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Commanded to Mourn

Adam Phillips: Mourning, 18 February 1999

by Leon Wieseltier.
Knopf, 585 pp., $27.50, September 1998, 0 375 40389 2
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... is something one has to have a special reason to be interested in. So to write a book, as Leon Wieseltier has done, about the mourning of his father is asking a lot (and to write a book of 585 pages is asking even more). One of the ironies of the so-called mourning process is that it tends to make people even more self-absorbed than they usually ...

Cockroach Story

Anthony Thwaite, 14 June 1990

... The reason for a cockroach in a story must differ from the reason for a cockroach in a kitchen. Leon Wieseltier, TLS It was not home. It was in Tokyo At half-past ten at night or thereabouts. I went into the kitchen, flicked the switch, And saw him crouching on the table’s edge. He was enormous, brown, and very still ...

Bush’s Useful Idiots

Tony Judt: Whatever happened to American liberalism?, 21 September 2006

... their Marxism, so intellectual supporters of the Iraq War – among them Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick and other prominent figures in the North American liberal establishment – have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with ...

On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... how conflicts will be managed within a liberal framework remain difficult questions, discussed by Leon Wieseltier in ‘Two Concepts of Secularism’ and by Michael Ignatieff in ‘Understanding Fascism’. On the subject of positive and negative liberty, the essays by Ronald Dworkin and Yael Tamir form a complementary pair. Dworkin shows how the ...


Alan Milward: On Anti-Semitism, 17 October 1985

... Review of Books and I were crudely and unreservedly accused of anti-semitism by a columnist, Mr Leon Wieseltier (I give his name because he gave his initials only), in the American middle-class weekly the New Republic, which is specifically directed towards people who consider themselves especially rational. The accusation was provoked by an article ...

Suicide by Mouth

Deborah Friedell: Richard Price, 17 July 2008

Lush Life 
by Richard Price.
Bloomsbury, 455 pp., £12.99, August 2008, 978 0 7475 9601 1
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... space for digression and nuance: ‘The Sopranos isn’t Shakespeare, but it is Balzac,’ said Leon Wieseltier. Box sets of DVDs ape the look of a book with their pages of discs, and are designed to fit on bookshelves. In London, in New York, when young literary things meet, book chat is gossip. The smart conversations, the ones they’ve trained ...


Christopher Tayler: Nicholson Baker, 3 November 2011

House of Holes 
by Nicholson Baker.
Simon and Schuster, 262 pp., £14.99, August 2011, 978 0 85720 659 6
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... in which a man claims he plans to kill George W. Bush, though ‘this scummy little book’, as Leon Wieseltier was moved to call it, lacked bite. Too gentle a writer to stage a truly angry rant, Baker is at his best as a straight-ish novelist in lower-temperature books such as A Box of Matches, an otherworldly report on middle age in which, for ...


Jonathan Raban: I’m for Obama, 20 March 2008

... Obamaites and the Clintonites are to be found elsewhere. In a recent issue of the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, an Obama sceptic, complained that his positions on foreign policy and national security had ‘a certain homeopathic quality’, more calculated to appeal to his ‘legions of the blissful’ than to meet the needs of an ‘era of ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... But Papas and Adams go on and on.’ He much prefers sparring with a big and capable admirer like Leon Wieseltier than passing on news to his family. And yet he was a dab hand at writing recommendations – we find a good many here, for Guggenheims and Nobels – and he wasn’t at all bad at writing notes to his friends to big them up about their latest ...

The One-State Solution

Virginia Tilley: The future of Israel and Palestine, 6 November 2003

... that talk of a secular state elicits. Yet Judt’s is hardly a maverick voice, even though Leon Wieseltier has implied as much in an irate rejoinder in the New Republic. If Palestinians and Israelis (of all ethno-religious backgrounds) are indeed to share a single state as equals, the post-Zionist vision also needs to clarify the non-ethnic ...

The Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’, 27 August 2015

The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-73 
by Mark Greif.
Princeton, 434 pp., £19.95, January 2015, 978 0 691 14639 3
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Moral Agents: Eight 20th-Century American Writers 
by Edward Mendelson.
New York Review, 216 pp., £12.99, May 2015, 978 1 59017 776 1
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... him as a reluctant liberal. Praising The Age of the Crisis of Man in the New York Times, Leon Wieseltier, the former literary editor of the New Republic, came out for old-style liberal universalism: ‘Don’t just stop,’ he exhorted, ‘Think harder. Get it right. (Why are liberals so afraid of their own philosophy?)’ Michael ...

Peace for Galilee

David Twersky, 21 April 1983

The Longest War 
by Jacobo Timerman.
Chatto, 160 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 7011 3910 2
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... in North America. It had its supporters – among them, Anthony Lewis in the New York Times and Leon Wieseltier in Dissent (Wieseltier has written a rather different review of The Longest War in Harper’s). But, because Timerman rails against fascists of the right as well as those on the left, it had the misfortune ...


Corey Robin: Careerism and Hannah Arendt, 4 January 2007

Why Arendt Matters 
by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 232 pp., £14.99, October 2006, 0 300 12044 3
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Hannah Arendt: The Jewish Writings 
edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron Feldman.
Schocken, 640 pp., $35, January 2007, 978 0 8052 4238 6
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Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil 
by Hannah Arendt.
Penguin, 336 pp., £10.99, December 2006, 0 14 303988 1
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... unwillingness to compromise … even in the face of self-immolation’. Liberal hawks such as Leon Wieseltier believe much the same thing: The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... Garden, ‘Bellow had three sons: Greg, Adam, and Dan. He also had three disciples: James Wood, Leon Wieseltier and Martin Amis.’ Wood, the literary critic and novelist; Wieseltier, the former literary editor of the New Republic; and Amis, who, on the death of his father, Kingsley, declared to Bellow, ‘You’ll ...

Feeling Good about Feeling Bad

Nathan Thrall: Liberal Zionism, 9 October 2014

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel 
by Ari Shavit.
Scribe, 447 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 922247 54 4
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... and ‘an argument for liberal Zionism’. In a panegyric in the New York Times Book Review, Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the New Republic, described it as ‘a Zionist book unblinkered by Zionism’. Opinion polls suggest that most American Jews identify themselves as liberals and Democrats and feel affection for Israel. Many dislike the ...

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