Operation Klinghoffer

From First Thoughts

Although initially dismissed by many reviewers—(here’s John Updike, condemning it alongside Hamlet: “an orgy of argumentation . . . too many characters, numerous long speeches, and a vacillating, maddening hero”)—Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock (1993) has undergone something of a critical renaissance in the new millennium. Perhaps this is because it feels more immediately present than much of Roth’s wide oeuvre: John Demjanjuk’s trials continued until 2011; a Second Intifada has come and gone, with rumblings, perhaps, of a Third. And now, courtesy of the New York Metropolitan Opera, even Leon Klinghoffer is back in the news. Continue Reading »

Parenthood’s Happy Middle

From First Thoughts

Now drifting into its sixth and final season, NBC’s Parenthood has spent its run alternately pegged for cancellation and heralded as the saving grace of the network’s Thursday-night lineup. Rejecting both courses, it has remained just good enough to get by, just bad enough to remain tolerable. Sometimes better, sometimes worse—but always along the gradient of mediocrity. Continue Reading »

Sin and Redemption in Mad Men

From First Thoughts

The conspiracy theories began to swirl soon after Mad Men ’s sixth season opened with a shot from the perspective of a dying man being rescued. The sight, just moments later, of a healthy Don Draper reading Dante’s Inferno on the beach only seemed to confirm it: He’s died and gone to . . . . Continue Reading »

Joyce’s God, Bullied and Bullying

From First Thoughts

Last week, Melinda Selmys’  On the Square  essay touched upon an aspect of James Joyce’s writing that’s been on my mind lately: Joyce as a Catholic novelist. Though he has rejected the Church, he knows it and knows that it permeates the Irish life and culture he wishes . . . . Continue Reading »

David Brooks at Howards End

From First Thoughts

In his “City Meditations” series (which you really should be reading), Alan Jacobs offers a critique  of Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture . Berry’s “Boomers and Stickers,” he points out, is a nice rhetorical device, but break down as categorical tools . . . . Continue Reading »

Decoration Day, Ten Years On

From First Thoughts

The Drive-By Truckers released their fourth studio album in June, 2003—but it seems more fitting to take Memorial Day as its tenth anniversary. It is, after all, the modern successor to the Decoration Day from which the album and title track draw their names. The songs, frontman Patterson Hood . . . . Continue Reading »