Bruce Levine begins this compelling book with a prologue recounting Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” setting up an elaborate metaphor for the demise of antebellum southern society through the unintentional revolution wrought by the Civil War.
Pope Francis has garnered headlines with his simplicity, as well as with his calls for a “Church for the poor.” The surprise his actions have met reflects, among other things, this: that when it comes to the matter of the haves and have nots, Christians these days tend not to rock the boat.
Celebrity memoirs often appeal to readers’ basest motives. They hope to discover some secret formula for success. Or they want to know whether the author took revenge on enemies or intimates. If the author is a public figure, readers are on the lookout for clues to an ideological bent or personal grievances that will make the author’s future decisions predictable.
When I’m buying food, I generally prioritize quality and ethical sourcing over thrift. When it comes to clothes, I more often do the opposite: I wait for great deals, I don’t get fancy, and I try not to think about where my clothes come from. I’m not sure why my approach is so different.
The national parks are rightly considered some of America’s great treasures, but their history is not as serene as their landscapes. A year after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln deeded Yosemite Valley to the state of California, to be maintained for public use for all time. Lincoln hoped these “magnificent lands . . . might offer a unifying peace for a divided nation.” But before Yosemite could be turned into a park for public use, the Ahwahneechee, its native inhabitants, had to be driven out. Similar wars of removal were conducted at the end of the 19th century at the sites of Glacier and Yellowstone parks (Times Literary Supplement, September 2).