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On the Secret Joke at the Centre of American Identity

Michael Rogin: Ralph Ellison, 2 March 2000

Juneteenth 
by Ralph Ellison, edited by John Callaghan.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 0 241 14084 6
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... Ralph Ellison wrote his own running commentary on the mammoth fiction he laboured over for the last forty years of his life and failed to finish. When his literary executor John Callahan appended some of these jottings to the end of ‘Juneteenth’, the ‘novel’ he extracted from two thousand manuscript pages, he gave Ellison the last word: the final note reproaches the editor from beyond the grave, along with the readers Callahan has invited into the unfinished structure ...
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... On a drive through the family estate in 1935, the married President, Franklin Roosevelt, starts up a romance with his cousin. The two imagine moving after he leaves office into a cottage he is planning to build on what they affectionately call ‘Our Hill’. The President’s secretary, who lives at the White House (and has lived with the President since he was Governor of New York), thinks her boss will be moving into the cottage with her ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... Early in 1947 Simone de Beauvoir made her first trip to the United Sates. The Cold War was beginning and, like Sartre, Camus and the rest of their circle, she was searching for a third-camp alternative to Stalinism and American imperialism. Beauvoir was drawn to the United States for other reasons, anticipating, as she put it at the beginning of America Day by Day, the chronicle of the journey that she published the year after she returned to France, ‘a world so full, so rich, and so unexpected that I’ll have the extraordinary adventure of becoming a different me ...

In Memory of Michael Rogin

Stephen Greenblatt, 3 January 2002

... isn’t true, at least not for me. I have had other deaths, but the death last month of my friend Michael Rogin was a shock. It’s not that we had, in recent years, spent much time together. I left Berkeley, where we taught together on the faculty of the University of California, in the mid-1990s, and almost immediately lost touch with most of my ...
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... Is there anything stranger than a pop star out of time? Before Elvis Presley, before Michael Jackson, there was Al Jolson – ‘the most popular entertainer of the first half of the 20th century,’ as Michael Rogin describes him. Eyes wide and mouth agape, arms outstretched and face painted black, Jolson concludes his performance in The Jazz Singer (1927) down on one knee, serenading the delighted actress who plays his mother in a voice as strong and piercing as a foghorn ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... and ten-gallon hats. Now, as we lurch uncertainly into the second term, comes Professor Michael Rogin of the University of California with a serious thesis on Reagan and celluloid. And now I wish that I had paid more attention to the obvious. At the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in New Orleans, ...

That’s America

Stephen Greenblatt, 29 September 1988

‘Ronald Reagan’, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 366 pp., £19.95, April 1987, 0 520 05937 9
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... triumph of the cult of personality is that it can expose its emptiness without losing its magic. Michael Rogin’s brilliant collection of essays, ‘Ronald Reagan’, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology, attempts to account for and destroy this magic by restoring the two dimensions it has effaced: history and psychic interiority. The ...

Neo-Catastrophism

Eric Klinenberg: Sinful Cities?, 9 October 2003

The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea 
by Thomas Bender.
New Press, 287 pp., $30, September 2002, 1 56584 736 9
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Dead Cities: and Other Tales 
by Mike Davis.
New Press, 448 pp., $16.95, October 2003, 1 56584 844 6
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... hidden in America’s plain sight, and fantastic tales that overstep the limits of credibility (Michael Rogin wrote of his ‘magical dystopian projections’ in a review of Ecology of Fear in the LRB, 19 August 1999). Dead Cities is so fierce and unsettling, one wonders whether Davis believes that a few ‘great comets’ will be necessary to ‘renew ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... cast the single vote against relinquishing to this unelected President the power to make holy war. Michael Rogin Paris As the historian David Kennedy has remarked, terrorism is different from, and worse than, war. Wars have aims that might someday be achieved, thus bringing about an end to hostilities, but terrorism has no such aims. The object of terror ...

Call me Ahab

Jeremy Harding: Moby-Dick, 31 October 2002

Moby-Dick, or, The Whale 
by Herman Melville, edited by Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker.
Northwestern, 573 pp., £14.95, September 2001, 0 8101 1911 0
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Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live in 
by C.L.R. James.
New England, 245 pp., £17.95, July 2001, 9781584650942
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Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival 
by Clare Spark.
Kent State, 744 pp., £46.50, May 2001, 0 87338 674 4
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Lucchesi and the Whale 
by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 104 pp., £14.50, February 2001, 9780822326540
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... ends. Her tale of scholarly intrigue and Cold War defamation finds a useful counterpoint in Michael Rogin’s Subversive Genealogy: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville (1979). In this account, Moby-Dick is not about what 20th-century scholars thought America should become, but about what it became in any case. Ishmael warns us against ...

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