Frankenstein Unbound

“Those institutions and reporters were never as good as their reputations. . . . It was largely—and this was true for decades—a small group of middle-aged, left-of-center, overweight men who decided how all of us should see politics and governance.”Jim VandeHei, co-founder of Politico, was opining about the annoying nostalgia that still persists in DC regarding the older generation of journalists. In Mark Leibovichs’ book, ThisTown, VandeHei’s Politico has an ambivalent presence in the Reality Distortion Culture of DC. “Speed, information, gossip, and buzz” VandeHei celebrates as the journalistic premiums of the “New World Order,” and Politico has set the standard on all these fronts, becoming a kind of political ESPN meets TMZ in the Beltway, and its star contributor, Mike Allen, This Town’s Hedda Hopper. Continue Reading »

Close Viewing

The seventh and final season of AMC’s Mad Men premiered last night to a viewership quite different from the one that greeted the series’s 2007 debut. The inflection point came last season—when, improbably, this slow-moving character-driven period piece began to stir its partisans . . . . Continue Reading »

Hollywood Hates Humans

I have noticed a consistent plot in the fantasy/science fiction genre over the last several years. Surely, you have noticed it too. In film after film, the human race is depicted as villainous for supposedly destroying the earth. The just-released Noah is the latest example. In the Genesis account, . . . . Continue Reading »

Lear vs. Lear

There is a block in Brooklyn where it storms every day—twice a day, on Sundays. It’s been storming since January, and it’ll last till May—and then the storm will spread out all over New York. On one side of the street, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Angus Jackson’s . . . . Continue Reading »

While We’re At It

Some aren’t cheering my governor’s brand of liberalism. Some even oppose his efforts to increase access to abortion. Shocking. His diagnosis: “Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is ­themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are . . . . Continue Reading »

The Christ of Marc Chagall

It recently became widely known that the favorite painting of Pope Francis is the White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall. The news stirred up considerable speculation and controversy. Chagall, born Moishe Segal in the Polish-Lithuanian village of Vitebsk (now in Belarus), was probably the most prominent . . . . Continue Reading »

Biotech Babies

Suzanne is a forty-year-old mother of two who recently attended an Evangelical women’s Bible study in a suburb of Chicago. At this particular gathering the topic was infertility. The church had brought in two guest speakers. One spoke of how she and her husband had spent years unsuccessfully . . . . Continue Reading »

The Ancients on Abortion

Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy last semester, I hoped to cruise through the Purgatorio to make sure we completed the Paradiso by semester’s end. But my students wouldn’t let me skip canto 25—they stopped there, awestruck. I think we spent longer in the seventh cornice on the . . . . Continue Reading »

Letters of Affection

The Selected Letters of Willa Catheredited by andrew jewell and janis stoutknopf, 752 pages, $37.50One might be forgiven for feeling some ambivalence in opening this volume, the first-ever publication of the personal correspondence of Willa Cather, the writer who moved from the Nebraska prairie to . . . . Continue Reading »

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Music can move us in ways that reach beyond discursive speech. That does not mean that notes have no relation to words. Music is not a literal language, but it is more than a metaphorical one. The best music hints at a universal language that can redeem the cultural and geographical barriers of . . . . Continue Reading »