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A Nation of Americans

America is a nation of immigrants. America has always been a nation of immigrants. Or so we are constantly told. Strange, then, that the phrase did not become common until John F. Kennedy published a book with that title in 1958. “All Americans have been immigrants or the descendants of . . . . Continue Reading »

Back Row America

I first walked into the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx because I had been told not to. I had been told it was too dangerous and too poor, and that I was too white. I had been told that “nobody goes there for anything but drugs and prostitutes.” The people telling me this were my . . . . Continue Reading »

Boy on the Temple Roof

Young Rabbi Binder has opened the floor for a “free discussion” period at the afternoon Hebrew school housed in the synagogue, where the minimal Jewish education he dispenses to postwar Jewish boys is a prerequisite for their bar mitzvah ritual. As usual, most of the kids are indifferent, even . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

The Best American Poetry 2018  edited by dana gioia scribner, 240 pages, $18.99 American poetry lost three greats last year: John ­Ashbery, ­Richard Wilbur, and ­Donald Hall. But it also welcomed A. R. ­Ammons’s “Finishing Up,” A. E. ­Stallings’s “Pencil,” and Anne . . . . Continue Reading »

Hate Signs

I just passed a sign in a store window that says, “No Vacancy for Hate.” Well, I thought, that’s a little less righteous than similar messages in front lawns and restaurant portals: “Hate Is Not Welcome Here,” “Hate Is Not a Family Value,” and other censures of the number one sin . . . . Continue Reading »

Play American

Just seventy years ago, a Fortune poll reported that 62 percent of Americans listened to classical music, 40 percent could identify Arturo Toscanini as an orchestral conductor, and nine million listeners (11 percent of American households) tuned in to weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcasts from New . . . . Continue Reading »

The Eyes of Wendell Berry

The Seer opens with a blur of urban lights and longings: the faster freeway, the taller building, the machines that become the objects of our affections. Over this, the film’s subject, in his distinctive timbre, laments the pursuit of “the objective.” These opening three minutes culminate in . . . . Continue Reading »

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