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A Counted People

The Times of Israel recently reported that archaeologists had uncovered a “miniscule biblical stone weight” from excavations of the foundations of the Western Wall of the Second Jewish Temple. It is round, about the size of a marble, and marked with the Hebrew word beka. . . . . Continue Reading »

From Work to Text and Back

Around 1980, those of us coming up in literary studies learned that we could no longer refer to a work of art. The term had become obsolete. If you uttered it even in passing, you appeared behind the times, not up-to-date. You had to use another word: text. Roland Barthes announced . . . . Continue Reading »

A Failing Papacy

The current regime in Rome will damage the Catholic Church. Pope ­Francis combines laxity and ruthlessness. His style is casual and approachable; his church politics are cold and cunning. There are leading themes in this pontificate—­mercy, accompaniment, peripheries, and so forth—but . . . . Continue Reading »

Royal Fatalism

The Romanovs:  1613–1918 by simon sebag montefiore vintage, 784 pages, $35 The Romanovs Under House Arrest:  From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest by afanasy belyaev translated by leonid michailitschenko holy trinity, 136 pages, $29.95 The Romanov dynasty begins and ends with one name: . . . . Continue Reading »

God as a Gentleman

Everybody knows the Decalogue and, in particular, the commandment “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain” (Exod. 20:7). In spite of this warning, we too easily call God “Lord”—nay, we invoke him as “the Lord”—as if such a word were devoid of ambiguity and not badly . . . . Continue Reading »

Taleb the Philosopher

Incerto:  Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile by nassim nicholas taleb random house, 1,568 pages, $70 Skin in the Game:  Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by nassim nicholas taleb random house, 304 pages, $30 Boethius’s ambitious goal to synthesize all . . . . Continue Reading »

False Feminism

As the #MeToo movement has spread from the upper echelons of Hollywood to the halls of Congress, what has most struck me is the startling disconnect between the movement’s feverish sensitivity to sexual impropriety, on the one hand, and women’s eager embrace of our nation’s sex-drenched . . . . Continue Reading »

Renewing Human Rights

When Eleanor Roosevelt and a small group of people gathered at the behest of the U.N. in early 1947 to draft the world’s first “international bill of rights,” they cannot have had very high hopes for their endeavor. The world was awash in colonial oppression, discrimination, poverty, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Postnatural Intelligence

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus belongs to the literature of the uncanny. But the young Mary ­Shelley who wrote it—or rather, the teenaged Mary Godwin who sketched it in a summerhouse near Geneva—was nothing if not canny. Her 1818 debut novel was and still is hugely . . . . Continue Reading »

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