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Commanded to Mourn

Adam Phillips: Mourning

18 February 1999
Kaddish 
by Leon Wieseltier.
Knopf, 585 pp., $27.50, September 1998, 0 375 40389 2
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... Other people’s mourning – like other people’s sexuality and other people’s religions – is something one has to have a special reason to be interested in. So to write a book, as LeonWieseltier 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 ...

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. LeonWieseltier, 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 ...

Bush’s Useful Idiots

Tony Judt: Whatever happened to American liberalism?

21 September 2006
... of Khrushchev’s revelations, resented the Soviet dictator not so much for his crimes as for discrediting their Marxism, so intellectual supporters of the Iraq War – among them Michael Ignatieff, LeonWieseltier, 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 ...
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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... of religious fanaticism, for example, lying beyond them. How these boundaries are to be drawn and how conflicts will be managed within a liberal framework remain difficult questions, discussed by LeonWieseltier 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 ...

Diary

Alan Milward: On Anti-Semitism

17 October 1985
... now many people devoted to the cause of making this barrier higher. In June, for example, the London Review of Books and I were crudely and unreservedly accused of anti-semitism by a columnist, Mr LeonWieseltier (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 ...

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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... can spend a hundred hours on the study of one man, his family, his colleagues, his psychiatrist, with space for digression and nuance: ‘The Sopranos isn’t Shakespeare, but it is Balzac,’ said LeonWieseltier. 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 ...

Porndecahedron

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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... rhetoric surrounding the War on Terror. A similar impulse informs Checkpoint (2004), a dialogue novel in which a man claims he plans to kill George W. Bush, though ‘this scummy little book’, as LeonWieseltier 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 ...

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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... Here are some stamps. Countries sometimes disappear and leave nothing behind but some postage stamps. But Papas and Adams go on and on.’ He much prefers sparring with a big and capable admirer like LeonWieseltier 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 ...

The Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’

26 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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... case in the preceding, politically neutral pages; many of his would-be interlocutors are likely to misidentify him as a reluctant liberal. Praising The Age of the Crisis of Man in the New York Times, LeonWieseltier, 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 ...

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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... his prison experience, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number. That book also caused a furore in North America. It had its supporters – among them, Anthony Lewis in the New York Times and LeonWieseltier 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 ...

Diary

Jonathan Raban: I’m for Obama

20 March 2008
... 65s. But again and again the pundits have got it wrong, suggesting that the real divisions between the Obamaites and the Clintonites are to be found elsewhere. In a recent issue of the New Republic, LeonWieseltier, 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 ...

The One-State Solution

Virginia Tilley: The future of Israel and Palestine

6 November 2003
... run through these debates about Israel’s future or the feelings of apprehension, resentment and rejection that talk of a secular state elicits. Yet Judt’s is hardly a maverick voice, even though LeonWieseltier 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 ...

Dragon-Slayers

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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... the fall of Saddam the Iraqis succumbed to their native ‘demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise … even in the face of self-immolation’. Liberal hawks such as LeonWieseltier 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 ...

Feeling Good about Feeling Bad

Nathan Thrall: Liberal Zionism

8 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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... helped edit, extracted in his magazine, and called ‘the most extraordinary book’ on Israel in decades and ‘an argument for liberal Zionism’. In a panegyric in the New York Times Book Review, LeonWieseltier, 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 ...

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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... Philip Roth. The League of Extraordinary Literary Gentlemen. As Atlas explains in The Shadow in the Garden, ‘Bellow had three sons: Greg, Adam, and Dan. He also had three disciples: James Wood, LeonWieseltier 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 ...

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