Oscar Wilde, on his tour of America in 1882, made not one but two pilgrimages to Camden, N.J., to see Walt Whitman—whose poetry he claimed to have known “from the cradle.” Afterward, the Good Grey Poet told a reporter that Wilde was “genuine, honest, and manly.” He added, for emphasis, “He is so frank, and Read More
The Roads to Modernity: The British, French and American Enlightenments , by Gertrude Himmelfarb. Alfred A. Knopf, 272 pages, $25.
Europe and North America in the second half of the 18th century thought of themselves as enlightened. Images of light and enlightenment sparkle through the philosophy, the sermons, the journalism, even the commercial prospectuses Read More
The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken , by Terry Teachout. HarperCollins, 410 pages, $29.95.
It’s tempting, when trying to give a sense of H.L. Mencken’s place in American literature, to reach for lofty comparisons. Alistair Cooke called him the American Voltaire; he was also a popularizer of ideas like Shaw, a foe of religion Read More
GROUND ZERO-”Best view” that way , the helpful sign and arrow on the chain-link fence overlooking the pit tells the tourists. “Best view”: It has unfortunate suggestions of “scenic overlook.”
What is the “best view” of 9/11 as we near the one-year mark? You can tell this is a “site of contestation,” as they say, Read More
In a summer of brain-dead popcorn flicks dedicated to the premise that some people will endure anything to buy two hours of air-conditioning, it’s a pleasure to discover a few small nuggets of truth in the rockpile. Go ahead and lose a few I.Q. points shoveling what the Crocodile Hunter calls “poo” ( Minority Report Read More