The New York Review of Books

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When the Rule of Law Turns into Rule By Law

The selective, skewed use of the law is dangerous precisely because it has the veneer of legal legitimacy that covers a corruption deeply corrosive to the political order. We are seeing versions of this playing out in countries like Poland and Hungary. A country governed through rule by law—especially the US, given its military power and global influence—is...

The Oracle of Our Unease

The enchanted terms in which F. Scott Fitzgerald portrayed modern America still blind us to how scathingly he judged it. “It was an age of satire,” he wrote, and yet we suppose that the writer who both embodied the Jazz Age and identified satire as its essential feature never employed it himself. Fitzgerald’s sardonic humor and his disquiet—the sense...

The Stanley Crouch I Knew

For Stanley, the person who best exemplified American culture’s possible grandeur was Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, whom he worshipped. Stanley had no chance of climbing to the top of Mount Ellington, even as he traded in his dashikis for suits. He wasn’t suave or elegant. He was a heavy-set, bald man from a working-class family whom no one would...

The Cults of Wagner

In his ambitious new book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Alex Ross explores the impact of Richard Wagner’s art and ideas from his own time down to the present.

Costly Lessons from the Second Avenue Subway

New York’s subways are consistently the most expensive in the world. It is not immediately clear why. The effect of these runaway costs is dire: first, they inhibit the expansion and development of high-capacity rapid-transit systems at a moment when concerns about climate and unequal access to affordable housing, jobs, education, and services are paramount....

The Writer–Translator Equation

The translator is a writer. The writer is a translator. How many times have I run up against these assertions?—in a chat between translators protesting because they are not listed in a publisher’s index of authors; or in the work of literary theorists, even poets. Others claim that because language is referential, any written text is a translation of...

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933–2020

She entered the law at a time when men wielded virtually all political and economic power, women were barely taken seriously in the legal profession or by the law itself, and the statute books were shot through with sex-based laws. She used her skills to elevate the status of women in the United States forever. The world she has left behind was transformed...

Deportation Nation

The deportation system held sway over immigrant communities long before Trump became president, but under his direction it has become even more far-reaching, arbitrary, and cruel. Immigrants have regularly been arrested at home and work, sometimes as “collateral” when ICE has come looking for someone else. They’ve been handed off to ICE after being...

The Desk and the Daring

Vivian Gornick has long enjoyed an audience of literary depressives and feminists. Now, a late-career revival is expanding her readership. In 2020 four Gornick titles have given occasion for a backward glance. The timing of their publication could be chalked up to the return of American socialism, or to the tendency to rediscover women artists in old...

‘Electric, Like Time Travel’: An Interview with Chantal Joffe

Imogen Greenhalgh: Aspects of lockdown behaved a bit like art does, in that they altered our sense of time and our attention to what is right in front of us. Chantal Joffe: I’ve been painting my own mum a lot during lockdown, pictures of her now and when she was young. I love thinking that all of that isn’t lost—her youth, us little. It’s still...

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