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Confounding Malthus

Roy Porter, 21 December 1989

Health and the Rise of Civilisation 
by Mark NathanCohen.
Yale, 285 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 300 04006 7
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Nutrition and Economic Development in the 18th-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropomorphic History 
by John Komlos.
Princeton, 325 pp., $45, November 1989, 0 691 04257 8
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... To put it bluntly, have things been getting better or worse? It is not the least virtue of Mark NathanCohen’s revaluation of the ‘diseases of civilisation’ question that he does not push a simple solution. He offers a qualified pessimism about the past, and a question-...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment, 21 May 2015

Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... In the right light, in the right mood, maybe these pictures could come fully to life again. Annie Cohen-Solal, the author of biographies of Sartre and the art dealer Leo Castelli, has written a compact book about Rothko’s life and art for Yale’s ‘Jewish Lives’ series, drawing freely on the literary critic James Breslin’s impressive full-length ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag, 12 February 2009

Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... to Tuscon: the dry air and sand of Arizona would help Susan’s asthma. A decorated war hero named Nathan Sontag gave Susan her German surname when he married her mother in 1945, but his air force exploits did not thrill her as much as Les Misérables, which she had read before she was nine. She also read Jack London’s Martin Eden, a book about a self-taught ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... It would go down in legend and out of print, a sunken landmark of sorts. To mark​ the fiftieth anniversary of Making It, NYRB Classics has revived Podhoretz’s battle-scarred memoir with an innocuous new introduction by Terry Teachout, Commentary’s critic at large, who isn’t about to jeopardise his post by saying anything ...

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