• print • Feb/Mar 2018

    The Quiet Americans

    In his inaugural address as America’s forty-fifth president, Donald Trump invoked the image of a nation in crisis. From “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” to “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones,” his speech portrayed a landscape of squalor and misery. Returning to a favorite theme of his campaign, Trump laid the blame for much of this devastation on the “crime and gangs and drugs” that, according to him, “have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” “This American carnage,” he promised, “stops right here and stops

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2018

    Medication and Its Discontents

    It’s hard to say exactly when her depression began, Lauren Slater tells us, but she has a memory from the summer of her sixth or seventh year. She and her sister were sitting on their stoop, sweltering in the heat, when they were approached by a sweaty man in a dark suit. “His face perspired heavily as he knelt by my sister and me and asked if we would like to see his monkey dance,” she writes. “He was so close I could smell his cinder breath and then I saw his hand, or rather his lack of a hand, how one empty cuff just hung down, the skin at the knob of his bony wrist marbled and seamed.”

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2018

    Unnatural History

    With the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the highest it’s been since the Pliocene, there is no dearth of au courant theories explaining how nature and society do not in any sense compose distinct spheres. Nature cannot be distinguished from society because the former, no less than the latter, is “constructed”—a discursive figuration or trope with no independent external reality. Or they can’t be distinguished because nature now constitutes a hopelessly blurred hybrid with society. Or because nature has simply ended. Or because, as French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2018

    Resident Experts

    By the time the last tower at Cabrini-Green was demolished, in 2011, the notorious Chicago public-housing complex had become a national shorthand for anything “derelict or dangerous, from neighborhoods in other cities to a temporarily out-of-service elevator in a high-end apartment building,” as Ben Austen writes. In his new book, High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing, Austen explains how the homes, built between 1942 and 1962, started out as a vision of what public housing could be and ended as an example of inner-city blight.

    Plenty has been written about the

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  • review • January 09, 2018

    The Value of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury"

    A number of my fellow journalists are saying privately and publicly that Michael Wolff's book is no big deal—“nothing we didn't know already.” This response makes me think of people who see some piece of modern art, a Jackson Pollock or an Ellsworth Kelly, and say, “I could do that.” Yeah, but did you?

    I don't mean to compare Wolff to a great artist, but what he's done is triply valuable. The inside portrait of the Trump White House as workplace-from-hell may be “gossip,” but then, gossip has ever been the bile of the news—and remember, the body needs bile. Then, too, there’s his intimate

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2018

    After the Deluge

    Richard Lloyd Parry’s very touching and thought-provoking book Ghosts of the Tsunami tells how the community of Okawa, Japan, was affected by the Great Tohoku Disaster: the earthquake and resulting tidal wave of March 11, 2011. On that day, the tidal surges struck Okawa’s primary school, killing seventy-four of the seventy-eight children present, and ten of the eleven teachers.

    To write his account, Lloyd Parry—the Tokyo bureau chief of The Times of London and the author of the true-crime book People Who Eat Darkness—visited the locality for six years. His achievement reminds me of the

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2018

    The Body Politic

    Anesthesia has been around for over 170 years, and in spite of its inherent drama it’s impressively nonlethal. Current estimates place the death toll at about one in two hundred thousand or even one in three hundred thousand, which means—according to the earnest nonprofit the National Safety Council—that you or I are more likely to die from insect stings, “excessive natural heat,” or “contact with sharp objects” than either of us is from being put under. Properly supervised anesthesia is not only exceedingly safe but also ubiquitous, and necessary for a slew of lifesaving and life-improving

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2018

    Thaw and Disorder

    No statesman in living memory has experienced a more meteoric rise, and at his height enjoyed more universal esteem—or suffered a more precipitous fall, and thereafter more curious neglect—than Mikhail Gorbachev. When he became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, few knew what to make of this bald-pated, purple-birthmarked former secretary of agriculture. His relative youth (he was fifty-four years old) immediately distinguished him from the dotard preceding him and the gerontocrats still surrounding him in the politburo—but no one could have anticipated the

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2018

    I Put a Spell on You

    Quaint to think that not even fifty years ago—when network TV reigned supreme, the underground press flourished, and El Topo invented the midnight movie—there was an amorphous thing called the Counterculture. Now, of course, there are hundreds.

    Back then dog-eared head-trips like Clans of the Alphane Moon by the still-unknown Philip K. Dick circulated among the cognoscenti. So did Richard Brautigan’s twee Trout Fishing in America and Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s blithely footnote-free The Morning of the Magicians.

    Morning’s first part concerned the secret society of the “Nine Unknown

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  • review • October 11, 2017

    Dix and Dix: On "In a Lonely Place"

    We first meet Dix Steele, the star of Nicholas Ray’s 1950 Hollywood noir In a Lonely Place, as he pulls his car up to a stoplight on a dark Los Angeles street. From the vehicle next to him, a blonde woman addresses him by name—she seems to know him, but Dix isn’t having it. When she tells Dix that she starred in the last picture he wrote, the screenwriter replies tartly, “I make it a point never to see pictures I write.” Because Dix is played by Humphrey Bogart, the line comes across with a wry charm, but because he’s played by late-career Bogie, it’s weighted with a certain weariness, a curdled

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2017

    The Liars’ Club

    “Are you a one or a zero?” demands Mr. Robot in the eponymous TV series. “That’s the question you have to ask yourself.” My answer: neither, goddamnit—my hopes and dreams aren’t regulated by a motherboard, not quite yet. Or am I deluding myself, and identity is so shaped by the technologies we use that effectively they’re using us? Some version of this query lurks at the edges of Andrew O’Hagan’s The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age, a book dominated by secretive and truth-challenged men, among them WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2017

    Arrested Development

    The word totalitarianism has an ominous ring. At the height of the Cold War, in the 1950s and ’60s, Western social scientists began using it to describe the political structure of the USSR, as part of an ideological effort to equate the Soviet system in general, and Stalinism in particular, with Nazism. That effort was very successful. The “totalitarian model” gained such a powerful grip on people’s imaginations that when, in the ’80s, a new generation of scholars began poking holes in it, they took a pummeling, accused of being Communist sympathizers or apologists for Stalin’s crimes.

    As

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