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How can we make this place more like Bosnia?

Philip Connors: Absurdistan, 2 August 2007

Absurdistan 
by Gary Shteyngart.
Granta, 333 pp., £10.99, June 2007, 978 1 86207 972 4
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... to be attacked. It’s a reminder of the scheming Ahmad Chalabi and his strategic dinners at the White House. Shteyngart has a gift for physical comedy, and Misha gives him nearly unlimited opportunities. Misha’s body – ‘a continent of flesh’ – is depicted again and again throughout the novel. After his unfortunate circumcision, Misha’s penis is ...

Starting over

Malise Ruthven, 9 July 1987

Cities on a Hill 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Picador, 414 pp., £4.50, March 1987, 0 330 29845 3
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... a beacon for homosexuals everywhere; Liberty Baptist Church, the fundamentalist empire created by Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority and America’s best-known ‘televangelist’; Sun City, a retirement community in the Florida sunbelt; and the ill-fated commune in Oregon created by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, guru of free sex and Rolls-Royces. The ...

Magic Beans, Baby

David Runciman, 7 January 2021

A Promised Land 
by Barack Obama.
Viking, 768 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 0 241 49151 5
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... diplomat, maybe even an entertainer. As well as being one of the smartest people ever to enter the White House, Obama was also one of the funniest, a natural stand-up, who even managed his turn at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011, on the night he green-lighted the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. ‘Cool ...

Two Stories

Diane Williams, 23 May 2013

... was addressing me as ‘Norman Darling’. My mother said: ‘You know she was married to Jerry! She’s talking nonsense.’ ‘Norman!’ Dad said. ‘I didn’t think you wanted us to see her.’ I noted Evangeline’s breasts, shoulders, arms and hands – and her forehead and her wrists – in that order – with admiration. ‘Mother, where are ...

The Last Column

Hal Foster: Remnants of 9/11, 8 September 2011

... shop, along with a sign that reads ‘That’s All Folks’). It turns out, as the journalist Jerry Adler writes in the book, that ‘the objects with the best odds of survival were those small enough to have lodged safely in a crevice: keys, coins and rings’; along with golf balls, these things shall inherit the earth. In his introduction to Memory ...

Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings

Jerry Fodor: The Case against Natural Selection, 18 October 2007

... A and selection for trait B when A and B are coextensive: were polar bears selected for being white or for matching their environment? Search me; and search any kind of adaptationism I’ve heard of. Nor am I holding my breath till one comes along. The empirical issue. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a biologist of the Darwinist persuasion to argue like ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... between his style and that of Dirty Harry are daily discouraged by a pained, overworked White House press office. The apotheosis of all this (‘Where’s the Rest of Me?’ ‘Let’s Win This One for the Gipper!’) came, Rogin believes, in 1981. ‘To confirm the President’s faith in the power of film, John Hinckley, imitating the plot of the ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... maverick one-offs. The infiltration of drug use into all parts of pop music – from black jazz to white rock, from club dancefloors to record company boardrooms, from the fan to the icon – is rarely acknowledged. There tends to be a gap between the public’s perception of pop musicians and the reality. In 1988 Shaun Ryder was asked by a music paper to pose ...

El Diablo in Wine Country

Mike Davis, 2 November 2017

... Rockies have been massacred by those unstoppable harbingers of global warming, pine beetles. White pines, the cornerstone of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, have been the hardest hit by the drought-induced infestation, which now affects perhaps 95 per cent of the iconic trees. With two-thirds of Montana experiencing the most extreme drought in a ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... In Arthur Schlesinger’s court history, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which might without unfairness be called the founding breviary of the cult of JFK, there appears the following vignette. Schlesinger had been asked to carpenter a ‘White Paper’ justifying Washington’s destabilisation of Cuba, in which the high-flown rhetoric of the New Frontier might form a sort of scab over the fouler business of empire ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground, 22 March 2007

The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... of those yawning divides of style by which teenagers define themselves. We wore T-shirts of the White Light/White Heat album cover, which could not have existed when the album was originally released. Mere mention of liking the Grateful Dead was grounds for ostracism. In the punk rock schema, the Velvets were Papa (and ...

Blackberry Apocalypse

Nicholas Guyatt: Evangelical Disarray, 15 November 2007

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America 
by Chris Hedges.
Cape, 254 pp., £12.99, February 2007, 978 0 224 07820 7
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... claiming that he was ‘completely heterosexual’. Things got worse. In May this year, Jerry Falwell, arguably the most influential evangelical of the last three decades, died suddenly of a heart attack in his office at Liberty University in Virginia. Falwell had founded Liberty in 1971 as a private religious college and it played an important role ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: In Washington, 20 August 1992

... least about moderation – is at an end. The polls, which a scant month or so ago were giving the White House to Ross Perot, are now awarding it to ‘The New Covenant’ (a slogan so treacly in its unction that it died a-borning and is never, ever mentioned even for satirical purposes. Its companion exhortation, ‘Putting People First’, is so vacuous that ...

The Numbers Game

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro: Favelas, 21 January 2016

Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio 
by Misha Glenny.
Bodley Head, 352 pp., £18.99, September 2015, 978 1 84792 266 3
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... competing on that circuit. The poor, mostly black inhabitants of the favelas didn’t mix with the white upper middle class living near the beach. Domestic servants, mostly favelados, would go to the beach only at weekends after sunset, when the whites had already gone home. What is a favela? The word refers to a plant native to the state of Bahia, in the ...

Diary

Safa Al Ahmad: In Saudi Arabia, 2 June 2011

... the track. The train gathered speed. Languid camels rushed by; dust mounted and turned the scene white. The small screen in our compartment was playing Tom and Jerry cartoons. Tom chased Jerry down the hall with a gun and it blew up in his face. How symbolic of our dictators. I was glad ...

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