel, considers whether Israel planned to expel most of resident Arabs in 1948. Hillel Halkin, "The Line Between Bold and Reckless," WSJ, 5 November, reviews Shimon Peres's Ben-Gurion: A Political Life and Gilad Sharon's Sharon: The Life of a Leader.
Daisy Banks interviews "Thomas Penn on Henry VII," The Browser, 7 November, for his recommendation of five essential books on the English monarch. Owen Matthews, "Catherine, the Great Human Being," Daily Beast, 6 November, reviews Robert Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.
Natasha Lehrer, "Friendship in the time of the Resistance," TLS, 7 November, reviews Caroline Moorehead's A Train in Winter: A story of resistance, friendship and survival. It's a study of women of the French resistance in Nazi concentration camps.
Robert Zaretsky, "Camus the Jew," Tablet, 7 November, draws on Zaretsky's Albert Camus: Elements of a Life.
Louis Menand, "Getting Real: George F. Kennan's Cold War," New Yorker, 14 November, is an intellectual sketch stimulated by John Lewis Gaddis's new biography of Kennan. Joshua Kurlantzick, "The End of the Innocents," Foreign Policy, 3 November, tracks the struggle of Jim Thompson with the CIA in southeast Asia. Kurlantzick's book, The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, will be published in November.
November's Biblical Studies Carnival, "the Undead Edition," is up at The Musings of Thomas Verenna.
For the Washington Post, 4 November, Kris Coronado reviews "Eureka! Rare Books in the History of Scientific Discovery," an exhibit at Johns Hopkins's George Peabody Library.
D. J. Taylor, "Snapshots of 'Boz'," WSJ, 29 October, David Gates, "Being Charles Dickens," NYT, 3 November, and Michael Levenson, "Read Dickens Now!" Slate, 7 November, review Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens, John Forster's The Life of Charles Dickens, and Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: A Life.
Jessa Crispin, "Made to Disorder: when mental disorders are a cultural product," Smart Set, 28 October, reviews Asti Hustvedt's Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris and Debbie Nathan's Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.
Robert McCrum, "No sign of a ceasefire in the endless war of words," Guardian, 5 November, reviews Taylor Downing's Spies In The Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence during World War II.
Alan Brinkley, "Memories of the Bush Administration," NYT, 3 November, reviews Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir and Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown: A Memoir.
Finally, there's the strange case of the Russian historian, Anatoly Moskvina. When his parents visited Moskvina's small apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, they found him living with the dried bodies of 26 young women. It reminds me of reports that a prominent 20th century American academic propped his embalmed mom in a living room chair and took tea with her every afternoon.
Sophie Ratcliffe reviews PG Wodehouse: A Life in Letters for the Guardian, 4 November.
Michael Kimmage, "Lionel Trilling's Life of the Mind," NYT, 3 November, reviews Adam Kirsch's Why Trilling Matters.
Jon Wiener, "The Age of Revolution," LARB, 4 November, reviews Eric Hobsbawm's How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism.
Janet Maslin, "Vonnegut in All His Complexity," NYT, 2 November, reviews Charles J. Shields's And So It Goes. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life.
William McKeen, "Inside ‘The Rum Diary'," Daily Beast, 4 November, looks at Hunter S. Thompson's "Hemingway fixation" and his novel's "dark underbelly."
Lloyd Rose reviews Nell Casey, ed., The Journals of Spalding Gray for the Washington Post, 4 November.
Anthony Grafton, "Our Universities: Why Are They Failing?" NYRB, 24 November, reviews eight books on the subject.
Michael Prodger, "Lend us your Leonardo: how to make a blockbuster show," Guardian, 4 November, reports on the organizing of "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan," an exhibit at London's National Gallery.
Donald Rayfield, "Border Patrol," Literary Review, November, reviews Norman Davies's Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe.
In "Redefining the Right Wing," The New Inquiry, 3 November, Corey Robin and Daniel Larison debate Robin's claims about conservatism in his book, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.
James Polchin, "Creative Class," Smart Set, 31 October, reviews "Picasso's Drawings, 1890-1921: Reinventing Tradition," an exhibit at Manhattan's Frick Collection.
Graham Hutchings, "Life of the Party," Literary Review, November, reviews Ezra F. Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China.
Theodore Ziolkowski, "Gilgamesh: An Epic Obsession," berfrois, 1 November, draws on the author's book, Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters With the Ancient Epic. Christopher Carroll, "The Vanished City," The Book, 2 November, reviews Richard Miles's Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization. Simon Schama, "Robert Hughes Reimagines a Glorious Rome in New Book," Daily Beast, 30 October, reviews Hughes's Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Schama avoids the controversy.
Ross Posnock, "American Idol: On Nietzsche in America," Nation, 1 November, reviews Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen's American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. Fred Siegel, "Lyrical Leftist, Dogged Idealist," WSJ, 24 October, reviews Vivian Gornick's Emma Goldman. Rob Verger, "The Vets Who Conquered Everest," Daily Beast, 3 November, interviews Wade Davis, the author of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. Andrew Litchenstein, "Landscapes of American History," Facing Change: Documenting America, 2011, is a slide-show of Litchenstein's extraordinary photographs.
Brenda Wineapple, "John Brown's Folly: The mythology of a madman," American Scholar, Autumn, reviews Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War. Beverly Gage, "Lessons for Occupy Wall Street," Slate, 2 November, draws on her book, The Day Wall Street Exploded, to urge the relevance of the great railroad strike of 1877.
István Deák, "The Hater," The Book, 3 November, reviews Robert Gerwarth's Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich.
Alan Jenkins, "‘How I dislike that play now . . .'," TLS, 2 November, reviews George Craig, Martha Dow Fesenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck, eds., The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. II, 1941-1956; and Craig, Writing Beckett's Letters. Theodore Dalrymple, "Knowledge Without Knowledge," New English Review, November, reassesses the work of Isaac Deutscher: "the scholar who knew a lot and understood little (including, or especially, himself). A man may smile and smile and be a villain. A man may read and read, and experience and experience, and understand nothing."
William Benton, "Elizabeth Bishop: Exchanging Hats – in pictures," Guardian, 3 November, is a slide show of the poet's paintings. Evan Hughes, "The Cordial Enmity Of Joan Didion And Pauline Kael," The Awl, 31 October, "resurrects the highbrow gossip of yore."
Walter Laquer, "Night Thoughts on Europe," National Interest, Nov/Dec, offers a foretaste of his new book, After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent.
Samuel Helfont, "The Uncomfortable Questions," The Book, 31 October, reviews Katerina Dalacoura's Islamist Terrorism and Democracy in the Middle East.
Stephen M. Walt, "The End of the American Era," National Interest, Nov/Dec, calls for a re-assessment of the role of the United States in international affairs.
Thomas Schulz, "Has America Become an Oligarchy?" Der Spiegel, 28 October, explores whether the United States has entered "a second gilded age."
Jelanie Cobb, "Of lynchings, high tech and others," CainWatch, 31 October, finds Herman Cain doing violence to history.
Kent State's Julio Pino is at it again.
Colin Dickey, "Quack Prophet," Lapham's Quarterly, 30 October, re-assesses the long career of Nostradamus in western history.
Tim Black, "Why Malthus is back in fashion," spiked review of books, October, looks again at Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population.
Richard Beeman, "James Madison, ‘the Father of Politics'," NYT, 28 October, reviews Richard Brookhiser's James Madison.
Kevin Boyle, "On the Road to Harpers Ferry," NYT, 28 October, reviews Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.
Eric Banks, "Wars They Have Seen," CHE, reviews Barbara Will's Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma and Antoine Compagnon's Le Cas Bernard Faÿ: Du Collège de France à l'indignité nationale. Benjamin Ivry, "Samuel Beckett's Letters Reveal Roots of Resistance," Jewish Daily Forward, 27 October, draws on The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1956, 2 volumes, and Samuel Beckett's German Diaries, 1936–1937.
Frank Rich, "Roaring at the Screen With Pauline Kael," NYT, 27 October, reviews Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark and Sanford Schwartz, ed., The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael.
Marshall Poe, "Meme Weaver," Atlantic, October, tells how his proposal for a "big idea" book was born – and died.
[Cross-posted at Airminded.]
I have a favour to ask of you. Would you mind please having a look at this and telling me what's wrong with it? Thank you.
To be somewhat less cryptic, it's an article for peer-review which I am having no luck getting accepted anywhere, and I don't really know why. I've had some bad luck. I wrote the first version about a year before I finished my PhD, in the hope that it would be on my CV by the time I entered the job market; in the event the journal I submitted it to took well over a year to reject it. But I've made some bad choices too. In its original form it was too ambitious and far too long; after three rejections I decided to cut it in two and rewrite each piece as a standalone article. As it (or at least the first part) was now shorter and sharper, I was again hopeful that I could find a home for it. But I've now received a second rejection for this version. This last rejection was helpful in that the reviewer provided detailed criticism, but while much of it is well taken, some of it is not suggests that the point of my article did not get across. That's my fault as a writer; it might also be that I've been sending it to the wrong journals. But as I say, I'm not really why it's so difficult to place; it doesn't seem to me to be any worse than my first or even my second peer-reviwed articles.
So I'm taking a leaf out of Katrina Gulliver's book (though not her actual book!) by putting the most-recently-rejected version of the article up on Google Docs and requesting feedback from anyone who has the patience to wade through it. You can comment on the article itself, either anonymously (if you don't want to be mentioned in the acknowledgements) or using your Google account; or you can send me an email. (No comments here though, please, unless they're about the crowdsourcing itself.) I'll take it down after a week or so.
How can I improve the article? What am I doing wrong? Where should I send it? Or should I just accept that this one is a dud and forget about it? It's up to you! Well, it's still up to me, but I'll be grateful for any and all suggestions.
Holland Cotter, "A Cosmopolitan Trove of Exotic Beauty," NYT, 27 October, previews the opening of the Metropolitan Museum's redesigned Islamic exhibition space.
Lili Loofbourow, "The Golden Age Of Dirty Talk," The Awl, 25 October, argues an earlier age had more imaginative language.
Adam Kirsch, "Red Rosa," Jewish Review of Books, Fall, reviews Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annalies Laschitza, eds., The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg.
Denis Donoghue, "Samuel Beckett's Midgame," NYT, 28 October, reviews George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck, eds., The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol II, 1941-1956.
The twenty-ninth edition of the Military History Carnival will take place here on December 1. Please submit the best recent military history (broadly conceived) on the web for consideration for posting. Deadline is November 28.
Nominations can be submitted here.
Alec Ash interviews "Norman Davies on Europe's Vanished States," The Browser, 27 October for his recommendation of five essential books on the subject.
Vladislav Davidzon, "Odessa Story," The Book, 27 October, reviews Charles King's Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams.
Alexander Rose, "Bounteous Misperceptions," WSJ, 25 October, reviews Anne Salmond's Bligh: William Bligh in the South Seas.
James Longenbach, "This Is Just to Say: On William Carlos Williams," Nation, 25 October, reviews Herbert Leibowitz's "Something Urgent I Have to Say to You" The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams.
Andrew J. Bacevich, "Solving for X: On George F. Kennan," Nation, 25 October, reviews John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life.
Janet Maslin, "The ‘70s, as Dramatic as a Movie," NYT, 26 October, reviews Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark and James Wolcott's Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York. Frank Rich, "Roaring at the Screen with Pauline Kael," NYT, 27 October, reviews Kellow's Pauline Kael and Sanford Schwartz, ed., The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael.
Miriam Elder, "Tsar quality: Bolshoi theatre reopens after six-year overhaul," Guardian, 27 October, previews the reopening of Moscow's Bolshoi.
Pankaj Mishra, "Watch This Man," LRB, 3 November, reviews Niall Ferguson's Civilisation: The West and the Rest.
Theodore K. Rabb, "Love letter to a painting," TLS, 26 October, reviews Carola Hicks's Girl in a Green Gown: The history and mystery of the Arnolfini portrait.
John Markoff, "How Revolutionary Tools Cracked a 1700s Code," NYT, 24 October: "a team of Swedish and American linguists has applied statistics-based translation techniques to crack one of the most stubborn of codes: the Copiale Cipher, a hand-lettered 105-page manuscript that appears to date from the late 18th century."
Alan Wolfe, "One Right," The Book, 27 October, reviews Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.
Jay Merrick, "Russia's aesthetic revolution: How Soviet building still influences today's architects," Independent, 21 October, reviews "Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-35," an exhibit at London's Royal Academy of Arts.
The NYT's "Room for Debate" asks: "Do Good Debaters Make Good Presidents?" There are answers from H. W. Brands, Robert Dallek, David Gergen, Alonzo Hamby, Joan Hoff, Kathleen Hall Jameson, Jon Meacham, and Richard Reeves.
Rory Stewart, "Cool Under Fire," intelligent life, Sept/Oct, revisits Afghanistan's National Kabul Museum and its treasures.
Isaac Chotiner, "What Did It Look Like?" The Book, 25 October, reviews Ashley Jackson's and David Tomkins's Illustrating Empire: A Visual History of British Imperialism.
Jack Rakove, "The Inventor of Our Politics," The Book, 26 October, reviews Richard Brookhiser's James Madison.
James K. Gailbreath, "Dumbing Down Darwin," Washington Monthly, Nov/Dec, reviews Robert H. Frank's The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good.
Vivian Gornick, "Love and Anarchy," CHE, 23 October, is adapted from Gornick's new book, Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life.