Monthly Archives: September 2007

7 posts

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

Reminding the reader that the likes of Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein were dyslexics, Wolf ponders whether we can explain the “preponderance of creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’ in many people with dyslexia?” Wolf’s rhetorical questions are tackled with grace and one always feels richer for having spent time with her.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

The childishness, the pettiness, the jealously, the nitpicking, the backstabbing, the politicking, of all this is delicious, authentic, accurate and brilliantly realised. Ferris’s office is one of pranks and games; sushi rolls find their way behind people’s bookshelves, things go missing from desks, and chairs are mysteriously swapped. There are the customary shifts and swings of popularity and power; endless arguments about who deserves to go, and who deserves to stay; and regular colloquies about some of the more unusual behaviour of the staff. But Ferris’s novel is as much about the way we act when thrown together with strangers, as it is office life.

Notes From Italy: Running, Rome, and Red Brigades

I knew what was coming but it was always a thrill. Suddenly to our left the world opened out and there was the grandest of piazzas, Piazza Navona. The name Navona and the piazza’s long oval form go back to its origin as the Circus Agonale. This was a stadium, inaugurated by the Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D., that was designed to host a Roman alternative to the Olympic games (and to the gladiators in the Colosseum, that had been built by Domitian’s father and brother, Vespasian and Titus). I never liked Domitian. He was big on public works but a terrible administrator. He may or may not have killed a lot of Christians but he was certainly a murderer of many opponents–until they murdered him in the year 96.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

Mearsheimer and Walt have written an excellent exposition of the Israel Lobby, both in articles and in their most recent book. But they have had to spend a great deal of words and time assuring their readers that they are not anti-Semites, an accusation that has been the main force of the attack on them by the Israel Lobby. There is a well-rehearsed chorus of Israel supporters lying in wait for whoever dares to criticize Israel’s policies, ready to pounce, catlike, and with great force on the unfortunate miscreant. What is interesting is that I have yet to see any of Mearsheimer and Walt’s pro-Israel critics challenge the accuracy of what they have written. Those critics rely on the charge of anti-Semitism, as well as vague, unspecified allegations of inaccuracies in what they have written.

Plucked from Perdition: One Who Lived To Tell Her Tale

I was told in Prague at midday that I had to be at the Wilson Station at 5 pm that afternoon, to take only one small suitcase and nothing which could identify me, not even newspaper as wrapping. At the station, the lady explained through an interpreter (another refugee living in the same house as my mother), I would see people I knew, but I should on no account appear to know them.

The House That George Built by Wilfrid Sheed

And in recreating social history, what a star-studded cast he lines up to perform for us! We find retold the lives and careers of preeminents like Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington , Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and many more.