Not far into the second part of Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes offers a lexical bouquet to the photographer responsible for the sepia print of his late mother, Henriette, at age five, in which floated "something like an essence of the Photograph." What the "unknown photographer of Chennevières-sur-Marne"
What do you call a revival that never ends? Over the past two decades, publishers have added three biographies of H. L. Mencken—Mencken: A Life by Fred Hobson, The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken by Terry Teachout, and Mencken: The American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers—to the three or
Sure, the economic collapse of 2008 impoverished many Americans, but it also enriched our language. Back in the days of home-equity-funded Viking Ranges and perpetually solvent 401(k)s, our cultural dictionaries were shockingly bereft of terms like "credit default swap" and "collateralized debt
There are more Christians in the United States than in any other country in world history, but much of Christianity makes us queasy. Many of our megachurch preachers choke on the word sin, and when politicians talk of "evildoers" they seem to be speaking a dead language. It's easy to forget, in this
Two new war memoirs, one from a reporter and one from a former army officer, describe close to nothing at all but do so with urgency. Violent images flash by, lives are shattered, the end. You might be inclined to wonder about the difference between observer and participant reports on war, but those
Two broadsides against American intellectuals after 9/11 hit harder than most. The first came from Paul Berman, who, in Terror and Liberalism (2003), chastised his fellow liberals for turning a blind eye to the fascist roots of "Muslim totalitarianism." The second came from Tony Judt, who denounced
On Sunday, December 22, 1940, at a crossroads outside El Centro, California, a husband and wife died in a car collision. The woman's name and much of her private life were known to millions by virtue of a series of articles published by her sister in the New Yorker and the subsequent best-selling
"Which wife are you?" The audacity of this question, often posed to Norris Church Mailer, sixth wife of Norman Mailer, reflects the particular challenges of marrying a larger-than-life literary icon with a checkered reputation. Consider for a moment the skill set required to be Mailer's wife: an