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    Featured Articles (18 found)

    Emptying the Bookshelves

    December 22, 2023  | 

    “We’re going through Dad’s bookshelves and wondered if you’d like us to save some things for you?” This innocent question, posed by phone in the fortnight between my father’s death and his memorial service

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    Writing in Reverse

    November 20, 2023  | 

    Hilary Mantel wrote with a novelist’s flair and a historian’s mind. Her fiction overflows with the busy detritus of life: this plate of fruit, that whispered threat, children at play, a plucked string. The accretion of detail

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    Laughter in the Dark

    October 15, 2022  | 

    Three natural gifts defined Paul Newman’s career as a movie star. Act one: the eyes. Act two: the laugh. Act three: the voice. Newman’s eyes brought the young actor his smoldering fame: cerulean, intense, and steady, they dared you to look away

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    When Every Minute Counts

    August 13, 2021  | 

    For generations, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich tested each of the British Navy’s chronometers. These precision instruments—deck clocks used to calculate longitude and thus fix a ship’s position at sea—helped ensure safe navigation. The observatory’s testing room hummed with activity: “What a wonderful instance of the proof of our maritime power is this apartment!” exclaimed one …

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    My Captain Jacks

    June 19, 2020  | 

    I don’t know anyone else who’s got a tailor-made work of art. Not tailor-made in the sense of a commissioned piece or a personal gift. I’m not referring to dedicatees. Nor do I mean favorites. Everyone has favorites. I mean stumbling across a film or novel that is pitched so finely to your particular sensibilities …

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    The Common Miracles

    June 12, 2020  | 

    What is a mountain: Is it a trophy or a temple? Recently we have begun to claim nature’s grandest tableaux as prizes. Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan with no rope. Crowded rows of paying customers line the summit ridge of Mount Everest like Black Friday shoppers. Alpinists rush to check off the highest peak of …

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    By His Own Rules

    July 6, 2009  | 

    Few will be surprised to learn that Donald Rumsfeld’s signature wrestling move was a body slam. His preferred version, euphemistically called the “fireman’s carry,” is neither subtle nor delicate, a creature more of the Rowdy Roddy Piper school of bruising than the staid and honorable Greco-Roman tradition. Throughout his successful wrestling career in high school, …

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