Food for thought

The December 17, 2009, issue of The New York Review of Books is particularly rich. Some articles I especially liked:(1) Ian Baruma on life in occupied Paris during World War II;(2) David Shulman, professor of Humanistic Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with an article entitled "Israel without Illusions" on Israels treatment of the Palestinians, with these comments:

So does it help me, as an Israeli, to be toldby Robert Bernstein in a New York Times Op-Edthat, so far as human rights abuses are concerned, Israels record is considerably better than that of various neighboring authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records? It does not." ...As prophesied long ago by the late philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz and others, the occupationand above all the settlement projectshave profoundly eroded the moral fiber of Israel, corroded central institutions of the society, and undermined our integrity as a political community. None of this happened in a vacuum; the "other side" has much to atone for as well. But even I can remember a time when charges of war crimes were not simply sloughed off by Israels leaders, when military mistakes that cost innocent civilian lives were acknowledged as such and elicited expressions of sorrow, and when Israeli courts clearly articulated the principle that a soldier has not only the right but indeed the duty not to carry out an order that is at odds with his conscience as a human being or with basic human values.

(3) A review by Christopher Ricks of the film "Bright Star" in which director Jane Campion is severely criticized for literalism and particularly for attempting to portray visually what Keats sought by wordsto enable us toexperience:

... it is imperative that the pictures within such a film as Bright Star practice one simple unremitting act of self-abnegation: of never being pictures of the very things that a great writer has superblyby means of the chosen medium of words aloneenabled us to imagine, to picture. A film that proceeds to furnish competing pictures of its own will render pointless the previous acts of imagination that it purports to respect or to honor. For among the accomplishments of the poet is that he or she brings it about that we see with the minds eye, as against the eye of flesh. The sense of the word "picture" as "a visible image of something formed by physical means" is the antithesis of the sense as "a graphic description, written or spoken, capable of suggesting a mental image."

(4) Malise Ruthvens review of two books on Muslims in Europe;(5) Mark Ford review of a book on John Donnes fascination with the relation between body and soul;(6) Robert Darton on the present state of the lawsuit about Googles efforts to digitize all the books in the world.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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