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The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer

A Mad, Bad, and Brutal Baron

A review by Anne Applebaum

Like a contemporary reincarnation of Adela Quest, the heroine of E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, James Palmer was both attracted and repelled by his first encounter with the grotesque, grimacing, wooden gods of Inner Mongolia:

I entered the shrine of a gruesome god, his sharp teeth grinning and his head festooned with skulls. I wasn't certain who he was, since the Tibetan pantheon inherited by the Mongolians is replete with such figures. In a small dark room, with incense burning and other gargoyles looming, it seemed capable of an awful, twitching animation; I felt it might lick its lips at any moment. A rural Mongolian couple were kneeling on the floor before it, chanting and kowtowing; they'd brought oranges to feed the god and cash to bribe him. Even after the pilgrims had left, I didn't want to stand in front of the thing, let alone examine it closely; it was the first time I'd had any concrete sense of the word "idol."

Although he was "raised...



Previously Reviewed by New York Review of Books
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Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice (UK Edition) by Patricia Fortini Brown

On view now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is the first group show ever organized in America about Venetian painting of the late sixteenth century. Moderate in scale, the exhibition does not attempt a comprehensive survey of the period. Rather, it pre-sents only the three most important...


Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang by Ziyang Zhao

Prisoner of the State is the secretly recorded memoir of Zhao Ziyang, once holder of China's two highest Party and state positions and the architect of the economic reforms that have brought the country to the edge of great-power status. The book has had much attention in the West. Inside China...


The Complete Ripley Novels: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, the Boy Who Followed Ripley, Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith

"The essential American soul," wrote D.H. Lawrence in a celebrated description, "is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer." Of course, he was talking about Natty Bumppo and similar rough-and-tumble frontier spirits. By contrast, the amoral Tom Ripley -- novelist Patricia Highsmith's most famous...


Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (Massey Lectures) by Margaret Eleanor Atwood

A perturbation arising from the American market in subprime mortgages has spread through the banking system to disrupt economic activity throughout the world. The pattern of cause and effect will be debated for many years, with historians asking when and how the global economy was set on the path...


Alice in Jamesland: The Story of Alice Howe Gibbens James by Susan E. Gunter

At the end of R.W.B. Lewis's The Jameses: A Family Narrative there is an appendix, entitled " The Later Jameses," which is a godsend for novelists, geneticists, and anthropologists, to name just three groups who might take an interest in what happened to the James family between the death of Henry...


Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All by Sunny Schwartz

America's prison system is in a dire state. Some 2.3 million people in this country are now behind bars, five times more than in 1978. Our incarceration rate is now higher than that of any other country in the world. Many, if not most, inmates probably should not be there. Sixteen percent of the...


Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography by Stanley Plumly

Rome, November 30, 1820. John Keats, who at the age of twenty-five has less than three months to live, is writing to his friend Charles Brown in England: I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence. God knows how it would have been -- but...


Let's See: Writings on Art from the New Yorker by Peter Schjeldahl

Let's See is the fourth and most reserved, or certainly least rambunctious, collection of essays and reviews by our best -- our most perspicacious and wittiest -- art critic. It brings together a selection of the writing Peter Schjeldahl has done since 1998, when, at fifty-six and with decades of...


Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned: Stories by Wells Tower

The phrase "well-crafted" suggests an unfortunate analogy between a piece of fiction and a piece of furniture. And there is a surprising amount of fiction around that is reasonably accomplished and graceful, or strikingly ornamented, or that skillfully reproduces previous successes in structure or...


Chagall: A Biography by Jackie Wullschlager

1. The painter known to the world as Marc Chagall was born Movsha (Moses) Shagal on July 7, 1887, into a poor family living on the fringes of the Russian Empire. When he died ninety-eight years later, he was the last surviving member of the School of Paris and a multimillionaire with a flat on...


The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940 (Letters of Samuel Beckett) by Samuel Beckett and Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck

The Adventures of Pinocchio (New York Review Books) by Carlo Collodi

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme by Tracy Daugherty

The Believers: A Novel by Zoe Heller

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme by Tracy Daugherty

Aeneid (08 Edition) by Vergil

The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll

Things I've Been Silent About: Memories by Azar Nafisi

Afloat by Guy De Maupassant

Douglas Fairbanks by Jeffrey Vance

The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Holldobler

Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley

The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West by Edward Lucas

Antoine's Alphabet: Watteau and His World by Jed Perl

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag and David Reiff

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

The China Lover by Ian Buruma

Benjamin Disraeli (Jewish Encounters) by Adam Kirsch

The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal by Gore Vidal

Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey

Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research by Sue Halpern

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum

Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn

Letters of Ted Hughes by Ted Hughes

Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt

The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means by George Soros

Nothing to Be Frightened of by Julian Barnes

Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems by Frank Ohara

Big Squeeze: Tough Times for American Work (08 Edition) by Steven Greenhouse

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim

The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay by Louis Begley

U.S. vs. Them: How a Half Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America's Security by J Peter Scoblic

Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester

Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry

Breath: A Novel by Tim Winton

Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 by J. H. Elliott

My Three Fathers: And the Elegant Deceptions of My Mother, Susan Mary Alsop by William Patten

Fire and Knowledge: Fiction and Essays by Peter Nadas

Sea Change: Poems by Jorie Graham

Beijing Coma by Ma Jian

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Alexander the Great: A Life in Legend by Richard Stoneman

Boxing: A Cultural History by Kasia Boddy

The Comanche Empire (Lamar Series in Western History) by Pekka Hamalainen

A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling by V. S. Naipaul

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lush Life: A Novel by Richard Price

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

About My Life and the Kept Woman: A Memoir by John Rechy

The Reserve: A Novel by Russell Banks

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey

The Executor: A Comedy of Letters by Michael Kruger

Littlefoot: A Poem by Charles Wright

Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer by Michael A. Elliott

Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom

A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win by Shelby Steele

Diary of a Bad Year by J. M. Coetzee

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China by Kang Zhengguo

Henry James: The Mature Master by Sheldon M Novick

Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War by Michael J. Neufeld

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good about the Good News? by Peter J Gomes

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin

Notebooks by Tennessee Williams

The Last Chicken in America by Ellen Litman

Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World by Paul Cartledge

The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved by Judith Freeman

A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Greg Clark

Vincent Van Gogh: Painted with Words: The Letters to Emile Bernard by Leo Jansen

The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam by Tom Bissell

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories by Katha Pollitt

Tomorrow by Graham Swift

Nine (07 Edition) by Andrzej Stasiuk

The Unknown Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Flanagan

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

God's Silence (06 Edition) by Wright

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe

The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid

Invisible Cure (07 - Old Edition) by Epstein

Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy by Jeffrey A. Engel

Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith by Philip Kitcher

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag

When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina (Studies in Communication, Media, and Public Opinion) by W. Lance Bennett


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