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Featured Articles (21 found)

Slow Down, Holbrooke!

May 6, 2019  | 

The late American diplomat Richard Holbrooke (1941–2010) had a knack, that is to say a weakness, for self-promotion. He lobbied for the Nobel Peace Prize. He hinted broadly that he could serve as secretary of state. When one of his old friends died, Holbrooke petitioned the man’s widow to be included among the eulogists. During …

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The Ballad of Jean McConville

February 26, 2019  | 

Are the Troubles in Northern Ireland finally over? Almost 21 years have passed since the Good Friday Agreement formally ended the conflict. Self-rule has replaced supervision from afar, and a return to the terrifying days of car bombs and masked gunmen is unthinkable. Yet the border separating the Republic of Ireland from the North has …

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Long Fight for Equality

November 1, 2018  | 

After earning admission to Harvard Law School but before starting classes, Ruth Bader got married and became Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In light of her new status, the law school asked to see the financial statements of her husband’s father, as if in some pantomime of a dowry negotiation. He was wealthy. Harvard decided not to …

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In Search of Lost Dublin

February 23, 2018  | 

The other morning, my wife and I arrived early to breakfast. The restaurant had not yet opened so we took a walk, even though the day was cold. Chicago’s West Loop is a supremely fashionable neighborhood but rough at the edges, a remnant of its recent industrial past. Each intersection therefore entailed some question as …

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Restoring Henry

September 15, 2015  | 

In 1940 the young Henry Kissinger, caught in a love quadrangle, drafted a letter to the object of his affections. Her name was Edith. He and his friends Oppus and Kurt admired her attractiveness and had feelings for her, the letter said. But a “solicitude for your welfare” is what prompted him to write—“to caution …

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Fortune’s Son

February 4, 2015  | 

Here lies Nelson Rockefeller: billionaire, presidential contender, forty-first vice president of the United States, forty-ninth governor of New York; builder, Pollyanna, glad-hander, king of the blue-ribbon commission; art collector, philanderer, Republican, liberal. The biggest personality in national politics between Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, Rockefeller was as overwhelming and unexpected as a typhoon on a …

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Anguish and Triumph

August 12, 2014  | 

Ludwig van Beethoven, titan of Romanticism and sublime poet of music, was himself no poem. A misanthrope with a volatile temper and slovenly appearance, he was once mistaken for a tramp and hauled off to spend the night in jail. One of the women who rejected his marriage proposals described him as “ugly and half …

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Scalia in Sweden

July 15, 2014  | 

The cover of this book says it all. There he is, grinning complacently, his black judges’ robes fading into black. The hair has thinned and the jaw is heavier than it used to be. He is an old bull now instead of a young buck. No one is there on the cover with him: he …

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How LBJ Saved the Civil Rights Act

April 1, 2014  | 

In the winter of 1963, as the Civil Rights Act worked its way through Congress, Justice William Brennan decided to play for time. The Supreme Court had recently heard arguments in the appeal of 12 African American protesters arrested at a segregated Baltimore restaurant. The justices had caucused, and a conservative majority had voted to …

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Letters from Camelot

January 15, 2014  | 

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s parents fell in love, married, and produced an egghead. He wore eyeglasses and a bow tie. He spoke in perfectly formed sentences. At the age of twenty-eight he won his first Pulitzer Prize, for a biography of Andrew Jackson. Fifteen years later he entered the White House for the defining experience of …

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An Unfathomable Genius

November 22, 2013  | 

Johann Sebastian Bach mastered a stunning variety of musical forms: works for solo instruments, chamber pieces, vocal music, concerti and music for the orchestra. Yet his overlooked choral music may be his best and is certainly his most abundant. It includes works of great joy, like the Gloria from the Mass in B minor; moments …

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Big Brother’s Keeper

August 13, 2013  | 

George Orwell toiled in poverty for many years, but after writing Animal Farm he had to start turning down invitations. In August 1947 the literary magazine The Strand asked him to write something for its pages and to give an account of his life. A prolific essayist and book critic, Orwell was at the time …

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A Book of Voyages

May 24, 2013  |  ,

One of the pleasures of the late Patrick O’Brian’s novels about the British navy during the age of sail is O’Brian’s enchantment with the fascinatingly diverse world we inhabit. Travel widely enough with him and you encounter sultans and pashas, geographical marvels and zoological specimens, bejeweled parasols, Hamlet’s grave, hussars, Cossacks — maybe even a …

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A Malevolent Forrest Gump

September 1, 2012  | 

Like many artists and most bigots, Strom Thurmond was highly productive early in life. By the age of fifty-five, the humorless South Carolina reactionary had run for president as a Dixiecrat, secured election to the U.S. Senate, penned the neo-confederate “Southern Manifesto” denouncing Brown v. Board of Education, and performed the longest one-man filibuster in …

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Justice Served

November 1, 2011  | 

In an age of judicial philosophies, abstract methods of interpretation, and trite baseball metaphors, John Paul Stevens was a common-law judge. Justice Antonin Scalia practices textualism; Justice Clarence Thomas practices originalism. Chief Justice John Roberts is developing a sort of reactionary legalism. Even the Supreme Court’s liberals have gotten in on the game. In a …

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A Singular Voice

October 1, 2011  | 

For years it has been easy to take Christopher Hitchens for granted, and now we are losing him. The incomparable British polemicist, contrarian, essayist, bon vivant, and bullhorn of the anti-totalitarian left has advanced throat cancer, and may have won his last motion in the debating hall and blown his last smoke cloud into the …

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Solitary Confinement

January 15, 2011  | 

Tony Judt disliked the grand title “public intellectual,” even though he embodied it to the last day of his life. Judt (pronounced “Jutt”) was a professor of European history at New York University who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at age sixty-two in August 2010. Before his death he rose to great prominence on two …

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Hurricane Man

January 1, 2011  | 

In an essay about Mozart, Saul Bellow expressed admiration for the prodigious composer’s facility with melody and harmony, and marveled at the way the music “is given so readily, easily, gratuitously. For it is not a product of effort. What it makes us see is that there are things which must be done easily. Easily or …

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Without Artifice: On William Brennan

December 6, 2010  | 

William Brennan, one of the great Supreme Court justices of the twentieth century, did not attract attention. A 1966 cover story on the Warren Court in the New York Times Magazine failed to mention him. He sat several rows behind President Johnson at Martin Luther King’s funeral, but his presence—unlike that of several of his …

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A Life of Contempt

November 14, 2009  | 

I began counting Ayn Rand’s uses of the word “contempt” on page 43 of The Fountainhead, by which point it had already appeared four times, and twice on that very page. The word shows up thirty-nine times more in the book, by my count, for a total of two score and three. Rand’s villains and …

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