Who Owns an Icon?

In his novel The Ghost Writer, Philip Roth observed that if the Jewish religion had saints, Anne Frank would have been canonized. More than fifty years after she perished in the Bergen-Belsen death camp, the teenaged girl has taken on a symbolism beyond the facts of her short life and the diary of her two years in hiding. Read more [...]

Yente for the Masses

Fifty years ago, The NewYorker devoted an unprecedented six issues to a profile of Walter Winchell – actually, it was more of an attack – by the essayist St.Clair McKelway. It was later published in book form. On the surface, this seems absurd. Winchell was not an artist, a statesman (except perhaps in his own mind), or a philosopher. He was a "reporter" and "broadcaster" in the very loosest sense – his words appeared in a newspaper, and he spoke into a microphone. But much of what he said and wrote had been given to him by others, and most of it was hardly profound – a potpourri of news "flashes," jokes, capsule reviews, political commentary, and above all, gossip about celebrities of the day. Read more [...]

Class Distinctions

In a photograph at the front of this book, three fortyish political activists – Frank Trotta, Jr., Leslie Maeby, and Tim Carey – stand together at a restaurant in Peekskill, N.Y. Peekskill is the home base of conservative Republican George Pataki, who was elected New York's Governor in 1994 on promises to cut taxes and spending (i.e., social-service programs) and bring back the death penalty. Both Carey and Maeby worked for Pataki's campaign, and it's a safe bet that Trotta, a lifelong Republican, gave him his vote. Read more [...]

Oliver Stone’s Nixon: The Politics of Resentment

When Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, I was a college sophomore. His years in office overlapped most of my adolescence. Perhaps that was the reason -- beyond his conduct while in the White House -- that I hated him as I have not hated any other President, even Ronald Reagan, before or since. Most teenagers have a degree of hostility toward their fathers, and the President is the ultimate patriarch, Big Daddy to the nation. Certainly Nixon himself embraced that concept when he declared in 1972 that "the average American is like the child in the family." Read more [...]