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Books for Christmas

From the December 2013 issue

André AcimanRecommendations take time, and the books I read are mostly written by dead people! Not inspirational by any stretch. If I recommend one book it is The Peloponnesian War. Of no consequence whatsoever to people who love books by Jonathans.André Aciman is a distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York. His novel Harvard Square was recently published by W.W. Norton.Mark AmoryI am mildly embarrassed to find that my preferred books this year are parochial choices. The obvious one is Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning (Allen Lane) by Charles Moore, once my editor here at the Spectator. Hailed by all as excellent and by many as one of the great political biographies, it has only one drawback: After 859 pages, she is prime minister but only 57. Much lies ahead.
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It Was A Very Bad Year

By From the December 2013 issue

The 2013 agenda set out for the nation by our political and cultural commissars in the wake of the last presidential election could hardly have been more straightforward: They would bask in the glow of the (for real this time) End of History—We are all Morning Joe panelists now!—while humbled, hobbled dissidents, fevers broken, spent the year acclimating to permanent marginalization and fashioning tin idols to lay at the White House gates in celebration of the fast-approaching decennial anniversary of Barack Obama’s prophetic 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention—you know, the one where an obscure Illinois Senate candidate destined to be king broke open the rhetorical seals, thereby unleashing the Four Horsemen of the Hopeocalypse upon those who “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” 

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” Obama famously bellowed at these business-as-usual pundits and prevaricators, “and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.”

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Stephen King and That Awful Muttering Voice

By From the December 2013 issue

What do you do when you’re in a Stephen King novel, but you’re not a Stephen King character anymore? Or rather: What do you do when you’re Stephen King, but you’re not a Stephen King character anymore?

King has been knocking out horror stories since 1974’s Carrie; in 40 years he’s turned out 50 novels, three apiece in the bumper-crop years of 1983 (Christine, Pet Sematary, Cycle of the Werewolf) and 1987 (The Eyes of the Dragon, Misery, The Tommyknockers). He’s played around with a pseudonym, written up-all-night doorstoppers and unforgettable slim parables, and become perhaps the most obsessively filmed novelist since Graham Greene. Over the decades he’s returned again and again to certain settings and themes: New England and, later, Florida, overcoming helplessness, adolescence and the loss of childhood innocence, rage.

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It’s the Best Time of the Year

By From the December 1995 issue

From our December 1995 issue.

This time last year, I hap­pened to be in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, char­tered on Christmas Eve, 1852. I drove down Candy Cane Lane, hung a right on Rudolph Drive, then swung left on Mistletoe Circle, a pleasant journey only slightly marred by the fact that all these agreeable thoroughfares are part of the exclusive Christmas Lake development. You have to go through an armed security gate to get in. As an image of the beleaguered American Christmas, it’s hard to beat: defen­sive, ring-fenced, and largely seen as the pre­serve of middle-class whites.

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Chastened by Iraq

By From the November 2013 issue

THE ODDS IN September were in Bill Kristol’s favor. Bashar al-Assad’s army had been caught using sarin gas, the president was beating the war drums, and Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and an accomplished foreign policy percussionist himself, was optimistic that an American intervention in Syria was coming. Asked on CNN about opposition from congressional Republicans, particularly that of Sen. Rand Paul, Kristol was dismissive. “There are really five senators who are with Rand Paul. There are maybe 30 or 50 House Republicans,” he said. Kristol later warned that Republican lawmakers who voted for intervention might face some blowback from their base, but that ultimately, “Republican primary voters are a pretty hawkish bunch.”

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Ted Cruz: Politics’ Leading Man

By From the November 2013 issue

Pundits in washington simply cannot decide about Ted Cruz. Does the Texas senator’s demagoguery more resemble that of Joe McCarthy (the New Yorker), or Father Charles Coughlin (MSNBC)? Was his fight to defund Obamacare a political version of General Custer’s last stand, or was it General Pickett’s charge (separate columns, both in the Washington Post)? Will Cruz hold the country hostage like the Taliban (the Daily Beast) or remake his party in his image like Vladimir Lenin (the Atlantic)? Should we imagine him as Don Quixote, the clueless would-be knight tilting at windmills (the New York Times), or as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the 10-story minion of evil from the 1984 film Ghostbusters (the Guardian)? 

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