Psychiatry’s Crisis

Andrew Scull ABOUT 40 YEARS AGO, American psychiatry faced an escalating crisis of legitimacy. All sorts of evidence suggested that, when confronted with a particular patient, psychiatrists could not reliably agree as to what, if anything, was wrong. To be sure, the diagnostic process in all areas of medicine is far more murky and prone … Continue reading

Make Love

Sara Wheeler This stimulating book examines the ways in which legal systems have attempted to regulate sexual activity over millennia, from the ‘slow impalement of unfaithful wives’ in Mesopotamia to the ‘sterilisation of masturbators’ in the United States. ‘I have mapped out the story of Western civilisation’, Eric Berkowitz boldly claims in his introduction, ‘from … Continue reading

Writers Replying to Reviewers?

Arthur Krystal Many writers, especially younger ones, regard other people’s books as an opportunity to enhance their own reputations. What better way to show off one’s own wit, erudition, and verbal artistry than to debunk someone else’s? And if you can look good at some poor writer’s expense—well, why not? Edmund Wilson, himself a formidable … Continue reading

John Updike’s Homophobic Book Review

David Haglund On this week’s Culture Gabfest, in a discussion of the new movie Weekend (which all of the gabbers love), Stephen Metcalf mentions a controversial book review by John Updike. The words “controversial,” “book review,” and “John Updike” may not seem like obvious bedfellows, but actually he made them something of a habit in … Continue reading

A Man of Parts

Michael Dirda HG. Wells’s life (1866-1946) has always read like a novel. And now it is one. Or is it? David Lodge’s “A Man of Parts” hews closely to all the known facts about Wells, derives much of its dialogue from his letters and memoirs and includes no made-up characters. ( LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / … Continue reading

Fujifilm’s Retro-Styled Camera

Reviewed by Grayson Schaffer Underneath the sweet ’70s styling and “analog” controls, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is possibly the most advanced rangefinder-style camera ever (yes, we know about the Leica M9), though not the most rugged. Look through the eyepiece and you’ll see the best of old and new: a digital heads-up display superimposed over … Continue reading

Adolf & Eva

Richard J. Evans IN THE small hours of the morning of April 29, 1945, as the Red Army’s guns and tanks could be heard bombarding the center of Berlin, a curious event took place in Hitler’s bunker deep under the garden of the old Reich Chancellery. Witnessed by Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and the … Continue reading

Is Anal Sex Fair to Women?

A Rigorous Appendix to Toni Bentley’s The Surrender Emily Votruba Toni Bentley has written a memoir about her three-year experience of sexual awakening via anal intercourse with a man. Like most sexual memoirists, Bentley claims our attention with the more or less tacit premise that she has transgressed custom, morality, or received opinion—in her case, … Continue reading

Honey Money

The Power of Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim A blueprint for a sexual free market Will Self ‘No money, no honey’ … prostitutes on a street in Jakarta. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images In a typically razor-sharp exchange of dialogue which establishes – yet again – that The Simpsons provides the most coruscating illumination of contemporary … Continue reading

Shot in the Dark

How Adrian Grenier Found Dad Again Michael Venables Image: HBO Home Video The film Shot in the Dark was originally released in 2002, and was released on DVD in June of this year by HBO Documentary Films. The documentary is directed by and also stars Adrian Grenier. So, “Does a father really matter?” In 2001, … Continue reading

Cordless Drills Deliver Builder Brawn in Nimble Packages

Roundups· $180 to $240 Reviewed by Grayson Schaffer Photo: Jens Mortensen An 18-volt cordless drill is the go-to power tool for pro builders. The latest models use ultralight lithium-ion batteries and compact designs to put all that construction-site brawn in a nimble, home-size package. 1. Milwaukee M18 2601-22 Engineered with homeowners and backyard carpenters in … Continue reading

What Would You Do With 80 Million Pixels?

by Jon Snyder Cameras are like paintbrushes — they’re just creative tools with no inherent magical powers. No amount of megapixels or sexy German lenses will make you a better photographer. But you can certainly make some pretty badass pictures with a $50,000 paintbrush. Meet the IQ180, the new digital back from Phase One, a … Continue reading

iPad 2 Reviews

By Brian X. Chen The Smart Cover is an optional $40-$70 accessory, and it partly addresses one of the iPad’s key weaknesses: It’s not very easy to type on the device for long periods of time. Photo: Jon Snyder/ The iPad 2 is a stellar upgrade, even though the tablet’s low-quality cameras leave a lot … Continue reading

Sam Harris’s Guide to Nearly Everything

Scott Atran FOR SAM Harris morality is “an un-developed branch of science” that is all about separating lies from truth. Evil stems from lies, willfully blind to facts and reason. Good comes from rational, evidence-based standards for debunking lies and evaluating truths about the human condition. In this worldview, “Only a rational understanding of human … Continue reading

Orgasm Inc. Probes Pleasure Profiteering

By Scott Thill Indie sex-and-science documentary Orgasm Inc. deftly deflates the pharmaceutical industry’s hunt for a lucrative cure to female sexual dysfunction. Fresh from a decorated festival run, Liz Canner’s movie digs into the fake disorder, also called female sexual arousal disorder, as well as the latest attempts to turn feminine sexuality into a treatable … Continue reading

Scholars of the World Unite!

Anthony Grafton  Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It SINCE THE Reagan years, academics and journalists have scarified the American university again and again. Allan Bloom, that well-known advocate of classical education, drew up one of the first bills of particulars in his Closing … Continue reading

What is Mental Illness?

By Ferris Jabr  What Is Mental Illness? by Richard J. McNally. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011 When a breakup is one-sided, the rejected party’s behavior and mental state often change dramatically. A veil falls upon the world. Sleep becomes elusive. Food and sex are suddenly strangers to pleasure. Concentration dwindles to a rare … Continue reading

For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage

By Jonathan Liu Half of marriages end in divorce—true or false? False, as it turns out. The actual divorce rate is much lower—for college graduates married in the 1990s, it’s about 16%, a far cry from the 50% touted by conventional wisdom. As you’ve probably learned, conventional wisdom is often wrong about a lot of … Continue reading

A Sioux War Chief and His Many Enemies

By ROBERT M. UTLEY  Corbis The Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota’s Black Hills The Lakota Siouxwar chief Crazy Horse now lives in legend—as he did among his own people years before his death in 1877. He was the "strange man of the Oglalas," painting his body and horse in unorthodox patterns yet rarely fighting … Continue reading

Special Ops Watch Is Prepared to Deploy for Any Mission

MTM Special Ops Vulture Watch – $1,100 Reviewed by Michael S. Lasky  Originally developed exclusively for the U.S. Special Forces (yes!) and other military and law enforcement units, the MTM Special Ops watch is forged from a single block of aeronautical-grade titanium. So, despite its bulky size, the Vulture is surprisingly light. The torture-compliant exterior … Continue reading

Fate, Time and Language

Review by Anthony Gottlieb Fate, Time and Language: An Essay on Free Will, by David Foster Wallace, Columbia University Press, RRP$19.95, 252 pages … Philosophers have long enjoyed trying to work out what exactly is wrong with fatalism. In the first century BC, Cicero reported a riddle, nicknamed “the Lazy Argument”, which goes as follows. … Continue reading

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Lydia Davis’s new translation of Madame Bovary captures for the first time in English the powerfully filmic aspect of Flaubert’s narrative Nick Fraser  American short-story writer Lydia Davis spent three years translating Madame Bovary. Photograph: Theo Cote There is no Shakespeare in French literature, and Hugo and Balzac don’t quite fit the bill. My mother … Continue reading

The Art of Struggle by Michel Houellebecq

There’s a mordant humour at play in Michel Houellebecq’s poetry, says Paul Batchelor Illustration: Clifford Harper/ Depression is poet’s flu: we all get it sooner or later. Michel Houellebecq is unusual in that he has brought the black dog indoors and put it to work. In his fiction, Houellebecq unashamedly projects his depression on to … Continue reading

La carte et le territoire by Michel Houellebecq

George Walden detects signs of mellowing in this impressive novel by French literature’s most famous provocateur  Sunday 10 October 2010 Michel Houellebecq. Photograph: Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images "The writer whose works the Goncourt judges handle with their fingertips, fearful of dirtying their hands", as a critic on Le Monde has put it, is in the process … Continue reading

Toward the Sanitarium: Walser’s Microscripts

A Clairvoyant of the Small By George Fragopoulos The Microscripts by Robert Walser (trans. Susan Bernofsky). New Directions. 160pp, $24.95.   What do we make of a writer’s hand, that place where interior thoughts become an exterior expression? A writer’s work always waits there—on the fingertips poised anxiously, waiting for the hand to move into action. … Continue reading

The Tanners by Robert Walser

by Scott Esposito The TannersRobert Walser (trans. Susan Bernofsky). New Directions. 360pp, $15.95.   It is the mark of a novel’s necessity when it hangs so strongly together, feels so absolutely essential in every last, smallest chunk, despite the fact that it offers the reader very little of what is generally construed as novelistic. In … Continue reading

Logitech F540 Wireless Headset

By Curtis Silver Overall, the Logitech F540 Wireless Headset presents sound to your ears in a crisp, clear way that gives a true home theater feel if there was no ambient noise in the room. Personally, I think they are worth the price just for the soundtrack in Halo: Reach. Every tiny bit of the … Continue reading

O Captain, Our Captain

George Washington was a genius and a titan, but it was politics, not war, at which he excelled By ANDREW ROBERTS It was said of Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck that he was the subtle son of his feline mother posing all his life as his heavy, portentous father. Similarly, the George Washington who emerges … Continue reading

The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy

reviewed by Michael Dirda (Courtesy Of Harper – Courtesy Of Harper) THE DIARIES OF SOFIA TOLSTOY Translated from the Russian by Cathy Porter Harper Perennial. 607 pp. Paperback, $16.99 So you think you have an unhappy marriage? On Oct. 8, 1862, just two weeks after she wed the 34-year-old novelist Leo Tolstoy, the former Sofia … Continue reading

The Twenty-Four Hour Mind

By Nicole Branan The Twenty-Four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives by Rosalind Cartwright. Oxford University Press, 2010 Less than six hours of nightly sleep can lead to obesity and even death, but sleep plays an equally important role in regulating our emotions. In The Twenty-Four Hour Mind psychologist … Continue reading

Charlie Rose–Brain Series

By Melinda Wenner Moyer  Charlie Rose Brain Series DVD (free online) Wouldn’t it be great if you could eavesdrop on conversations between some of the greatest brain scientists in the world? Now you can, thanks to veteran television journalist Charlie Rose. In his 13-part series on the brain, which premiered in October 2009 and … Continue reading