Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin
A review by Gerry Donaghy
The Japanese author Haruki Murakami once told his translator and biographer, Jay Rubin, "I strongly believe that if you take away my novels, there is no me." This is not a case of professional modesty. Murakami leads a life that resembles that of most of his readers. Sure, there are the periods of being an artist in residence at Princeton, jogging with John Irving through Central Park, and spending time visiting Raymond Carver. But other than that, Murakami is generally a relaxed guy who eschews the spotlight in a way that is frequently mistaken for arrogance. He avoids literary circles...
Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China by Kang Zhengguo
He Won't Give In
A review by Jonathan Mirsky
On June 4, 1989, having heard that the Tiananmen demonstrations had been lethally crushed, Kang Zhengguo, a professor of literature at a university in Shaanxi province, pinned a piece of paper to his chest displaying the words "AIM YOUR GUNS HERE." Then he joined with his students who were marching to protest the killings that had taken place in Beijing the night before. This open defiance of the Party and its most senior leaders was typical of Kang. "I am incapable of saying what people want to hear," he writes in his unique and sensitively written account of what it was like to grow up in...
Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North by Thomas Sugrue
From the Rise of Civil Rights to the Debate over Affirmative Action
A review by Jonathan Yardley
It is true, as Thomas J. Sugrue says at the outset of Sweet Land of Liberty, that histories of the civil rights movement and the era in which it was at its zenith tend to focus on the South, where segregation was de jure rather than de facto and where white resistance to African American claims was sclerotic and violent. It is equally true that though in the rest of the country blacks enjoyed in name the same rights as whites, in reality their lives were circumscribed by prejudice every bit as mean and oppressive as in the South:
"Northern blacks lived as second-class citizens...
A Primitive Heart: Stories by David Rabe
Men Behaving Heartlessly
A review by Anna Godbersen
The primitive heart of the title refers, literally, to the not-yet-fully-formed organ of an ill-fated fetus, but all the characters in Hurlyburly playwright David Rabe's story collection are suffering from emotional malfunctions that render them less than fully human. Take Daniel, the father of the unborn child, who always did the sort of things male characters ensconced in "muscular prose" do (in a flashback, pre-pregnancy confession of infidelity, he "demanded details, received them, then broke several pieces of furniture"). But with his wife's pregnancy imperiled, he goes beyond garden...
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
Who's on First
A review by Cass R. Sunstein & Richard Thaler
Michael Lewis's new book is a sensation. It treats a topic that would seem to interest only sports fans: how Billy Beane, the charismatic general manager of the Oakland Athletics, turned his baseball team around using, of all things, statistics. What next -- an inspirational tale about superior database management? But there are some broader lessons in Lewis's book that make it worth the attention also of people who do not know the difference between a slider and a screwball. Those lessons have to do, above all, with the limits of human rationality and the efficiency of labor markets. If...
Academic Freedom After September 11 by Beshara Doumani
The War on Terror in the Halls of Academe
A review by Jen Besemer
In a nation whose administration dedicates vast human and economic resources to uphold the popular fiction that its foreign policy is concerned mainly with protecting freedom "both here and abroad," it is surprising that the actual practice of such protection collapses when it runs afoul of the less photogenic bits of foreign policy. Much space has already been given to the more obvious areas -- such as the USA PATRIOT Act -- in which personal freedom has been made to bow beneath the weight of national interests as defined within the White House. Public outcry is rightly generated by...