The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, May 27, 2005  

Just One. You Can Count (on) It.

For reasons both obvious (Martin Peretz, Andrew Sullivan, Fouad Ajami, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan . . . ) and not, I no longer subscribe to the New Republic, but now and then, out of a morbid curiosity, I’ll flip through the latest issues when visiting the public library, as I did earlier this week.

Others who have abandoned the book can rest assured little has changed, and that TNR is maintaining its average: The magazine features at most one interesting article per issue. (Exceptions may be made for the “back of the book” as an imaginary stand-alone operation.)

Caveat aside, I can confidently recommend two articles to those with access to the magazine, whether in print or on the web.

The first is “Writers’ Bloc,” by Franklin Foer in the May 16 issue, about the all-too-cozy relationship of right-wing journalists, pundits, and think-tankers to corrupted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients. Pulling from the web site, the article begins:

In August 1997, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay traveled to Russia in the company of his frequent companion, the now-infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff. For six days, he huddled with government ministers and oil executives and golfed at the Moscow Country Club. Any pleasant memories of this tour of post-communist prosperity, however, have surely vanished. The trip now threatens the Texan’s political career and has placed Abramoff at the center of congressional inquiries. DeLay, though, was not the only prominent conservative to see Russia the Abramoff way. Two months before DeLay touched down there, Abramoff’s firm shepherded a contingent of Washington journalists and thinkers around Moscow -- an itinerary of meetings and meals designed to please the trip’s funder, a Russian energy concern called NaftaSib. This journey included Tod Lindberg, then-editor of [t]he Washington Times editorial page; Insight magazine’s James Lucier; and Erica Tuttle, [t]he National Interest’s assistant managing editor at the time.

The second article of note is “The Bookless Future,” by David A. Bell (May 2), about the effects of the internet on scholarship, scholarly publishing, and reading generally:

It is late at night, and I am at home, in my study, doing research for a book on the culture of war in Napoleonic Europe. In an old and dreary secondary source, I find an intriguing but fragmentary quotation from a newspaper that was briefly published in French-occupied Italy in the late 1790s. I want to read the entire article from which it came. As little as five years ago, doing this would have required a forty-mile trip from my home in Baltimore to the Library of Congress and some tedious wrestling with a microfiche machine. But now I step over to my computer, open up Internet Explorer, and click to the “digital library” of the French National Library. A few more clicks, and a facsimile copy of the newspaper issue in question is zooming out of my printer. Total time elapsed: two minutes.

Good stuff when they can get it.

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