This June’s Issues of The Nation

It’s been a few months since any “Periodicals Notes” have gone up here about The Nation.  In part that’s because it’s so topical that there aren’t many articles in each issue that I think I’ll want to have notes about, in part because I’ve been busy and have been slacking on “Periodicals Notes” generally, and in part because it comes out every week, so that as soon as I’m done reading one issue another shows up.  Anyway, here are a few notes about recent issues.

2 June- A lot of presidential campaign coverage, an essay about Nick Cave’s career and his latest album, and a review of a book about the game Second Life.

9 June- The Spring books issue.  Michael Massing voices reservations about Samantha Power’s biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, concluding that the books shortcomings might be due to the difficulty Power faces in transitioning from “an independent critic working outside the system to being a high-profile figure operating within it.”  Massing never sees fit to mention that Power was a propagandist for “humanitarian intervention” long before she joined the Obama campaign.  This omission especially compromises Massing’s ability to analyze Power’s treatment of the Balkan wars of the 90’s.  For example, “Power’s chapter on Vieira de Mello’s time in Bosnia (which is based on her own eyewitness research) is devastating, and after reading it I fully expected her to draw the obvious conclusion- that his vaunted pragmatism too often degenerated into simple amorality.  But this she refuses to do.”  Because, Massing suggests, Power’s feelings just won’t let her stop “clinging to her image of him as an exemplar of democracy and multilateralism.”  Consider Power’s role in the mid-90’s as a cheerleader for the war party, and a far less innocent explanation for her resistance to fact and her rosy account of Vieira de Mello’s antics begins to emerge.  The West’s anti-Serb policy in those years was “simple amorality” from the beginning- there was no lofty height of idealism from which it could have degenerated.  

16 June- HBO’s John Adams miniseries was based on David McCullough’s biography of Adams, a book which The Nation gave to Daniel Lazare to slam for its whitewashing of Adams’ genuinely catastrophic presidency.  Unfortunately, Lazare didn’t get to review the TV show.  They gave that job to Nicholas Guyatt, who takes a much more sedate appriach.  Fatema Ahmed reviews two reissued novels by 30’s literary cult figure Patrick Hamilton, whose work leads her to say that “Neglected writers are often overestimated in rediscovery.”  Movie reviewer Stuart Klawans pans some summer blockbusters, then praises Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin’s Auf der anderen Seite (called here The Edge of Heaven) for its anarchic moments and Canadian Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg because it “refutes the conventional wisdom that other people’s dreams are always boring.”

23 June- Reviewing Jacob Heilbrunn’s They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, Bruce Schulman and Julian Zelizer’s Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970’s, and a reissue of Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, Corey Robin writes “Conservatives have asked us not to obey them but to feel sorry for them- or to obey them because we feel sorry for them.”  Barry Schwabsky reviews the touring exhibition “Jess: To and From the Printed Page,” arguing that the exhibition’s insistent historicism goes too far and obscures the whimsy that gives that collagist his real worth. 

30 June- “A Special Issue: The New Inequality.”  The highlight is “Ending Plutocracy: A 12-Step Program,” by Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati.  The 12 steps are written as a tribute to Alcoholics Anonymous-style programs and a suggestion that the USA is not only saddled with plutocracy, but addicted to it.  About 20 policy prescriptions appear under these 12 steps.  Most of those policies have been proposed in Congress in the last few years, and the rest have been proposed in state legislatures.  It’s rather an upbeat article, suggesting that something can be done about our #1 problem and that there are at least a few people in positions of power who would like to do it.

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