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4 february 2016

George W. Bush's was a painful and ultimately disastrous Presidency. As James Mann studies it for the Times Book series, the 2001-09 administration seems incoherent, and not just because it's recent and thus hard to put into perspective. The younger Bush was both conservative and liberal (and hence reviled by both wings of polarized American politics). In that, he resembles LBJ and Nixon, other deeply unpopular leaders who ultimately failed to thrive during times of crisis and war. Time will have to tell whether 43 left behind any accomplishments to rival the Civil Rights and Voting Acts, or detente and the opening to China.     read more

3 february 2016

The Emperor of the Moon is a late-17th-century "pantomimic farce" that is in print and still shows up occasionally on stage, over 300 years later. It's not as well known today as Aphra Behn's signature play The Rover or her novella Oroonoko, but it was very popular in its day and for a century thereafter.     read more

31 january 2016

Addison's Cato is an amazingly symmetrical play. We call this kind of play "neoclassical," but the fact is that classical plays are never this neat. Eighteenth-century neoclassicism is a blend of fussy Renaissance pattern-construction with stripped-down, clean modern language and lines.     read more

29 january 2016

The Fish Can Sing, Magnus Magnusson's translation of Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness' 1957 novel, is titled, in Icelandic, simply Brekkukotsannáll: the chronicle of things that happened at Brekkukot, a turn-of-the-20th-century farmstead located in what is now central Reykjavík.     read more