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The Wall Street Journal (23 found)

An Enduring Vision of Tyranny

October 18, 2019  | 

The year 1984 came and went a generation ago, and the clocks did not strike 13. Big Brother’s face doesn’t stare down at us from giant posters. Masked police do not apprehend citizens guilty of thoughtcrime. England hasn’t been renamed Airstrip One, and Party slogans like “War Is Peace,” “Freedom Is Slavery” and “Ignorance Is Strength” …

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No One Said It Would Be Easy

May 17, 2019  | 

As talk of impeachment fills the air, an exceptionally topical new book explores the failed effort to remove President Andrew Johnson from office in 1868. Johnson ascended to the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination and embarked on a perverse campaign to roll back the Union’s achievements during the Civil War. Racist mobs marauded unchecked through the …

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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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The New Colossus

November 10, 2018  | 

Look into her face and you might be surprised: Lady Liberty is cold and hard. She has a strong jaw and a long, geometric nose, broad at the top and straight all the way down. Her lips above a square chin are full but unsmiling—frowning, almost scowling, and bearing perhaps a hint of menace. A certain …

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A Dreamer at the Piano

September 14, 2018  | 

Picture a man swooning and raging with all the passions of youth. Every problem is a crisis, each feeling an ocean. His commitment to political and artistic freedom yields only to the irrepressible truths of love and beauty. Put that exhausting spirit to music and you have the tragic Romantic composer Robert Schumann. His diaries …

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Postscript to the Preludes

August 16, 2018  | 

High on a mountainside, in an abandoned monastery on the Spanish island of Majorca, Frédéric Chopin worked at a small upright piano. His room resembled, in his words, “a tall coffin, the enormous vaulting covered with dust, the window small.” Outside, the winter landscape featured a crusader’s church and a ruined mosque, cypresses and olive …

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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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Another Reason to Rejoice Greatly

December 8, 2017  | 

It is a December evening, and you’re trapped in a school auditorium for the holiday concert. The long-suffering music director raises a baton, the violins screech horribly and some petrified high-school tenor, all puberty and nerves, squeaks out the first few notes of “Comfort Ye,” the opening aria of Handel’s “Messiah.” Your soul convulses as …

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How the Thug Became a Dove

June 10, 2017  | 

While serving as attorney general, Robert Kennedy wore his hair close-cropped in the style of the early 1960s. After a trip to the barber it could almost resemble a crew cut. But after President Kennedy’s assassination, he began growing it out. By the time he became a candidate for president in 1968, he had an …

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Why We Eat Octopus But Not Cat

April 8, 2017  | 

The debate over eating animals has become as toxic as our politics, with even more fake blood. The positions of both sides are best understood in the context of reaction. Carnivores ­unsurprisingly dislike vegetarian ­finger-wagging and want to enjoy their suppers in peace. Animal-­welfare advocates, for their part, see such an acute ethical crisis that they …

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The Musings of the Maestro

November 19, 2016  | 

An orchestra’s conductor is a remote and mysterious figure. Known to the listening public for intensity of gesture during a concert and expansive waving after it, he seems rarely to speak. Leonard Bernstein was an exception at the New York Philharmonic, forever interrupting rehearsals to tell a story about what happened at so-and-so’s place and giving introductory remarks …

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Cold War Cadenza

October 8, 2016  | 

A year after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and two years after it crushed a democratic uprising in Hungary, the Russian people surprisingly adopted a young American pianist named Van Cliburn. Twenty-three years old, he was as tall and thin as a stalk of corn, with all the guile of a newborn baby. His electrifying …

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Irish Independent

April 29, 2016  | 

Eamon de Valera, the father of modern Ireland, was that rarest of political animals: the ascetic diva. He dressed in black and ate sparingly, his face lined and gaunt behind wire-rimmed glasses. One American diplomat observed that, with his “rather stern countenance,” de Valera appeared “to be in perpetual mourning for a nation in bondage.” …

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Exonerating Hitler’s Composer

April 21, 2016  | 

Ghosts have always haunted Bayreuth. Years ago, while conducting at the Festival Theater in the central German village, Christian Thielemann occasionally seemed to hear from one. A phone in the orchestra pit would signal an incoming call with a blinking light, catching Mr. Thielemann’s eye. He would pick it up with one hand and continue …

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A Blast that Shook the Nation

March 11, 2016  | 

It is one of the iconic images of the 20th century: the dark gray mushroom cloud billowing upward from the top of Mount St. Helens, a great and terrifying stain on the sky. Hikers 50 miles away on Mount Rainier watched the blast cloud climb up one side of ridges and down the other, like …

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The Master at Work

December 12, 2015  | 

The finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of the great epiphanies in all of music. It follows three movements of relentless passion and fury evoking man’s doomed battle against fate. Suddenly the orchestra erupts in pure C major and blasts three notes of hope and redemption: C, E, G, the first chord every child …

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Inklings of Immortality

June 26, 2015  | 

It was an awful name for a wizard. Early drafts of “The Hobbit,” the children’s fairytale by J.R.R. Tolkien, referred to the bearded man in the pointy hat as “Bladorthin,” which sounds like an Elvish word for a urological problem. By the time “The Hobbit” was published in 1937, Tolkien had settled on the pithier …

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Mr. Bellow’s Planet

April 10, 2015  | 

IN THE WINTER of 1949, Saul Bellow needed an epiphany. Living in Paris and bogged down writing a dour novel about a man dying in a hospital room, he felt hemmed in on all sides: “deaf­ened by the noise of life, by cries and claims and counterclaims and fantasy and desire and ambition for perfection, …

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A Masterpiece to Make You Shiver

January 23, 2015  | 

A concert performance of Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” ends like nothing else in music. The famed cycle for male voice and piano encompasses 24 songs and lasts 75 minutes. Set to the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, it portrays a figure out in the cold. Desolate, unlucky in love, and above all alone, he wanders and laments; …

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The Strains of War

November 8, 2014  | 

DURING THE NAZIS’ siege of Leningrad, which lasted from September 1941 to January 1944, the city’s radio station broadcast the sound of a metronome. Its steady tick-tock between programs reas­sured listeners that the booth was not empty-or, worse yet, in German hands. The metronome served a practical as well as a psychological function. Faster ticks …

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A Champion Who Couldn’t Win

August 30, 2014  | 

SHOULD AN ATHLETE become an ac­tivist? Does a black athlete have a choice? In 1966, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted by the Army for service in Vietnam; he fought the case successfully all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr. Ali’s contemporary Bill Russell was famously antagonistic toward basketball fans in race-troubled Boston and …

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Hiding in Plain Sight

April 26, 2014  | 

THIS DARK AND SOBERING book tells the life of Duncan Lee, attorney, intelli­gence officer, descendant of Robert E. Lee – and Soviet spy. Lee was an impec­cably pedigreed member of one of Virginia’s oldest families and a Cold Warrior who undermined Mao’s commu­nists on behalf of the CIA. But his bona fides masked a radical …

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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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