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NY Review of Books


  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Garry Wills: Popes Making Popes Saints

    Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His study of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. His latest book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, was published in February 2013.On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX. (Beatification is the third and penultimate rung on the ladder to sainthood—it certifies that a genuine miracle was worked through a dead person’s intercession, establishes a liturgical feast day for that person, and authorizes church prayer to him or her.) Pius IX was a polarizing figure. He wrested from the Vatican Council a declaration of his own infallibility; he condemned such modern heresies as democratic government; he took a Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, from his family—on the grounds that Edgardo’s Christian nurse had baptized him as an infant, making him belong to the church, not to his infidel parents.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Colin Thubron: When the Ruins Were New

    Colin Thubron is the president of the Royal Society of Literature. Among his books are Mirror to Damascus, The Hills of Adonis: A Quest in Lebanon, Jerusalem, In Siberia, and, most recently, To a Mountain in Tibet.
 (January 2012)In February 1862 the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, embarked on a four-and-a-half month journey through the Middle East. The royal party followed what was on the face of it a conventional itinerary, sailing from Venice down the Dalmatian coast on the royal yacht Osborne to Alexandria, cruising up the Nile to Aswan to view the sites of ancient Egypt, crossing to Jaffa for a tour of the Holy Land, then returning to England via the Ionian islands and Constantinople.Among the party—included at the last moment—was the photographer Francis Bedford, who in over 190 prints produced one of the earliest photographic records of the region. These sepia studies, soft-lit yet rich in detail, were achieved with a cumbrous caravan of lenses, tripods, chemicals, plates, and a portable darkroom. His subjects were mostly but not all the sites of ancient or biblical significance that Western visitors already favored: the ruined survivors of a stupendous past that they could half claim for themselves.

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Sean Wilentz: Cherry-Picking Our History

    Sean Wilentz is George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton and author of The Rise of American Democracy. (February 2013)Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s new book and accompanying ten-part televised documentary have a misleading title. Most if not all of the interpretations that they present in The Untold History of the United States—from the war in the Philippines to the one in Afghanistan—have appeared in revisionist histories of American foreign policy written over the last fifty years. Challenged by early reviewers, Stone and Kuznick have essentially conceded the point about their sources and claimed that what they call the “revisionist narrative” that informs their book has in truth become “the dominant narrative among university-based historians.”

  • Originally published 02/04/2013

    Diane Ravitch: Holding Education Hostage

    Diane Ravitch won the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences in 2011 for her “careful use of social science research for the public good.”
 (July 2012)For weeks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers have been battling over the issue of teacher evaluation. Governor Andrew Cuomo set a deadline for them to reach an agreement, but they failed to do so, potentially costing the city schools hundreds of millions of dollars. The state education commissioner, John King, jumped into the fray by threatening to withhold over a billion dollars in state and federal aid if there was no settlement between the parties. Now, Governor Cuomo says that he may intervene and take charge of the stalemated negotiations.What’s going on here? Why can’t the mayor and the union reach an agreement? Why does Commissioner King intend to punish the city’s children if the grown-ups don’t agree?

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Avishai Margalit: Review of Hadara Lazar's "Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel"

    Avishai Margalit is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the winner of the 2012 Philosophical Book Award (Hanover) for his most recent book, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises.The British rule over Palestine lasted roughly thirty years, from 1917 until 1948. In a country that has three thousand years of recorded history, thirty years is a tiny fraction. If we conceive of three thousand years on a scale of one day, the period of British rule takes barely eight minutes. In comparison, Turkish Ottoman rule over Palestine, which lasted four hundred years, takes an hour and forty minutes. Yet the influence of these thirty years was deep and wide-ranging.1 Under British rule, Palestine became a political unit, not a marginal province of something else. The British made Jerusalem the capital city of Palestine; they introduced the idea of professional civil service, and they encouraged a lively civil society; they built roads and airfields, and provided sound legal institutions and reliable police.

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