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NOV. 7, 2016


NOVEMBER 7, 2016

4 GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN 15 THE TALK OF THE TOWN

Amy Davidson on the WikiLeaks e-mails; Hindus for Trump; Laura Dern; a shelter in Paris; James Surowiecki on the fate of the C.E.O. PERSONAL HISTORY

Dianne Belfrey

20

Adrift A Brooklyn love story.

Megan Amram

27

Trump’s American Girl Dolls

Jiayang Fan

28

The Emperor’s New Museum The largest private art collection in China.

Kelefa Sanneh

34

The Moral Minority An anti-Trump pastor in a pro-Trump church.

Barry Blitt

44

“A Little Context, Please!”

Rebecca Mead

46

Lost Time When Kenneth Lonergan took on Hollywood.

T. Coraghessan Boyle

56

“Are We Not Men?”

SHOUTS & MURMURS

LETTER FROM SHANGHAI

ANNALS OF RELIGION

SKETCHBOOK

ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS

FICTION

THE CRITICS ON TELEVISION

Emily Nussbaum

64

The unlikely feminist of Fox News.

Caleb Crain Joshua Rothman

67 71 72

The case against democracy. Briefly Noted Your neighbor the Trump supporter.

Alex Ross

76

Rossini’s “William Tell” at the Met.

Peter Schjeldahl

78

Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer.

Hilton Als

80

Gay reflections on the stage.

Anthony Lane

82

“Hacksaw Ridge,” “Loving.”

Ocean Vuong Adrienne Su

51 61

BOOKS

MUSICAL EVENTS

THE ART WORLD

THE THEATRE

THE CURRENT CINEMA

POEMS

“Scavengers” “The Lazy Susan” COVER

Bruce McCall

“Glass Houses”

DRAWINGS Paul Noth, Edward Steed, John Klossner, Will McPhail, Seth Fleishman, Drew Dernavich, Ken Krimstein, Harry Bliss, Tom Toro, Peter Kuper, P. C. Vey, Roz Chast, Tom Cheney, David Sipress, William Haefeli, Michael Crawford, Jack Ziegler SPOTS Christoph Abbrederis THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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CONTRIBUTORS Kelefa Sanneh (“The Moral Minority,”

Emily Nussbaum (On Television, p. 64) won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for criticism. She has been the magazine’s television critic since 2011.

Caleb Crain (Books, p. 67) writes fiction

Amy Davidson (Comment, p. 15), a staf

and nonfiction. “Necessary Errors” is his first novel.

p. 34) is a staf writer.

writer, is a regular contributor to Comment. She also writes a column for newyorker.com.

Dianne Belfrey (“Adrift,” p. 20) is a mem-

Jiayang Fan (“The Emperor’s New Mu-

Adrienne Su (Poem, p. 61) has pub-

seum,” p. 28) became a New Yorker staf writer earlier this year.

lished four books of poems, including, most recently, “Living Quarters.” She teaches at Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania.

Lauren Collins (The Talk of the Town,

p. 18) is the author of “When in French: Love in a Second Language,” which was published in September.

ber of the magazine’s editorial staf.

T. Coraghessan Boyle (Fiction, p. 56) is

the author of sixteen novels, including “The Terranauts,” which came out in October.

Rebecca Mead (“Lost Time,” p. 46) has been a staf writer since 1997. “My Life in Middlemarch” is her latest book.

Joshua Rothman (Books, p. 72), the mag-

Megan Amram (Shouts & Murmurs,

azine’s archive editor, often writes about culture for newyorker.com.

p. 27), the author of the humor book “Science . . . for Her!,” is currently writing for the television shows “The Good Place” and “Transparent.”

Bruce McCall (Cover) is working on an illustrated book about creativity. “Marveltown” is one of his many books.

INTERACTIVE

Where should you go to eat after a morning at the Met? Let our handy map be your guide.

VIDEO Our new series covering arts and culture events—like Lady Bunny’s racy show at the Stonewall Inn.

SUBSCRIBERS: Get access to our magazine app for tablets and smartphones at the

App Store, Amazon.com, or Google Play. (Access varies by location and device.) 2

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

JAMES POMERANTZ (PHOTOGRAPH); EMILY RHYNE

GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN ONLINE Our guide to the city’s best in culture, at newyorker.com/go.


THE MAIL AMERICAN UTOPIAS

Akash Kapur’s essay on utopias and the recent spate of books that focus on them felt strikingly relevant, despite the fact that the whole notion of utopia is predicated on its rarity (“Couldn’t Be Better,” October 3rd). The question the piece inspired in me was whether America itself is a utopia. Founded on the dreams of the dispossessed, in many ways it is. Democracy is, after all, just a theory, adapted and adopted from past civilizations, most notably Greece and Rome. It was molded by religious fundamentalists, the early colonists, who were fed up with the loose interpretation of Protestantism by the Church of England and sailed across the Atlantic to have it their own way. This year, the cracks and fissures in the American experiment have become more visible, thanks to angry rhetoric and finger-pointing. Opinions still vary about whether the country ever had a singular identity to begin with. Alexis de Tocqueville described early America as a curiosity—a fascinating and fragile venture. Perhaps we need to be reminded of that, in spite of the fear-mongering that has brought it to our attention. Martin L. Jacobs Venice Beach, Calif. Kapur wonders how utopian movements of the past might “ofer guidance for a grand new moment of social reform.” But he does not adequately consider America’s most radical, widespread, and influential utopian moment: the communal back-tothe- land movement of the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Between 1967 and 1975, in particular, thousands of utopian experiments sprang up nationwide. Like utopian experiments in earlier eras, most folded quickly, but the movement had a profound influence on today’s world. Its idealistic participants and their cultural descendants are the driving force behind everything from the organic

farmers’ market kale you had for lunch to municipal recycling and composting programs. There’s a tendency to imagine that, when a utopia “fails,” the ideals of its participants vanish, too. Most utopians of the seventies retreated not into cynicism, as the cynical story often goes, but into practicality, with their ideals intact. Many moved away from free love and communal households and embraced the nuclear family, but they kept working as organic farmers, social-justice activists, and environmentalists. Forty years on, we’re only just starting to recognize the profound impact of their shift from the utopian to the practical. As Kapur puts it, this “is not a path for the impatient, but it has the verdict of history on its side.” Kate Daloz Brooklyn, N.Y. I was struck by Kapur’s thesis that utopians had been seeking an interruption of “what may seem like the ineluctable march of history.” Although this may have been the case for the architects of the small-scale intentional communities he writes about, it was for the opposite reason that some of history’s grander utopian projects—like Communism— were so avowedly anti-human. Utopians had a tendency to believe that the society they were crafting would actually be the final product of the ineluctable march of history. The ultimate destination was the only thing that mattered; human lives couldn’t alter it. The fundamental inhumanity of the journey toward utopia is that one must cross rivers of blood to reach it, yet the destination remains stubbornly out of reach. George Tomlinson Aarhus, Denmark

• Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number via e-mail to themail@newyorker.com. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. We regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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NOVEMBER 2 – 8, 2016

GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN

The love that the sensational Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga share as Richard and Mildred Loving, in the director Jef Nichols’s astonishing “Loving,” is palpable, and it frames the landmark 1967 case that nullified laws banning interracial marriage. This intimate movie, like the current film “Moonlight,” paves the way for a new kind of American cinema—serious but not ideological, and reflective of the diversity that has always gone into the making of that complicated character otherwise known as America. PHOTOGRAPH BY GRAEME MITCHELL


NIGHT LIFE 1 New and Improved

ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPH NIEMANN

Goings On About Town gets a new look online.

Goings On About Town has been part of The New Yorker since Harold Ross produced the first issue of the magazine, in February, 1925. For a time, Goings On was subtitled “A Conscientious Calendar of Events Worth While”—and that’s still exactly what it is. The section was conceived as a compendium of witty, incisive commentary on the best of New York City’s cultural offerings. To this day, Goings On continues its tradition of astute, snappy previews and critical reviews of theatre, art, classical music, rock, pop, jazz, cabaret, dance, movies, restaurants, and bars—and, in Above & Beyond, the quirkier events around town that are difficult to categorize, and all the more intriguing for it. The New Yorker remains one of the few publications to cover the breadth of the city’s cultural events in detail, with scores of comprehensive reviews. And, since technology has dramatically altered the way we get our information, we’re launching a completely redesigned Goings On About Town section, retooled and streamlined for optimal viewing on desktop computers as well as on mobile devices. We think this will do a better job of bringing our dynamic content to your fingertips—and helping you decide which real-world experiences are worth turning from your devices for. New features include a revolving display of spotlight articles curated by Goings On editors, grids of listings based on category, a Goings On About Town video series, and an interactive map of events, navigated by category or by neighborhood. Sign up for the new Goings On newsletter to receive editors’ lists of where to go and what to do. With an eye toward both tradition and the cutting edge, Goings On About Town is timed to inform the reader about all the great stuff happening just around the corner, but it’s much more than a calendar of events—it’s an arts primer and a piquant snapshot of the day’s culture scene. We invite you to check out the new Goings On About Town online. —David Remnick

ROCK AND POP Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it’s advisable to check in advance to conirm engagements.

Beach House The surprise album drop, having become a standard of popular music, is taken one step further by some more ambitious camps, such as the Baltimore dream-pop mainstays Beach House. Last year, the duo unveiled their beguiling fifth album, “Depression Cherry,” and, less than two months later, followed it with another winsome collection of songs, titled “Thank Your Lucky Stars.” Don’t let the group’s rapid-fire release schedule fool you, however—they spend ample time finetuning the harmonious interplay between twinkling guitars, synthesizer-driven soundscapes, and Victoria Legrand’s spine-tingling vocals, never dictating too strictly where a song may go next. “Trance is a big part of our thing,” the multiinstrumentalist Alex Scally told Pitchfork last year. “A trance-y energy is how we write, and it’s not a drug thing. We’ll repeat a part for three hours while we wait for the next piece to fall into place.” At this Kings Theatre performance, audiences will be entranced by a career-spanning set of the pair’s beloved cuts. (1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn. 800-745-3000. Nov. 3.) Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival The irony of an electronic-music festival in Brooklyn addressing gentrification is ripe for parody. The New York native Frankie Bones brought rave culture to the boroughs in 1991, when he held his first Storm Rave in Flatbush; the neighborhood remained more or less the same after the party was over, up to around nine years ago. If the panels billed alongside this two-weekend festival—now in its ninth year—allow for self-reflection, they might include a discussion of how such scenes of leisure have altered the working-class communities they’ve infiltrated. But if dancing’s more your thing it’s as good a chance as any to hear Benji B, FaltyDL, Silent Servant, Chino Amobi, and others play excellent club sets. (Various locations. brooklynemf.com. Nov. 4-13.) Forma One of the more urbane groups to emerge from the Brooklyn underground, this analog synth act has traditionally crafted minimal kraut instrumentals that could pass for the soundtrack to a vintage episode of “Nova.” But on their new album, “Physicalist,” presented as a sumptuous double LP by the Chicago label Kranky, the trio veers between classic krautrock and sonic territory generally associated with the New Age movement. The first half of the record features the buttery arpeggiated synthesizers and pulsing drum machines that Forma is known for, but as the record advances listeners are treated to soothing psychedelic drones and a piano composition reminiscent of the early-twentieth-century spiritualist and composer G. I. Gurdjieff. That’s no reason to be intimidated; this is perhaps the most dinnerparty-friendly electronic music released all year, and you’d be smart to join Forma this week as they support the longtime New York psychedelic elec-

tronic group Silver Apples. (Good Room, 98 Meserole Ave., Brooklyn. 718-349-2373. Nov. 2.)

Porches In New York, there’s a form of depression that may be cured only by a long sulk around town. These aimless strolls demand a soundtrack by someone who’s walked the same pavement—say, Arthur Russell’s outsider melancholia on “World of Echo,” or the more dejected corners of Lou Reed’s solo oeuvre. Porches, the brainchild of Aaron Maine, has joined this storied lineage. The depths of introspection in his downcast pop are softened by occasional nods to New York dance music; you can almost hear Maine swatting away the stray hand claps and disco cowbells on a new song, “Mood,” with his morose lyrics, “I don’t know what I’d do, but I don’t want to be here.” He performs at this wooden-walled venue attached to the Greenpoint Polish National Home. (Warsaw, 261 Driggs Ave., Brooklyn. 718-387-0505. Nov. 3.)

1 JAZZ AND STANDARDS Ann Hampton Callaway Her acclaimed 2014 album, “From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project,” paid tribute to a major influence, but the veteran vocalist is resolutely her own woman. Getting a jump start on the holidays, Callaway has just released “The Hope of Christmas,” which includes examples of her original songwriting, another personal passion. (Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. 212-581-3080. Nov. 1-5.) Chick Corea Corea’s Three Quartets band harks back to his 1981 classical-jazz-fusion recording of the same name, which featured the saxophonist Michael Brecker, who died in 2007. His replacement is Ben Solomon, but the original rhythm team of the drummer Steve Gadd and the bassist Eddie Gomez is still intact. The week concludes with Corea’s Leprechaun band, which expands the earlier quartet with the inclusion of additional horns and Corea’s wife, Gayle Moran, on vocals. (Blue Note, 131 W. 3rd St. 212-475-8592. Nov. 2-5.) Charlie Haden Jazz Liberation Orchestra Haden, the master bassist and openhearted jazz spirit, died in 2014, but his Jazz Liberation Orchestra lives on under the direction of his invaluable collaborator, the composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist Carla Bley. The band’s deeply expressive new album, “Time/Life” (featuring two live recordings with Haden in tow), showcases the exhilarating soloists who strengthen the core of this still vital ensemble. (Jazz Standard, 116 E. 27th St. 212-576-2232. Nov. 3-6.) Renee Rosnes As demonstrated on her current “Written on the Rocks” recording, composition has become as important as instrumental invention for Rosnes, a gifted pianist, who, after paying dues with such titanic modernists as Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, has stepped firmly into the role of assured bandleader. She’s joined by such key collaborators as the vibraphonist Steve Nelson and the bassist Peter Washington. (Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Ave. S., at 11th St. 212-255-4037. Nov. 1-6.) THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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ART

Labor Intensive The art of work, at the Queens Museum. near the top of the list of inspired manifestos—Futurism, Dada, De Stijl— is Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s littleknown “Maintenance Art.” As a firsttime mother in 1969, she grew frustrated by the schism between her domestic life, with its boredoms and joys, and her identity as a New York artist. (She later said, “I learned that Jackson [Pollock], Marcel [Duchamp] and Mark [Rothko] didn’t change diapers.”) She channelled her feelings in four typewritten pages, pointing out a double standard; namely, that repetition and systems were considered rigorous in the context of the avant-garde, but dismissed as drudgery when it came to maintenance workers or housewives. One choice excerpt: “After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?” The manifesto is currently framed on a wall at the Queens Museum, where it introduces a revelatory survey of Ukeles’s five-decade career. (Also on view are 6

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

sculptures, drawings, photographs, installations, studies for unrealized projects, and a deluge of documentation.) For maximum impact, visit the show on a Saturday, when a mirror-covered New York City garbage truck is parked, during museum hours, between the east side of the building and the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The vehicle is also an art work—what Duchamp would have called an “assisted readymade”—embellished by Ukeles in 1983, with the help of the New York City Department of Sanitation, where she has been the oicial (and unpaid) artist-inresidence since 1977. In 1976, Ukeles invited three hundred custodial workers in one Wall Street building to dedicate an hour of their eight-hour shifts to perform their duties as art, instead of as labor. (The Polaroids she took of the participants fill an impressive wall of the museum in Queens.) New York had just skirted bankruptcy, and an art critic joked in the Village Voice that the sanitation department might secure some fresh funding if it got in on the conceptual

act. Ukeles liked the idea and proposed the residency to its commissioner. Against all odds, he agreed. In 1979, Ukeles undertook her most radical project, “Touch Sanitation,” an elevenmonth-long ritual during which she shook hands with eighty-five hundred “san men” across the five boroughs, thanking each one for his service. In the most moving section of her retrospective, L.E.D. lights illuminate her route around the museum’s Panorama of the City of New York, like diligent fireflies. Ukeles isn’t as well known as she deserves to be, but fifty years of her near-devotional eforts to dignify labor that most people see as undignified— if they deign to see it at all—has been influential. When Rachel Harrison photographed the maintenance door to Duchamp’s tableau “Étant Donnés” for her 2012 series “The Help,” or when Nina Katchadourian interviewed an art handler for her new audio tour about dust at MOMA, they became Ukeles’s heirs. —Andrea K. Scott

COURTESY THE ARTIST/RONALD FELDMAN FINE ARTS

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, with two unidentified workers, in “Touch Sanitation Performance,” which took eleven months, beginning in July, 1979.


ART

1 MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES Morgan Library & Museum “Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will” The English writer’s personal effects, correspondence, and original manuscripts take on the significance of religious relics in this beautiful exhibition, mounted two centuries after her birth. The show commemorates more than Brontë’s enormous talent as the author of the enduring “Jane Eyre,” first published in 1847—it celebrates her unprecedented success at a time when opportunities for women were sharply constrained. (Charlotte and her equally brilliant sisters, Emily and Anne, initially published under male noms de plume.) The Victorian diminishment of female intellect is dramatized by one of the author’s tiny dresses, with its cinched waist and demure blue floral print, stationed near the gallery’s entrance. Smallness is a recurring theme: magnifying glasses are provided to read the microscopic script of Brontë’s early writings, such as a doll-size illustrated storybook she made when she was twelve for the younger Anne. This concise show strikes a balance between indulging fans with Brontëana (Charlotte’s compact paint box and portable writing desk are also on view) and charting the evolution of an isolated writer’s imagination, from early satirical tales of mythic lands to the keenly observed and uncorseted prose of her mature work. Through Jan. 2.

1 GALLERIES—CHELSEA Tetsumi Kudo More than twenty of the Japanese sculptor’s busy, candy-colored birdcages are arranged

around the gallery on bleacherlike displays. At first glance, some appear to contain toy or taxidermied parakeets and canaries; on closer look, their contents are even stranger. Flaccid phalluses with caterpillar spikes in pastel hues hang out in the tangerine prison of “Prehistoric Monster in the Cage and People Who Are Looking at It,” a sculpture from 1971. Kudo, who died in 1990, was a key figure in the Japanese antiart movement of the fifties and sixties; he harnessed the saccharine delights of consumer culture in order to mirror its perversity. Electronic circuitry, kitchen gadgets, fake flowers, and other fodder for landfill join cast-resin body parts in the bright indictments here. In several, floating faces appear, as if in repose or meditation—whether they have turned on, tuned in, or simply dropped out is left to the viewer to guess. Through Nov. 16. (Rosen, 525 W. 24th St. 212-627-6000.)

1 GALLERIES—DOWNTOWN Ree Morton Three very different solo shows inaugurate the gallery’s spacious new Tribeca location, but the idiosyncratic post-minimalist Ree Morton, who died at age forty in 1977, takes center stage. Her hybrid handmade works— painting and sculpture are one and the same here—fill the ground floor with restless energy. “For Kate,” produced in 1976, bursts from a corner, its cavalierly painted streamers and roses evoking a festive trifecta: embroidery, valentines, and a birthday cake. Morton’s incorporation of girlish crafts into her decidedly

THE THEATRE 1 OPENINGS AND PREVIEWS A Bronx Tale Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks co-direct a musical adaptation of Chazz Palminteri’s semiautobiographical one-man show, set in his native borough in the sixties and featuring a doo-wop score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. (Longacre, 220 W. 48th St. 212-239-6200. Previews begin Nov. 3.) Dead Poets Society Jason Sudeikis plays a nonconformist teacher at an all-boys school, in Tom Schulman’s adaptation of his screenplay for the 1989 film, directed by John Doyle. (Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St. 866-811-4111. In previews.) Finian’s Rainbow Melissa Errico stars in the 1947 musical, about an Irish father and daughter who escape to the Jim Crow South after stealing a pot of gold from a leprechaun. (Irish Repertory, 132 W. 22nd St. 212727-2737. In previews. Opens Nov. 6.) Homos, or Everyone in America Robin De Jesús and Michael Urie portray a couple whose life is complicated by a violent crime in Jordan Seavey’s play, directed by Mike Donahue for Labyrinth Theatre Company. (Bank Street Theatre, 155 Bank St. 212-513-1080. In previews. Opens Nov. 6.)

Kings of War At the Next Wave Festival, Ivo van Hove (“The Crucible”) stages a mashup of Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” “Henry VI,” Parts 1, 2, and 3, and “Richard III,” set in a modern war room and performed in Dutch, with English supertitles. (BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn. 718-636-4100. Nov. 3-6.) “Master Harold” . . . and the Boys Athol Fugard directs his 1982 drama, set in a tea shop in South Africa in 1950, where two black men and a white boy face the cruelties of apartheid. (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. 212-244-7529. In previews. Opens Nov. 7.) Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 Josh Groban and Denée Benton star in Dave Malloy’s electro-pop adaptation of a section of “War and Peace.” Rachel Chavkin directs the immersive production, which originated at Ars Nova. (Imperial, 249 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200. In previews.) Notes from the Field Anna Deavere Smith’s new solo work, based on more than two hundred and fifty interviews, examines issues of education, inequality, and criminal justice. (Second Stage, 305 W. 43rd St. 212-2464422. Opens Nov. 2.) Party People The Universes ensemble stages this piece about the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, based

conceptual practice is not without irony, but unabashed sensuality and refreshing sincerity rule. Downstairs, Mark Morrisroe’s sulky nudes and still-lifes from the early eighties— the photographer died in 1989, at the age of thirty—are smudged windows into his queerpunk demimonde. Willie Doherty’s video installation “Passage,” from 2006, adds a note of intensity, as two men walk toward one another at night with a freeway’s roar providing the soundtrack to their fleeting encounter. Through Dec. 22. (Alexander and Bonin, 47 Walker St. 212-367-7474.)

1 GALLERIES—BROOKLYN Evan Whale Making his New York solo début in an artistrun space in the garden level of a Clinton Hill brownstone that’s only open to the public on Saturdays, the young photographer pairs jittery abstractions with pictures he took while hiking near earthquake-monitoring points in L.A. and later manipulated, using razor blades and wire brushes. (The resulting lines evoke seismograph readings.) His technique may owe a debt to Marco Breuer, but Whale achieves elegant effects, particularly in his abstract images, which suggest veils of fabric and slivers of agate. Where Breuer is principally concerned with formal innovation, Whale dives deeper. The show’s title, “I Heard, As It Were, the Noise of Thunder,” is taken from the Book of Revelation, suggesting nature’s sublime indifference to our fate. Through Nov. 5. (321 Gallery, 321 Washington Ave. 718-930-0493.) on interviews with veterans of the revolutionary groups and directed by Liesl Tommy. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555. In previews.)

The Servant of Two Masters Theatre for a New Audience presents the 1745 Carlo Goldoni comedy, directed by Christopher Bayes and featuring Steven Epp as Truffaldino, the doubledipping servant. (Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn. 866-811-4111. Previews begin Nov. 6.) Sweat Kate Whoriskey directs a new play by Lynn Nottage, about a group of friends from an assembly line who find themselves at odds amid layoffs and pickets. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555. In previews. Opens Nov. 3.) Sweet Charity Sutton Foster stars as a dance-hall hostess in the New Group’s revival of the 1966 musical, by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Dorothy Fields. Leigh Silverman directs. (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. 212-279-4200. In previews.) This Day Forward Mark Brokaw directs a new play by Nicky Silver (“The Lyons”), in which a wife’s confession in a honeymoon suite has ramifications fifty years later. (Vineyard, 108 E. 15th St. 212-353-0303. Previews begin Nov. 3.) Women of a Certain Age Richard Nelson’s three-part cycle “The Gabriels,” which charts the current political year in the life of a Rhinebeck family, concludes with a play opening on and set on Election Night. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555. Previews begin Nov. 4. Opens Nov. 8.) THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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THE THEATRE

1 NOW PLAYING The Harvest Tom (Gideon Glick), a fervent young Christian about to leave his raggedy church basement in Idaho to spread the word in the Middle East, is the son of a pastor named Chuck (Scott Jaeck), who loves the Lord because He sets you free from your body. His friend Josh (Peter Mark Kendall) would like nothing more than to be free—from his desire for Tom, from his history, and from his sister, Michaela (Leah Karpel), a former junkie and nonbeliever who wants to love him but isn’t trustworthy. Josh’s family of church-basement apostles is the only one he can cling to, and his and Tom’s repressed love is the only kind he has ever known. Directed with clarity by Davis McCallum, Samuel D. Hunter’s play (at LCT3) is a strange and powerful one, illustrating the eros underlying belief and the way that repression can work on the mind and cripple the soul. (Claire Tow, 150 W. 65th St. 212-239-6200.) Plenty The real problem with this revival of David Hare’s 1978 play, directed by David Leveaux, is the play itself. The bright, beautiful, and risk-taking star Rachel Weisz plays Susan Traherne, a woman who can’t get over her past as a British freedom fighter during the Second World War or reconcile herself to postwar doldrums and conventionality. Weisz is in every scene, and she charges all her moments with a combination of madness and hope. As her husband, Raymond, a diplomat who tries to fight the chaos his wife insists on, Corey Stoll is very sexy, but the rest of the cast feels diminished by his power, and Weisz’s. One wonders how much of the politics that concerned Hare in 1978 even matter to an American audience now. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555.) Two Class Acts A. R. Gurney’s new one-act plays, presented separately under an umbrella name, give the Socra-

tic method a workout. In the two-hander “Ajax,” a female adjunct allows a cocky male student to hijack her intro class on Greek theatre when he rewrites a Sophocles tragedy as a contemporary P.T.S.D. tale. Too bad the classroom setting is so unrealistic; “Ajax” would work better framed as a tutorial. What’s worse is that Gurney paints the teacher as a docile nincompoop, preventing a balanced dialectic and undermining whatever point he is trying to make. Set in 1977, “Squash” follows a buff undergrad’s coaxing of an equally buff classics professor’s sexual awakening. Rodney Richardson and Dan Amboyer (from TV’s “Younger”) engage in convincingly awkward flirting, but in the end the heterosexual status quo triumphs, and the other options are casually tossed out like so many discarded electives. (Flea, 41 White St. 212-352-3101.)

Vietgone This gleefully salacious quasi-musical could be seen as a fascinating companion piece to the novel “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. Each begins with the fall of Saigon and follows its Vietnamese protagonists to refugee limbo in America, and each feels like a decades-overdue corrective of American obliviousness to Vietnamese people in particular and a purge of American horseshit about Asian people in general. But only this play boasts an eye-popping comic-book aesthetic, a physics-defying five-way fistfight, and several foulmouthed rap ballads. The playwright Qui Nguyen based his delightfully gonzo script on the true story of his parents’ escape from Vietnam, and it’s hard to think of an instance where a writer has tackled his parents’ courtship more vividly, outrageously, and hilariously. The whole Manhattan Theatre Club production, from its outstanding ensemble to its resourceful director, May Adrales, is in perfect synch with Nguyen’s deranged yet heartfelt vision. (City Center Stage I, 131 W. 55th St. 212-581-1212.)

CLASSICAL MUSIC 1 OPERA Metropolitan Opera If the punishing role of Arnold is the No. 1 reason that opera companies avoid Rossini’s magnum opus, “Guillaume Tell,” then they no longer have an excuse, thanks to the American tenor Bryan Hymel, whose trumpetlike sound cuts through the orchestra with jaw-dropping brilliance. The rest of the cast— Gerald Finley (an eloquent Tell), Marina Rebeka (an exquisitely shaded Mathilde), Janai Brugger (a pure Jemmy), and John Relyea (an inky-voiced Gesler)—maintain Hymel’s high level. Fabio Luisi’s conducting is vibrant and dramatically alert, and Pierre Audi’s production stays safely out of the way, with cleverly minimalist settings, pretty backdrops, and stylish costumes. Nov. 2 at 6:30 and Nov. 5 at 7. • Also playing: During the Met’s Joseph Volpe era, Karita Mattila was a leading prima donna, racking up a string of successes in some of the most challenging repertory for sopranos, including the title role of Janáček’s searing drama “Jenůfa.” Now she takes on the scene-stealing role of Jenůfa’s intimidating stepmother, the Kostelnička, in a cast that also includes Joseph Kaiser, Daniel Brenna, and Oksana Dyka, as Jenůfa; David Robertson conducts. 8

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

Nov. 3 and Nov. 7 at 8. • This week’s performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” features Ildar Abdrazakov, Malin Byström, Amanda Majeski, Nadine Sierra, Paul Appleby, and Matthew Rose in the leading roles; Fabio Luisi. Nov. 4 at 8. • Verdi’s grand “Aida” returns to the house, with Marco Armiliato conducting and Liudmyla Monastyrska, Marco Berti, and Ekaterina Gubanova in the leading roles. Nov. 5 at noon. (Metropolitan Opera House. 212-362-6000.)

Wilderness Following up on “Basetrack Live,” the 2014 multimedia production that marked its re-formation, the company En Garde Arts presents another projection-heavy documentary show, this one exploring the experiences of six deeply troubled teenagers whose parents have enrolled them, in most cases against their will, in a months-long outdoor therapy program in the Utah desert. All six characters are based on actual participants in such a program, and, while their scenes are dramatized, the show makes frequent use of real Skype calls with the kids’ parents, which weave fluidly into the action. The result will be particularly meaningful, and possibly revelatory, to parents who have struggled with a child in crisis. But as theatre it feels too smoothed over, too uncritical of the program it describes, and too suffused with therapy talk to convey these kids’ awful inner battles in their full rawness and pain. (Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St. 212-352-3101.)

1 ALSO NOTABLE Chris Gethard: Career Suicide Lynn Redgrave. • Coriolanus Barrow Street Theatre. • Duat

Connelly. (Reviewed in this issue.) Through Nov. 6. • The Encounter Golden. • Falsettos Walter Kerr. (Reviewed in this issue.) • The Front Page Broadhurst. (Reviewed in this issue.) • Heisenberg Samuel J. Friedman. • Holiday Inn Studio 54. • Les Liaisons Dangereuses Booth. • A Life Playwrights Horizons. (Reviewed in this issue.) • Love, Love, Love Laura Pels. • Miles for Mary The Bushwick Starr. • Oh, Hello on Broadway Lyceum. • Othello: The Remix Westside. • The Roads to Home Cherry Lane. • Sell / Buy / Date City Center Stage II. • She Stoops to Conquer Clurman. Through Nov. 6. • Stuffed McGinn/Cazale. • Terms of Endearment 59E59. • Tick, Tick . . . Boom! Acorn. • Underground Railroad Game Ars Nova. • Verso New World Stages. from this week’s program; Manfred Honeck, the admired music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, replaces him. The program still features a work close to Mehta’s heart, however: “Rāgā-Mālā” (“Garland of Ragas”), the Concerto No. 2 for Sitar and Orchestra (1981), by Ravi Shankar, the player who did more than anyone else to bring his instrument to Western consciousness. (The soloist this time is no less than Anoushka Shankar, one of the Master’s children.) The program continues with an all too rare performance of a Haydn symphony (No. 93 in D Major) and concludes with Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished.” Nov. 3 at 7:30 and Nov. 4-5 at 8. (David Geffen Hall. 212-875-5656.)

“It’s A Wonderful Life” Jake Heggie, arguably opera’s most popular living composer, is adapting one of Hollywood’s most beloved holiday films for Houston Grand Opera, and the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” series offers an hour-long preview. The evening includes conversations with the opera’s creators and a handful of excerpts performed by Ailyn Pérez, Jonathan Blalock, and others, with the composer at the piano. Nov. 6 at 7:30. (Fifth Ave. at 89th St. 212-423-3575.)

Oratorio Society of New York Kent Tritle leads his impressive avocational chorus, a big group in the old tradition, in two masterworks at Carnegie Hall: Mozart’s “Great” Mass in C Minor and Bruckner’s “Te Deum.” Jennifer Zetlan, Helen Karloski, Alex Richardson, and Philip Cutlip are the vocal soloists. Nov. 3 at 8. (212-247-7800.)

1

New York Festival of Song The city’s indefatigable art-song devotees start the season with consecutive concerts. On Tuesday and Thursday, the program “Rodgers, Rodgers, and Guettel” honors one of the American musical’s most influential families, highlighting Richard Rodgers’s

ORCHESTRAS AND CHORUSES New York Philharmonic Illness has forced Zubin Mehta, the Philharmonic’s only living former music director, to withdraw

1 RECITALS


CLASSICAL MUSIC timeless melodies (from “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma!,” and other works), his daughter Mary’s exuberant irreverence (“Once Upon a Mattress”), and his grandson Adam Guettel’s sensitive, searching style (“The Light in the Piazza”). Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 at 8. (Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W. 67th St. 212-501-3330.) • On Wednesday evening, the noted composer Gabriela Lena Frank curates a globally inflected program for the company’s contemporary-music series, “NYFOS Next,” which also features pieces by Avner Dorman and Derek Bermel. Nov. 2 at 7. (National Sawdust, 80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn. nationalsawdust.org.)

MOVIES

Joshua Bell and Alessio Bax Bell, one of those rare classical artists who can guarantee a sold-out hall, picks up his violin for an evening with his fine pianist friend which, once more, goes over very familiar territory: sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms (No. 3 in D Minor), Ysaÿe, and Debussy, with Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” as a chaser. Nov. 2 at 7:30. (Alice Tully Hall. 212-721-6500.) Jerusalem Quartet The fantastic young Israeli group comes to the 92nd Street Y to offer a concert of canonical string quartets by Haydn (the “Lark”) and Dvořák (in G Major, Op. 106), with a slightly out-of-the-way item in between (Prokofiev’s Quartet No. 1 in B Minor). Nov. 2 at 7:30. (Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. 212-415-5500.) Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center The Society’s mini-series of artist recitals opens with a cello-and-piano program—including two duets and a solo work for each instrument—centered on two intrepid British composers: Benjamin Britten, whose intricate cello works can stand alongside Bach’s, and Thomas Adès, whose imaginative work beguiles audiences and critics alike. Performing them are the renowned Oxford-based cellist Colin Carr and the deft New York pianist Thomas Sauer. Nov. 3 at 7:30. (Rose Studio, Rose Bldg., Lincoln Center. chambermusicsociety.org.) New York Baroque Incorporated: Sarah Cunningham and Richard Egarr Two stars of the period-performance community, on gamba and harpsichord, respectively, make a guest appearance in this up-and-coming series with a program offering two sonatas by Bach along with music by Couperin, Forqueray, Froberger, and a little Cage (“4'33" ”). The gambist Wen Yang joins them. Nov. 3 at 7:30. (House of the Redeemer, 7 E. 95th St. nybaroque.org.)

COURTESY MUNICH FILM MUSEUM

Eric Owens and Susanna Phillips The two Met regulars, who pair up again next month for the company’s much anticipated production of Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin,” prove their art-song bona fides with an all-Schubert program of beloved staples as well as more elaborate, operalike scenes (“Hektors Abschied,” “Antigone und Oedip,” and “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen”). Nov. 6 at 3. (Zankel Hall. 212-247-7800.) “Bresnick@70” The widely admired composer and Yale pedagogue Martin Bresnick is being fêted in an important anniversary year. The ambience of National Sawdust should provide a fine showcase for his work—including “Tent of Miracles” (1984), “Prayers Remain Forever” (2012), and “Everything Must Go” (2007)—performed here by such superb musicians as the cellist Ashley Bathgate, the pianist Lisa Moore, the flutist Margaret Lancaster, and the Red Clay Saxophone Quartet. Nov. 6 at 7. (80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn. nationalsawdust.org.)

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s portrait of Romy Schneider gives the actress the role of a lifetime: herself.

First Person Singular Romy Schneider confesses to the camera. The modern cinema, born in the nineteen-sixties, gave rise to a new genre, the portrait film, such as the Maysles brothers’ “Meet Marlon Brando” and Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait of Jason.” Another key work in that form, “Romy: Anatomy of a Face,” from 1967, is among the newly restored rare masterworks presented in this year’s edition of MOMA’s essential annual series “To Save and Project” (Nov. 2-23). “Romy: Anatomy of a Face,” Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s second feature, made for German television, ofers an intimate view of the actress Romy Schneider, revealing crucial conflicts behind the image of a public figure who loomed large in the German national imagination—and within the art of movies itself. The Austrian-born Schneider, then twenty-seven, had been an international star for more than a decade, largely thanks to such frothy costume dramas as “Sissi.” Filming Schneider during her skiing vacation at Kitzbühel in early 1966, Syberberg catches her at a moment of crisis in her career, which she discusses with embittered and self-deprecating candor. A target of the gossip press, Schneider expresses frank disgust for the “star system” that places her personal life on the same plane as her acting. Proud of her success, she also sees its limits,

speaking with exasperation of her work in films that, she says, made her “the princess, not only in front of the camera” but “all the time.” Now she admits that she “didn’t want to be her anymore” and hopes to find a more artistically satisfying way of acting—and of living. To that end, she was starring in a low-budget and small-scale French drama with dialogue by Marguerite Duras; Syberberg visits the set and films her there, finding that she’s nonetheless surrounded on location by fans. Bringing subtly bold methods to bear on the talking-head documentary, Syberberg detaches images of Schneider from her voice, showing clinically tight closeups of her in the semipublic setting of a ski lift while hearing her speak in voice-over, and relying on double exposures to evoke her recollections of her adopted city of Paris. In an on-camera interview in the luxurious confines of a prince’s villa, Schneider plunges ever deeper into the pathos of her conflict-riddled confessions, delivering a performance unlike any that she gave in dramas. Syberberg was a key innovator of new cinematic modes that also created a new kind of performance, one that both ofered actors a far more engaged form of artistic commitment and, paradoxically, went even further than the popular press in blurring the lines between acting and life. —Richard Brody THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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MOVIES

1 OPENING Doctor Strange Reviewed in Now Playing. Opening Nov. 4. (In wide release.) • Hacksaw Ridge Re-

viewed this week in The Current Cinema. Opening Nov. 2. (In wide release.) • Loving Reviewed this week in The Current Cinema. Opening Nov. 4. (In limited release.) • Peter and the Farm A documentary, directed by Tony Stone, about Peter Dunning, a farmer in Vermont. Opening Nov. 4. (In limited release.)

1 NOW PLAYING American Pastoral In his directorial début, Ewan McGregor catches the elegiac grandeur of Philip Roth’s 1997 novel but filters out its bitter irony, historical sweep, and psychological complexity. He also miscasts himself in the lead role of Seymour (the Swede) Levov, a successful businessman living comfortably in a rustic corner of New Jersey, whose settled existence is overturned by the nineteensixties. The Swede—so nicknamed, as a star athlete in high school, for his pale skin and blond hair, rare in his milieu of Newark Jews—is married to Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), a Catholic of Irish descent. Their teen-age daughter, Merry (Hannah Nordberg), consumed by political activism during the Vietnam War, bombs a local post office, killing the postmaster, and vanishes from home. The earnest modesty of McGregor’s direction keeps the capable cast (including Dakota Fanning, Uzo Aduba, and Peter Riegert) in restrained balance, but McGregor himself doesn’t capture the Swede’s heroism; rather, he reduces the drama from tragedy to misfortune.—Richard Brody (In wide release.) Certain Women The three sections of Kelly Reichardt’s new film—set in Montana and adapted from stories by Maile Meloy—are consistent in their restrained tone but divergent in their impact. The first two episodes offer little besides moderately engaging plots, but the third packs an overwhelming power of mood, observation, and longing. In the first, Laura Dern plays Laura, a lawyer whose affair with a married man named Ryan (James Le Gros) is ending just as a client (Jared Harris), a disabled construction worker, comes unhinged. In the second, Ryan and his wife, Gina (Michelle Williams), who is also his boss, visit an elderly acquaintance, Albert (René Auberjonois), to buy stone for their country house. The third story features Lily Gladstone as Jamie, a young caretaker at a horse farm who drops in on an adult-education class and strikes up a tense and tenuous friendship with the teacher, a young lawyer named Beth (Kristen Stewart). Here, Reichardt infuses slender details with breathtaking emotion. The fervent attention to light and movement—as in a scene of a quietly frenzied nocturnal pursuit—seems to expand cinematic time and fill it with inner life.—R.B. (In limited release.) Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson’s adaptation of this exotic entry in the Marvel canon lives up to its title, in mostly good ways. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a deft, brilliant, and ambitious New York neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. When medical science gives up on him, he seeks occult help, travelling to a compound in Nepal that’s run by the Ancient 10

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

One (Tilda Swinton) and her associates, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong). There, Strange is trained in metaphysical martial arts, which he deploys in battle against Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a renegade mystic who attacks the world’s three centers of supernatural power—New York, London, and Hong Kong. Derrickson realizes visions of paranormal cataclysm with vertiginous glee; sidewalks, buildings, whole cities rise up, turn sideways, and churningly intertwine with an Escher-like intricacy. Strange’s propulsion into transcendental realms plays like a comic-book caricature of Terrence Malick’s cosmological imagery, and the movie’s high-stakes games with time reversal and out-of-body combat have a lighthearted but grandly wondrous exhilaration that offers sufficient distraction from the cardboard plot. With Rachel McAdams, as a surgeon who repairs Strange’s heart, literally and metaphorically.—R.B. (In wide release.)

The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook’s new film is his most delectable to date. Illicitly suave, it takes pleasure, over nearly two and a half hours, in fooling with the intricate plans of the characters and, for good measure, with the minds of the audience. The action is set in the nineteen-thirties, in Korea, and liberally adapted from Sarah Waters’s novel “Fingersmith,” a no less tasty tale of Victorian London. Kim Tae-ri plays Sook-Hee, a young woman bred in the low niceties of crime, who becomes a maidservant to the high-ranking Hideko (Kim Min-hee), herself no stranger to stratagems. It’s hard to find a single person onscreen whose title or demeanor is a reliable match for his or her true nature; for instance, neither the youthful count who arrives to pay court to Hideko nor her bibliomaniacal guardian is to be trusted an inch. Just to ensnare us more tightly, Park replays some of the episodes with a twist, from a different viewpoint, yet the marvel of the movie is that, far from seeming like mere trickery, it feels drenched in longing and desire. The cinematographer, gravely surveying these shenanigans, is Chung Chung-Hoon. In Korean and Japanese.—Anthony Lane (Reviewed in our issue of 10/24/16.) (In limited release.) Michael Moore in TrumpLand Doing a one-man show on the stage of a vintage theatre in a predominantly white and Republican town in Ohio, Michael Moore converts his celebrity into a political weapon with robust humor and rhetorical ingenuity on behalf of Hillary Clinton. His jibes at Donald Trump and his supporters are inevitable and obvious, but brief. Then, Moore delivers an eloquently empathetic paean to white working-class citizens who, raging at an establishment that has shafted them, lend their support to a rich demagogue who despises their actual interests. Sketching the course of Clinton’s career, from her college years as a young feminist to a First Lady who stayed out of the kitchen and fought for universal health care, Moore deflects criticisms of her from right and left alike and concludes that the lifetime of insults and humiliations she’s endured has left her mad as hell and ready to fight the establishment with efficacy and fury. An extra twist, regarding the Rosie the Riveter generation of independent women, posits Clinton’s ideals as deep American traditions. Moore’s concluding showmanship—a promise to run for President himself in 2020 if Clinton disappoints him—doesn’t spoil his incisive and fervent preaching.—R.B. (In wide release.)

Moonlight Miami heat and light weigh heavily on the furious lives and moods realized by the director Barry Jenkins. The grand yet finespun drama depicts three eras in the life of a young black man: as a bullied schoolboy called Little (Alex Hibbert), who is neglected by his crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) and sheltered and mentored by a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (Janelle Monáe); as a teen-ager with his given name of Chiron (Ashton Sanders), whose friendship with a classmate named Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) veers toward romantic intimacy and leads to violence; and as a grown man nicknamed Black (Trevante Rhodes), who faces adult responsibilities with terse determination and reconnects with Kevin (André Holland). Adapting a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jenkins burrows deep into his characters’ pain-seared memories, creating ferociously restrained performances and confrontational yet tender images that seem wrenched from his very core. Even the title is no mere nature reference but an evocation of skin color; subtly alluding to wider societal conflicts, Jenkins looks closely at the hard intimacies of people whose very identities are forged under relentless pressure.—R.B. (In limited release.) Out of the Blue Dennis Hopper directed and stars in this raw and vehement melodrama, from 1980, playing Don, a truck driver who is awaiting his release from prison, where he served time after drunkenly smashing his rig into a school bus. But Hopper yields the spotlight to Linda Manz, who plays Cebe, Don’s teen-age daughter, a punk rocker, a social outcast, and an heir to his wild ways. While Don is locked up, his wife (Sharon Farrell), a waitress at a diner, takes up with her boss (Eric Allen) and, in the company of Don’s best friend (Don Gordon), starts shooting up. Cebe, in despair, runs away from home and ends up on probation under the care of a sympathetic psychiatrist (Raymond Burr), who can do little in the face of her open revolt. Upon her father’s return, she joins in the family’s degradation, torment, and guilt in scenes of derelict exaltation and proud insolence. Hopper’s characters are in the realm of the irreparable; if the fervent acting occasionally overheats, the reckless emotions nonetheless convey the authentic struggle of personal experience.—R.B. (Metrograph; Nov. 5.) Pickpocket The nimble crime that the title suggests, perfected by a fiercely philosophical outlaw (Martin LaSalle), is itself a work of art, and Robert Bresson, in his 1959 film, reveals it, in all of its varieties, to be a furtive street ballet. The story begins with money changing hands, and throughout the film, Bresson burns into memory the clink of coins and the crumple of bills—which comes off as the damning sound of evil made matter. The movie is modelled on “Crime and Punishment”: the criminal, Michel, jousts verbally (in phrases borrowed from the novel) with a cagey police inspector to assert his own superiority to the law, and crosses paths with a drunkard’s toiling, spiritual daughter, Jeanne (Marika Green). Bresson, filming nonactors in austerely precise images, also evokes Dostoyevskian emotional extremes: torment and exaltation, nihilistic fury and religious passion. But the movie is above all a story about the miracle of redemptive love and its price in humility and unconditional surrender. In French.—R.B. (BAM Cinématek; Nov. 4-6.)


DANCE

The puppet-makers of “War Horse” take on Monteverdi’s opera “Return of Ulysses,” from 1640.

The Long Road

ILLUSTRATION BY ELENI KALORKOTI

William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppeteers bring Ulysses home. Next week, on Nov. 14-16, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center will bring us an extremely valuable property, Monteverdi’s “Return of Ulysses,” designed and directed by the South African artist William Kentridge, who, in recent years, has wowed New York’s opera audience with his versions of Shostakovich’s “The Nose” and Berg’s “Lulu.” With him will come Cape Town’s Handspring Pup-

pet Company, makers of the towering steeds for “War Horse,” and Brussels’s Ricercar Consort, with its passionate singers and its gleaming theorbo (a giant baroque lute) and viola da gamba. As befits an opera that is almost three hundred years old, Kentridge’s “Ulysses” has no truck with realism. The characters are nearly life-sized puppets, carved from wood. Standing next to them, and fully visible, are their singers and puppeteers. We see Ulysses as an old man, in his bed, dying. Behind him, we see what he is remembering: his ten-year struggle to

get home from the Trojan War, while his faithful queen, Penelope, goes on trying to believe that he will return and, with diiculty, keeping her suitors at bay. On a screen above them are Kentridge’s trademark videos, with things jumpily metamorphosing into other things. For this show, Kentridge has made heavy use of diagnostic imaging: X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs. Those films were hanging around the house, he has said (his wife is a rheumatologist), and he became fascinated with them and their story of human vulnerability: the lungs that could stop pumping, the heart that could stop beating, the sheer work that the body has to do. So, however much this show is a thing of art, it is also achingly physical. The puppetry is a big part of this. Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, the founders and chief puppeteers of Handspring, see breathing as a sort of motor of theatrical presence. For their puppets, they use the Japanese Bunraku technique. That is, they have their hand, and much of their arm, inside the puppet’s torso at all times, and always you see the puppet’s chest going in and out, feeding the body’s life. Above all, you see this in the old-man Ulysses in the foreground. He is actually fighting for his life. He thrashes. His breath halts and races, then pauses again. (“We had to be on the lookout for irregular breaths in the singers,” Jones said to me. “Breath expresses not just emotion, but thought.”) When, behind him, the young Ulysses of his memory at last strings his bow and dispatches the suitors—whereupon Penelope recognizes that this weary man, whom she hasn’t seen for twenty years, is indeed her husband, and moves to embrace him—the old man’s struggle ceases, and the puppeteer pulls the bedsheet over his face. He has died, and we feel like dying, too. This is an absolutely thrilling show. How can they have brought it to us for only three performances? —Joan Acocella THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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DANCE

Gibney Dance Company In the past few years, Gina Gibney has been very busy, primarily running her two dance centers. The downtown one, which opened in 2014, is already set for a major expansion. But she’s also reconstituted her company, founded twenty-five years ago, and carved out time to choreograph a new dance, “Folding In.” It’s a cyclical work for five, with a score by the cellist Hildur Guonadottir. (280 Broadway. 646837-6809. Nov. 2-5. Through Nov. 12.) Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion Abraham’s 2012 work “Pavement” is a good primer in the qualities that have won the young choreographer many awards (including a MacArthur grant), but also in his shortcomings. Set in the black neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Abraham’s home town, the work conveys a street-corner combustibility and an embattled tenderness, as the dancers cross hip-hop posturing with modern-dance pliability. The images are potent, yet they float underexploited in the work’s flimsy and predictable structuring. (BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn. 718-636-4100. Nov. 2-5.) Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company At the Joyce, the company alternates between two installments of Jones’s “Analogy” trilogy, and performs the New York premières of “Dora: Tramontane” and “Lance: Pretty a.k.a. the Escape Artist.” (175 Eighth Ave., at 19th St. 212-242-0800. Nov. 2-6.) Platform 2016: Lost and Found The performances, conversations, and film screenings in Danspace Project’s series about the impact of AIDS are split between looking backward and taking the pulse of the present. This week’s event, “Variations on Themes from Lost and Found,” might manage both. It examines the influential but under-recognized work of the performance artist and choreographer John Bernd, who died of complications from AIDS in 1988. Directed by Ishmael Houston-Jones, an original cast member in many of Bernd’s pieces, this resurrection of the past is performed (and informed) by young dancers, most of whom were not yet alive when Bernd died. (St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, Second Ave. at 10th St. 866-8114111. Nov. 3-5. Through Nov. 19.) “Sounds of India” / Mark Morris Dance Group Mark Morris’s ensemble performs a program that includes two early works by Morris set to Indian music, the solo “O Rangasayee” (1984), danced by Dallas McMurray, and the comic “Tamil Film Songs in Stereo” (1983). (Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, John Jay College, 524 W. 59th St. 212-721-6500. Nov. 3 and Nov. 5.) Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC The Rocky Mountain summer festival comes to New York, bringing its happy, multi-genre family of dance luminaries and the programming taste of its artistic director, Damian Woetzel. The selections on the three programs include an intriguing mix of pieces made for the festival, rarities (such as Balanchine’s 12

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

“Divertimento Brillante”), unusual pairings (mingling the upper ranks of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre), and star turns (especially by the Memphis jookin’ marvel Lil Buck). The best and most distinctive program might be “Up Close,” on Sunday afternoon, an informal lecture-demonstration about footwork featuring some of the most eloquent feet in the business. (City Center, 131 W. 55th St. 212581-1212. Nov. 3-6.)

“Carefree: Dancin’ with Fred & Ginger” The dance numbers in the R.K.O. films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers have never been surpassed. A live show in tribute to them faces unforgiving comparisons, but this one has talent, starting with the director-choreographer Warren Carlyle, whose choreography for the Broadway revue “After Midnight,” set in a similar period, won a Tony Award.

Jared Grimes, who also appeared in that show, isn’t much like Fred Astaire, yet he’s an astonishing hoofer who has the potential to make the classic songs his own. (New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center St., Newark, N.J. 888-466-5722. Nov. 4-5.)

“Chotto Desh” / Akram Khan Company In “Desh,” Khan plumbed his own story, and the stories he was told by his Bangladeshi father, to tell a textured multicultural tale. Khan grew up in London and studied both traditional Kathak (from India) and contemporary dance; his quick, fluid movement style combines features of both. “Chotto Desh” is a new childfriendly, hour-long version of this one-man show, danced by two members of his company and complemented by nifty interactive animations of tigers and butterflies and other characters. (New Victory, 209 W. 42nd St. 646-223-3010. Nov. 4-6. Through Nov. 13.)

ABOVE & BEYOND

Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival This year, the annual series asks participants to turn their gaze inward and mull over the nature of humanity. The WNYC producer John Schaefer, who hosts “Soundcheck and New Sounds,” engages the festival’s theme the most explicitly, inviting prominent thinkers in the disciplines of evolution, psychology, religion, and art to find parallels that point to a common human experience. At the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse, guest speakers include the paleoanthropologist Alison S. Brooks and the theologian Pamela Cooper-White. (165 W. 65th St. whitelightfestival. org. Nov. 5 at 4.) New York Adventure Club This group specializes in rare, intimate tours of treasured city spaces, often at nontraditional hours: past events have included a late-night walk through Grant’s Tomb and a hard-hat tour of an abandoned hospital on Ellis Island. This week, the club invites guests into the bowels of Grand Central Terminal. Attendees will have access to several walled-off areas, including the Operations Control Center and the Situation Room. Closed-toe shoes are required, and participants should be prepared to scale eight flights of steps in high temperatures. (89 E. 42nd St. nyadventureclub.com. Nov. 2 at 10 A.M.)

1 AUCTIONS AND ANTIQUES These are the quiet days before the avalanche of Impressionist and contemporary auctions comes down, in mid-November. Christie’s is holding an offering of prints and multiples (Nov. 1-2), led by a set of Warhol screen prints of Mao and by a color lithograph by Toulouse-Lautrec, of two women dancing together (“La Danse au Moulin Rouge”). (20 Rockefeller Plaza, at 49th St. 212-636-2000.) • Swann’s sale of prints (Nov. 3) is weighted toward Old Masters and nineteenth-century works, such as a Dürer

woodcut portrait of Ulrich Varnbüler, a Swiss mayor, and several etchings and drypoints of everyday subjects by Pissarro. (104 E. 25th St. 212-254-4710.) • The IFPDA Print Fair, run by the Fine Print Dealers Association, sets up shop at the Park Avenue Armory through Nov. 6. More than eighty dealers, from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, will take part, exhibiting everything from Bruegel engravings to conceptual art. (Park Avenue at 66th St. 212-674-6095.)

1 READINGS AND TALKS “#FerranteNightFever” This aptly titled series celebrates the publication of the enigmatic Italian author’s latest works, “Frantumaglia” and “The Beach at Night,” with five literary events at bookstores throughout the New York City area. The translator of the books, the New Yorker editor Ann Goldstein, and champions of Elena Ferrante’s novels, including the actor John Turturro and the novelists Roxana Robinson and Elissa Schappell, appear in conversation. (For venues and times, visit europaeditions.com/event/2501/ferrantenightfeverin-new-york-city. Nov. 1-5.) Albertine As part of the 2016 Festival Albertine, a panel moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates examines the varying constructions of identity in the United States and France, and how they may continue to be reflected in political developments to come. This forwardlooking prompt asks whether a culturally transcendent election, such as Barack Obama’s in 2008, is possible in present-day France, and how a similar campaign might unfold. Drawing on both U.S. and French history, the journalists Iris Deroeux and Jelani Cobb (a contributor to this magazine), as well as the historians Pap Ndiaye and Benjamin Stora, parse how minority representation in politics may manifest worldwide. (972 Fifth Ave. 212-650-0070. Nov. 2.)

ILLUSTRATION BY PABLO AMARGO

“Sounds of India” / Nrityagram The final dance event in the “Sounds of India” festival is an evening featuring this extraordinary ensemble of classical Indian dancers, based at a dance ashram near Bangalore. The group specializes in the ancient dance form Odissi, a vivid, rhythmically complex, and highly sensual dance that originated as a form of worship in the temples of Odisha. The troupe’s leader, Surupa Sen, is both a fantastic dancer—precise and emotionally intense—and a notable choreographer. The evening, entitled “Sriyah,” includes group dances, duets, and a solo for Sen. The music is played live, onstage. (Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, John Jay College, 524 W. 59th St. 212-721-6500. Nov. 2 and Nov. 4.)


FßD & DRINK

TABLES FOR TWO

Harold’s Meat + Three

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID WILLIAMS FOR THE NEW YORKER; ILLUSTRATION BY JOOST SWARTE

2 Renwick St. (212-390-8484) This shiny new restaurant tucked into the Arlo Hotel, in Hudson Square, takes a charming Southern concept born of a simpler time and revs it up for noveltycurious New Yorkers. In the mid-South, especially around Nashville, “meat and three” cafeteria-style joints ofer a choice of protein, such as chicken-fried steak or smothered pork chops, and three vegetable sides, often accompanied by cornbread and sweet tea, all for one price. These are casual, highly caloric afairs, whose names might include “country,” “kitchen,” or “kettle,” and which combine the soul-satisfying element of familiar home cooking with the convenience of instant gratification. In translating the idea for New York, the chef, Harold Moore, has gone upscale with cocktails and lobster alongside the meatballs and mac and cheese, attempting to please anyone and everyone willing to pay his notably un-country prices. Moore, who came up in the rarefied kitchens of Daniel Boulud and JeanGeorges Vongerichten, made his name at Commerce, in the West Village, where he won over locals with superb elevated comfort food. At Harold’s Meat + Three, he’s having some fun, throwing lots of ideas onto the menu and seeing what sticks. And good news: there’s an all-you-can-eat salad bar. One night, next to the baby kale and shaved

fennel, there was beef carpaccio, chicken ballotine, cold cooked salmon, shrimp cocktail (unlimited!), and small Mason jars of chicken-liver mousse. When asked if there was anything, like toast, to spread the mousse on, the waitress, looking lost, shook her head and scanned the table, eyes landing on the complimentary cheddar-chive biscuits. It was better with croutons. The revolving menu lists about twenty mains, which have included Thai-inspired pork ribs, whole dorade, limp seared scallops, and a questionable dish of sweetbreads. The best strategy is to stick with what’s popular: chicken or beef, any kind. Fried chicken doused with hot sauce? Delicious. Filet mignon au poivre? Extra thick and perfectly cooked. Cheeseburger? Classic, with two smashed patties and American cheese. Among the twenty-two sides (twenty-seven counting the upcharge specials, like foie gras or an egg), anything green (asparagus, spinach, herb salad) and all manner of potatoes (rösti, wedges, purée) are the clear winners. It’s too bad that part of the “meat and three” allure, the feeling that you’re getting a deal, does not factor into the Harold’s experience. But, hey, it’s New York. For dessert, there’s a gigantic slice of coconut cake, for twelve bucks. It’s moist and delicious and feeds four, and is followed by pumpkin-cinnamon soft-serve cones for everyone. They’re two inches tall, and they’re free. (Meat and three sides $19-$55.) —Shauna Lyon

1 BAR TAB

Belle Shoals 10 Hope St., Brooklyn (718-218-6027) In Williamsburg, around the corner from a shop selling “Western Inspired Goods,” there is a bar that is set in the imaginary Southern town of Belle Shoals. No further geographical specifics are offered—country bacon is served alongside mescal and aquavit. Embedded in a bookcase, in pride of place, is a Wurlitzer jukebox, accepting coins in exchange for the yearning voices of Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown. There’s an antique birdcage and a mellow oak bar, and cocktails like the Sunday Tea (peach moonshine, bourbon, sweet tea, lemon), which might lull you into a generic dream of the South. Nonetheless, Belle Shoals feels more Urban Outfitters flannel than Flannery O’Connor, who once wrote, “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader.” A man in tortoiseshell specs plans out his next tattoo. “Self-deprecation is frustrating to me,” a blonde dressed head to toe in athleisure says. Out on the veranda, there are basil plants in window boxes whose leaves breathe scent through the air, a faint echo of New Orleans jasmine, and the tables are separated by elegant white trellises. But the trailing wisteria strung up on wire is made of plastic, and the October winds pull at sleeves and napkins, signals of Northeastern autumn. Back in the bar, under chandeliers, a Ukrainian woman with black hair orders hush puppies, flattening the vowels to “hash pappies”; they are light and hot and threaded with jalapeño and onion. Neat in a paper tray, like consolation prizes, flaky biscuits come with bourbon butter and a cup of honey, perfect to pair with a glass of Cabernet.—Talia Lavin THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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THE TALK OF THE TOWN COMMENT OCTOBER SURPRISES

ILLUSTRATIONS BY TOM BACHTELL

you have any idea of the depth of this story?” “D id John Podesta, now the chairman of Hillary for America, wrote in an e-mail to Robby Mook, the campaign’s managerto-be, on March 3, 2015. The Times had just reported that Hillary Clinton had used a private e-mail address during her time as Secretary of State, circumventing the government system. “Nope,” Mook replied. “We brought up the existence of emails . . . but were told that everything was taken care of.” It is now clear that this was far from the case. The additional revelation of a private server led to a months-long F.B.I. investigation into Clinton’s e-mail arrangements, and into whether she or her aides had mishandled classified information. That probe ended, in July, with a recommendation that no criminal charges be filed. Even then, the story did not go away, with Donald Trump charging that the inquiry had been rigged. Then, last Friday, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, sent a letter to congressional committee chairs saying that the bureau was back at it. A new cache of e-mails had been found, and Comey did not know how long it would take to go through them. This development was reportedly spurred by material found on a device that Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s closest aides, shared with her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, a disgraced former congressman. The F.B.I. was looking at Weiner’s devices because he had allegedly had inappropriate exchanges with a fifteenyear-old girl. “So that is a big announcement,” Trump said on Friday, at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, as the crowd shouted, “Lock her up!” “Perhaps, finally, justice will be done.” Clinton, meanwhile, expressed surprise at Comey’s lack of clarity and at his timing, so soon before the election. She called on him to explain the issue— “Let’s get it out”—and said she was confident that the F.B.I.’s conclusion would be the same as in July. Comey’s letter came at the end of what was already a bad week for Clin-

ton. The polls, which had shown her comfortably ahead, were tightening. The missive from Podesta to Mook was one of more than thirty-five thousand e-mails stolen from Podesta’s account—U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the culprits were hackers linked to Russia—and released by WikiLeaks. The campaign has not confirmed the e-mails’ authenticity, emphasizing instead that the Kremlin has “weaponized” WikiLeaks in an efort to influence the U.S. election. But it has not pointed to any that it thinks are forgeries. The Podesta e-mails join the thousands that Clinton delivered to the State Department after her server became public. (She deleted thousands more.) We have by now read so many e-mails from her and her aides that the provenance can be confusing. WikiLeaks has doled out its haul in more than twenty batches, and, as with the State Department e-mails, Clinton’s defenders began by arguing that they revealed nothing more than the normal business of politics. It is easy to dismiss a note in which Podesta, during the primaries, calls Senator Bernie Sanders a “doofus.” (Sanders shrugged it of, saying that there were some pretty unflattering things about Clinton in his campaign’s e-mail.) But the accretion of details in the Podesta e-mails indicate, if not actual wrongdoing, an indiference to the distorting role that money plays in the land of the Clintons. In a note from early 2015, Abedin explains why it would be diicult to cancel a planned Hillary Clinton appearance at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in Morocco: “The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting.” Backing out would be especially awkward, Abedin said, since approaching the Moroccans was Clinton’s idea. “She created this mess and she knows it.” It certainly seems unwise for Clinton to have put herself in the position of owing a big favor to the King of Morocco, a country with humanrights issues, while contemplating a THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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Presidential run. In the end, Hillary didn’t go, but Bill and Chelsea did, and stayed in one of the King’s palaces.  Similarly, it’s irrelevant that, in late 2011, Doug Band, who for years was one of Bill Clinton’s closest aides, said that Chelsea acted like a “spoiled brat.” But it is relevant that he did so in the context of a fight over what Chelsea saw as Band’s eforts to trade on her father’s name through his consulting company, Teneo. She accused Band of “hustling” for business at foundation events. In a memo for lawyers brought in by Chelsea, Band argues that any hustling was for the Clintons’ personal benefit, far more than for his own, garnering Bill Clinton alone some fifty million dollars. Band says that, for example, he leaned on charitable donors to give the former President speaking engagements and consulting contracts, in a nexus that he refers to as “Bill Clinton, Inc.” In other e-mails, Band complains that he is the only one being asked to avoid conflicts of interest, of which, he says, Bill, Chelsea, and other senior figures at the foundation have plenty: “Everyone takes, everyone.” The extent to which all of this is not normal can be measured by the response of those charged with getting Clinton elected. “We really need to shut Morocco and these paid speeches down,” Mook writes to Podesta in February, 2015. Nowhere is the dismay more evident than in the case of Clinton’s e-mail setup. Neera Tanden, who runs the Center BEDFELLOWS DEPT. HINDUS FOR TRUMP

onald Trump’s best Indian-

D American friend is a sixty-seven-

year-old billionaire from Chicago named Shalabh Kumar. One recent Saturday, the candidate accepted Kumar’s invitation to speak at a fund-raiser in New Jersey, organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition, a group that Kumar founded last year, with the blessing of Newt Gingrich. In 2013, Kumar took American congressmen to India to meet Narendra Modi (now the Prime Minister), a Hindu nationalist, who, at the time, had been banned from the United States, owing to allegations that he’d played a role in the killing of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat. Kumar donated almost a million dollars to Trump’s campaign, after the two bonded over Modi’s leadership and the threat of Islamic terrorism. “A lot of people think that Trump is somewhat of a racist,” Kumar said. “His partnership with the Republican Hindu Coalition will set that aside.” The event, held at a convention cen16

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

for American Progress, and was close to the campaign, writes, “Do we actually know who told Hillary she could use a private email? And has that person been drawn and quartered? Like whole thing is fucking insane.” In other messages, Tanden rages about Clinton’s reluctance to apologize for her choices, and about the tendency toward secrecy that she and members of her innermost circle exhibit. Tanden refers to this instinct as “kryptonite.” Neither e-mail story is likely to dissipate before the election, in part because both reflect what is, for all Clinton’s strengths, one of her flaws: her failure to draw boundaries between the personal and the political, between her family’s private interests and its public obligations. Both sets of e-mails show the idealism and the inclusiveness that are the true drivers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She is unquestionably the best candidate for President. And yet the week ended with Trump glorying in the renewed F.B.I. investigation and rallying crowds with tales of pay-to-play. For Clinton’s defenders to say that all this is just politics as usual is to explain why so many Americans distrust politicians—and why, perhaps, politics ought to change. Clinton herself needs to make the case that she can bring reform. And she has a week left to do it. —Amy Davidson 

ter in Edison, raised money for Hindu victims of terrorism. Indian movie stars had been flown in to entertain a crowd of several thousand—some in glittering tunics, some in red Trump hats— many of whom were talking about terrorists coming in and jobs going out. “I’m a fan of Mr. Trump,” said Siddharth Thakkar, who moved from Gujarat to New Jersey in 1987 and now runs a Red Mango. “And also Malaika”—Malaika Arora, the Indian supermodel-actress, who was the evening’s headliner. “They’re both goodlooking.” Trump, he said, would bring “law and order” and “fix the inner cities.” Gary Weightman, a New Jersey native who wore an anti-Hillary T-shirt that read “Liar Liar,” was thrilled to be seeing Trump in the flesh. “This is the third-biggest moment of my life,” he said. The first two were marrying his wife and visiting Israel (“Even though I’m Christian”). Vijaya Aggarwal, an older woman wearing heavy black eyeliner, said, “Our economy is draining. What will people do here without money? No refrigerators, no sofa sets.”She went on,“Trump will make America great. Like our Modi was given a chance to.” Raj Shah, who works in pharmaceuticals, once supported Bill Clinton

but became disillusioned by American foreign policy. “I want the C.I.A. to stop funding terrorist groups in Pakistan,” he said. Inside the convention center, Trump campaign signs promised Hindu Americans a bright future: “Trump Against Terror”; “Trump Great for India”; “Trump for Faster Green Cards.” In a V.I.P. area, Kumar, flanked by Indian celebrities, began a press briefing. He played an R.H.C. promotional video: clips of Modi, images of Kumar’s mansion in Bangalore, and scenes from his son Vikram’s lavish wedding, in New Zealand, to Miss India 2007, who sat nearby in a sparkly gown. Kumar opened the floor to questions, warning that he would address only those that were about the fund-raiser. “What’s your opinion on Donald Trump?” a journalist asked. “Only event-related questions!” a handler yelled from the sidelines. Ignoring the warning, Akhil Akkineni, a young heartthrob standing near Kumar, answered, “Terrorism is disgusting, and Donald Trump is the only one doing anything about it!” Kumar said,“This is not about politics!” “Malaika!” one undeterred reporter shouted. “How do you feel about meeting a U.S. Presidential candidate?”


Arora, wearing a skintight dress and jewels, looked uncomfortable. Kumar ended the press conference. Back in the main hall, a Michael Jackson impersonator was onstage, doing a bhangra dance routine with a heavyset Sikh man. Then six dancers dressed as soldiers appeared, brandishing toy light sabres in a fight against “terrorists” who had taken “hostages” (Indian women in black minidresses). The terrorists foiled, the performers stood, hands on their hearts, before an American flag, as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played. Al Pniewski, a truck driver from Hazlet, New Jersey, waved his camouflage Trump hat in the air. “I’ve never been to a Hindu party before!” he said. He had learned about the event on Facebook. “Trump is a unifier, do you understand?” Referring to Hindu Americans, he added, “They’re smart people. They’re small-business owners; they assimilate with the culture. Obama and Hillary want to bring in radicals!” Kumar reappeared and addressed the crowd: “Who truly represents you in Washington? Is it someone who celebrates Diwali one day and plans to give F-16s to Pakistan the next?” (“Boo, Pakistan!” came from the back.) “Or someone who wants to declare Pakistan a terrorist state?” (Loud cheers.) “The next century must be the IndoAmerican century!” Finally, Trump entered, waving, from behind a curtain. The crowd rushed forward, cheering. The candidate spoke for almost fifteen minutes, conflating two terrorist attacks in India, declaring that the U.S. will build a wall and that Mexico will pay for it, promising to end trade deals with China, and also to have better trade deals with China, Mexico, and India. He ended his speech, and shook hands with Kumar before returning to the mike. “We love the Hindus! We love India!” he said, pointing an index finger at the audience. In the foyer, guests posed for photos in front of two giant posters. On one, Trump’s torso rose out of a red-whiteand-blue lotus. On the other, a horned Hillary Clinton pointed menacingly at a frightened Modi while masked terrorists marched in front of flames. In the main room, a female v.j. was addressing the crowd. “Do we all want

peace?” she asked. “Can’t hear you!” Music blared, and Arora finally took the stage. —Rozina Ali

1 THE PICTURES APOLOGIZER

t The Strand Bookstore, Laura

A Dern bent to caress a stack of cop-

ies of “The Catcher in the Rye.” Her davening torso and probing hands made her resemble a praying mantis. “This was the book, when I was fourteen, that made me love books,” she said. “Before that, I mostly read scripts.” The actress, the daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, appeared in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” at the age of seven, rode her bike to acting classes at nine, and, at fifteen, sued her parents for emancipation so that she could continue acting. Her best teacher, she said, was the director David Lynch: “Without him, I would not have made the acting choices I’ve made, because he required me to play the girl next door” (in “Blue Velvet”), “to be completely untamed” (in “Wild at Heart”), “and to have no narrative at all” (in “Inland Empire”). In her bracing new film, “Certain Women,” written and directed by Kelly Reichardt, Dern, now forty-nine, stars with Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone as women living in and around Livingston, Montana. “They’re all fighting how the boys have arranged the system, and are ill-fitting in their lives,” Dern explained. Her character, Laura Wells, is a mopey lawyer whose client, a carpenter, won’t accept that his workplace-accident lawsuit is hopeless until he hears it from a man. After the carpenter takes a hostage, the cops ask Wells to put on a bulletproof vest and go in. Her face, as she grasps that her life has somehow been leading to this, is a study in misgiving. Dern canted herself over the counter and waited to catch the attention of a bearded clerk. She inquired about “You Will Not Have My Hate,” a memoir by Antoine Leiris, whose wife was killed in the Paris attacks last fall. “Not in stock,” he said. She apologetically withdrew.

Although she exudes a warm candor, Dern said that it isn’t hard for her to tap into her characters’ sense of buried grievance. In “Certain Women,” she said, “I could relate to Laura’s longing to find a place where she doesn’t need to fight, a place where she can say, ‘This is my world, I own it!’ Which is my daughter’s approach, whereas feminists of my generation still have the ‘I’m sorry! Is it O.K.?’ approach.” She laughed. “I even apologize about making requests in restaurants, where I’m paying for the food.” She went on, “When I talk to—I don’t want to say younger journalists, but, basically, younger journalists— they’re excited by this film, by seeing women get to tell their stories. That’s because they grew up in the nineties. But in the seventies, when I was growing up, we had ‘3 Women’ and ‘An Unmarried Woman’ and ‘Klute.’ ” Her fingers divvied up the generations. At her son’s elementary school, she was known as “the mom who talks with her hands.”

Laura Dern In the rare-book room, Dern picked up a first edition of Tennessee Williams’s “Camino Real.” “He was my mom’s second cousin,” she said. “She did his play ‘Orpheus Descending’ in New York, and the actor opposite her got strep throat or something, and she had to go on with his understudy. And that understudy was Bruce Dern.” She smiled down at the book, then noted that her parents divorced when she was two. Dern and the father of her children, the musician Ben Harper, are also divorced. She roamed around, stroking books by Arthur Rackham and Judy Blume. She opened Langston Hughes’s “Black Misery,” vignettes about growing up black in a white world. “Oh, my God!” she said, THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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• turning the pages. Stricken, she read, “Misery is when you go / To the Department Store / Before Christmas and find out / That Santa is a white man.” She almost ran to the register with the book. On her way out, Dern trailed her fingers over a Gabriel García Márquez novel and said, “Now I just want to read everything he ever wrote. But, as a child, instead of trusting Márquez and his flights of fancy I trusted movie directors, who told me that things would not be all that magical. I watched ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by myself at thirteen, I saw ‘Raging Bull’ fourteen times, and ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Exorcist’ messed me up.” Her hands framed a huge screen. “It started with Walt Disney, actually, with ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Bambi’— somebody’s going to die, innocence will be taken, and you will be left alone.” —Tad Friend

1 PARIS POSTCARD SHELTERING

will not stand by and do “P aris nothing while the Mediterranean

becomes a graveyard,” Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said earlier this year, announcing a plan to create the city’s 18

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

• first oicial refugee shelter. With the destruction of the “jungle” camp at Calais last week, this shelter is likely to become even more vital. On July 15th, Julien Beller got a call from the Mayor’s oice. Beller, an architect who has thrown festivals in brownfields and installed toilets in shantytowns, seeks to “work for a just city, built with pleasure, where each person makes his place.” His mission: to turn a disused railroad depot in the Eighteenth Arrondissement into a habitat for four hundred people, in short order. He cancelled a vacation to Finland. Beller had only a week to come up with a design. One recent afternoon, he was tramping around the grounds, overseeing some finishing touches—which is to say, some fundamentals. Dressed in black, with a glinting nose stud and a terse yet thoughtful manner, he suggested less a Libeskind or a Piano than someone who might chain himself to a fence at a work site. The depot was covered in graiti and was missing windows. In front, a bulldozer buzzed back and forth. “Here we’re going to have a huge inflatable structure to serve as a kind of information booth,” Beller said. “It’ll be yellow and white, a sort of art work. The idea is to welcome people generously.” Inspired by hotel lobbies—an imperfect model, he admitted—he had decided to install a store just inside the

entrance. Everything in it would be free: shoes, clothes, books, toiletries. “All the signs will be made with pictograms, so it’s easy for people who don’t speak the language,” he said. “It’s a bit like camping, or a little vacation village.” He pointed out the cafeteria, which, like the external staircases, had been fashioned from temporary scafolding. It would remain in place for the two years that the shelter is expected to operate, before being demolished to make way for a university. “Everything we are doing is movable and flexible,” Beller explained. The shelter is, in a sense, a pop-up, coming to life where it could. “My philosophy has always been about ephemerality,” he said. “It’s interesting to apply that mentality to the real needs of the city.” The shelter is intended to serve as a rest stop—a first point of contact with the system—for refugees who would otherwise find themselves on the street. For logistical reasons, it will accept only men, who can stay for up to ten nights. Beller had divided the cavernous space into eight “neighborhoods,” each of which contained twelve cabins, housing four men apiece, and eight communal bathrooms. Beller walked inside a cabin and flicked on the light. “Four beds, four trunks, a plug for each person,” he said. “You can charge your phone and get in touch with your family, or read with a little light.” He stepped outside. “Here we have benches, so people can chill out, meet with their friends. They will be here for just a short time, and we have to host them correctly.” The tight deadline Beller was working against posed problems—he had to change the cabin doors at the last minute, because they weren’t up to the fire code. “Usually, the things I’ve done have been a bit hidden,” he said. “Here everything has to be perfectly within the rules, because this project is so seen, so in the news.” He walked back into the dusty yard and lit a cigarette. “Things have to be fast and cheap, but we are bringing a kind of soul, and perhaps also this link with the artistic world. It’s a story, and the story is that we can adapt, we can be flexible, the public can organize to answer these contemporary diiculties like people living outside. It’s possible to do something.” —Lauren Collins


THE FINANCIAL PAGE UNEASY LIES THE HEAD

n 1960, the Department of Justice indicted executives from

CHRISTOPH NIEMANN

I several companies for involvement in a huge price-fixing

scheme across much of the electrical industry. The story was like a bad spy novel—secret hotel-room meetings, conversations in code—and its chief villain was General Electric, which was then the world’s biggest company. Sixteen G.E. executives were convicted of violating antitrust laws, and the afair is still known as the Great Electrical Price Conspiracy. It was never proved that G.E.’s top brass knew what was going on, but, even if you give them the benefit of the doubt, it was a profound management failure. Yet Ralph Cordiner, G.E.’s chairman and C.E.O., not only escaped prosecution; he even got to keep his job. John Stumpf should have been so lucky. The other week, Stumpf lost his job as C.E.O. of Wells Fargo, after a bizarre corporate scandal: thousands of the bank’s employees used customer data to open more than two million fake bank accounts, including more than five hundred thousand credit-card accounts. The total cost to consumers was less than you might suppose ($2.5 million), because the employees were just trying to meet sales and bonus targets, and typically closed the accounts quickly. But the egregious fraud indicated a corporate culture gone badly awry, and, when Stumpf appeared in front of Congress, Senator Elizabeth Warren demolished him. In Cordiner’s era, Stumpf, who had been in his job since 2007, might have managed to hang on, but in today’s corporate climate he had almost no chance. One recent study of C.E.O. tenure found that the percentage of forced turnover tripled between 1970 and 2006, and another study concluded that boards of directors now “aggressively fire C.E.O.s for poor industry-adjusted performance.” In addition, the average duration of a C.E.O.’s tenure has fallen. In 1984, thirty-five per cent of C.E.O.s had been in the job for ten years or more; in 2000, only fifteen per cent had. By 2009, according to one study, average tenure at the world’s biggest companies had fallen to around six years. (It has rebounded some since, because C.E.O.s are, naturally, less likely to be fired when corporate profits are healthy.) Business professors once talked about “the imperial C.E.O.,” but, increasingly, we’re in the era of what Marcel Kahan, a law professor at N.Y.U., calls “the embattled C.E.O.” He told me, “Big shareholders and boards of directors have more power, and are more willing to use it. And C.E.O.s have been the net losers.” The breakdown of the old order began more than

thirty years ago, but things have accelerated since the turn of the century. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in 2002, required greater disclosure to investors, and increased the independence of corporate boards. “In the old days, boards were often loyal to the C.E.O., ” Charles Elson, a corporate-governance expert at the University of Delaware, told me. “Today, they’re more loyal to the company.” The rise of activist investors— who campaign aggressively for change when they’re not satisfied with performance—has exacerbated the trend. One study found that when activist investors succeed in winning seats on the board of directors the probability that the C.E.O. will be gone within a year doubles. The information revolution has created other dangers for C.E.O.s. In the social-media era, damaging stories travel fast, and boards take public relations very seriously. P.R. disasters have sealed the fate of top executives at no fewer than five advertising companies this year. (The most notorious debacle was at Saatchi & Saatchi: the chairman resigned after telling a reporter that he didn’t think gender inequality in the industry was a problem.) The predicament of modern C.E.O.s may seem surprising, given their prominence and lavish compensation. Top executives everywhere are paid more than they used to be, and the U.S. has led the way; American C.E.O.s earn, on average, two to four times as much as European ones and five times as much as Japanese ones. Yet it’s precisely these factors that make C.E.O.s vulnerable, because the expectations for their performance are higher. “If you’re paid tremendous amounts of money to make things go right, people naturally feel that you should be held accountable when things go wrong,” Elson says. In that sense, the increasing willingness of boards to fire the C.E.O. is actually the flip side of a fetishization of the position that began in the eighties. In Ralph Cordiner’s day (and in Japan maybe still), belief in a C.E.O.’s power to transform a company was limited. But today’s cult of the C.E.O. is founded on the belief that having the right person at the top is the key to success—from which it follows that a failing company should show its boss the door. C.E.O.s themselves don’t seem to have fully internalized this new regime. “Some C.E.O.s have a very lofty opinion of themselves, and when they’re told they have to go they’re almost always shocked,” Elson says. (America’s most famous corporate executive may learn this lesson on Election Day.) But this is really poetic justice at work. In the past thirty years, C.E.O.s have remade American companies as lean, mean machines that put shareholder value above all else. To do that, they’ve insisted on greater accountability for performance and have broken implicit social contracts, such as the promise of lifetime employment. It’s only fitting that they’re victims of the same logic. —James Surowiecki THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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PERSONAL HISTORY

ADRIFT How I lost my way in love. BY DIANNE BELFREY

very love story has to start some-

E where, and I’m blaming this one on

a boat. My husband, Mark, was looking for an art studio to rent, and a building in Park Slope a block from our apartment had a space available. He was going to look at it, and I’d been asked to come along, on a summer evening, to weigh in with a wife’s opinion. I liked the building from the moment the man who owned it swung open a barn-style garage door to let us in. From the outside, it looked like a normal, if dilapidated, red brick town house, but, inside, the studios were of a passageway that was so labyrinthine and long that there was 20

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

no imagining where it might lead. Tools and welding equipment and hunks of stone leaned against the walls, along with stretched canvases and sheets of metal. There was a smell of turpentine. “What’s under here?” I asked, poking a booted toe at a large shape beneath a tarp. The man, a sculptor and painter, who was covered in white dust later identified as marble, glanced at his feet and said that it was a boat he’d built. He pulled of the tarp to reveal a beautiful wooden sailboat. I said he must be a sailor, and he replied that, no, he’d never been on a boat before he’d made this one, adding that he’d

found a book at a stoop sale which had instructions for how to build a model boat, and thought that it would be fun to try to build a full-sized boat using it as a guide. I didn’t especially care about boats, or about sailing, but I did like stories such as this one. When I asked him whether it worked, he laughed and looked down and said that he supposed it did, as he’d sailed it on the Hudson. I blame everything on the boat. If it hadn’t been there, none of the rest would have happened. I wouldn’t have left my husband and run away with the man—I’ll call him William—who had built it. Mark rented the studio, and shortly afterward we began to see William trying to teach himself how to rollerblade in the playground across the street from our apartment. He’d be there for hours, night after night. He was tall, with a large and unusually shaped head, and he always wore the same tattered yellow polo shirt. William had told Mark that he was going through a rough divorce, involving two boys near the age of our son, then twelve, and Mark suggested that we have him to dinner. The next time I saw William in the playground, I went over and rattled the chain-link fence to get his attention, and said that he needed to come have dinner with us. “You mean right now?” he asked. “I mean in thirty minutes,” I replied, and then, because I sometimes hide my shyness behind an abrupt manner, I headed back across the street, turning to announce that we were having spaghetti carbonara. I had a red dishtowel draped over my arm. Like a matador, he later said. In the kitchen, William apologized for not removing his skates, but he hadn’t anticipated the pleasure of being in “feminine company” and wasn’t confident as to the state of his socks. I gestured to his shirt with the knife I was using to chop shallots and said that I could believe it. He skated over to where I stood at a butcher block. “Might I be of assistance?” he asked. “No, I’m good,” I said without looking up, self-conscious about my proximity to so massive a man. When we sat down to eat, I asked if he was originally from Wales. There was a foreignness to him, something craggy and lonesome, and a trace of an accent in his voice. “No, D.C.,” he said, which CONSTRUCTION BY STEPHEN DOYLE


was the last place I expected to hear. “Feminine company.” “Might I be of assistance?” He had a formality, but it was surprisingly winning, and the stories he told that night were charming, like the one about how, years earlier, he had teamed up with another artist and a housepainter to buy his building. It had been cheap, because that part of Brooklyn was squalid then, and the building’s condition was laughable. They’d made some improvements, including a cobbled-together loft, above the studios, which connected the town house to two carriage houses behind it, and which the artist, whose name was Anne, still shared with William. Recently, she had mixed a bag of cement to pour under the building’s stoop, because the food she liked to leave out for stray cats had attracted rats. Before the cement had dried, both cats and rats had trekked across it, one set of paw prints following another, creating what William called “an enchanting little fossil.” He became the new family friend who would sit at our table a few nights a week and talk brilliantly, and I flattered myself with the notion that I was talking brilliantly back. I’d later fall into bed feeling improved but also depleted, as if we’d been conversing at a higher altitude, where the air was thin. About

a month into this routine, William arrived not from the playground but from his oice, on Wall Street; when he wasn’t sculpting or painting, he wrote code for an international bank. He was wearing a good shirt and jacket and a long, black cashmere coat. A man dressed for the business of adult life. Like a conqueror, I thought. He carried an elegant shopping bag, and pulled from it a box containing a set of Wüsthof knives. He said that he could no longer stand by and watch me try to cut shallots with what amounted to a butter knife. I insisted that I couldn’t accept so extravagant a gift. He frowned and said that he believed in the right tool for the task. He added that, if the knives ever got dull, he could sharpen them in his studio. Hey, by the way, he asked, what’s your e-mail address? The first e-mail he sent, the following morning, filled the computer screen. During the next few days, he wrote, in dense but eloquent sentences, that it had been years since he’d met someone he so much wanted to know. I read the e-mails at the oice, whispering “I’m in such trouble” so loudly that a colleague later asked what I was in trouble about. William and I began writing to each other daily. Once, after I had mentioned that the weight of quarters made me feel

“And this is an exact re-creation of how an owl would have looked in the thirteenth century.”

rich, he gave me a Morton salt container filled with quarters. He had removed the top to get the coins in and then reattached it so that you couldn’t tell it had been altered. The spout that had been designed to pour salt now poured quarters. Not long afterward, I brought the knives to his studio to have them sharpened, even though they weren’t dull. Actually, I didn’t bring them. William’s unconventional looks worked to our advantage, as Mark, a former model who had once played the romantic lead in an Italian movie, was handsome in a way that the world could agree on. No one would easily believe that I’d chosen William over him. But I hadn’t chosen. And I didn’t intend to keep up this arrangement, which was exhausting. I thought that things would just sort themselves out. ne day, they did. My mother, after

O a lifetime of robust health, was sud-

denly dying, in California, and I was rushing to get out the door to catch a plane. An e-mail to William was open on an ancient desktop computer that I shared with Mark. He happened to be at home, and saw it. He was still staring at it when the car-service driver honked outside. “See you later,” I murmured, although I didn’t, because, after I left for the airport, Mark read dozens of our messages. A few days later, I sat on a corner of my mother’s hospital bed, speaking to him on the phone. He said that the e-mails were well written, even beautiful, in parts. I thanked him.“Don’t push it,” he said. “You and I will be great friends one day,” I replied. “Not just yet,” he said. I suggested that, no matter what, he should keep the studio. Wives had a tendency to come and go; cheap studios in Park Slope did not. Mark said that, in the end, he supposed I hadn’t been all that great a wife. “Keep the studio,” I said. I moved to an apartment at the other end of Park Slope, and William, according to my wishes, kept a discreet distance. I had upended all of our lives, and my main concern then was for my son. But, after a year, William stepped back in, renewing his courtship with an emphasis on gifts. I needed a new dining table, and he built me one that could seat twelve, out of maple salvaged from a horse barn in Maine. There were more Wüsthof knives and, when my speakers


began to fail, a Bose sound system. He surprised me with an expensive baseball mitt, because we liked throwing a ball to each other from impressive distances in Prospect Park. “What an arm,” he marvelled. There were Persian rugs, laptops, and tickets to skydive, because he suspected that I was the kind of woman who would enjoy jumping out of a plane. At times, William was didactic to the point where it felt as if he were talking at me, rather than with me, but I’d never known a man who went so far out of his way to fill my needs long before I knew that I had them. I was uncomfortable, though, when he began buying me art. He had become an unsalaried partner in a financial startup, the unsalaried part being, he assured me, a non-problem. A number of venture capitalists were approaching them. “We’re going to have millions,” he said. “If I want to buy you art, I get to buy you art.” Finally, on a night in mid-November, as we sat on my couch, and I rested my head against his shoulder, he said, “All right, my darling dear, I’m buying Anne out, and moving you in, along with our boys. Enough with this dating format. We’re too old for this.” We were too old for it. And it should have been me, I thought, to come up with this idea. We would be living in a town house that had a loft and a parking space. Here was yet another gift, and it was a big one. I agreed to move in sometime after the holidays. Then, on Christmas Eve, there was a fire.

There was some, it turned out—the bare-bones type that you’d expect artists to have, which was worrisome, considering that we didn’t have much money set aside for renovation, and almost nothing in the building was up to code: the electrical wiring was precarious; there was no heating system. When I dropped by a week later, to help haul away debris, I found that William had set up an encampment at one end of the loft. He sat at a table, clad in blankets that he’d converted into ponchos by slicing openings in them, and typed intently at his computer, wearing fingerless mittens. As far as I could tell, nothing had been cleared or patched or fixed. He waved away my questions about an insurance claim; his work took precedence, he said. A few minutes later, he got up and made a snowball from a drift that had accumulated beneath a broken skylight, and threw it at me playfully. I was beginning to have doubts about the move, but I kept thinking about how the boys were depending on this

home—William’s sons were arriving in the spring—and about how Mark was still living in our old apartment, now with a woman he had recently met. I wanted to return to the neighborhood, to build a new life on top of the one I’d wrecked, without letting go of any of the old participants. But I couldn’t do it. The fallout from the fire had been too bewildering, and, a month later, as we sat in my car in front of the Park Slope Food Co-op, I told William that I couldn’t live with him. There was something wrong with the words that came out of his mouth in response. They were jumbled together, too high, too loud, too shrill. I caught a glimpse of his face, then opened the door, jumped from the car, and ran into the co-op, where I called my sister in California, my hands shaking so badly that it took me three tries to get the number right. When she picked up, I told her that I thought William might be a psychopath. My sister, who is a judge, started asking questions, which I couldn’t answer. “His

assumed, based on William’s good

I cheer when he called me in the morn-

ing, that the situation wasn’t serious. But, when I got there, the block was overrun with emergency vehicles. Firemen had broken down the front door and smashed the windows; an acrid smoke still drifted from the lower ones. When I asked William what had happened, he said that a candle had been left burning in one of the studios. He added that people had been in the carriage houses, and that it had been a close call for them. The neutrality with which he said this made me wonder whether he was in shock. “There’s some insurance, right?” I asked. “Yeah, I think,” he replied, with a shrug. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

23


eyes went of ” was the best explanation I could ofer her. She said that she had no idea what that meant. She needed specifics, because William was the most adult man I’d ever been involved with. He was an extremely good person, she reminded me. My sister was right, so I calmed down. Later that night, I went to see William, to tell him that I thought we could work past the thing that had happened earlier. “The thing?” he asked. The way you yelled, I replied. The way I ran. He said that we both knew the degree to which I panicked at change, and kissed my head. Later, I would return to this moment again and again in my mind. When a man devotes a lot of time to wooing a woman and she tells him that she might be leaving, it’s reasonable that some outsized emotions might be expressed. Still, I couldn’t get the episode to fit with the gentle person who could charm any group of guests at a dinner table, someone so erudite and original that friends of mine (and all the friends I introduced William to were impressed) had called him a Renaissance man. “Is there anything he can’t do?” they asked. e moved in, and when I brought

W people by the building to check

out my new life they’d comment on the dazzling square footage, then ask if I knew that it smelled like gas. I did know—old gas heaters had been damaged in the fire. William responded to this issue with the same lack of urgency that he’d displayed toward the insurance claim. This was also true of the wood stove I’d found and brought home. He had designed an elaborate system of pulleys and ramps to coax the stove upstairs, but then lost interest; six months later, it still sat unused in a corner. His suggested solution to our wiring problems was to run long extension cords from his studio and set up construction floodlights. There were so many holes in the floorboards that it would be easy to do, he pointed out, seemingly unaware that the holes in themselves were a problem, as rats were coming through them, making their way to where we lived and slept and ate. He didn’t seem to experience such problems the way other 24

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016


• people did. It was Dickensian, to live with rats and without heat, in the heart of Park Slope. I found an electrician on Craigslist and asked him to stop by when William was at work. He appeared slightly stunned by the situation, and said there wasn’t much he could do without an extensive renovation. As he left, he told me to be sure to take care. Whether William was in the loft, writing code, or downstairs, making art, he was always happy to see me and to talk, as long as we stayed on subjects that interested him. But household concerns, bills, furniture soaked by the fire hoses, which now sat swollen behind the house, so that the neighbors’ young children could no longer play in the yard: none of that could be addressed without risk of inciting William’s anger, which I still didn’t understand and had a stake in pretending wasn’t there. hen I encountered other people,

T mainly women and mostly online,

who were in situations that eerily paralleled my own. The women were as disoriented as I was, as oddly alone in their eforts at home. Once they’d ceased being objects of obsession, their lives had sailed of the grid—something that they were unable to easily explain to

• other people, or even to themselves. They, too, were reluctant to approach their partners for the most basic needs, for fear of being met with frightening outbursts that came from unexpected angles and with little provocation. Over time, I read many descriptions of what these could look and feel like, but none was as good as this one: The old man was trying to behave, but he kept going of into these bizarre rages at the drop of a hat. The rages would be almost incomprehensible to an outsider—I’m hard pressed to explain them to myself. . . . The tiniest provocations start these escalating jags that run away on their own steam. . . . It’s like the small sound that can set of a landslide.

It was in an e-mail that William wrote to me when he was visiting his father, not long before our lives were overcome by a similar phenomenon. I asked William, as delicately as I knew how, if he would consider getting professional help. As an adult, I’d been given a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and it had come as a relief, as it explained things that I had never understood about myself. But not everyone welcomes speculation about the way his brain is built. William said that he had always known that he was diferent, but he had never seen any reason to seek a diagnosis. He had figured THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

25


people out at the age of ten, and couldn’t get over how simple it was. All he needed to do was watch TV shows and movies, and take from them performances he liked—memorizing the lines, studying the body language, the facial expressions. He then practiced making the expressions in front of a mirror. He gave his voice a makeover, read up on etiquette in books by Miss Manners. I said, Your voice? You made up your voice? He had. A modulation here, a baritone note there. Amazing, I said. Women went crazy for his speaking voice. (The same for his sexy saunter, which he had also manufactured.) One day, when I had stayed home from work and been too sick to call my department head, he had made the call for me, and, I told him, she still occasionally mentioned it. He laughed. He also said that, more often than not, when he drove he would confuse a stop sign with a stoplight, and patiently wait for it to turn green. Objects on the periphery of his vision flew in and out too fast; all those cyclists and pedestrians, all those other cars. Better not to drive at all. He preferred to walk, anyway, plucking art from dumpsters, rescuing it from curbs. People often had no idea what they were throwing away. What else? I asked. Navigating social situations was, he said, like trying to speak Mandarin when you’d taken only a semester of it in high school, and flunked. There wasn’t any language in his mind, either, just images and equations and grids and maps. He didn’t know what he would say until he heard himself say it. What he did know for sure was that people hardly saw anything. “You’re not even looking,” he said. ertain words, phrases, the chaos

C of family life: eventually, these, too,

started to fly in too fast at William. I’d become frantic to never say the wrong words with the wrong inflection at the wrong time, such as “this corkscrew you bought is a piece of crap,” in case he thought I’d said “you’re a piece of crap,” leading to backpedalling on my part: “No, see, it’s just that the cork got stuck in the bottle again—there’s no leverage.” I moved to the top floor, so that I could think about what to do. William couldn’t comprehend that decision, 26

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

which is why I sat with him outside his bedroom a few weeks later, holding his hands, trying to explain. I thought that the talk had gone well. Or, at least, well enough for me to go downstairs, a little before dawn, as I sometimes did, to watch him sleep. Except that this time he wasn’t there. On my way back upstairs, I took a detour to the middle of the loft and tipped the sofa and the chairs onto their sides, like cows. It wasn’t much by way of a response, but it was something. I later learned that, for the first time since we had been together, William had stayed with another woman, whom he had met on the subway. He had decided, after our talk, that it no longer mattered what he did, now that everything between us had been lost. ’d been living upstairs for months,

Itrying to stay out of William’s way,

while also trying to get the boys through the school year. By then, his volatility had become more pronounced, but one day he knocks on my door, to ask if I would go with him to a wedding on the coast of Northern California that we’d arranged to attend a while back. I say that it would be better if he took one of his new girlfriends. There had been a few, and, I point out, new girlfriends love being given the opportunity to prove how game they are. William says that he doesn’t want to take any of them—he wants to take me. He isn’t ready to go public with the news of our failed relationship. I should say no. Instead, I say yes. But two hotel rooms, and no lectures about the species of birds or the variety of fauna in Point Reyes. No data at all, I insist. “No data,” he agrees. The wedding takes place on a clif overlooking Heart’s Desire Beach. The water in the bay is so blue and so calm that it’s as if it exists to provide maximal heartache to anyone whose love is ending rather than beginning. As soon as the simple ceremony is over, I change into a bathing suit and swim out, trying to gauge how long it might take to get to where the waves are, water being the element in which I’ve always felt most at home. Explaining to people that William and I are no longer a couple had been harder than I’d thought.

“You live in the same building, though,” everyone kept saying. “And you guys are so great together, so hilarious.” I flip onto my back, to look at the sunset, and I see William walking slowly on the beach—so funereal in his black suit, so absurd a vision in a beach setting—holding the hand of a young boy. He’s pointing out trees and rocks, stooping to collect shells, so that the boy can examine them. O.K., that’s it, I decide. In all the years I’ve spent with this man, I’ve never seen him in the water, and today he’s getting in. I swim back to shore and tell him so. William makes his usual flustered excuses. “Get in,” I demand. Swim trunks are procured from somewhere, and he does, although he eyes the water anxiously. He says that he doesn’t really know how to swim. “I’ll be right here,” I say, as I backstroke to a nearby buoy. And then he goes for it. I yell at him to stop trying to hold his head up so high. Level with the water, I tell him, making pancaking gestures with my hands. You’ve got to economize the motion of breathing! His arms are everywhere, he’s practically flailing. He doesn’t know the way this is supposed to go at all. And yet his efort is so determined—so guileless and unguarded—that I stop shouting and just watch. When William finally reaches me, he holds on, and starts chatting excitedly about what a great swimmer he could be if I gave him lessons. I know this would involve a shared future we aren’t going to have. I untangle his limbs from mine and guide him onto his back. “Everyone starts this way,” I say. The boys and I once made William stretch out on the bathroom floor so that we could weigh his head on a scale, an act that had been followed by talk of donating it to the Smithsonian. Now, with just two of my fingers supporting his neck, his head is almost weightless. He doesn’t like the idea of his ears being submerged, but, with encouragement, he allows it to happen. He lets me stretch out his arms, then his legs. He floats beautifully. But what matters is how at ease he is, how at peace. We should have been working in water all along, I think, but right here, under a tangerine-colored sky, we are. 


SHOUTS & MURMURS

TRUMP’S AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS BY MEGAN AMRAM

t Trump American Girl, we cel-

LUCI GUTIÉRREZ

A ebrate girls and all that they can

be. Get inspired by our new line of Donald J. Trump-approved dolls and their timeless stories. Meet ANGELA! Angela is a real American girl from the nineteen-fifties, a time when America was truly great. She’s an energetic and optimistic girl who follows her heart instead of the crowd, and also she has huge breasts and a tight little ass. She’s a beautiful girl who knows what she wants: blond hair, blond skin, and separate water fountains for white people! Angela is Miss Teen U.S.A. 1953 and a solid 7, who will be downgraded to a 6 as soon as she turns twenty and will eventually be “retired” at age twenty-six. Her special talent is “keeping her mouth shut while you watch her undress.” She dreams of someday marrying a much older man whom she can cook for and call Daddy! Meet BETSY! Betsy is a perky girl during the American Revolution. She enjoys speaking her mind but also loves her perfect hourglass figure and large

breasts! Betsy wants to fight in the American Revolution, just like her brothers, and tries to disguise herself as a boy but can’t because her breasts are too large to tape down, and plus she’s not a lesbo. Instead, she learns to sew and designs the first American flag, which she then tattoos on her lower back! Meet ALICIA! A quiet Mexican girl whose large heart is outshone only by her even larger breasts! Alicia has just illegally arrived in America. While her brothers are all of raping and murdering white women and small dogs, Alicia learns how to whip up a delicious taco bowl (Hispanic for “sandwich bowl”) and goes to work at the Trump Tower Grill. The best taco bowls are made in the Trump Tower Grill. Meet ROSIE! Rosie is a spirited girl in the Second World War. She gets a job at a factory but has to leave after she’s sexually harassed because of her large breasts. This teaches Rosie a lesson—that she was asking for it by wearing such large breasts to work. She in-

stead becomes a kindergarten teacher and then a feminist because she’s a fat lesbian. Later, she dies of menopause! Meet NELLIE! Nellie is a largebreasted, plucky daughter of a sharecropper, living during the Reconstruction era. She is so grateful not to be living as a black person in 2016, when all black people are living in hell. In 2016, you can get shot in the inner cities when you’re walking to the store to buy a loaf of bread! She agrees that Donald Trump is the least racist person she’s met and that he has a great relationship with the African-Americans. Meet ELIZABETH! Elizabeth is a goofy Pocahontas who eats . . . beans? Corn? I forgot what Pocahontas is (are?). Which browns are they? Are they the taco-bowl browns? Meet HILLARY! Hillary is a butch lesbian in 1969 who, because she is so sickly and handicapped, is forced to use two wheelchairs, one for each droopy old-lady breast! She is secretly a black man but lies so she can steal taxpayer dollars to go be an abortionist at Wellesley College. For fun, she killed a Vietnam War vet named Pepe, who came back to haunt her and all the other “liberal media” homos. Comes with fun flip-flops for her to flip-flop in and one Benghazi. I don’t know what that is but I hear it’s bad and Jewish. Meet IVANKA! This American Girl’s got everything—a tight little figure, an ass you could bounce a milliondollar bill of of, not to mention she’s my daughter! If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her. Even if she were my daughter, I’d probably date her. I’m gonna date her. I’m dating her! Meet ALINA! Alina is a fourteenyear-old girl from Moldova! I purchased her from a farmer for six beads and a taco bowl from the Trump Tower Grill! Blink twice for “I love you,” Alina! Meet MELISSA! She is a monster that I engineered in my private genetics lab at Mar-a-Lago. Her body is just two huge breasts, genitals, and a head with no mouth! She is the Platonic ideal of a girl. Now that Melissa exists, you will never be able to look at a regular girl again! Meet TIFFANY! Who is Tifany again? I forget who Tifany is!  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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LETTER FROM SHANGHAI

THE EMPEROR’S NEW MUSEUM An ostentatious billionaire is using art to put China on the cultural map. BY JIAYANG FAN

Liu Yiqian’s museums house the largest private art collection in the country. nice to come home to Shang“I t’s hai,” the Chinese billionaire Liu

Yiqian told me one day in February, four months after gaining worldwide notoriety by spending a hundred and seventy million dollars on a painting by Amedeo Modigliani. We had just sat down in his oice at the Long Museum West, one of two privately run art museums that he has opened in the city, when his face contorted and a sneeze of atomic force burst out, unhindered by tissue or hand. Liu unself-consciously wiped himself down with a Kleenex, cleared his sinuses copiously, and balled up the tissue, placing it on a glass cofee table between us. Then he returned to the subject of his home town: “It might not have a long history, this city, but it is a place made 28

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by immigrants, for immigrants. We are exposed to so much from everywhere that people here have to adapt.” Liu’s oice is modest. Cold winter light entered through a window that looked onto a shabby courtyard. The room was sparsely decorated, and the most personal touch was a framed calligraphy scroll whose characters read “Patience, perseverance.” Liu had just got back from Wuhan, where he is building another branch of the museum, and he seemed tired. Wearing clothes that were quietly expensive—a black linen jacket, black pants, and black, woven slip-ons— he slumped on a black leather couch. His face showed a day’s worth of stubble and he smoked continually— Chunghwa, the cigarettes that Chair-

man Mao favored. “It’s a Shanghai brand, so I’m used to it,” he said, adding that he had smoked since boyhood: “When I was very young, I used to roll up toilet paper and copy the adults by sticking that in my mouth.” The Long Museum West (long means “dragon” in Chinese) opened in 2014, on a scenic stretch of land on the western shore of the Huangpu River. The Shanghai government had ofered a generous discount on the property, in an area that was once a manufacturing hub but is being transformed into a “cultural corridor” intended to rival New York’s Museum Mile and London’s South Bank. The building is impressive, designed, in an industrial international style, by the young Chinese firm Atelier Deshaus. Inside, a series of colossal half-arches in rough concrete interlock, as if in an M. C. Escher print, giving the space an unfixed, exploratory feel. The Modigliani—a darkhaired reclining nude seen against a flame-colored background, finished in 1918—will be the museum’s centerpiece, but the bulk of its collection is contemporary art from around the world. The museum is Liu’s second; the first, the Long Museum East, a ten-thousand-squaremetre granite monolith east of the river, opened in 2012 and contains Chinese antiquities and works by prominent contemporary Chinese artists. A third location opened in Chongqing earlier this year, and the Wuhan branch will open in 2018. Together, the museums, which are run by Liu’s wife, Wang Wei, house China’s largest private art collection. Liu is the forty-seventh-richest person in China, with an estimated fortune of $1.35 billion. An early investor in China’s nascent stock market, in the early nineties, he has since diversified into construction, real estate, and pharmaceuticals. He is fifty-three and has bristly, slightly graying hair, watchful eyes, and a paunch that suggests the banquet diet of beer and grain liquor that is an inextricable part of Chinese business culture. Liu speaks in a raspy voice, and his demeanor is brusque. He almost never makes eye contact. Often, he seems barely to hear questions, and his answers, when they come, are less like responses than like peepholes into some fleeting train of thought. Occasionally, when an idea interests him, he cocks his head, and his mouth forms a lopsided grin. ILLUSTRATION BY JUN CEN


Powerful Chinese businessmen tend to be circumspect and wary of attention, because their success depends on not attracting government disfavor. Liu, however, is known for a brash, flamboyant style. After the Modigliani purchase— which exceeded by a hundred million dollars the record paid for a work by the artist—there was a flurry of international news stories in which Liu, who was little known outside China, spoke with outrageous casualness about the painting, noting that it was “relatively nice,” at least compared with other Modiglianis. Now, however, he talked as if he’d found the attention unsettling, and seemed unsure whether Western fascination with his humble origins—he started out as a market vender, and later drove a taxi—connoted respect or something else. Before our meeting, his assistant warned me on no account to mention an article in which Liu called himself a tuhao, a term meaning “uncouth and wealthy,” and applied derisively to those who have risen from nothing in China’s hyperkinetic economy. But among Chinese Liu takes a certain pride in playing the equivalent of the Beverly Hillbillies—an Everyman who has suddenly got wise to the cultural cachet of art. Liu began collecting as early as 1993, but he first drew notice in 2009, when he paid more than eleven million dollars for a wooden Qing-dynasty throne carved with dragons. Since then, he has acquired a reputation for paying recordbreaking amounts—forty-five million dollars for a six-hundred-year-old Tibetan silk tapestry, nearly fifteen million for a Song-dynasty vase, and thirty-five million for an ink landscape by the twentieth-century artist Zhang Daqian. When I mentioned the Modigliani, Liu let out a dry laugh. “Here’s the deal with the Mudi,” he said, using an abbreviated Chinese approximation of Modigliani’s name. “It’s not just his art but his life. Every object has its story. Maybe if he hadn’t flung himself out of a window at thirty-six, his work wouldn’t be anywhere in the millions.” Among Western dealers, Chinese buyers are known for being more interested in an art work’s associations than in its aesthetic properties. But Liu had his facts tangled: Modigliani died at thirty-five, from tuberculosis; it was his mistress who committed suicide.

Liu’s extravagant hobby is the subject of considerable fascination in China, and is interpreted variously as a financial investment, a publicity stunt, a patriotic bid for the world’s attention, and an act of pure ostentation, such as one might expect from a tuhao. Liu told me that he thinks the museum fills a gap in China’s cultural life. Until recently, the country had few museums, and most of them were barely worthy of the name. “The mission of the Long Museum is to educate the Chinese public, and to present quality work that is on a par with other state-of-the-art museums around the world,” he said. He spoke of giving China a cultural prestige commensurate with its wealth: Western museums are full of Chinese art, but China has few Western art works of the calibre of the Modigliani. Liu’s buying spree is one of many developments that are turning Shanghai, China’s most Westernized city, into a global center for art. But it is also a demonstration of China’s brute purchasing power. “If a Westerner bought these Western masterpieces, people would think it was very normal,” he told me. “But, because they were bought by an Asian, and not just a Japanese but a Chinese person—” He looked up, his eyes full of impish pride. “After all, isn’t that why you are here?” iu Yiqian was born in 1963, to

L Shanghai factory workers who had

the good fortune, in the view of Chinese society, of having three sons and the misfortune of having little to give them in the way of material comfort. Liu’s role model was his maternal grandfather, a schoolteacher from an adjacent province who later became a lawyer. “He was my first teacher, the person who instilled in me a rudimentary sense of the world,” Liu has written, in a kind of diary-blog that he keeps on the Chinese socialmedia app WeChat. Liu’s fondest childhood memories are of sitting on his grandfather’s lap as the old man told him ancient fables or read to him from the cheaply produced, garishly illustrated Maoist storybooks of the time. These books, part of a canon of Communist art works known as “red classics,” have recently become collectors’ items, and the Long Museum West has the largest private collection of them, assembled

by Wang Wei. Liu’s favorite story was “The Cock Crows at Midnight,” about a greedy landowner who tricks his farmhands into rising early by crowing like a rooster at midnight. Eventually, one of them figures out the ruse, and, pretending to mistake the errant cock for a thief, gives him a good beating. A year ago, the museum mounted an exhibition on the story, and Liu wrote about it on WeChat: “When I read this story as a kid, everyone knew the farmhand was the hero and the landowner the villain. But now, thinking it over, I wonder, Didn’t the landowner have to wake up even earlier than the farmhands to pretend to crow like a cock? So I have to ask myself, ‘Am I now the landowner or the farmhand?’ ” In 1966, when Liu was two years old, the Cultural Revolution began, plunging the nation into chaos. A band of teen-age Red Guards stormed the family home, searching for anything that could be deemed counter-revolutionary. They found a broken fluorescent light fixture in a battered armoire, and Liu’s grandfather was accused of hiding a bomb. He was arraigned at one of the infamous “struggle sessions,” in which counter-revolutionaries were forced to admit their wrongdoing. His punishment was to perform three days of public contrition, standing in a ninety-degree-angle bow. When I asked Liu about the efect of the Cultural Revolution on his childhood, he claimed not to remember much. “What’s the use of thinking about that stuf ?” he said. But on WeChat he is less guarded. “I don’t have many happy childhood memories, but that particular incident is etched into me,” he wrote. “Even as a toddler, I knew it wasn’t a bomb. Watching my grandfather humiliated and led away by a bunch of children filled my young heart with enduring hate, vengefulness—that and the desire to permanently play hooky.” Liu made a habit of running away from home. In 1977, when he was fourteen, Liu dropped out of school. “You guys continue reading your books,” he told his classmates. “I’m going of to make money.” His timing was perfect. The next year, Deng Xiaoping took over as the country’s leader, and instituted a marketbased overhaul of China’s moribund economic system. Liu went to work for his parents, who had opened a market stall THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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selling leather bags in Yuyuan Gardens, the most popular tourist destination in Shanghai. Such an accessory would have been denounced as bourgeois frivolity only a few years before, but now fashion merchandise signified status. Liu remembers cutting up sheets of leather with huge shears to make pants, shoes, and bags, an activity that has left him with a pinched nerve in his right thumb. “There was never a day we didn’t work,” he recalled. “Even on all the days of the Chinese New Year, from morning until night.” He was a fast worker, and made more than a hundred yuan daily—at a time when that was the monthly budget of the average family. In three years, he entered the ranks of “ten-thousand-yuan earners,” as the young winners in Deng’s economic system were known. One day, Liu found himself waiting two hours for a taxi at the Shanghai train station. This gave him an idea, and, at the age of twenty-one, he started a taxi business, buying two cabs and driving one of them himself. “I knew I couldn’t be the only one wasting this much time on the curb,” he told me, hunching forward in a gesture of impatience. “It wasn’t even a decision.” Liu’s entrepreneurial instinct served him well in the volatile economic climate of the early nineties. On a trip to Shenzhen, where the government had established a so-called Special Economic Zone to test market-oriented policies, Liu ran into a former classmate who explained a fledgling concept called the stock market. For the first time, China’s state-owned companies were issuing shares, but these were little understood by the general public. For a hundred yuan each, Liu bought a hundred shares of the company that owned the market where his parents rented their stall. Within two years, each share was worth ten thousand yuan. Liu had become a millionaire, one of the few in China, at a time when the concept struck ordinary citizens as an inconceivable novelty. Today, almost all of China’s mega-rich enjoy some relationship with the government, and Chinese bloggers speculate endlessly about Liu’s ties to the political élite. Perhaps because of this, Liu, like many Chinese tycoons, is careful to seem modest when speaking about his success. When I asked him what tal30

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ents had enabled him to rise, he waved the question away. “My business career must be looked at against the background of China’s economic growth,” he said matter-of-factly. “China experienced a lot of change and generated a lot of wealth. There’s luck there and, of course, some diligence. That’s how my generation was created.” Liu’s WeChat posts, though, reveal how the vertiginous trajectory of his life continues to preoccupy him. “I spent my youth betting on tomorrows,” one entry reads. “But if I had finished school how diferently would my life have turned out?” The irony of his life now is that he is frequently mistaken for someone unimportant. “Forgot the security code to my own apartment”—he owns hundreds of apartments in Shanghai. “Security guard thought I was a random loiterer and asks suspiciously who I am here to see.” When his Shanghai museums were being built, he liked to sit outside eating lunch with the construction workers, and friends of his told me that he goes unrecognized at museum openings. Squatting by the entrance, smoking, he is taken to be a janitor. iu’s generation grew up in what

L he refers to as Old Shanghai. In the

days before economic liberalization brought some measure of prosperity to China’s big cities, Shanghai was a sleepier, more insular town, where everyone spoke Shanghainese, rather than Mandarin. The city of Liu’s youth had its origins in the eighteen-thirties, when the British East India Company tried to establish a trading post on the banks of the Huangpu River. Resistance led to the first Opium War, which the British won, and Western powers set up a series of “concessions,” districts that were not governed by Chinese law. Hotels, villas, cathedrals, racecourses, and theatres quickly sprang up, and the city was alternately hailed as the Paris of the East and lambasted as the Whore of the Orient. The very qualities of adaptability and openness that allowed Shanghai to flourish also made—and still make—the city the focal point of China’s uneasy encounter with the West. Today, more than a quarter of the foreign nationals in China live there, and Shanghai natives like to think of themselves as more sophisticated than their compatriots in other cit-

ies. As the mid-century novelist Eileen Chang—the city’s most famous writer— once put it, “The people of Shanghai have been distilled out of Chinese tradition by the pressures of modern life. They are a deformed mix of old and new. Though the result may not be healthy, there is a curious wisdom to it.” If you wander through central Shanghai, this mixed heritage is manifest on every street corner. The old trading houses and apartment buildings of the Bund, an iconic riverfront promenade, wouldn’t look out of place in a Western capital. Elsewhere, you can still find narrow brick alleys of shikumen—a hybrid of traditional courtyard dwellings and Western town houses—which were built in the eighteen-sixties to house a booming population of Chinese workers. Early in my visit to Shanghai, I met Leo Xu, a young gallerist, who took me to the Jin Jiang Hotel, in the heart of the old French Concession. Like many businesses in the neighborhood, the Jin Jiang, which was established in the nineteen-thirties, operates as a pastiche of the city’s cosmopolitan heyday. We walked down a wood-panelled corridor, lined with photographs of svelte, cheongsam-clad movie and cabaret stars, to the hotel’s ornate dining room. Service was old-fashioned and deferential, and swing music drifted from hidden speakers. Without glancing at the menu, Xu ordered braised duck and pickled beets, classic dishes that typify the sweet, subtle flavors of the city’s cuisine. As we ate, Xu told me about Shanghai’s gallery scene and its collectors. Francis Bacon, for instance, doesn’t sell. “The Chinese don’t see themselves in the work,” he said. “Chinese collectors need to be able to relate to it and to feel that it has at least a little relevance to how they live or what they know.” They prefer either traditional Chinese ink paintings or works by current art-world stars such as Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, and Olafur Eliasson. Name recognition is paramount. “If buyers are putting down such a large sum, they want blue-chip artists, someone everyone knows,” Xu said. Xu was eager to talk up the city’s artistic importance. He claimed that it had surpassed Beijing, which is generally held to be the center of the Chinese art world, and that its immigrant history made it more open than other Chinese cities.


“Beijing has traditionally focussed on art that is state-sanctioned,” he said. “Shanghai, on the other hand, and especially in recent years, is about culture and the varieties of individual experience.” China’s earliest museums were established in Shanghai, by Europeans, to serve European ends. The first of them, the Xujiahui Museum, was founded in 1868, by a French Jesuit priest and zoologist who combined his missionary work with collecting animal and plant specimens from the Yangtze Delta. Once missionaries realized that exhibiting the wonders of the natural world made the local population more enthusiastic about Christianity, similar museums followed. It was in such museums that the Chinese public first encountered maps, and saw China as a physically demarcated territory, rather than as the entire world, as many had supposed it to be. Yet the Chinese élite, traditionally the patrons and collectors of art, had no interest in entertaining or educating the masses. After the Communists came to power, the arts were repurposed as a political tool and subsumed into the Department of Propaganda. But in the early nineteen-eighties the government began to see museums as a way of advertising the vitality of Chinese culture, and they spread across the country. The trend has intensified since 2012, when Hu Jintao, then China’s President, announced a strategy to build a “great nation of culture.” In 1949, China had only twenty-one museums. There are now more than four thousand. One afternoon, I met Li Xiangyang, who was the head of the Shanghai Art Museum from 1993 to 2005, and has been a close observer of the city’s evolving relationship with art. Now in his sixties and semi-retired, he does traditional ink paintings, and has published a memoir recounting his life in the museum world. During the Cultural Revolution, when Li was in his late teens, he got a job as a propaganda illustrator, churning out pictures of factory workers and of farmers toiling in wheat fields. “I wasn’t an artist,” he said. “Nobody called himself that in those days. There wasn’t even regular school, never mind art school.” His curatorial career began by chance, when a local Party oicial, with no training in art, decided that Li should run the museum. The project had

“Could you not do that? Keeping babies alive in public makes me uncomfortable.”

• few resources and no defined mission. “When I started, we knew very little about Chinese art history and almost nothing about Western art,” he said. Despite the museum’s impressivesounding name, it was comically ramshackle, with no permanent collection. “Do you know what our museum space was?” Li said. “The second floor of a bank, which local hobbyists rented occasionally in order to exhibit their drawings to one another.” Few members of the public ever visited. “The worst part was that I was in charge of earning my own salary, and also maintenance fees for the museum,” he said, with a snort of laughter. “So if I didn’t rent out the space enough times a month I didn’t get paid, and neither did my staf!” Li learned on the job. He managed to make fact-finding trips to Japan, Singapore, and Europe. In Germany, he was astonished to see volunteer docents: the idea that anyone would work in a museum for nothing seemed fantastical. He recalled the thrill of visiting the Louvre for the first time: “There were so many things I wanted to bring back to this city, like a farmer who wants to bring back as many seeds as possible to his own field.” For Li, the audio guides were as exciting as the masterpieces on display. In a culture with no tradition of mu-

• seums, the government’s sudden demand for many more of them was hard to satisfy. “Modernization! Soft power!” Li said, in a singsong voice—catchphrases, respectively, of the Deng and Hu Jintao administrations. “But when I was in the job few people even knew the word ‘museology.’ ” Another Shanghai museum director used an analogy to describe the predicament. “A tuxedo, like a museum, is expensive and has many pieces,” he said. “You have the shirt, the bow tie, the vest, the jacket, and more. But so few Chinese have even seen a tux that the leaders are just trying to familiarize the people with the garment. And, rather than buying every single piece, maybe we conserve some fabric and sew shirt collars onto the vest instead.” visited the Long Museum West

I early one Sunday morning. A pair of

Japanese tourists and some Danes holding guidebooks waited uncertainly in the entrance lobby. From the exhibition space beyond, a woman in jeans peered out and yelled at a security guard, “Why did you open the door?” The museum wasn’t open yet. Fifteen minutes later, I stood in the main hall. The vaulted ceilings rose so high above the gallery walls that the whole floor had the feel of a single

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palatial room. The galleries were devoted to contemporary art—Chinese antiquities are in darkened rooms in the basement—and the first piece that caught my eye was a cartoonishly sculpted bright-yellow dog with neon-green polka dots. His name was Chan-Chan, and he was the creation of Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese conceptual artist. A few feet away was a large robot constructed entirely from vintage television sets, by the Korean-American video artist Nam June Paik, and “The Embodiment of Tree,” by the Japanese sculptor Ikki Miyake—a wooden figure of a woman with her hands stretched upward above her head. Individually, the pieces were interesting enough, but their placement seemed haphazard, as if movers had plunked them down in a warehouse. Along the walls, paintings of various sizes jostled one another, like certificates in a dentist’s oice. Liu, in his WeChat diary, loves to post photographs of his museums when they are packed, with a line snaking out the entrance, like, as he puts it, “a great big dragon.” He sees the museums as a means not only of educating the public but also of tempering materialism. “Since the standard of living has improved, more people are concerned about spiritual satisfaction,” he said. “Culture, which we neglected for a while, we are now picking up again as a people.” “There’s no model for the kind of museum he’s building—nothing of its scale and ambition,” the New York gallerist David Zwirner told me. “He is a

trailblazer, which is probably as daunting as it is exhilarating.”Marion Maneker, an art-market analyst, compared Liu’s undertaking with current attempts to assemble world-class collections in the United Arab Emirates. In both cases, funds are practically limitless, but there is not yet a fixed sense of art history or of the role of museums. Copying Western models, Maneker suggested, could take one only so far. “There is no such thing as the platonic ideal of a great, encyclopedic museum,” he said. “Even the Louvre and the Met were products of their time and a certain amount of luck.” If Liu’s museum empire is to become great, he said, “it needs to draw connections, be greater than the sum of its parts, tell a story.” Liu’s museums face other challenges, too. Everyone I spoke to mentioned financial sustainability. Philanthropy is not well-established in China—until recently, there was no tax incentive to donate to nonprofit institutions—and though the government sometimes provides funds for construction, it contributes nothing to operating expenses. Liu had told me he hoped that the Long Museums would be a lasting feature of the Chinese cultural landscape, but the volatility of the domestic stock market casts doubt on the permanence of anything built on a private fortune. A large number of wealthy Chinese, Liu among them, have recently come to dominate the market for Asian art— much of which was plundered by the

West. (UNESCO estimates that 1.6 million Chinese artifacts left the country illegally in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.) The government has become active in petitioning for restitution, and many Chinese collectors regard it as their patriotic duty to bring back important items. Liu’s purchases fit this trend, but, as on other subjects, he is careful not to express resentment about the loss of heritage. “When we are young, we are indoctrinated to believe that the foreigners stole from us, but maybe it’s out of context,” he told me. “Whatever of ours they stole, we can always snatch it back one day. The laws of the market always rule.” Many collectors keep their purchases anonymous, but Liu broadcasts his acquisitions, something that even some of his close friends initially found ofputting. Zhu Shaoliang, a prominent collector of Chinese antiquities, told me that when he met Liu, in 2009, at an auction, he thought he was “aggressively boastful.” Zhu went on, “He was making these wild claims about ancient Chinese art, and it made me so angry. I thought, This person is just so uneducated!” But Zhu and Liu eventually became friends, and, over the years, Zhu has advised Liu on purchases; in 2014, he vouched for the authenticity of an ancient scroll in Liu’s collection that was suspected of being a forgery. “It takes a while to get to know him, but Liu learns fast, and he is both decisive and bold,” Zhu told me. “In some ways, he buys art the way he conducts business.” Liu’s attitude toward running a museum is unconventional, and it troubles many people in the art world. The security arrangements are widely held to be inadequate for such a valuable collection, and other operations that are vital in most museums, such as P.R., are all but nonexistent. “They don’t spring for that kind of thing, because they think it’s unnecessary,” Jia Wei, a former auctioneer, who used to work with Wang Wei, Liu’s wife, told me. “They both want to do everything themselves.” Alexandra Munroe, the head of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum, has visited the Long Museum on a number of occasions and has been shocked by what she sees as insuicient professionalism. “They are lacking in the absolute fundamentals of how to handle art,” she


told me. Walking through the antiquities section of the Long Museum West, she noted, with dismay, that fabric cords, which are attached to scrolls for the purpose of tying them when they are rolled up for storage, were left dangling in front of the art. “It’s the equivalent of walking into a museum here and seeing a van Gogh hung upside down,” she said. “It’s about custodianship. Just because you own the art and the museum doesn’t mean that you get to disrespect it.” Liu’s treatment of some of his most precious art works has enhanced an impression of cavalier ignorance. In 2014, he spent more than thirty-six million dollars on a fifteenth-century porcelain cup decorated with a chicken motif, which had been owned, in the eighteenth century, by the famous Qingdynasty emperor Qianlong. Liu publicly sipped tea from the artifact—scandalizing the art world and cementing his reputation as a cheeky eccentric. “Emperor Qianlong has used it; now I’ve used it,” he explained afterward. “I wanted to channel his spirit.” The next year, in a hotel suite in New York, he celebrated the purchase, for five million dollars, of a twelfth-century Tibetan bronze of a seated yogi by stripping down to his underwear, mimicking the statue’s lotus pose, and circulating pictures of the yogi and himself on social media. n my last night in Shanghai, I

O accompanied Leo Xu and a few of

his friends to what they described as the “hottest art opening of the season.” We got in an Uber and drove toward the neon of the city’s commercial center. The car pulled up in front of a crescentshaped courtyard full of signs that did not immediately suggest artistic endeavor: Burberry, Bally, Dolce & Gabbana. Around the perimeter of the courtyard were upscale gift shops, stafed by tuxedoed salesmen. In a central atrium, open to the sky, complicated-looking pieces of jewelry lay on silver platters beneath glass domes. It was unclear if they were on display or for sale. The venue, which opened in 2013, is called K11, and its aim is to combine the functions of art museum and shopping mall. In the art space, which is downstairs from the courtyard, I wandered through galleries of paintings, performances, and installations by fifty-five

young artists. Next to each work was a QR code, which you could scan with your phone to get a statement by the artist. Attendants glided around, silently distributing and collecting audio guides. The galleries were much more crowded than the ones I’d seen at the Long Museum. In one room, people clustered around a figure in a red basketball jersey. It turned out to be a statue of the Shanghaiborn basketball star Yao Ming, shrunk to about five feet. (Yao is seven and a half feet tall.) I scanned the QR code and learned that the artist had hoped that shrinking China’s most famous giant would “ridicule reality and authority.” A young man in sweatpants and a camel-hair coat sauntered in, surrounded by assistants holding clipboards and iPads. Leo Xu nudged me: “That’s Adrian Cheng, the owner.” Cheng is thirty-seven and comes from a Hong Kong real-estate family with vast holdings throughout China. Educated at Taft and at Harvard, Cheng spends his time shuttling between Hong Kong and the mainland, visiting Europe every month and New York twice a year. He described the idea of K11 to me with smooth, practiced fluency. “In China, people don’t go to museums,” he said. “They go shopping. The Chinese love luxury. But the concept of luxury is evolving here on the mainland. It used to be fast cars and designer clothes. Now the focus is shifting to culture.” As a business strategy, the use of art to lure curious customers seemed to be working. Philip Tinari, an American curator who directs a contemporary art center in Beijing, told me about a K11 Monet show in 2014. “The lines looped around the block, because Monet is one of the five Western artists Chinese people have heard of,” he said. “When people are bored in line, what do they do? They shop. It’s brilliant.” In the middle of one room at K11, there was a plain white wall, guarded by a uniformed attendant. Next to a slit in the wall was a label that said “Please insert one yuan coin.” On the other side of the wall was a dispenser with instructions to withdraw a one-yuan note. A line of visitors pushed coins in and ex-

claimed as bills came out. The piece, “Past Opportunity,” was by Liu Chuang, a young artist represented by Leo Xu’s gallery. Xu explained that Shanghai’s many vending machines dispense coins but that taxi-drivers and other venders prefer bills: “They cuss you out whenever you give them a coin.” The symbolism was unavoidable. In the middle of K11’s fusion of culture and commerce was an art work that changed money into money, leaving no one richer but everyone feeling better of. It was getting late, and the crowd had thinned. I started talking to the attendant, who told me that she and her husband had moved to Shanghai six years earlier, in search of work. She’d never been in a museum until she started working in one. “I’ve been standing here handing out coins for three hours and I still don’t get this thing!” she said, laughing. Xu took a coin from his pocket and said, “This tiny gesture, to which most people attribute absolutely no significance, says something about Chinese economic trends over the past few decades. It shows how in the course of change there are these opportunities, big and small. And, once you convert something to something else, you usually can’t go back.” Xu inserted his coin into the slot and when a yuan bill emerged he motioned to the woman to keep it. Xu and his friends hoped that Liu and his wife, who know Cheng and are regulars at Shanghai art openings, might make an appearance. But they were in Hong Kong. Later, Liu posted on WeChat a picture of a stock certi ficate from the early days of the Shanghai stock market. Underneath, he wrote that he had mislaid a box of these certificates when moving house. “Someone must have found them worth keeping, because an auction house here in Shanghai just began selling them this year,” he wrote. “I can still see my address, my own handwriting, and the places where I blotted out a misspelling.” In another post, he noted with satisfaction, “Today, several boxes’ worth of them will fetch quite a price.” In the art market, the relics of Liu’s rise were becoming a commodity.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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ANNALS OF RELIGION

THE MORAL MINORITY If the Southern Baptist church can’t be bigger, Russell Moore wants it to be better. BY KELEFA SANNEH

n 2009, Russell Moore was a young theologian who occasionally served as the host of a Christian radio show. He liked to let callers have their say, drawing them out with friendly questioning before gently acknowledging, when necessary, that he firmly disagreed. One day in July, he found himself leading a discussion of Sarah Palin, who had recently called a surprise backyard press conference to announce that she was resigning the governorship of Alaska. (She blamed silly ethics charges and serious lawyers’ fees.) Moore’s guest was Richard Land, who had been praising Palin before most of the country knew her name. Land was the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-engagement arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which made him the loudest voice of the biggest group of Protestants in the country—the evangelical Pope, some people called him. He had urged John McCain to choose Palin as his running mate, and had pronounced himself “ecstatic” when McCain followed his advice. Addressing the audience via telephone, Land called the resignation “a very shrewd move,” suggested that Palin remained “an existential threat” to liberal feminism, and compared her favorably to Justice Clarence Thomas. “Clarence Thomas dared to get of the liberal plantation,” he said. “Sarah Palin refused to buy into liberal leftist feminism.” Moore was respectful, but he seemed puzzled by Land’s eagerness to defend Palin. “Dr. Land thinks that Governor Palin’s resignation was a shrewd move,” he said. “I don’t. I don’t understand it at all.” Later in the show, after Land had hung up, Moore ofered a broader critique. “We, as evangelical Christians, are really, really prone, it seems to me, to become so enthused with political figures that we just automatically impute to them almost superheroic status,” he said. “Put not your trust in

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princes,” he added—Psalm 146:3. “Or in princesses, either.” During the previous two decades, Land had proved an efective wrangler of the historically unwrangleable Southern Baptists, mobilizing the denomination’s tens of millions of believers on behalf of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. For a long time, Southern Baptists had not only a faith but a cause. They saw God’s greatness reflected in the inherent goodness of the American South—and, more recently, in America itself. Jerry Falwell, a Baptist and a Southerner (although not, until late in his life, a member of the S.B.C.), created the Moral Majority to propound the idea that most Americans believed as he did. Evangelicals became a potent political force: in 2004, they helped reëlect George W. Bush. “He’s going to dance with the one who brung him,” Land told one newspaper. In fact, that election may have marked the beginning of evangelicals’ political decline. Land had predicted that the President would act on issues important to the church, such as a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But, after Land’s followers helped return Bush to oice, he never pushed for one. And in the Obama era Land’s status as an old-fashioned culture warrior came to seem, to some members of the church, like a liability. In 2012, after George Zimmerman, a neighborhoodwatch volunteer, fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old AfricanAmerican, Land said on his own radio show that activists were seizing on the case “to gin up the black vote for an African-American President.” When he was criticized, he suggested that Zimmerman had behaved rationally; a black man, he said, was “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.” Land eventually apologized, but, in the months that followed, his radio show was cancelled, and, under pressure, he resigned

from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which he had led since 1988. In the S.B.C., denominational presidents come and go—each is elected to a one-year term, with a maximum one-year renewal. But the leader of the E.R.L.C. is expected to stick around, and to define for the world what the church stands for. For the first time since the Reagan era, the Southern Baptists were looking for a new public face. The face they eventually chose belonged to Russell Moore, who was fortyone when he assumed the presidency, in 2013. Where Land was a stern figure, fearsomely jowled and sideburned, Moore declines to play the heavy: he once described himself as a “little guy who looks like a cricket,” which suggests something about not just his appearance but also his sensibility. Land often trained his fire on “homosexual activists” and other political enemies, but Moore tends toward introspection, admonishing Southern Baptists to think first—and often—about their own sins. The denomination was formed, in 1845, by white Southerners who split of from a national Baptist movement that was growing increasingly intolerant of slavery. Moore sees in his theological ancestors a cowardly and catastrophic willingness to ignore the uncomfortable. “If you call people to repentance for drunkenness, or for adultery, or for any number of personal sins, but you don’t say anything about slaveholding or about lynching,” he says, “you’re just baptizing the status quo.” In May, he published an Op-Ed in the Times called “A White Church No More,” in which he suggested that “white, suburban, institutional evangelicalism” was cloistered, too separate from the forms of Christianity thriving in nonwhite America. Moore agrees with Land on most theological matters: both believe, as all Southern Baptists are supposed to, that the Bible contains “truth, without any


Moore says Christians must accept that they are a marginalized community, in an increasingly hostile secular culture. ILLUSTRATION BY BEN WISEMAN

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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mixture of error.” And both view abortion as the defining atrocity of our age. Although Moore strains to avoid partisan appeals, his political views are generally conservative, which is to say, generally in harmony with those of the mainly white and thoroughly evangelical worshippers whom he serves—and who, through donations to their local churches, pay his salary. But this year Moore has found himself at odds with his flock over the candidacy of Donald Trump. Moore has been relentless in his criticism: in June, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” he said that Trump, no less than Hillary Clinton, represented “the very kind of moral and cultural decadence that conservatives have been saying, for a long time, is the problem.” Trump responded, inevitably, on Twitter, calling Moore a “nasty guy with no heart!” On CNN, hours later, Anderson Cooper asked Moore to continue the dialogue, and Moore flashed a crickety smile. “It’s one of the few things that I can agree with Donald Trump on,” he said. “I am a nasty guy with no heart—we sing worse things about ourselves in our hymns, on Sunday mornings.” He added, “That’s the reason why I need forgiveness from God, through Jesus Christ.” He had found a way to mock an insult with a prayer. There were signs, during the primary season, that Trump’s crude manner, ad-

mittedly chaotic personal life, and shrugging indiference to questions of religious faith—all unprecedented traits among modern major Presidential candidates—were repelling many of the Christians who typically vote Republican. But more recent polls suggest that white evangelicals overwhelmingly support Trump, and that they have grown more tolerant of politicians who behave badly. One measure of the so-called “Trump efect”: in October, seventy-two per cent of white evangelicals agreed that an elected oicial who “commits an immoral act” in private could nevertheless behave ethically in public; five years earlier, only thirty per cent agreed with the statement. Robert Jefress, the pastor of First Baptist Church, in Dallas, a flagship S.B.C. congregation, was probably speaking for many if not most Southern Baptists when he suggested that Trump was justified in responding to Moore’s “vitriolic attacks.” In Jefress’s view, Trump is precisely the kind of protector whom Christians should support; he has said that, when it comes to defending America from Islamic terrorism and other threats, “I want the meanest, toughest son-of-a-you-know-what I can find.” Moore is allergic to this kind of talk. The Babylon Bee, which is essentially the Onion for evangelicals, ran a headline mocking Moore’s perceived dis-

taste for political combat: “SOUTHERN BAPTISTS ANNOUNCE PLAN TO SILENTLY JUDGE DONALD TRUMP.” The accompanying article went on: The strategy, which Moore described as “time-honored,” will eschew clearly-audible political activity in favor of tactics like tight-lipped and/or high-eyebrowed looks of concerned disapproval at the mention of Trump’s name, knowing glances to fellow Southern Baptists, and muled discussions behind closed doors.

During this election season, Moore has sometimes appeared out of place in his own denomination—a Trump detractor leading a church largely peopled by Trump supporters. But he seemed comfortable in this uncomfortable position, perhaps because he has learned to accept the limits of his ability to change the world, or even to understand it. Moore thinks that the idea of a moral majority is wrong, and was probably wrong when it was created: he suspects that earnest, orthodox Christians have always been outnumbered. Like any believer, he wants his church to grow, but he doesn’t seem particularly threatened by the thought that it might not. He says that Christians in America must learn to think of themselves as a marginal community, struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile secular culture. In such a context, Muslims might seem less like enemies and more like allies in the fight for religious freedom. This transition might be especially wrenching for Southern Baptists. After centuries of regional dominance, the denomination has been shrinking: last year, the church reported fewer than three hundred thousand baptisms, the lowest number in more than half a century, and a decline of about a third since the peak, in 1972. Moore’s critique of Christian triumphalism seems well suited to this not very triumphant time for his church. His promise is that the Southern Baptists can grow better, even if they are not growing bigger: he would like to be the leader of a moral minority. he Southern Baptist Convention

T occupies an impressive cluster of

“It’s so hard to settle on an oice temperature that everybody likes.”

buildings in downtown Nashville. The centerpiece is Draper Tower, a twelvestory structure emblazoned with enormous crosses and the word “LifeWay,”


which is the name of the S.B.C.’s publishing arm. But LifeWay takes up less than half the floor space, and last year the building was sold to a California real-estate company. Moore’s oice is across the street, in the sleek S.B.C. headquarters, where the E.R.L.C. occupies the fifth floor. A couple of key staf members came with Moore from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville; Moore was a popular professor there and the dean of the theology school. Members of his Kentucky crew can be identified by the personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bats in their oices, which underscore the impression that they arrived in Nashville to clean house. In person, Moore is a cheerful but self-commanded presence, with big brown eyes and a radio-ready tenor that always sounds slightly hoarse, possibly because he has been talking about Christianity, more or less nonstop, since the nineteen-eighties. In his oice, an American flag and a Christian flag are prominently displayed, and so is his collection of bobblehead dolls: Thomas Jeferson and Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman, along with the preacher Charles Spurgeon, the evangelist Billy Graham, and the country singer Hank Williams. Friends sometimes mention Moore’s passion for country music as if it were a quirk, which may reveal less about him than about the buttoned-down culture of the S.B.C.— there may be no other oice building in Nashville where such a predilection would be considered noteworthy. At eight o’clock on a recent morning, Moore was on his second cup of cofee, preparing for a full day of talking to young Southern Baptist pastors, none of whom would be under any obligation to listen to him. The S.B.C. is devoted to the principle of congregational autonomy, which means that churches can choose (and dismiss) their own pastors, and can decide how much money to send to the national Cooperative Program, which funds most S.B.C. activities. There is an eighteen-part statement of belief, the Baptist Faith & Message, but for Southern Baptists the only words that bind are those in the Bible. Jefress, the Dallas pastor, says that he doesn’t spend much time worrying about his denominational identity. “The national

S.B.C. leadership, with all due respect, has no sway over our people,” he says. “Our people don’t even know who the national leaders are.” Moore headed downstairs to an inhouse radio studio, where he was holding a conference call with pastors, who are encouraged to view him as both a wise teacher and a practical resource, available to give them clear answers to their congregants’ complicated questions. Although Moore can’t do anything about skeptical leaders like Jefress, he holds sway over a large (if self-selected) group of pastors who are inspired by his twin commitments to theological orthodoxy and cultural change. He was accompanied by Phillip Bethancourt, his chief lieutenant, who asked, “Did you see what happened with this French priest and ISIS?” In Northern France, an eighty-five-year-old Catholic priest had been killed by two men who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. “It’s horrible,” Moore said, quietly. “Mass-going Catholicism in France is not that common, so it is sending a chilling efect.” Many in Moore’s denomination would like him to adopt a more confrontational position toward Islam. At the annual S.B.C. meeting, held this June in St. Louis, a pastor from a small church in Arkansas asked Moore, “How in the world can someone within the Southern Baptist Convention support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States, when these people threaten our way of existence?” Soon after the conference call began, someone asked Moore about a controversy in Farmersville, Texas, where local residents were opposing plans for a Muslim cemetery. Moore urged the pastors to stand firm in defense of religious freedom, arguing that Baptists should “reclaim” the language of “separation of church and state,” which many evangelicals consider a euphemism for secularization. Moore likes to cite the centuries-old Baptist tradition of “soul freedom”—the right to resist what Roger Williams, a Baptist and the founder of

Rhode Island, called “enforced uniformity of religion.” (Williams had been expelled from Massachusetts after agitating for greater separation from the Church of England.) Moore sometimes adds that this principle has a practical value for members of his tribe. At the annual meeting, he said, “Brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship, then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build.” On the conference call, there were also more mundane queries: one pastor was counselling a father whose son refused to stop smoking marijuana; another wondered about two twenty-yearolds who wanted to get married but delay having children; a third was thinking of adopting the model known as “covenant membership,” which tightens membership requirements and strengthens the authority of church leaders, in the hope of building a more enduring congregation. Responding to this last caller, Moore strove to sound evenhanded: he said that some churches were indeed bedevilled by “lax” membership policies, but he warned against authoritarianism. “Remember, in the New Testament it’s the church that has accountability over the members—not the pastors,” he said. And he gave the caller a homework assignment: visit all the absentee members at home, to find out why they had stopped going to church. When the phone call was over, the fifth-floor lobby began to fill up with middle-aged guys: Moore had invited local pastors to come over for lunch, catered by a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant. (“Baptists like to eat well,” one of his assistants explained.) There were almost no women there. Southern Baptists are complementarians, which means they believe that men and women have distinct roles. At home, a wife must “submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband,” following Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:22-23. And, THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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in church, only men are eligible to serve as pastors, as Paul decreed in I Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” In defending these guidelines, Moore sometimes uses the word “patriarchy,” which he believes might, properly defined, help evangelicals explain their opposition to feminism. For many secular audiences, “patriarchy” is a slur, not a cultural ideal. But Moore points out that in the evangelical world complementarianism is more widely accepted now than it was a decade or two ago, when a cohort of scholars were arguing in favor of gender equality. In 2016, it is clearer than ever that American evangelical Christianity is a counterculture, which may mean that the church is freer to espouse ideas at odds with the egalitarianism that the secular mainstream preaches (and sometimes practices).This, then, is part of what Moore has in mind when he urges believers to rediscover “the strangeness of Christianity”: a roomful of servant-leader men, sitting around eating steak fajitas. When the plates were empty, Moore delivered an informal sermon inspired by Jesus’ warning, in the Sermon on the Mount, that “no one can serve two masters.” He fielded questions, on topics ranging from Pokémon Go (it seemed harmless, he said) to Black Lives Matter (he urged the pastors to think harder about perspectives that were “invisible” to them). Then he sent everyone away with a final prayer and a parting gift: a mug bearing the E.R.L.C. logo, which is a crown resting on a Bible, haloed by three stars. “Enjoy your favorite beverage in it,” Bethancourt said. Moore bit his lip. “Your favorite nonalcoholic beverage,” he said, with exaggerated solemnity. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is descended from an agency that was known, in the nineteenth century, as the Committee on Temperance; in those days, one of the Southern Baptists’ chief political goals was the prohibition of alcohol. But over the years this imperative has largely disappeared from the S.B.C. agenda, which shows how quickly a defining issue can become a relatively minor concern. The denomination remains opposed to drinking; there are still Southern Baptists 38

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who regard Biblical warnings against “drunkenness” as proof that consuming alcohol is a sin, and who insist that, when John writes of Jesus turning water into wine, he is referring to unfermented grape juice. But Moore, a teetotaller, regards moderate drinking as merely unwise, not sinful. He and his wife, Maria, have five sons, and not long ago one of them was scandalized when he discovered that the father of one of his friends enjoyed an occasional beer. Moore took his son out to the back yard, where he tried to explain that this did not constitute rebellion against God. He says, “I must be the first Baptist-entity president in history who’s having to talk his ten-year-old into seeing that people who drink alcohol are not bad people.” ost Baptists agree that the

M first modern church was estab-

lished in Amsterdam, in the early seventeenth century, by two English expatriates, John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. They believed, as Baptists do today, that baptism was properly accomplished only by immersing a mindful believer in water, in accordance with the Gospel of Mark, which records John the Baptist immersing Jesus in the River Jordan. For Baptists, the act of baptism by sprinkling water on a baby’s head is so far removed from the Biblical model as to be undeserving of the term. Over time, the upstart movement formed a religious establishment of its own, and in the South the S.B.C. became a permanent feature of the landscape, known less for its baptism practices than for its downhome culture—sweet tea and Southern accents. Generations of the faithful grew up absorbed in church life, spending summers at Baptist camps and pleasant evenings at Baptist suppers. The denomination was sometimes described as “Southern culture at prayer.” Moore was reared in Biloxi, on the Gulf Coast, a part of Mississippi that can feel like part of greater New Orleans. Half the people in his area were Catholic, and so was his mother, until she married into a Southern Baptist family: her new father-in-law was the pastor of the local church. Moore was a sociable but serious boy, and today he remembers the decadence of Mardi

Gras less vividly than the disapproval of some of his fellow-Baptists, to whom the debauchery seemed like proof that Catholics didn’t take their Bible seriously enough. He was reborn in Christ not long after his twelfth birthday, when he was walking home from a revival meeting and was overcome by a certainty that the Bible’s message was meant for him. Soon afterward, he mentioned to his pastor that he might be destined for the ministry. The pastor assigned him to preach his first sermon, two weeks later, and Moore managed to do it, although his performance was bookended by bouts of nervous vomiting behind the baptistery. One morning in Sunday school, the teacher admonished him for putting a coin in his mouth—suggesting, with revulsion, that a “colored man” might have touched it. In Moore’s telling, the exchange sparked an interest in race and injustice, which helped lead him, briefly, into electoral politics. In college, at the University of Southern Mississippi, he worked for the congressman Gene Taylor, a pro-life Democrat who represented the Biloxi area. But, after a few years, Moore surprised Taylor with the news that he was quitting to go to seminary. He has been ensconced ever since within the S.B.C., a church whose history is inseparable from the history of race in America. What’s most disquieting about the Southern Baptists’ historic support of slavery is that the church leaders weren’t lacking in Scriptural support. In 1822, a prominent South Carolina pastor named Richard Furman published his “Exposition of the Views of the Baptists Relative to the Coloured Population of the United States,” in which he argued that immediate emancipation would be “extremely injurious to the community at large,” and would interfere with the “religious improvement” of the people currently enslaved. He referred to I Timothy 6:1, in which Paul writes, “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” Moore, like generations of Southern Baptists before him, hastens to explain that this nineteenthcentury interpretation is specious and ofensive, not least because American


slavery was markedly diferent from Biblical slavery. And yet this misreading, if that is what it was, casts a long shadow over the Southern Baptists. Even after the Civil War, the S.B.C. remained defiantly Southern and purposively white. (Its black counterpart is the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., which today also has its headquarters in Nashville, a few miles north of the S.B.C. buildings.) Most Southern Baptist churches were segregated, by custom or by rule, and church leaders who tried to change that often faced resistance, or removal. Brooks Hays, a congressman from Arkansas, served as the president of the S.B.C. in the late fifties. After the Brown v. Board of Education decision banned public-school segregation, he led an S.B.C. commission that asserted, equivocally, that “laws of segregation or non-segregation” were equally unlikely to bring peace. A pastor in Dallas responded with an angry letter, accompanied by a pamphlet titled “God: The Original Segregationist.” The church likes to present Hays as a racial-justice pioneer. In “A Matter of Conviction,” a 2008 history commissioned by the E.R.L.C., the author, a pastor named Jerry Sutton, introduces Hays as a supporter of Brown. The real story is less flattering: In 1956, Hays was one of nearly a hundred members of Congress who signed the “Southern Manifesto on Integration,” which decried the Brown decision and expressed support for states seeking to “resist forced integration.” The leader who did the most to separate the S.B.C. from its racist heritage is Foy Valentine, an ethicist from Texas. Valentine was intensely devoted to his denomination, but he was also something of a liberal (he belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union), and he was determined to save his church by modernizing it. In 1960, he was appointed to lead the Christian Life Commission—a predecessor of the E.R.L.C.—and, at the 1963 annual meeting, he declared, “We need to abolish racial discrimination in our country and in our churches.” In time, most Southern Baptist leaders came to agree with him. In 1968, the S.B.C. elected as its president W. A. Criswell, a fiery pastor who was the leader of First Baptist Dallas, the church that Robert

“See how virtual reality makes it feel like you’re actually falling.”

• Jefress leads today. Criswell had begun as an unapologetic segregationist; a decade earlier, he had denounced government-mandated integration as “a denial of all that we believe in.” But he used the occasion of his election to announce that he had been “blind” to the true message of the Bible, and that First Dallas would start welcoming black worshippers. The term that Southern Baptists often use, in discussions of race, is “racial reconciliation,” a formulation that can suggest an unwillingness to assign blame. (In 1965, Valentine called, rather incoherently, for reconciliation “between segregationists and integrationists.”) In the years after Criswell’s conversion, the S.B.C. joined a political fight over integration at Bob Jones University, a nondenominational Christian college in South Carolina which for decades barred black students, and, after it began admitting them, banned interracial dating. In 1970, the I.R.S. moved to revoke the university’s tax-exempt status, on the ground that its policies were discriminatory, and the S.B.C. subsequently passed a resolution arguing that the action violated churches’ constitutional right to operate without government interference. The case was decided in favor of the I.R.S. in 1983; seventeen

• years later, the school rescinded the dating ban. The fight over Bob Jones was the precursor of many of today’s arguments over religious liberty, a topic that is one of Moore’s central concerns. In his view, defending religious liberty means, among other things, defending the rights of believers to refuse to recognize or participate in same-sex weddings. And, despite his eagerness to help his church transcend its segregated history, Moore believes, as his predecessors did, that the government was wrong to force Bob Jones to abandon segregation on campus. “Bob Jones, as a private institution with repugnant theology, in the nineteen-seventies, should have been dealt with at the level of moral denunciation,” he says. “Not at the level of using the levers of government in order to move it out of existence.” picture of Foy Valentine, dar-

A ingly attired in a turquoise leisure

suit, hangs on the wall outside Moore’s oice, and his complicated legacy informs everything that the E.R.L.C. does today. “ ‘Courageous’ is not even a strong enough word for him—when it applies to civil rights,” Moore says. The caveat is important, because Valentine’s THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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political liberalism was not limited to matters of race. He was equally resolute in defense of abortion rights, even as most members of his church were starting to regard abortion as a national atrocity. In 1971, Valentine backed the denomination’s first resolution on abortion, which called upon Southern Baptists to support “legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” in a number of situations, as when the mother’s physical or emotional health was at risk. Valentine was not as anomalous as he might now seem: Southern Baptists had always tolerated a surprising degree of heterogeneity. In an old PBS news special, Bill Moyers, a former Southern Baptist pastor, fondly remembered the open-minded atmosphere at his childhood congregation, in Texas. “There was no creed, and no coercion,” he said. “We chose our leaders, developed our own programs, without interference from any ecclesiastical organization.” By the nineteen-sixties, S.B.C. seminaries were starting to embrace the kind of liberal theology that was ascen-

dant in mainline Protestant denominations. One graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reported hearing his professor begin class with an anti-patriarchal prayer: “Our Mother, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Land remembers studying under professors who rejected central tenets of Christian faith, like the existence of Hell, or the reality of Christ’s resurrection. “You’d have preachers who wouldn’t talk about homosexuality,” Land says. “Said that Jesus never mentioned it, so it couldn’t be that important.” America’s first Southern Baptist President— Jimmy Carter, elected in 1976—was a liberal. Even as many S.B.C. leaders celebrated Carter’s election, a backlash was growing among everyday Southern Baptists—who also happened to be the people whose tithes funded the seminaries. Land was one of the leaders of the movement: a conservative resurgence, he called it, although its opponents preferred the term “fundamentalist takeover.” The movement had the feeling of a populist revolt, aimed at

“Hulk no can be mad at Mr. Puppy Face.”

toppling a clerical élite that presumed to understand Scripture better than the unlettered believers in the pews. As a boy, Moore knew little of this clash, but he remembers being startled when a pastor he knew referred to theological conservatives as “pinheads,” which sounded like an insult aimed at many of the believers he knew. In 1979, the S.B.C. elected the first conservative president in a lineage that remains unbroken: Adrian Rogers, who began installing fellow-conservatives in the S.B.C. leadership. Valentine had wanted the church to keep its distance from the evangelical movement, which encouraged political engagement. “Southern Baptists are not evangelicals,” Valentine told Newsweek, in 1976. “That’s a Yankee word.” But Land and his allies were happy to be counted as evangelicals, and as political partisans. “It wasn’t stupid for conservative Christians to believe, in the nineteen-eighties, that there was a major realignment in this culture, exactly along the lines that we had hoped and prayed for,” Land says. In 1980, Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan, partly because he was firmly prolife. “I know a lot of Southern Baptists who voted for Jimmy Carter the first time but did not vote for him the second time,” Land says. At the 1984 Republican Convention, in Dallas, the benediction was delivered by a favorite son: Criswell, the fiery conservative. “Bless us as we march to victory,” he roared, while confetti fell from the ceiling on Reagan and an arena full of true believers. Valentine hung on until 1986, and when Land was appointed to the job, in 1988, it was clear that the conservative resurgence would be unstoppable. Land promised to continue Valentine’s eforts to combat racism. In 1995, to commemorate the hundred-and-fiftieth birthday of the S.B.C., he led the drafting of a resolution that acknowledged “the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention,” and “begged forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters.” But, in other ways, Land reversed his predecessor’s policies, aligning himself with the religious right: he considered Jerry Falwell an ally, and he often spoke out against Bill Clinton,


notwithstanding his status as America’s second Southern Baptist President. During the Bush Presidency, Land emerged as a forceful political advocate. In 2002, he wrote what became known as the Land Letter, airming that Bush’s plan to invade Iraq was consistent with “the time-honored criteria of just war theory as developed by Christian theologians in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.” And, in 2008, he suggested that if John Kerry had won the 2004 election Hillary Clinton might be “parking her broom at the Supreme Court.” One need not be a believer, or a partisan, to conclude that the outcome of the fight for the S.B.C. was preordained; given what we know about demographics, it seems inevitable that a mainly white, largely Southern church would eventually embrace conservatism. But the battle was acrimonious in the seminaries, where the faculty had grown used to a measure of academic freedom. In churches, as elsewhere, the relationship between freedom and democracy is a vexed one: the liberal seminarians wanted the freedom to teach what they wished, while the conservative church members wanted the ability to choose the teachers who trained their leaders. A decisive blow came in 1993, when a rigorous young conservative named Albert Mohler was elected the president of Southern Seminary. He moved to dismiss faculty members whose orthodoxy had been questioned, including Molly T. Marshall, who was the first woman to teach theology there. Marshall had been accused, among other things, of defending inclusivism, the doctrine that non-Christians might be able to attain salvation. She resigned, under threat of a heresy investigation, and today there are no women on the theology faculty at Southern. Marshall is now the president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, a school unailiated with the S.B.C., and like many who left the denomination she has fond memories of its warm, open-hearted ethos. For decades, this shared culture helped unite Southern Baptists who disagreed about politics and theology, but the conservative resurgence changed that. Moore often criticizes the “cultural Christianity” that

once prevailed in the South, because it promoted a kind of easy, unthinking Christian identity. The new S.B.C. is probably less culturally distinctive than its precursor, and certainly more theologically unified; it is a church designed for people who truly believe. These days, Moore is sometimes portrayed as an antidote to old-fashioned S.B.C. leaders like Land, but in fact he is entirely a product of the slow-motion revolution that Land helped lead. His class was one of the first to arrive after Mohler reoriented Southern Seminary, and Moore was drawn there in part by the opportunity to study with Mohler, whom a classmate remembers as the leader of the “thoughtful wing” of the conservative resurgence. Mohler belonged to a subset of Baptists inspired by Calvinism—an intellectually rigorous tradition, named for the sixteenthcentury French theologian John Calvin, that emphasized the awesome and essentially mysterious grace of God and the utter unworthiness of humans to receive it. Moore, who had also embraced Calvinism, adopted Mohler as a mentor and served as his assistant; he spent weekends as a pastor at a nearby church, and weekdays working on a doctoral dissertation based on the writing of Carl F. H. Henry, who argued that evangelicals could embrace “social reform” while holding fast to the literal truth of the Bible. After earning his Ph.D., he became a professor and dean. At Southern, Moore’s oice served as a reminder of how much the institution had changed: it was the same oice that had been occupied, a decade before, by Molly Marshall. very year, the E.R.L.C. sum-

E mons Baptists from around the

country to Opryland, a hotel complex enclosed in an enormous greenhouse, just up the highway from the Nashville airport. This year’s theme was “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel,” which happens to be the title of Moore’s most recent book. Almost a thousand people attended, many of them pastors, there to be “equipped,” in church parlance, to re-

turn home and help churchgoers make sense of their lives. A deft praise-andworship band from Austin found some middle ground between gospel and Coldplay, and then Moore delivered his opening remarks, urging his congregation to urge their congregations not to buy into moral defeatism. “We have some American Christians,” he said, who are “almost free-basing a sense of fear.” Even before Trump came along, Moore was skeptical of the idea that there was a period of American greatness to which we might return, especially if that meant the segregated nineteen-fifties, much less the slaverystained eighteen-fifties. “We can’t get back to where we were before everything fell apart, because that’s Genesis 3,” he said. As most of the people in attendance surely knew, the third chapter of Genesis contains the first Biblical instance of the Hebrew word nachash: serpent. This was a Russell Moore kind of crowd, which means that it was notably unrepresentative of the denomination: the average age of an S.B.C. worshipper is fifty-four and rising, but most of the people at Opryland were younger than that, with a number of nonwhite men onstage. (No women delivered presentations, although there were some mixed-gender panel discussions.) The S.B.C. has been working to increase its nonwhite membership, sometimes by arranging ailiations with black churches, and it says that it now has about a million African-American members, out of a total membership of fifteen million. In 2012, the S.B.C. elected its first African-American president, Fred Luter, who leads a church in New Orleans that had once been all-white and then, as the surrounding neighborhood changed, was resurrected as a predominantly black congregation. Luter’s election came, awkwardly but providentially, a few months after Land’s incendiary remarks about the Trayvon Martin shooting, and Land says that he stepped down partly out of respect for Luter’s historic election. He says, “I wasn’t going to do anything that would in THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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any way, shape, or form take away from the depth of that accomplishment.” Moore wants to increase these eforts. He has broadened the focus of the E.R.L.C. to include some types of criminal-justice reform. And, after the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Moore told his followers that for AfricanAmericans such incidents “reverberate with a history of state-sanctioned violence, in a way that many white Americans—including white evangelicals—often don’t understand.” One of the speakers at the Opryland conference was Bryan Loritts, a self-proclaimed “chocolate preacher,” who explained to the audience that “homogeneous churches actually promote an entrenched racism.” Most of the speakers avoided mentioning the Republican candidate by name, although many of them alluded to him. With the exception of one conspicuous man in a red hat, this was an anti-Trump crowd. As Moore led the assembly in prayer, an older man in a plaid seersucker sports coat shuled into the hall and lowered himself onto a solitary seat in the back, just in front of the video cameras. It was Land, who looked as if he had been beamed in from a diferent dimension, or at any rate a diferent denomination. Moore and Land take pains not to criticize each other, even though they disagree on political strategy. Moore insists that his allergy to partisan politics, and to fiery denunciation, does not represent an unwillingness to deliver hard Gospel truths. Though he does not talk, as his mentor Mohler once did, about “the homosexualization of America,” he does believe that churches should guide gay members to repentance, and that the government should stop recognizing same-sex marriages. In 2014, after an S.B.C. church in California announced that its pastor had oiciated at a samesex wedding, the church was “disfellowshipped” from the S.B.C., a move that Moore called “sad but necessary.” One of the highlights of the conference was a friendly debate between Moore and Andy Stanley, an S.B.C. refugee: his father is Charles Stanley, a blunt-spoken leader of the conservative resurgence, but the son fled to start a nondenominational mega-church 42

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called North Point, outside Atlanta. Moore likes Stanley, but he is plainly disturbed by what he sees as deviations from Biblical orthodoxy. Stanley scandalized the audience by telling them that he avoids appealing to the authority of the Bible when he preaches, focussing instead on what Jesus did, or what the disciples saw. And he confessed, too, that he never preaches about abortion, judging the topic too divisive to be discussed in such a public forum. “Would you have the same reticence,” Moore wanted to know, “if you’re in eighteenth-century Burma, and you have issues of widows being burned on their husbands’ funeral pyres?” “Well, I don’t know too much about that,”Stanley said.“Is that a trick question?” One thing that Moore and Stanley could agree on is that churches would do well to follow Paul’s admonition, in I Corinthians 5, to judge “those inside the church,” instead of looking for enemies outside it. Moore has spoken out about the Christian duty to be compassionate toward immigrants, including refugees from Syria, who are viewed by some church leaders with alarm and suspicion. But he sometimes seems more comfortable asking churches to change (by confronting pornography addiction among their members, for instance) than calling on the secular world to change. A lead sponsor of the conference was Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious-liberty group, which distributed a handsome brochure arguing that the Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional; the amendment prevents tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches, from supporting or opposing political candidates. During an early-morning press breakfast, Moore made it clear that he does not entirely share Alliance’s priorities. “Of the very real religious-freedom issues that we face,” he said, “the Johnson Amendment is nowhere near the top.” One of the ironies of Moore’s predicament this year is that it bears a faint resemblance to the predicament faced by old liberals like Valentine, intellectuals who found themselves fatally out of step with a populist movement they didn’t take seriously. Jefress, the Dallas pastor, goes so far as to suggest that Moore’s refusal to support

Trump might be disqualifying, because the result of the election will likely decide the balance of the Supreme Court. “Any conservative Christian who stays at home in November and allows Hillary Clinton to become the next President has forever forfeited his right to speak out about the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, or religious freedom,” Jefress says, mustering a preacherly combination of sorrow and wrath. The good news for Moore is that election season will be over soon and, perhaps more important, that younger Southern Baptists seem more likely to agree with him. Pioneers like Land, who fought so hard to gain control of the church, emerged with great appreciation for the benefits of political power. Moore’s generation, having come of age when the religious right was triumphant, is more attuned to the corrosive efects of politics. Erick Erickson, the conservative pundit, rose to prominence in the aughts, and he remembers Land as a brusquely efective motivator of elected oicials. “Richard would tell a politician, ‘You need to do x, y, and z, or else we’re going to ratchet up the rhetoric against you,’ ” Erickson says. Moore is less likely to issue threats and, for that matter, is less interested in politicians altogether. “Everyone knows that Russell isn’t going to ratchet up the rhetoric,” Erickson, who now counts Moore as a close friend, says. “But he can influence young pastors coming out of seminary.” This is, of necessity, a long-term project, and it may also be an admission that, in a shrinking church and an increasingly secular culture, shorter-term projects are unlikely to succeed. cross the highway from Opry-

A land sits a modern, low-slung build-

ing with a cross on the side and not much activity in its sprawling parking lots—on one recent afternoon, a family of deer was grazing on the grass near the main entrance. This is the former site of Two Rivers Baptist Church, a once prominent S.B.C. congregation that was led by Jerry Sutton, the pastor who wrote the oicial E.R.L.C. history. Sutton left the church after an ugly dispute, in which more than fifty church members sued him over alleged financial impropriety. (The case was later


dismissed.) Attendance plummeted, and eventually the church sold the building to the local Catholic diocese. Last year, on Easter weekend, the old Baptist stronghold became the new home of a fast-growing congregation called Iglesia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. No pastor, and no denomination, can aford to ignore attendance numbers: churches need worshippers, not only because they want to stay in business but because getting people to come to church is the business that they are in. One reason that the leaders of the conservative resurgence were alarmed by the drift toward the liberalism of mainline Protestant churches is that those churches’ numbers were shrinking. In 1988, in a famous sermon called “The Curse of Liberalism,” Criswell, the reformed segregationist, ticked of a list of denominations in decline. “All of them,” he howled, shaking his fists in frustration. “Downward! Downward! Downward!” He was sure that only a return to the truth of the Bible could rescue the Southern Baptists. That year, the S.B.C. reported 14.8 million members and 346,320 baptisms. The equivalent figures for last year were nearly unchanged, even though the country’s population has increased by more than twenty-five per cent. The church’s current push for diversity is in large part a push for new members, and an acknowledgment that the white share of the country’s population is declining. Moore never promises that broader cultural engagement will make his church more popular. On the contrary, he often speaks as if increasing marginalization were the most likely outcome. And yet, unlike Criswell, Moore frames this decline as an opportunity, not just because it may represent the falling away of “cultural Christians” who were not truly faithful but also because it allows Southern Baptists to renounce the kind of cultural and political power that ought to make Christians skeptical. “It is no longer possible to pretend that we represent the ‘real America,’ ” he wrote, in “Onward.” The key is not to simply accept this state of afairs but to find a way to celebrate it. Some of Moore’s critics in the S.B.C. think that part of his problem is his Calvinism. The doctrine holds that

“We can’t dispense with the formalities, George—there’d be nothing left.”

• God’s grace can work only on those who have been elected to receive it; it is God who decides who is saved. Gospel witness, missionary work, conversion, rebirth in Christ: all can be meaningful signs of membership in the elect, and yet none can change God’s will. Calvinists have long been the minority among Southern Baptists, but Moore is part of a generational shift. This year, J. D. Greear, a young, hip pastor from North Carolina who is sympathetic to Calvinism, nearly won the election for president of the S.B.C. Land finds this worrisome: he notes that Calvinists are sometimes tempted by fatalism, which saps the urgency that helps churches grow and thrive. Moore concedes that some Calvinists might sufer a “deadening of the missionary impulse,” if they conclude that missionary work is extraneous to God’s plans. (Of course, the whole point of Calvinism is that no human action can be extraneous to God’s plans.) But he values the doctrine’s essential humility, which reminds us how little we can control—even, or maybe especially, in an election year like this one. The Opryland conference ended on a Saturday afternoon, and the next morning Moore awoke seeming slightly more

• adrenalized than usual—his wife, Maria, says he still gets nervous before he has to preach, although he has learned to contain himself. He drove with his family half an hour south of Nashville to Franklin, where he had agreed to appear at Redemption City Church, a congregation started, by his friend Jed Coppenger, as a church plant—that is, a church “planted” by a local pastor, with assistance from the national denomination. Redemption City is small but slick: the church’s punky logo was imprinted on the cardboard cup sleeves at the cofee station. Moore’s young sons discovered the cofee before he could stop them, but they remained unwriggly while their father preached. Moore spends his life talking about churches, and now that he was actually in one he seemed happy to indulge in some extended Biblical exegesis. From the lectern, he told the congregation about all the ways that Jesus calls us away from the life we think we want. He mentioned a study he had seen, which purported to prove that Facebook posts about politics never change anyone’s mind. “The way of the Kingdom is not a way of strength and power,” he said, practicing as he preached—a small guy in a small church with an impossibly big job to do.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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SKETCHBOOK BY BARRY BLITT

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ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS

LOST TIME After years spent battling Hollywood producers, Kenneth Lonergan returns with “Manchester by the Sea.” BY REBECCA MEAD

enneth Lonergan, the screenwriter, director, and playwright, wears a wristwatch that is set fifteen minutes fast—an efort, he told me when we first met, to correct a stubborn habit of lateness. The trick doesn’t fool him into thinking that it’s the wrong time, but it is mysteriously efective at keeping him on schedule. Compensating for an undesirable behavior, he acknowledged, is not the same as understanding why it occurs in the first place. “It’s a hard habit to break,” he said. “I think it is partly gluttony for wanting to keep doing what I am doing, and also a lunatic resentment at being expected to do anything. But I don’t like being late. So I am trying.” Much of Lonergan’s work is driven by the idea that the conscious and the unconscious mind are often at odds— “that a large part of yourself is hidden from yourself, and comes out in all sorts of strange and interesting ways.” He once stumbled into a late-night conversation with the journalist Christopher Hitchens at Café Loup, in the West Village. At one point, Hitchens declared, “I’m an orthodox Freudian, by the way.” Lonergan considers himself one, too. He has dabbled in pop psychology: many years ago, he read “Getting to Yes,” the best-selling self-help book from 1981, in an efort to improve his negotiating skills in Hollywood. It worked, up to a point. But he is still drawn to the darker insights of psychoanalysis. Lonergan, who is fifty-four, likes to joke that he was “raised by the New York Psychoanalytic Society.” His mother and his stepfather were both psychiatrists and practicing analysts. “My mom and stepfather would talk about their patients anonymously—they would disguise the details, but they would say, ‘I have a patient, it’s really interesting, he did the following,’ ” Lonergan said. “Talking about people’s per-

K

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sonalities, and why people do things, is a big part of my life, and has been since I was little.” A dinner-table anecdote from his stepfather, about a colleague who was approached for treatment by a member of the Mafia, provided the cute premise for Lonergan’s first successful screenplay, “Analyze This,” which he wrote when he was in his early thirties, largely to support his less lucrative vocation as a playwright of tight-focus character dramas, including “Lobby Hero” and “This Is Our Youth.” In 1999, the “Analyze This” script became a hit movie starring Robert De Niro, as a troubled mobster, and Billy Crystal, as his therapist. “Analyze This” made a hundred million dollars, and Lonergan found himself in considerable demand in Hollywood. Martin Scorsese, who was working on “Gangs of New York” at Cinecittà Studios, in Rome, drafted him to deepen the complexity of the characters. (In 2003, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.) Scorsese says of Lonergan, “He had a real brilliance for understanding people—he is able to create the heart of the character, and the heart of the situation. The emotion is there, plus an extraordinary intellectual view. All of this went back and forth—line by line, word by word, action by action. Meaning. Behavior.” Lonergan’s subtle command of character—of how people metabolize an experience in diferent ways—was central to his début as a screenwriter-director, the delicate chamber piece “You Can Count on Me” (2000). The film, a low-budget independent production starring Laura Linney and a then unknown Mark Rufalo, is about the relationship between two grown siblings who had been orphaned as children. Rufalo, who is a close friend of Lonergan’s, told me, “You feel the inner processes of his characters.” The viewer,

Rufalo said, is often in the position of “watching an actor think, which we rarely get to see in film.” He went on, “Everyone wants to rush to the words, but under the words there are another ten thousand words—we only see one pop up to the surface. That is how he approaches his work.” In one scene, Rufalo and Linney are talking outside in the evening while a moth flutters around them. Like a conductor, Rufalo guides the moth onto his hand—a gesture that underscores his character’s gentleness and vulnerability. He explained to me that the moth flew into the frame by accident: “I’ve been in scenes with actors on other movies. If a moth flies into the scene, they kill the moth—it’s a nuisance, it’s not acceptable. But in this film we continue the scene, because we know that we are living, moment to moment, with the kind of openness that Kenny wants us to have with each other, listening and responding. We say yes to it. It lands on my hand, and we just continue talking as it’s walking on my hand, and then it flies away again. It was probably one of the most profound moments I have had as an actor—where the world collided with the work, and it was seamless. Afterward, Kenny came running over, and he said, ‘Oh, my God—the moth!’ And he was so happy.” “You Can Count on Me” won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Lonergan received an Academy Award nomination, for the screenplay, as did Linney, for her performance. Earlier this year, Lonergan returned to Sundance to attend the première of his new film, “Manchester by the Sea,” which stars Casey Aleck as Lee Chandler, a janitor who, in the aftermath of personal tragedies, becomes responsible for his teen-age nephew. It is set in the small Massachusetts fishing town that gives the movie its name. The scenario originated in a conversation between


Lonergan’s new film challenges the notion that personal growth can be wrested from even the most terrible sufering. ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF ÖSTBERG

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the actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski, both Massachusetts natives. Damon commissioned a script from Lonergan, intending to direct it himself, but after reading it he urged Lonergan to make the project entirely his own. “Manchester by the Sea” was praised at Sundance, and the domestic rights were acquired by Amazon Studios, for nearly ten million dollars. Since then, it has been gathering Oscar buzz at festival screenings in advance of its release, on November 18th. Despite the bleakness of the movie’s themes, it has a tender strain of humor. “I’ve never seen there being a tremendous dividing line between comedy and tragedy,” Lonergan said at a question-andanswer session after “Manchester” was presented at the New York Film Festival, in October. “Even if it’s the worst of the worst, it’s not happening to everyone. It might just be happening to you, or to someone you know, while the rest of the world is going on doing things that are beautiful, or funny, or material, or practical.” Aleck, another of Lonergan’s longtime friends and collaborators, says that he and Lonergan spent hours discussing how Lee Chandler’s character is revealed not just in his words but also by his unthinking actions. In one harrowing scene, Chandler is shown clutching a bag of groceries. “That was written into the script—that he is holding this bag. It was one of the few scenes where, when I read it, I thought, What is going on here?” Aleck told me. “I thought, Well, if I have to get upset, I can get myself to feeling upset. But why does he want me holding a bag? Then, when we came to do the scene, it made perfect sense. The character—he doesn’t scream and gnash his teeth and pull out his hair. He is just clamped down on himself. From that moment, he tightens up. So once I just held on to the bag I thought, This is how the rest of the moment ought to play out. He is just trying to hold on, and that ends up carrying over to so much more. He never lets himself have any sort of catharsis or release in any way.” It was, Aleck said, “an example where I 48

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learned to have faith in the writing, and in Kenny. It seemed like a little detail, but it made so many other things work.” In the fifteen-odd years between “You Can Count on Me” and “Manchester by the Sea,” Lonergan wrote and directed only one other film: “Margaret.” It was shot in the fall of 2005, but was not released until six years later, and disappeared from theatres almost immediately. Fox Searchlight, the studio that had greenlighted the movie, issued two DVDs of it: the theatrical release, and an extended version, which Lonergan was legally prohibited from calling a director’s cut. “Margaret” centers on a teen-ager, Lisa Cohen, played with remarkable range by Anna Paquin, whose life is upended when she is partly culpable in the death of a pedestrian near her home, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The contours of Lisa’s life are exquisitely rendered: the cramped apartment that she shares with her mother, an actress, played by J. Smith-Cameron, Lonergan’s wife; the pathetic urgency of the transcontinental telephone conversations that she has with her wellintentioned but useless father, a struggling writer of commercials, who lives in Santa Monica. (He is played by Lonergan, who has taken small roles in all three of his movies.) But “Margaret” has a much larger canvas. Through sustained shots of streets and skies, and through the layering of anonymous voices—real dialogue from New Yorkers that Lonergan overheard and wrote down in notebooks—it seeks to capture the city in the first years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The film is epic in its length as well as its aspirations: three hours and eight minutes, in the extended version. Although “Margaret” is little known to moviegoers, many cinéastes regard it as a masterpiece. But the story of making “Margaret” has become a cautionary tale among writers and filmmakers about the hazards lying at the intersection of art and commerce, and about the ways an artist can become derailed in the pursuit

of his vision. After shooting ended, the movie did not emerge from the editing room for years—at least, not in a state that Lonergan, his producers, and the studio could agree to release. The process became acrimonious; eventually, one of the producers, Gary Gilbert, sued Lonergan for breach of contract, asking for more than eight million dollars in damages. The case was resolved, in Lonergan’s favor, in 2013, two years after the movie was released. But by the time the lawsuit ended both Lonergan’s psyche and his art had sufered considerably. He now disavows the 2011 theatrical version of “Margaret,” which he was contractually bound to support when it was released. The story of “Margaret” is also the story of a decade of Lonergan’s life, during which he was beset by self-doubt and had to reckon with the possibility of financial as well as artistic ruin. He was obliged to master a forced humility that—despite a well-developed strain of self-deprecation—is at odds with his inward convictions about his own abilities, and with the scale of his ambitions. “Manchester,” which will inevitably be seen as his comeback film, does not have the sweep of “Margaret.” Its scope is narrower, and its concentration on a few characters evokes “You Can Count on Me.” It is also a gloomier work; one late scene, an encounter between Lee Chandler and his ex-wife, played by Michelle Williams, provides a shattering emotional apex. “Manchester by the Sea” burrows into the mind of a man who experiences a trauma that neither kills him nor makes him stronger. Rather, it leaves him maimed. In his depiction of Chandler, Lonergan challenges a bromide that is often invoked in the face of depression or sorrow: that personal growth can be wrested from even the most terrible sufering. “I have seen a lot of movies—and they are really great movies— about people who come back from bad things and are redeemed,” Lonergan told me this summer. “And in real life people do it all the time.” We were at a restaurant on Nantucket, where he was being honored by the Screenwriters Colony, an artist’s retreat. We sat on a veranda overlooking a lawn, with a view of the water, and ordered oysters.


We were a hundred miles from the piers of Manchester-by-the-Sea, and a world away. “And some people don’t come back,” he continued. “I don’t see how you come back from some things. I don’t see how people get through what they get through.” Describing Chandler, he said, “The character doesn’t learn to live with and move on from what happened. It’s part of him for the rest of his life.” Lonergan’s brow was furrowed, and he was speaking, as he often does, in a low, growling mumble. Friends, and even people who know him only slightly, cannot resist imitating his voice and manner. Among his theatre and movieindustry peers, he is famous for being famously cantankerous. He went on, “It’s good to have a forward-thinking attitude—and I wish I had more of one—but I don’t think it’s so bad that some people can’t. ‘Oh, well, my mom’s dead. She was nice, that’s O.K.’—it just makes me sick.” Lonergan’s tone turned acid. “ ‘It’s fine, I’m dying.’ ‘It’s fine, your mother’s dying, it’s no problem, it’s just life. It’s just a circle of life.’ What fucking circle of life? It all goes in one direction— toward death.” “Manchester by the Sea” does not present a blunt parallel with Lonergan’s period of prolonged professional anguish, and it’s safe to say that anyone would gladly take even the most devastating career setback over the loss that Chandler goes through. But the movie does, in some sense, pose the same question that Lonergan faced in the aftermath of “Margaret”: When is a loss—the loss of time, of joy, of energy, of work, of potential—absolute, with nothing to be gained from the devastation?

West, in the Nineties, was Lonergan’s home through much of his youth. “I grew up in a traditional, nonreligious, Upper West Side, liberalDemocratic, intellectual apartment,” Lonergan told me. The younger of two sons, he was born in the Bronx, but his family soon moved to Manhattan. When he was five, his parents divorced. His mother remarried a year or so later; thereafter, Lonergan’s reconfigured family moved into the Central Park West building. Although Lonergan’s father, a doctor, was of Irish descent (he died earlier this year), his mother and his stepfather are Jewish, and Lonergan grew up in a culturally homogeneous environment. “I always assumed everyone was Jewish,” he said. “I didn’t know it was unusual in any way. And then I finally met some people who weren’t Jewish, and I was, like, ‘Oh, not every-

one is Jewish—O.K.’ But that took a while to sink in.” (In “Margaret,” one character delivers to another some lines that, one suspects, are lifted from Lonergan’s life: “How come everything you say always sounds so ironic? You don’t even have to do anything and it just comes out sounding, like, totally ironic and funny.”) The milieu of Lonergan’s childhood was privileged, but not exorbitantly so. “There were a lot of doctors and lawyers, and psychiatrists and social workers, and some show-biz people. But the really wealthy people, we figured, lived on the Upper East Side,” he said. The household was large and multifarious. “I have five or six brothers and sisters,” Lonergan told me, taking pleasure in the imprecision. His stepfather had three children from an earlier marriage, and they sometimes lived with

n more than one occasion in

O “Margaret,” the camera shows the

exterior of a handsome Art Deco apartment building. In the movie, this is the address of Emily Morrison, a woman in her early fifties who becomes Lisa Cohen’s confidante, and is played by Jeannie Berlin. (“The perpetually astonishing Emily—a wholly original, unexpected, essential creation,” Tony Kushner calls her, in his introduction to the published edition of the screenplay.) The building, which is on Central Park

“Curiouser and curiouser.”


him. Lonergan’s mother and stepfather eventually had a son together, and they informally adopted a girl who was a friend of the stepfather’s children. Lonergan also had two stepsisters in California, from his father’s second marriage, which ended in divorce. Stephen Porder, Lonergan’s half brother, who is nine years his junior and an environmental scientist at Brown University, told me, “There were always people staying with us for a few months at a time—so-and-so’s grandkid, looking for a job.” The door was also open to more fleeting visitors. “I don’t remember a time in my childhood when somebody or other wasn’t in our living room, pouring out their heart to my parents and trying to get help.” Lonergan was educated a few blocks from his home, at the Walden School, a private institution that has since closed. In “Margaret,” Lisa Cohen attends the fictional Ralph Waldo Emerson School, which is based on Walden. Matthew Broderick, who went to high school with Lonergan and is his closest friend, told me that the film’s classroom scenes, with their excruciatingly progressive exchanges between students and teachers, are taken more

or less verbatim from their experience at Walden. Broderick and Lonergan met on a school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in which Lonergan was cast as Demetrius and Broderick played Tom Snout, one of the rude mechanicals. Broderick said of Lonergan, “My first memory of him is waiting to go in and audition, and he was telling everybody how to do it—that you’ve got to seem natural. He had a theory about auditioning.” Lonergan also became close to Broderick’s mother, Patricia. She was a painter and a writer, and she colored the characterization of Emily Morrison in “Margaret.” Lonergan started writing for pleasure in the fifth grade, embarking on the first of several science-fiction novels, which he completed during the next few years. (The most ambitious of these, “The Wonderful World of Pluto,” was typed and illustrated. One character says, “It converts people into electrical impulses? You can’t be serious!” His interlocutor replies, “Look, all I know is that it does it. So don’t even attempt to argue with someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”) But by high school Lonergan had begun writing plays, with the en-

“I had a balloon once, but with me it was real estate.”

couragement of a drama teacher, Bruce Cornwell. The highly sympathetic drama teacher in “Margaret,” who leads a tearful “encounter session” for the participants in a school production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” is loosely based on Cornwell. Lonergan jokes that the reason he switched from novels to plays is that there was less type on the page, which made them less laborious to correct. Lonergan met with early success: at the age of eighteen, he was among ten winners of a competition sponsored by the Young Playwrights Festival. His play, “The Rennings Children,” in which a sister tries to get her brother released from a mental hospital, was produced at the Circle Repertory Company. That fall, he enrolled in N.Y.U.’s dramatic-writing program, and fell in with a group of young actors and playwrights who went on to form Naked Angels, the downtown theatre company. Pippin Parker, a playwright and director who met Lonergan during that period, recalls, “We had a common notion about wanting to do our own kind of work. It was around the same time that Steppenwolf ”—the Chicago company—“had emerged, very actor-driven theatre. What was unusual about Kenny is that he knew what he wanted to be really young. Most people have a notion that they want to be writerly, and go through several forms before they land on the one that seems to be the expression of their talent. Kenny knew that he wanted to be a playwright, and focussed on that.” Between the mid-eighties and the mid-nineties, Naked Angels thrived, and its members became very close. “We were reading plays, working on plays, putting stuf up, throwing parties, playing poker, football, basketball, doing road trips,” Parker says. Much of the activity took place at Lonergan’s apartment, which was in a building that his maternal grandmother owned on Washington Place, in the West Village. “There were ceilings that were probably over twenty feet high, with skylights facing north,” Parker recalls. “For kids in their twenties, for someone to have an apartment like that was unusual, and spectacular.” Lonergan’s grandmother still lived in the building; during the years


to worry about why He allows things to happen. But it must be nice to feel taken care of like that.”

SCAVENGERS

Your body wakes into its quiet rattle. Ropes & ropes . . . How quickly the animal empties. We’re alone again with spent mouths. Two trout gasping on a June shore. Side by side, I see what I came for, behind your iris: a tiny mirror. I stare into its silver syllable where a fish with my face twitches once then gones. The fisherman suddenly a boy with too much to carry. —Ocean Vuong of their shared residency, she developed Alzheimer’s disease, a decline that Lonergan dramatized in “The Waverly Gallery,” a frankly autobiographical play for which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, in 2001. The late Eileen Heckart gave an unsparing performance, repeatedly shuling across the stage in a nightgown to ring her sleeping grandson’s doorbell. “If anyone should sue Kenny, it’s probably his grandmother,” Matthew Broderick told me. While he was a member of Naked Angels, Lonergan worked on material that eventually grew into plays and screenplays. He began dating J. SmithCameron, an accomplished stage actress who currently stars on the TV series “Rectify.” Their first encounter was at an evening of one-scene plays; Lonergan was performing in another writer’s work. As Smith-Cameron recalls it, “He was this sad little grumpy character who was very outspoken.” In 1989, Naked Angels presented a series of ten-minute scenes on various themes—

hate, homelessness, women. “You Can Count on Me” began as a scene illustrating faith, in which Terry, the brother, meets Sammy, the sister, in a restaurant for lunch, after a long separation. Even in this germinal state, the script showed Lonergan’s ability to reveal character through speech: “I’ve actually got to confess to you, Sammy . . . that the reason you may not have heard from me for a little while is that I’ve been kind of unable to write . . . on account of the fact that I was in jail for a little while,” Terry says. Lonergan is an atheist, but his work frequently explores how religious faith might be sustaining, or shaken by lived experience. Lonergan said of “You Can Count on Me,” “I like having those two characters having the same meaningless experience of losing their parents in an accident very young, and then growing up with completely diferent ways of coping with it and looking at it, and neither of them feeling too secure about the way they look at it.” He went on, “I know there is no God, so I don’t have

onergan had his first theatrical

L success with “This Is Our Youth.”

In 1996, it had a very brief run Of Broadway, but a production two years later was a hit. The Times warmly characterized it as “traicking in cocaine, casual sex, and enough confused philosophical banter to shame any college freshman.” Set in the early eighties, it centers on three dissolute, privileged young people, and takes place in an apartment precisely described in the stage directions as being “on the 2nd or 3rd floor of a somewhat rundown Postwar building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan between Broadway and West End.” The play was revived in 2014, at the Cort Theatre, in a production that was the Broadway début of the precocious Tavi Gevinson, who founded the teen magazine Rookie while in high school. Gevinson, who has since become a close friend of Lonergan’s, was cast soon after she finished high school. She recalls that, during early table reads, “Kenny would share stories that helped us to build backstory—about the friends the characters had been loosely based on, what that kind of life style was like, being a young adult from a certain kind of family on the Upper West Side.” Lonergan’s work often has at its center a vulnerable slacker—or, as SmithCameron puts it, “a character who is a very appealing, funny, interesting, tortured fuckup who means well.” (She adds, “Kenny is like that, without the fucking up.”) Lonergan does not focus exclusively on the trials of metropolitan youth. His most recent play, “Hold On to Me Darling,” which ran at the Atlantic Theatre Company earlier this year, is about a country singer whom Lonergan describes as “someone in the middle of his life, wondering if he has taken the right path.” But he’s fascinated by the interior lives of teen-agers, and of slightly older people who seem stuck in a teen-age mode. “I don’t know why,” he told me, resorting unconsciously to upspeak. “Because I feel like one, sometimes, still?” Much of “Manchester by the Sea” concerns the interplay between Lee Chandler, Casey Aleck’s wounded

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character, and his sixteen-year-old nephew, Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Patrick has sufered his own trauma, but he keeps it at bay with age-appropriate pursuits: incessant texting; debating the merits of “Star Trek” with friends. (The show’s title sounds irresistibly comical when pronounced with a North Shore accent.) “In some way, a teen-ager can be— in a play or a movie, anyway—a metaphor for a grownup, which is a halfformed person coping with the world,” Lonergan said when we met for lunch this fall in SoHo, not far from where he lives with Smith-Cameron and their daughter, Nellie. They moved there only recently, from the building on Washington Place that his late grandmother had owned. When I visited Lonergan’s new apartment, which occupies the upper half of a red brick row house, many of his books and pictures were still packed. The shelves in the living room, however, were artfully decked with miniature toys similar to those collected by nineteen-year-old Warren Straub, the appealing, funny, interesting, tortured fuckup at the center of “This Is Our Youth,” who was played by Mark Rufalo in the original production. At the restaurant, Lonergan went on, “You can just see the framework a little better with a teen-ager. Grownups are more settled into who they are going to be and what their place in the world is. Teen-agers are kind of poking around and trying diferent ways of being, ways of acting. There is something about it that I find very interesting and touching, and also funny.” Lonergan’s most highly developed portrait of a teenager is Lisa Cohen, the girl in “Margaret.” As played by Paquin, Lisa is, at diferent points, self-assured, vulnerable, furious, arch, questing, cynical. She adopts diferent emotional costumes, for fun and for efect, but at any given moment she is behaving with complete sincerity. The title of “Margaret” comes from an 1880 poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring and Fall,” which is addressed to a child who cannot explain the cause of the tears she sheds at the sight of dying leaves in autumn. It concludes with the lines “It is the blight man was born for / It is Margaret you 52

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mourn for.” Halfway through the movie, the entire poem is read aloud by Lisa’s English teacher, played by Matthew Broderick. It was Patricia Broderick who introduced Lonergan to Hopkins’s poetry. Lonergan conceived of “Margaret” many years before he started writing it. Its precipitating tragedy—a woman is struck and killed by a bus on Broadway when its driver is distracted by Lisa—is based on something that happened to a girl he knew. He wrote down the story in a notebook and filed it away. “I wrote a lot of notes in my notebook about the movie—about being a kid and caring that much but also putting on a little performance at the same time,” Lonergan told me. “This is why teen-agers are so annoying to older people, but also why older people—or most of us—seem so tame in our passions and our desires and our generosity. Teen-agers have that kind of freshness to the world. They just want to wipe out racism, for example. And you are just, like, ‘You are never going to do that. Just go to a restaurant instead.’ Who is right in that conversation?” In the summer of 2001, he sat down to write the script. “We had just had Nellie—she was an infant—and it was just, like, automatic writing,” SmithCameron told me. “He didn’t stop. We were renting a house in the Hamptons, and his oice was upstairs, and it was

just, like, click-click-click. I used to tease him that he was just pretending to type, because it was so fast.” Finishing the first draft, however, took three years. It was three hundred and seventy-five pages—three times the length of a typical Hollywood script. Lonergan recalls, “I cut a hundred pages out of it without turning a hair, and then I cut another hundred pages of it without much diiculty, and then I stopped, because I wasn’t sure if I was making

cuts that were good, or because I was trying to get it to a normal length. I thought I had better wait and figure it out in the editing room.” The first cut of the movie, which Lonergan showed to an audience of friends in 2006, was three hours and eighteen minutes long. Rufalo, who plays the bus driver, was in attendance. He told me, “There were maybe twenty people in that room, and, I have to say, I was literally weeping through three-quarters of the film, because of what Kenny was going for about humanity, and art, and whatever grace we have in the face of the struggle.” Both Lonergan and his producers hoped that “Margaret” could be reduced to two and a half hours. He was granted a series of extensions, and delivered several provisional cuts of the movie, including one, in the summer of 2008, that was within the desired limit. Eventually, though, he decided that “Margaret” required more space. “I always thought of it as a large story,” he told me. “We did one cut where we just shortened all the scenes, and it fell apart, completely and obviously. The whole only seemed to work when it slowed down enough for you to enter it as if it were real life.” The situation was at an impasse. Fox Searchlight would not look at any version longer than two and a half hours; Lonergan was not satisfied with any version that met this requirement. “I kept saying, ‘Leave me alone, it will turn out O.K.,’ and that was the one thing they didn’t want to hear,” Lonergan recalls. In 2009, at an appearance at the 92nd Street Y, Lonergan, employing sarcasm worthy of a character from “This Is Our Youth,” acknowledged the battle over “Margaret”: “There have just been a lot of political diiculties with the studio. They kept insisting that I have creative autonomy, and I wanted a lot of notes and help from them. And they wanted it to be longer, and I wanted it to be shorter, and they kept saying, ‘You must do what you want,’ and I said, ‘No, I want to do what you want.’ ” The howto-succeed lessons of “Getting to Yes” were long forgotten. After some prodding, Lonergan recounted episodes from this period. He told me that he spent months in an editing suite that he paid for, at a cost of


several hundred thousand dollars, by borrowing money from Broderick and other friends. After a veteran editor, Dylan Tichenor, was hired to make a new cut, Lonergan refused to get on board. (“I said I watched it, but I didn’t,” Lonergan told me.) Eventually, Lonergan enlisted Martin Scorsese to work on an alternative version; by that time, however, Gary Gilbert, one of the producers, was suing Lonergan, and Scorsese’s version never saw the light of day. Telling these tales, Lonergan sounded rather like an Ancient Mariner who has no expectation that his listener will come close to comprehending the entire story. Scott Rudin, another of the film’s producers, recalls, “It couldn’t stop— no one could stop it. And Kenny couldn’t stop it, because he spent an awful lot of time not changing the movie very much.” In an e-mail, Lonergan threatened to distance himself from the film—remarks that were later used against him in Gilbert’s lawsuit. “Kenny didn’t help it—he got very obstinate,” Rudin says. “When I was getting deposed, I walked into the lawyer’s oice, and ten clerks started walking in with these huge boxes. It was like the end of ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ with all the letters to Santa. I said to the lawyer, ‘What is in those boxes?,’ and he said, ‘Your e-mails with Kenny.’ ” Gilbert says now that he resorted to the lawsuit because Lonergan could not be persuaded to sign of on any cut, undermining Gilbert’s financial investment. “Kenny never said, ‘Here is the movie,’ ” Gilbert told me. “People say, ‘You can’t take a film away from an auteur director.’ But how do you take something from zero?” Scorsese told me it was always clear to him that “Margaret” was a masterpiece. At the same time, he felt that Lonergan had become lost in the process and needed to find his own way out. “This happens sometimes—the film starts to talk to you,” Scorsese, who has had his own problems finishing movies, said. “The footage says something diferent—you are not sure if it should be a tighter shot, or a closer shot when the person goes through the doorway. You have to make a decision about the flicker of an eyelid, or the turning of a head—and they are both valid, so what do you do? And,

• in a funny way, this is when cinema itself makes itself known to the filmmaker. This is the beast you are dealing with.” Such insight provided only limited comfort to Lonergan at the time. “He was right in the middle of the forest—how could I tell him?” Scorsese said to me. “All I know is that it’s painful.” Friends testify to the toll that the process, and the dispute over the process, took on Lonergan. “The biggest loss is the fricking years of lost time— whatever he could have been doing during that time,” Rufalo says. “It hurt his confidence, it really did. He couldn’t write. He couldn’t do anything.” SmithCameron’s eyes filled with tears when she talked with me about “Margaret,” one day over lunch. “It’s such a big, profound concept, filled with tiny details that add up to this very rich tapestry—this idea that everyone’s life is mundane, and petty, and all about getting to school on time, and all about whether your best friends are talking to you, all these tedious things,” she said. “But, meanwhile, even the guy next to you on the subway is living through some big drama—some big

• tragedy, some opera. Everyone ’s life is an opera, even though it’s also about paying the bills on time.” For Lonergan, she said, “there were some huge disappointments along the way, and frustrations that he had to swallow. And that’s sort of part of growing up— knowing that you can’t get what you want. Even if it might be the best thing you ever wrote, you can’t have it realized exactly as you wished.” hen “Margaret” was finally re-

W leased, in September, 2011, it was

the two-and-a-half-hour version that Lonergan had delivered in 2008. It opened in just two theatres, with little publicity. “The movie was dumped,” Mathew Rosengart, Lonergan’s lawyer, says. “Having gone through it, and him really believing it was his masterpiece, and having it be doomed, was devastating.” It was only after some critics saw the film during its release, and heralded it as one of the finest movies of recent years, that Fox Searchlight granted Lonergan more time to go back in the studio and produce the extended cut. In 2013, Gilbert’s lawsuit went to trial; a few days in, when it became clear that THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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Scorsese, Damon, Rudin, Rufalo, and other high-profile figures were scheduled to testify, Gilbert dropped the case. The extended cut of “Margaret,” with its more rounded sequences and restored explanatory scenes, was released on DVD in 2012. Lonergan still would like to make some color corrections to this version, but it is close to what he wanted the movie to be. “I like to be eighty-five or ninety per cent happy with something, and I would say that with the extended version I am seventyfive per cent happy,” he told me. “I wouldn’t mind getting up to eighty, but I don’t know if that’s possible.” Some observers with greater emotional distance suggest that the diferences between the two cuts are negligible. They point out that the theatrical version was, after all, the cut that critics first praised. Lonergan acknowledges that he was recalcitrant and diicult about “Margaret.” He regrets not how he acted, exactly, but his actions’ inefectiveness. “I was pigheaded in my behavior,” he said. “I don’t think it’s pigheaded to try to protect your work—I am proud of being stubborn about wanting complete control over the work, and wanting it to come out as well as it can. I am not proud of being stupid enough to arouse the wrath of a studio that is much more powerful than I am.” The

lesson that Lisa Cohen learns in the course of the movie—that she cannot bend intransigent forces to comply with her own sense of personal justice— mirrors Lonergan’s struggle to see his artistic vision realized. Tony Kushner, who was among those people who championed “Margaret” upon its theatrical release, told me, “It’s a movie about a young girl—and the first thing you notice is that the girl you are watching is not named Margaret. You have to go back to Hopkins. You have to think of the mysteries that Hopkins is grappling with: that growth and maturity is desirable, but it leaves devastation in the wake of its progress. It is not purely and simply the fulfillment of a plan; it also leaves a path of destruction, and it destroys the thing that it transforms. So there is a great deal of ambivalence in Kenny’s work about human capacity and growth.” Matt Damon, who plays a geometry teacher in “Margaret,” is among those friends who sought to remedy Lonergan’s despair—in Damon’s case, by getting Lonergan to write “Manchester by the Sea” for him. It was, Damon admits, partly a ruse. “A lot of his friends were, quite frankly, worried about him. He needed money, but he couldn’t write—it was this horrible limbo,” Damon told me. “We got Kenny

paid to write a draft.” It took Lonergan more than two years to finish one, but when he did, Damon says, “It was long, and it was meandering, and it was fucking incredible.” Lonergan revised the script and showed it again to Damon, who says, “I called him and I said, ‘Kenny, you are the only person who can direct this—this is completely a Kenny Lonergan movie.’ He put up a little fight, but those characters really had their claws into him.” Damon promised Lonergan that he would star in the movie. Scheduling conflicts ultimately prevented him from doing so, but he remained involved as a producer. Damon recalls, “I told Kenny, ‘Look, it’s not going to be anything like “Margaret.” It’s going to be easy, and it’s going to be fun.’ Kenny said”—Damon switched to an impersonation—“ ‘I don’t believe you can have fun making movies.’ ” onergan’s tendency to be late

L for appointments dates back de-

cades, he told me. But in recent years it grew out of hand. “I would be an hour late, an hour and a half late—I mean, very bad,” he said. The severity of the problem, he suspects, was linked to his experience with “Margaret.” He told me, “I was feeling pushed around, and bullied, and asked to do things I


didn’t think I should be asked to do. Whether or not that is a reasonable view, that is how I felt about it. I think I got a very irrational bee in my bonnet. Why it manifested itself in being late, I don’t know. Maybe because I was accused so often of the movie being late—when it wasn’t.” Lonergan was careful to meet all his contractual deadlines on “Margaret,” even as friends and others were urging him to complete the picture and ofering their help. “I would sometimes say charming things, like ‘Well, why don’t you get someone who’s on time to do this?’ ” he told me. “But that was a very arrogant, obnoxious point of view—and I was just insulting my friends, and other people who had nothing to do with it, and who never did me any harm. But that’s what neurosis is.” On an afternoon in September, we arranged to meet at the Frick Collection, one of Lonergan’s favorite places in New York. He texted me to say that he was running fifteen minutes late, but when I arrived, a few minutes after the appointed time, he was already there, tickets in hand. We walked from room to room, looking at paintings and recalling stories associated with them. The museum had few visitors that day, and Lonergan’s habitual mumble was, for once, an appropriate register. We stood before a Titian portrait of a young man, richly dressed in a red velvet cap and furs. Lonergan said, “This made Matthew’s mom want to be a painter. She came here as a kid, and she couldn’t figure out how he made the black fur fur, when it’s just black.” Lonergan turned to a Degas painting of a ballet rehearsal. He marvelled at the artist’s lifelong obsession with the female form. “All these shapes of ballerinas,” he said. “Woman in the tub washing her hair. Woman getting out of the tub. Woman tying up her hair. Woman being given a bath. Woman having a bath. Ballerinas, ballerinas, ballerinas.” He paused. “If I could get that interested in something, and stay interested in it for my whole life, that would be wonderful. I wouldn’t have to worry about being creative again.” In the East Gallery, we paused before a portrait of a young woman, by Goya, with an air of worry around her dark eyes, and a slump in her shoulders

and her belly. “She’s so sweet, this girl,” Lonergan said. “You can really see her sitting for the portrait.” He looked at a showier portrait on the opposite wall, of a man in a fantastically lavish silk suit. “That is just not very good,” he said. “Technically it is, I am sure, but you look at her ”—the Goya—“and she is like a human being. You get a better sense of her dress, too. You don’t believe anyone wore what he’s wearing— or, if they did, you don’t understand how they wore it. It doesn’t put you back with the person, the way good painters do.” We tried to guess the age of the sitter in the Goya—she could have been anywhere from her early teens to her mid-twenties. “They presented older,” Lonergan said. “A young woman of twenty-four would have had ten years of experience, essentially, as an adult. As opposed to a twenty-four-year-old now, who has had zero.” A few days later, Lonergan was due to make an appearance at the Metrograph, a new art-house cinema on the Lower East Side which shows first-run movies and classics. Jake Perlin, the theatre’s artistic director, had recently asked Lonergan if he would program an evening there; he was enthusiastic about doing it, though he hadn’t yet chosen the films. “I want to show something I have never seen on a big screen,” he told me at one point. “I’ve never seen ‘Dr. Zhivago’ on a big screen. Nellie is never going to see ‘Dr. Zhivago’ on a big screen as long as she lives. She might see ‘The Godfather’ on a big screen one day, when it has its millionth anniversary.” He was there for a screening of the extended cut of “Margaret.” It was only the third time that this version had been shown on a big screen. The event was sold out, and the audience, filled with Lonergan aficionados, was rapt as the story unspooled. Until then, I had seen “Margaret” only on a TV screen. Seen at this scale, the verisimilitude of small details was easier to savor: the posters of Broadway plays that line the walls of Lisa’s apartment; the harshness of the fluorescent light in the kitchen where Lisa talks with a louche schoolmate, played by Kieran Culkin, whom she has invited over to take her virginity. (The cinematographer initially established moodier lighting, but Lonergan said no. “When a boy or girl

comes to your house at night, and you turn on the kitchen lights, it’s a harsh, bright light,” he told me. “I always feel the environment is often in contrast to your mood.”) A scene in which Matthew Broderick, as the English teacher, catches Lisa and a friend smoking pot in Central Park, and is humiliated when the girls make fun of him, ended with a rear view of Broderick—a flush of embarrassment sufusing the back of his neck. It was a poignant shot, and one that a more economical director might have eliminated. The sweeping vistas of the city felt more resonant on a movie screen; you could feel the camera lingering anxiously on planes crossing the sky, just as, in the first years after the attacks of September 11th, worried New Yorkers looked up and watched whenever an aircraft seemed to be coming too close. Lonergan missed most of the screening—he had to attend an event promoting “Manchester by the Sea.” But he arrived ten minutes before the end. A question-and-answer session followed, and he seemed relaxed and happy as he fielded inquiries from the audience, pushing his glasses up on his head, then lowering them again, and running his hands through his hair. Broderick had noted, “He cuts his own hair. Did he tell you that? Because he thinks he can do everything better. He is right, in a way. This is always what is irritating about Kenny—you shouldn’t be cutting your own hair, but actually he can.” Many of the questions were technical. How did Lonergan work with actors? What was his process with sound design? After about half an hour, a young man near the back of the theatre raised his hand, and posed a larger question: “Because ‘Margaret’ took so long to make and to finally get released, what were the major lessons you took in terms of making your next film?” “I’m still trying to figure that out, because they are all contradictory,” Lonergan said, to laughter. “One is: never back down, and do what you think is right, and don’t listen to anyone. The other is: listen to people.” There was more laughter—his comic timing was excellent. “So I have been wrestling with that myself,” he went on. “I don’t know, exactly. I have not learned my lesson yet. I don’t know what it is.”  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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FICTION

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ILLUSTRATION BY KRISTIAN HAMMERSTAD


he dog was the color of a maraschino cherry, and what it had in its jaws I couldn’t quite make out at first, not until it parked itself under the hydrangeas and began throttling the thing. This little episode would have played itself out without my even noticing, except that I’d gone to the stove to put the kettle on for a cup of tea and happened to glance out the window at the front lawn. The lawn, a lush blue-green that managed to hint at both the turquoise of the sea and the viridian of a Kentucky meadow, was something I took special pride in, and any wandering dog, no matter its chromatics, was an irritation to me. The seed had been pricey—a blend of Chewings fescue, Bahia, and zoysia incorporating a gene from a species of algae that allowed it to glow under the porch light at night—and, while it was both diseaseand drought-resistant, it didn’t take well to foot traic, especially fourfooted traic. I stepped out onto the porch and clapped my hands, thinking to shoo the dog away, but it didn’t move. Actually, it did, but only to flex its shoulders and tighten its jaws around its prey, which I now saw was my neighbor Allison’s pet micropig. The pig itself—doe-eyed and no bigger than a Pekinese—didn’t seem to be struggling, or not any longer, and even as I came down of the porch looking for something I could brandish at the dog I felt my heart thundering. Allison was one of those pet owners who anthropomorphize their animals, and that pig was the center of her unmarried and unboyfriended life. She would be shattered, absolutely, and who was going to break the news to her? I felt a surge of anger. How had the stupid thing got out of the house anyway, and, for that matter, whose dog was this? I didn’t own a garden rake, and there were no sticks on the lawn (the street trees were an edited variety that didn’t drop anything, no twigs, seeds, or leaves, no matter the season), so I stormed across the grass empty-handed, shouting the first thing that came to mind, which was “Bad! Bad dog!” I wasn’t thinking. And the efect wasn’t what I would have hoped for

T

even if I had been: the dog dropped the pig, all right, which was clearly beyond revivification at this point, but in the same motion it lurched up and clamped its jaws on my left forearm, growling continuously, as if my forearm were a stick it had fetched in a friendly game between us. Curiously, there was no pain—and no blood, either—just a firm insistent pressure, the saliva hot and wet on my skin as I pulled in one direction and the dog, all the while regarding me out of a pair of dull, uniform eyes, pulled in the other. “Let go!” I demanded, but the dog didn’t let go. I tugged. The dog tugged back. There was no one on the street, no one in the next yard over, no one in the house behind me to come to my aid. I was dressed in the T-shirt, shorts, and slippers I’d pulled on not ten minutes earlier, when I’d got out of bed, and here I was caught up in this maddening interspecies pas de deux at eight in the morning, already exhausted. The dog, this cherry-red hairless freak with the armored skull and bulging musculature of a pit bull, showed no sign of giving in: it had got my arm and it meant to keep it. After a minute of this, I went down on one knee to ease the tension in my back, a gesture that seemed only to excite the animal all the more, its nails tearing up divots as it fought for purchase, trying, it occurred to me now, to bring me down to its level. Before I knew what I was doing, I balled up my free hand and punched the thing in the head three times in quick succession. The efect was instantaneous: the dog dropped my arm and let out a yelp, backing of to hover at the edge of the lawn and eye me warily, as if now, all at once, the rules of the game had changed. In the next moment, just as I realized that I was, in fact, bleeding, a voice cried out behind me, “Hey, I saw that!” A girl was striding across the lawn toward me, a preternaturally tall girl whom I at first took to be a teenager but who was actually a child of eleven or twelve. She marched directly up to me, glaring, and said, “You hit my dog.” I was in no mood. “I’m bleeding,” I

said, holding out my arm in evidence. “You see this? Your dog bit me. You ought to keep him chained up.” “That’s not true—Ruby would never bite anybody. She was just . . . playing, is all.” I wasn’t about to debate her. This was my property, my arm, and that lump of flesh lying there bleeding into the grass was Allison’s dead pet. I pointed to it. “Oh,” she said, her voice dropping. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t . . . Is it yours?” “My neighbor’s.” I gestured to the house just visible over the hedge. “She’s going to be devastated. This pig”—I wanted to call it by name, personalize it, but couldn’t for the life of me summon up its name—“is all she has. And it wasn’t cheap, either.” I glanced at the dog, its pinkish gaze and incarnadine flanks. “As I’m sure you can appreciate.” The girl, who stood three or four inches taller than me and whose own eyes were an almost iridescent shade of violet that didn’t exist in nature, or at least hadn’t until recently, gave me an unflinching look. “Maybe she doesn’t have to know.” “What do you mean she doesn’t have to know? The thing’s dead—look at it.” “Maybe it was run over by a car.” “You want me to lie to her?” The girl shrugged. “I already said I’m sorry. Ruby got out the front gate when my mother went to work, and I came right after her. You saw me—” “What about this?” I demanded, holding up my arm, which wasn’t so much punctured as abraded, since most of the new breeds had had their canines and carnassials genetically modified to prevent any real damage in situations like this. “It has its shots, right?” “She’s a Cherry Pit,” the girl said, giving me a look of disgust. “Germline immunity comes with the package. I mean, everybody knows that.” t was a Tuesday and I was work-

I ing from home, as I did every Tues-

day and Thursday. I worked in I.T., like practically everybody else on the planet, and I found I actually got more done at home than when I went into the oice. My co-workers were a trial, what with their moods, opinions,

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• facial tics, and all the rest. Not that I didn’t like them—it was just that they always seemed to manage to get in the way at crunch time. Or maybe I didn’t like them—maybe that was it. At any rate, after the little contretemps with the girl and her dog, I went back in the house, smeared an antibiotic ointment on my forearm, took my tea and a handful of protein wafers to my desk, and sat down at the computer. If I gave the dead pig a thought, it was only in relation to Allison, who’d want to see the corpse, I supposed, which brought up the question of what to do with it—let it lie where it was or stuf it in a trash bag and refrigerate it till she got home from the oice? I thought of calling my wife—Connie was regional manager of Bank U.S.A., by necessity a master of interpersonal relations, and she would know what to do—but in the end I did nothing. It was past three by the time I thought to take a lunch break, and, because it was such a fine day, I took my sandwich and a glass of iced tea out onto the front porch. By this juncture, I’d forgotten all about the pig, the dog, and the grief that was brewing for Allison, but as soon as I stepped out the door it all came back to me: the trees were alive with crowparrots 58

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• variously screeching, cawing, and chattering among themselves, and they were there for a very specific reason. (I don’t know if you have crowparrots in your neighborhood yet, but, believe me, they’re coming. They were the inspiration of one of the molecular embryologists at the university here, who thought that inserting genes from the common crow into the invasive parrot population would put an end to the parrots’ raids on our orchards and vineyards, by giving them a taste for garbage and carrion instead of fruit on the vine. The only problem was the noise factor—something in the mix seemed to have redoubled not only the volume but the fury of the birds’ calls, so that you needed earplugs if you wanted to enjoy pretty much any outdoor activity.) Which was the case now. The birds were everywhere, cursing fluidly (“Bad bird! Fuck, fuck, fuck! ”) and flapping their spangled wings in one another’s faces. Alarmed, I came down of the porch and for the second time that day scrambled across the lawn to the flower bed, where a scrum of birds had settled on the remains of Allison’s pet. I flailed my arms, and they lifted of reluctantly into the sky, screeching, “Turdbird! ” and the fractured call that awakened me practically every morning:

“Cock-k-k-k-sucker! ” As for the pig (which I should have dragged into the garage, I realized that now), its eyes were gone and its faintly bluish hide was striped with bright-red gashes. Truthfully? I didn’t want to touch the thing. It was filthy. The birds were filthy. Who knew what zoonoses they were carrying? So I was just standing there, in a quandary, when Allison’s car pulled into the driveway next door. Allison was in her early thirties, with a top-heavy figure and a barely tamed kink of ginger hair she kept wrapped up in various scarves, which gave her an exotic look, as if she were displaced here in the suburbs. She was sad-faced and sweet, the victim of one catastrophic relationship after another, and I couldn’t help feeling protective toward her, a single woman alone in the big house her mother had left her when she died. So when she came across the lawn, already tearing up, I felt I’d somehow let her down and, before I could think, I stripped of my shirt and draped it over the corpse. “Is that her?” she asked, looking down at the hastily covered bundle at my feet. “No,” she said, “don’t tell me,” and then her eyes jumped to mine and she was repeating my name, “Roy, Roy, Roy,” as if wringing it in her throat. “Fuck you! ” the crowparrots cried from the trees. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! ” In the next moment Allison flung herself into my arms, clutching me to her so desperately I could hardly breathe. “I don’t want to see,” she said in a small voice, each syllable a hot puf of breath on the bare skin of my chest. I could smell her hair, the shampoo she used, the taint of sweat under her arms. “The poor thing,” she murmured, and lifted her face so I could see the tears blurring her eyes. “I loved her, Roy. I really loved her.” This called up a scene from the past, a dinner party at Allison’s—Connie and me, another couple, and Allison and her last inamorato, a big-headed boor who worked for Animal Control, incinerating strays and transgenic misfits. Allison had kept the pig in her lap throughout the meal, feeding it from her plate, and afterward, while we sat around the living room cradling brandies and Bénédictine, she propped


the thing up at the piano, where it picked out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” with its modified hooves. “It was a dog, right? That’s what”— and here she had to break of a moment to gather herself. “That’s what Terry Wolfson said when she called me at work—” I was going to ofer up some platitude about how the animal hadn’t sufered, though for all I knew the dog had gummed it relentlessly, the way it had gummed my arm, when a voice called “Hello?” from the street behind us and we broke awkwardly apart. Coming up the walk was the tall girl, tottering on a pair of platform heels, and she had the dog with her, this time on a leash. I felt a stab of annoyance— hadn’t she caused enough trouble already?—and embarrassment, too. It wasn’t like me to go shirtless in public—or to be caught in a full-body embrace with my unmarried next-door neighbor, either, for that matter. If the girl could read my face, she gave no indication of it. She came right up to us, the dog trotting along docilely at her side. Her violet gaze swept from me to the lump on the ground beneath the bloodied T-shirt and finally to Allison. “Je suis désolée, Madame,” she said. “Pardonnez-moi. Mon chien ne savait pas ce qu’il faisait—il est un bon chien, vraiment.” This girl, this child, loomed over us, her features animated. She was wearing eyeliner, lipstick, and blush, as if she were ten years older and on her way to a night club, and her hair— blond, with a natural curl—spread like a tent over her shoulders and dangled all the way down to the small of her back. “What are you saying?” I demanded. “And why are you speaking French?” “Because I can. My I.Q. is 162 and I can run the hundred metres in 9.58 seconds.” “Wonderful,” I said, exchanging a look with Allison. “Terrific. Really. But what are you doing here, what do you want?” “Your mother! ” the birds cried. “Up yours! ” The girl shifted from one foot to the other, suddenly looking awkward, like the child she was. “I just wanted to please, please beg you not to report

Ruby to Animal Control, because my father says they’ll come and put her down. She’s a good dog, she really is, and she never did anything like this before. It was just a—” “Freak occurrence?” I said. “Right,” she said. “An anomaly. An accident.” Allison’s jaw tightened. The dog looked tranquilly up at us out of its pink eyes, as if none of this were its concern. A bugless breeze rustled the trees along the street. “And what am I supposed to say?” Allison put in. “How am I supposed to feel? What do you want, forgiveness?” She gave the girl a fierce look. “You love your dog?” The girl nodded. “Well, I love—loved—Shushawna, too.” She choked up. “More than anything in the world.” We all took a minute to gaze down on the carcass, and then the girl lifted her eyes. “My father says we’ll pay all damages. Here,” she said, digging into her purse and producing a pair of business cards, one of which she handed to me and the other to Allison. “Any medical treatment you may need, we’ll take care of, one hundred per cent,” she assured me, eying my arm doubtfully before turning to Allison. “And replace your pet, too, if you want, Madame. It was a micropig, right, from Recombicorp?” It was a painful moment. I could feel for Allison and for the girl, too,

though Connie and I didn’t have any pets, not even one of the new hypoallergenic breeds. There was a larger sadness at play here, the sadness of attachment and loss and the way the world wreaks its changes whether we’re ready for them or not. We would have got through the moment, I think, coming to some sort of understanding—Allison wasn’t vindictive, and I wasn’t about to raise a fuss—but that same breeze swept across the lawn to flip back the

edge of the T-shirt and expose the eyeless head of the pig, and that was all it took. Allison let out a gasp, and the dog—that crimson freak—jerked the leash out of the girl’s hand and went right for it. hen Connie came home, I was

W in the kitchen mixing a drink.

The front door slammed. (Connie was always in a hurry, no wasted motion, and though I’d asked her a hundred times not to slam the door she was constitutionally incapable of taking the extra two seconds to ease it shut.) An instant later, her briefcase slapped down on the hallway table with the force of a thunderclap, her heels drilled the parquet floor—tat-tat-tat-tat— and then she was there in the kitchen, saying, “Make me one, too, would you, honey? Or no: wine. Do we have any wine?” I didn’t ask her how her day had gone—all her days were the same, pedal to the metal, one situation after another, all of which she dealt with like a five-star general driving the enemy into the sea. I didn’t give her a hug or blow her a kiss, either. We weren’t that sort of couple—to her mind (and mine, too, to be honest), it would have been just more wasted motion. Wordlessly, I poured her a glass of the Sancerre she liked and handed it to her. “Allison’s pet pig was killed today,” I said. “Right out on our front lawn. By one of those transgenic pit bulls, one of the crimson ones they’re always pushing on TV?” Her eyebrows lifted. She swirled the wine in her glass, took a sip. “And I got bit,” I added, holding up my arm, where a deep-purplish bruise had wrapped itself around the skin just below the elbow. What she said next didn’t follow, but then we often talked in non sequiturs, she conducting a kind of call-andresponse conversation in her head and I in mine, the responses never quite matching up. She didn’t comment on my injury or the dog or Allison or the turmoil I’d gone through. She just set her glass down on the counter, patted her lips where the wine had moistened them, and said, “I want a baby.” I suppose I should back up here a THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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moment to give you an idea of where this was coming from. We’d been married twelve years now, and we’d agreed that at some point we’d like to start a family, but we kept putting it of for one reason or another—our careers, finances, fear of the way a child would impact our life style, the usual kind of thing. But with a twist. What sort of child—that was the question. Previous generations had only to fret over whether the expectant mother would bear a boy or a girl or if the child would inherit Aunt Bethany’s nose or Uncle Yuri’s unibrow, but that wasn’t the case anymore, not since CRISPR gene-editing technology had hit the ground running twenty years back. Now not only could you choose the sex of the child at conception; you could chose its other features, too, as if having a child were like going to the car dealership and picking which options to add onto the basic model. The sole function of sex these days was recreational; babies were conceived in the laboratory. That was the way it was and that was the way it would be, until, as a species, we evolved into something else. The result was a nation—a world— of children like the tall girl with the bright-red dog. To my way of thinking, this was intrusive and unnatural, but to Connie’s it was a no-brainer. “Are you out of your mind?” she’d say. “You really want your kid—our kid—to be the bonehead of the class? Or what, take career training, cosmetology, auto mechanics, for Christ’s sake?” Now, tipping back her glass and downing the wine in a single belligerent gulp, she announced, “I’m thirtyeight years old and I’m putting my foot down. I’ve made an appointment at GenLab for 10 A.M. Thursday. Either you come with me”—she was glaring at me now—“or I swear I’m going to go out and get a sperm donor.” obody likes an ultimatum. Es-

N pecially when you’re talking about

a major life-changing event, the kind of thing both people involved have to enter into in absolute harmony. It didn’t go well. She thought she could bully me as if I were one of her underlings at work; I thought she couldn’t.

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She thought she’d had the final word on the subject; I thought diferent. I said some things I wound up regretting later, snatched up my drink, and slammed through the kitchen door and out into the back yard, where for once no birds were cursing from the trees and even the bees seemed muted as they went about their business. If it weren’t for that silence, I never would have heard the soft heartsick keening of Allison working through the stations of her grief. The sound was low and intermittent, a stunted release of air followed by a sodden gargling that might have been the wheeze and rattle of the sprinklers starting up, and it took me a minute to realize what it was. In the instant, I forgot all about what had just transpired in my own kitchen and thought of Allison, struck all over again by the intensity of her emotion. We’d managed to get the dog of the carcass, all three of us shouting at once while the girl grabbed for the leash and I delivered two or three sharp kicks to the animal’s hindquarters, but Allison’s dead pig was none the better for it. The girl, red-faced and embarrassed despite her I.Q. and whatever other attributes she might have possessed, slouched across the lawn and down the street, the dog mincing beside her, while I ofered to do the only sensible thing and bury what was left of the remains. I dug a hole out back of Allison’s potting shed, Allison read a passage I vaguely remembered from school (“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; / Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun”), I held her in my arms for the second time that day, then filled the hole and went home to make my drink and have Connie slam the front door and lay her demands on me. Now, as if I were being tugged on invisible wires, I moved toward the low hedge that separated our properties and stepped across it. Allison was hunched over the picnic table on her patio. She was still dressed in the taupe blouse and black skirt she’d worn to work, and she had her head down, her scarf bunched under one cheek, and that got to me in a way I can’t explain, so that before I knew what I was doing I’d fallen down a long dark tunnel and

found myself consoling her in a way that seemed—how can I put this?—so very natural at the time. t was dark when I got home. Con-

I nie was sitting on the couch in the

living room, watching TV with the sound muted. “Hi,” I said, feeling sheepish, feeling guilty (I’d never strayed before and didn’t know why I’d done it now, except that I’d been so furious with my wife and so strangely moved by Allison in her grief, though I know that’s no excuse), but trying, like all amateurs, to act as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Connie looked up. I couldn’t read her face, but I thought, at least by the flickering light of the TV, that she looked softer, contrite even, as if she’d reconsidered her position, or at least the way she’d laid it on me. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I was upset, O.K.? I just went for a walk. To clear my head.” She had nothing to say to this. “You eat yet?” I asked, to change the subject. She shook her head. “Me, either,” I said, feeling the weight lift, as if ritual could get us through this. “You want to go out?” “No, I don’t want to go out,” she said. “I want a baby.” And what did I say, from the shallow grave of my guilt, which was no deeper than the layer of earth I’d flung over the shrunken and lacerated corpse of Allison’s pet? I said, “O.K., we’ll talk about it.” “Talk about it? The appointment is Thursday, 10 A.M. That’s nonnegotiable.” She was right—it was time to start a family—and she was right, too, about cosmetology and auto mechanics. What responsible parent wouldn’t want the best for his child, whether that meant a stable home, top-flight nutrition, and the best private-school education money could buy, or tweaking the chromosomes in a test tube in a lab somewhere? Understand me: I was under duress. I could smell Allison on me still. I could smell my own fear. I didn’t want to lose my wife—I loved her. I was used to her. She was the only woman I’d known these past twelve years and more, my familiar. And there she was, poised on the edge of the couch, watching me,


THE LAZY SUSAN

The lazy Susan, in antiquity, would have been a fire. Drinking all night, the parents never get drunk. This is an ancient brew, with nuts, seeds, fruit to fuel the hours, to light a center. The tea dispenser’s orange light reminds us: they’re in the dining room, laughing in Chinese while we play Scrabble or Monopoly out here. They’re telling stories we don’t bother to record because the nights are long. We’ve heard them before. We don’t comprehend the punch lines. They’re tired. They live this way because of us. We live this way because of them. We don’t comprehend the punch lines. They’re tired because the nights are long. We’ve heard them before, telling stories we don’t bother to record. While we play Scrabble or Monopoly out here, they’re in the dining room, laughing in Chinese. The tea dispenser’s orange light reminds us to fuel the hours, to light a center. This is an ancient brew, with nuts, seeds, fruit. Drinking all night, the parents never get drunk. The lazy Susan, in antiquity, would have been a fire. —Adrienne Su

her will like some miasma seeping in under the door and through the cracks around the windows until the room was choked with it. “O.K.,” I said. hich is not to say that I gave

W in without a fight. The next

day—Wednesday—I had to go into the oice and endure the usual banalities of my co-workers till I wanted to beat the walls of my cubicle in frustration, but on the way home I stopped at a pet store and picked up an eightweek-old dogcat. (People still aren’t quite sure what to call the young, even now, fifteen years after they were first created. Kitpups? Pupkits? The sign in the window read simply “Baby Dogcats on Special.”) I chose a squirming little furball with a doggish face and tabby stripes and brought it home as a surprise for Connie, hoping it would distract her long enough for her to reëvaluate the decision she was committing us to. I tucked the thing inside my shirt for the drive home, since the minute the girl behind the counter put it in

its cardboard carrier it began alternately mewing and yipping in a tragic way, and it nestled there against my chest, warm and content, until I’d parked the car and gone up the steps and into the house. Connie was already home, moving briskly about the kitchen. There were flowers on the table next to an ice bucket with the neck of a bottle of Veuve Clicquot protruding from it, and the room was redolent of the scent of my favorite meal— pipérade, Basque style, topped with poached eggs—and I realized that she must have made a special stop at Maison Claude on her way home. This was a celebration and no two ways about it. In the morning, we would procreate—or take our first steps in that direction, which on my part would involve producing a sperm sample under duress (unlike, I couldn’t help thinking, the way it had been with Allison). We didn’t hug. We didn’t kiss. I just said “Hey,” and she said “Hey” back. “Smells great,” I said, trying to gauge her expression as we both hovered over the table.

“Perfect timing,” she said, leaning in to adjust the napkin beside her plate, though it was already precisely aligned. “I got there the minute they took it out of the oven. Claude himself brought it out to me—along with a fresh loaf of that crusty sourdough you like. Just baked this morning.” I was grinning at her. “Great,” I said. “Really great.” Into the silence that followed— neither of us was ready yet to address the issue hanging over us—I said, “I’ve got a surprise for you.” “How sweet. What is it?” W ith a magician’s flourish, I whipped the new pet from the folds of my shirt and held it out triumphantly for her. Unfortunately, I startled the thing in the process, and it reacted by digging its claws into my wrist, letting out a string of rapid-fire barks, and dropping a glistening turd on the tiles of the kitchen floor. “For you,” I said. Her face fell. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You really think I’m that easy to buy of ?” She made no efort to take the thing from me—in fact, she clenched her hands behind her. “Take it back where you got it.” The pupkit had softened now, retracting its claws and settling into the crook of my arm as if it recognized me, as if in the process of selecting it and secreting it in my shirt I’d imparted something essential to it—love, that is—and it was content to exist in this new world on a new basis altogether. “It’s purring,” I said. “What do you want me to say— hallelujah? The thing’s a freak, you’re always saying so yourself every time one of those stupid commercials comes on—” “No more a freak than that girl with the dog,” I said. “What girl? What are you talking about?” “The one with the dog that bit me. She must have been six-four. She had an I.Q. of 162. And still she let her dog out, and still it bit me.” “What are you saying? You’re not trying to back out on me, are you? We had a deal, Roy, and you know how I feel about people who renege on a deal—” “O.K., O.K., calm down. All I’m saying is maybe we ought to have a THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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kind of trial or something before we—I mean, we’ve never even had a pet.” “A pet is not a child, Roy.” “No,” I said, “that’s not what I meant. It was just, I’m just—” The crowparrots started up then with one of their raucous dinnertime chants, squawking so piercingly you could hear them even with the windows shut—“Big Mac, Big Mac,” they called. “Fries! ”—and I lost my train of thought. “Are we going to eat?” Connie said in a fragile voice, tearing up. “Because I went out of my way. Because I wanted this night to be special, O.K.?” So now we did hug, though the pupkit got between us, and, coward that I am, I told her everything was going to be all right. Later, after she’d gone to bed, I took the pupkit in my arms, went next door, and rang the bell. Allison answered in her nightgown, a smile creeping across her lips. “Here,” I said, handing her the animal. “I got this for you.” ast-forward seven and a half

F months. I am living in a house with

a pregnant woman next door to a house in which there is another pregnant woman. Connie seems to find this amusing, never suspecting the truth of the matter. We’ll glance up from the porch and see Allison emerging heavily from her car with an armload of groceries, and Connie will say things like “I hope she doesn’t have to pee every five minutes the way I do” and “She won’t say who the father is—I just hope it’s not that a-hole from Animal Control, what was his name?” This is problematic on a number of levels. I play dumb, of course— what else can I do? “Maybe she went to GenLab,” I say. “Her? You’re kidding me, right? I mean, look at that string of jerks she keeps dating. If you want to know the truth, she’s lower-class, Roy, and I’m sorry to have to say it—” I’m not about to argue the point. The fact is I tried everything I could to talk Allison out of going through with this—finally, to my shame, falling back on the same argument about the whole Übermensch-Untermensch dynamic that Connie used on me— but Allison merely gave me a bitter smile and said, “I trust your genes, 62

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Roy. You don’t have to be involved. I just want to do this, that’s all. For myself. And for nature. You believe in nature, don’t you?” You don’t have to be involved. But I was involved, though we’d had sex only the one time (or two, actually, counting the night I brought her the pupkit), and if she had a boy and he looked like me and grew up right next door playing with our daughter, how involved would that be? So there comes a day, sometime during that eighth month, a Tuesday, when I’m working at home and Connie’s at the oice, and I’m so focussed on the problem at hand that I keep putting of my bathroom break until the morning’s nearly gone. That’s the way it always is when I’m deeply engaged with a problem, a kind of mindbody separation, but finally the body’s needs prevail and I push myself up from my desk to go down the hall to the bathroom. I’m standing there, in mid-flow, when I become aware of the sound of a dog barking on the front lawn and I shift my torso ever so slightly so that I can glance out the window and see what the ruckus is all about. It’s the red dog, the Cherry Pit that set all this in motion, and it’s tearing around on my hybrid lawn, chasing something. My first reaction is anger—anger at the tall girl and her fixer father and all the other idiots of the world—but by the time I get down the stairs and out the front door the anger dissipates, because I see that the dog isn’t there to kill anything but to play, and that what it’s chasing is being chased willingly: Allison’s dogcat, now a rangy adolescent and perhaps a third the size of the dog. For all my fretting over the lawn, I have to say that in that moment, with the light making a cathedral of the street trees and the neighborhood suspended in the grip of a lazy, warm autumn afternoon, I find something wonderfully liberating in the play of those two animals, the dogcat especially. Allison named him Tiger because of his coloration—dark feral stripes against a kind of Pomeranian orange—and he lives up to his name, absolutely fearless and with an athleticism and elasticity that combines the best of both species that went into

making him. He runs rings around the pit bull, actually, feinting one way, dodging the next, racing up the trunk of a tree and out onto a branch before leaping to the next tree and springing back down to charge, doglike, across the yard. “Go, Tiger!” I call out. “Good boy. Go get him!” That’s when I become aware of Allison, in a pair of maternity shorts and an enormous top, crossing from her front lawn to ours. She’s put on a lot of weight (but not as much as Connie, because we opted for a big baby, in the eleven-pound range, wanting it—her—to have that advantage right from the start). I haven’t spoken with Allison much these past months, but I still have feelings for her, of course—beyond resentment, that is. So I lift a hand and wave and she waves back and I watch her come barefoot through the glowing grass while the animals frolic around her. I’m down of the porch now, and I can’t help but smile at the sight of her. She comes up to me, moving with a kind of clumsy grace, if that makes any sense, and I want to take her in my arms but can’t really do that, not under these conditions, so I take both her hands and peck a neighborly kiss to her cheek. For a minute, neither of us says anything, then, shading her eyes with the flat of one hand to better see the animals at play, she says, “Pretty cute, huh?” I nod. “You see how Tiger’s grown?” “Yes, of course, I’ve been watching him all along. . . . Is that as big as he’s going to get?” The sun catches her eyes, which are a shade of plain everyday brown. “Nobody’s sure, but the vet thinks he won’t get much bigger. Maybe a pound or two.” “And you?” I venture. “How are you feeling?” “Never better. You’re going to be seeing more of me—don’t look scared, that’s not what I mean, just I’m taking my maternity leave, though I’m not due for, like, six weeks.” Both her hands, pretty hands, shapely, come to rest on the bulge beneath her oversized blouse. “They’re really being nice about it at work.” Connie’s not planning on taking of till the minute her water breaks,


because that’s the way Connie is, and I want to tell Allison that by way of contrast, just to say something, but I notice that she’s looking over my shoulder and I turn my head to see the tall girl coming up the walk, leash in hand. “Sorry,” the girl calls out. “She got loose again. Sorry, sorry.” I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling generous, expansive. “No problem,” I call out. “She’s just having a little fun.” That’s when Connie’s car slashes into the driveway, going too fast, and all I can think is she’s going to hit one of the animals, but she brakes at the last minute and they flow like water around the tires to chase back across the lawn again. It’s hard to gauge the look on my wife’s face as she swings open the car door, pushes herself laboriously from behind the wheel, then starts up the walk as if she hasn’t seen us. Just as she reaches the front steps, she swivels around. I can see she’s considering whether it’s worth the efort to come and greet our neighbor and get a closer look at the tall girl who hovers behind us like the avatar she is, but she decides against it. She just stops a moment, staring, and though she’s thirty feet away I can see a kind of recognition settle into her features, and it has to do with the way Allison is standing there beside me, as if for a portrait or an illustration in a book on family planning, the XY chromosomes and the XX. It’s just a moment, and I can’t say for certain, but her face goes rigid and she turns her back on us, mounts the steps, and slams the door behind her. When the CRISPR technology first came to light, governments and scientists everywhere assured the public that it would be employed only selectively, to fight disease and to rectify congenital deformities, editing out the mutated BRCA1 gene that predisposes women to breast cancer, for instance, or eliminating the ability of the Anopheles mosquito to carry the parasite that transmits malaria. Who could argue with that? Genome-editing kits (“Knock Out Any Gene!”) were sold to home hobbyists, who could create their own anomalous forms of yeast and bacteria in their kitchens, and it was revolutionary—and, beyond that, fun. Fun to tinker. Fun to create. The pet and meat industries gave us rainbow-colored

“I developed my sense of humor as a defense mechanism and turned it into a lethal ofensive weapon.”

• aquarium fish, seahorses that incorporated gold dust in their cells, rabbits that glowed green under a black light, the beefed-up supercow, the micropig, the dogcat, and all the rest. The Chinese were the first to renounce any sort of regulatory control and upgrade the human genome, and, as if they weren’t brilliant enough already, they became still more brilliant as the first edited children began to appear, and of course we had to keep up. . . . In a room at GenLab, Connie and I were presented with an exhaustive menu of just how our chromosomes could be made to match up. We chose to have a daughter. We selected emerald eyes for her—not iridescent, not freakishly bright, but enhanced for color so that she could grow up wearing mint, olive, Kelly green, and let her eyes talk for her. We chose height, too, as just about everybody does. And musical ability—we both love music. Intellect, of course. And finer features, like a subtly cleft chin and breasts that were not too big but not as small as Connie’s, either. It

• was a menu, and we placed an order. The tall girl is right beside us now, smiling like the heroine of a Norse saga, her eyes sweeping over us like searchlights. She looks to Allison, takes in her condition. “Boy or girl?” she asks. The softest smile plays over Allison’s lips. She ducks her head, shrugs. The girl—the genius—looks confused for a moment. “But, but,” she stammers, “how can that be? You don’t mean you—?” But before Allison can answer, a crowparrot sweeps out of the nearest tree, winging low to screech “Fuck you! ” in our faces, and the smallest miracle occurs. Tiger, as casual in his own skin as anything there is or ever was, erupts from the ground in a rocketing whirl of fur to catch the thing in his jaws. As quick as that, it’s over, and the feathers, the prettiest feathers you’ll ever see, lift and dance and float away on the breeze. ♦ NEWYORKER.COM

T. Coraghessan Boyle on the perils of genetic manipulation. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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THE CRITICS ON TELEVISION

FOX EATS CROW The crisis of Fox News and the rise of Megyn Kelly. BY EMILY NUSSBAUM

nated two hundred and fifty dollars to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. My husband is Canadian. I’m Jewish. In the early nineties, my dad worked in the Clinton White House, but although I love him we are not political clones. My bias, in sum, is as blatant as a Celtic arm tattoo. My first real encounter with Fox News came during the second Bush Administration, when my nearly blind grandmother listened to Bill O’Reilly at high volume. An immigrant garment worker widowed by a union organizer, she slowly tipped from left to neocon, which happens a lot among your elderly New York Jews who watch Fox. We had a few arguments, over the years, about whether anti-Semitism persisted in America or whether my grandmother was being paranoid. Were she still around, she’d win that one. But, these days, it’s me watching Fox. I’ve got the iPhone app; I like to watch the eerie border crossing, late in the evening, from Megyn Kelly to Sean Hannity. During previous elections, I never watched cable news, left or right, or the Sunday shouting shows—although I knew that, for many people, they were TV. In 2016, I watched them all. Fox became my chief vice, less for the news than for the melodrama—there was no better view of the meteor hitting the Republican Party in real time. It’s hard to believe that it was a mere three months ago, in July, that Fox’s founding C.E.O., Roger Ailes, who had run the network since 1996, was ousted for sexual harassment on such a baroque scale that Alfred Hitchcock would be impressed. The investigative journalist Gabriel Sherman exposed 64

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him, but it was Ailes’s female anchors who turned against him: first, Gretchen Carlson, then, more important, Megyn Kelly, his most dazzling hire. With his hefty payof, Ailes scurried to the Trump campaign, where, for a while, he acted as a shadow adviser. Now the survivors of that scandal were forced to debate Trump’s alleged pussy-grabbing. Never Trumpers and Always Trumpers were seated side by side. And Fox itself had quite suddenly become the put-upon establishment, needled by online punks like Breitbart and Alex Jones—open purveyors of Trutherism and birtherism, uninterested in even the icing of “fair and balanced.” Trump, who retweeted white supremacists and hired Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, was their pick. As his polls cratered, rumors emerged that his endgame wasn’t the Presidency at all: it was Trump TV. Which brings us to last week, when that institution seemed to have a soft launch on Facebook Live. The very next night, Newt Gingrich growled at Megyn Kelly that she was “fascinated with sex” and, in a rage, compared the big three networks to Pravda and accused Kelly’s own show of outrageous bias. The clip went viral—just as Kelly began to renegotiate her contract, seeking more than twenty million dollars a year. Rarely does anybody on Fox address these behind-the-scene tensions that directly, of course—the closest anyone has come was some sniping on Twitter between Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity, in which he claimed that She was with Her. On news panels, anchors focus primarily on WikiLeaks, each presented as a shocking scoop but given little context. To be fair, that’s not solely Fox’s problem but a larger issue on TV news, still

reliant as it is on what Neil Postman once called “simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical, and noncontextual” visual techniques (and, these days, curated tweets). Still, watching Fox did help me decode Trump’s debate tangents, since much of what he says is shorthand, with code words—Project Veritas, Sidney Blumenthal—used as hyperlinks to stories that he assumes his audience has already absorbed. The TV critic Todd VanDerWerf once compared the Fox format to ABC’s “Lost”: you need to immerse yourself entirely to grok the breadth of its worldbuilding paranoias and mythologies. stensibly, there are two Fox

O divisions: news journalists, who ask

follow-up questions and include diverse guests; and pure ideologues, like the mad king Hannity. For a newbie, the border can seem awfully porous, since everyone uses the desk, the glasses, the head tilt— the ancient theatre of TV authority. In the aftermath of the third debate, these two types were united in genuine pride at the well-reviewed performance of Chris Wallace, the first Fox anchor to moderate a Presidential debate. Megyn Kelly kvelled that it was a “Fox News fair-and-balanced debate, for our critics,” adding, “You should really tick of both sides—then you know you’re doing well.” On Mediabuzz, Wallace called his selection a statement by “the Commission on Presidential Debates—a blue-ribbon panel—that they thought that Fox was a legitimate news organization, that I was a legitimate journalist.” It was impossible not to feel empathy for Wallace—and, in fact, his show does come closest to that model, with researchbased questions and an air of healthy skepticism. But, as Hannity argues, shows like

ABOVE: LUCI GUTIÉRREZ

ull disclosure: late one night,

F while watching Fox News, I do-


Ostensibly, there are two Fox divisions: news journalists and pure ideologues. For a viewer, the border can seem porous. ILLUSTRATION BY BEN KIRCHNER

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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his pay the bills. And watching Hannity and O’Reilly feels like being trapped in a sauna with a bunch of alter kockers smoking cigars, as Rudy Giuliani shouts for ever hotter applications of steam. Hannity’s buddies (primarily men, though Laura Ingraham stops by occasionally) resolutely insist that Trump has crushed every debate; he won’t ever have to concede, they say, because he’s definitely, certainly winning. There is no breaking into this mutually consoling bubble world, fuelled by imaginary polls. O’Reilly is a stranger and sloppier force—and, of late, he’s started tiptoeing away from Trump, with an arrogant-uncle “I never said that!” bluster. Someone has clearly trolled the host by telling him that he looks good against neon blue. Half the screen is covered by maroonand-purple stripes, and, often, a neonyellow “alert” scrolls across the right-hand corner, unconnected to any news. Amid this cacophony, Geraldo Rivera was recently the voice of reason. When O’Reilly’s other guests crowed that Hillary was universally loathed, that Trump would win a “tight race,” Rivera gingerly suggested that female voters might be swayed by the “Access Hollywood” tapes. O’Reilly and Eric Bolling, a host of Fox’s “The Five,” shouted him down, calling it “this salacious business.” Later, Lou Dobbs arrived. “The ‘rigged’ thing is one of the brightest things that he could’ve done,” Dobbs insisted, calling Trump’s refusal to say that he would concede if he lost “an absolute stroke of genius.” At first, Trump’s reply at the debate had seemed shocking, even on Fox. By the end of the week, it was normalized, a mere matter of strategy—would it win votes?

For a long time, however, it was Kelly at the center of the firestorm, as her predatory boss negotiated with the misogynist Trump—who had called her a “bimbo” with blood “coming out of her wherever”—over what role she might play in the election coverage. You don’t have to like or agree with Kelly to imagine what that experience might have been like: maybe only Hillary could imagine the professional ordeal, or the compromises that survival requires. Either way, Kelly has emerged as an unlikely feminist warrior purified by her struggle to say things that no one else will. She’s always had a sense of humor and a native feeling for drama: among liberals, she’s most famous for her hilarious strut into the Fox “decision room” on Election Night in 2012, when she had the nerve to ask Karl Rove, “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?” These days, she’s the network’s resident expert on Trump’s sexual-assault accusations, conversant with each development. It makes sense: in college, she helped investigate faculty sexual-harassment cases; later, she made her name debunking the Duke lacrosse case. Although she never mentions her own experience, a sense of legitimacy hovers over her: she’s the sole female anchor, during an election haunted by the gender gap, free to admit that misogyny exists. One night, she did a sweet homage to her recently deceased “nana,” a montage that included the line “She came into this world when women couldn’t vote—and went out as the country considers electing its first female President.” Then her prime-time hour ended and Hannity’s began. In one of my favorite showdowns, or Megyn Kelly, however, the shack- Kelly faced of against Katrina Pierles are of. She’s an astounding figure son—one of the legion of female Trump these days, a happy Valkyrie with amused surrogates, from the mercenary Kellyeyes and a stiletto tucked into her rhetor- anne Conway to the pinwheel-eyed ical boot. Her blond hair is slicked to the Scottie Nell Hughes. The two women side, cyborg style, every dress she wears discussed the aftermath of Trump’s looks like a ruby shield, and she’s got the “Access Hollywood” tape, which Kelly, advantage of the ultra-beautiful: she is unlike other anchors, continues to regorgeous enough so that sexist insults re- play. Both stayed calm, as if in a surreal bound of her as envy. It’s Kelly who pulled chill-of. “Will you tell me, why would the sword from the stone in this election, this woman, at great harm to herself, with that question in the first Republican come out eleven years later and make primary debate, when she wondered how an accusation like this, and make it up Donald Trump would react to criticism out of whole cloth?” Kelly began, layof his sexist insults, then listed them. We ing out the People reporter’s accusations. know the answer to that question now. Pierson did her thing, giving denials,

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but Kelly cut in, reading damning excerpts. “Mr. Trump has denied this,” Pierson said. “I take him at his word for this.” “Well, why don’t you take him at his word on the bus, where he said he does do this?” Kelly asked. But, really, the segment was about Kelly’s face, and her brutal serenity, as Pierson attempted to switch the topic to Hurricane Matthew. When interviewees go loud, Kelly goes soft. She never made a face at Pierson—only Anderson Cooper, on CNN, rivals her arctic deadpan—but her eyes lowered slightly, the corners of her mouth rose, and her suspicion became visible, glimmering under the surface. It was hard even to remember to look at Pierson. Yes, I know. Kelly has her own record. A colleague begged me, “Please don’t let her of the hook”—and I do realize that I’m hardly the first naïve liberal to make Kelly into the Lucy Van Pelt to our Charlie Brown, holding out the football of fair journalism. Kelly was behind the New Black Panthers nonsense; she touted the “War on Christmas.” She employs the same “gotchas” as her peers: one night, she framed a WikiLeaks exchange about Catholicism, in which Catholic Democrats talked critically about the faith, as a primo scandal, then shouted down a liberal talking head who tried to point out that their skeptical perspective was shared by many American Catholics. But Kelly’s air of mischief is disarming. She ended that ugly segment, sorority style, with a shouted goodbye to her guest: “Love ya! Mean it.” The night of the third debate, Kelly was aglow. Like her colleagues, she suggested that Trump hadn’t done too badly. But then she destroyed his weakling advocate Jason Miller. She pivoted left and surgically interrogated Donna Brazile about WikiLeaks, leaving even this biased liberal wanting an actual answer. I looked into Kelly’s eyes and tried to read them like tarot cards, discerning her contractual options. Would she hop to CNN? Or was she the future of Fox? Could Hannity follow Trump into the upside-down and leave Kelly as the dominant cable force, rewriting Ailes’s legacy in her feminine image—the ultimate revenge? Maybe it’s karma that President Hillary Clinton might yet be savaged by a female Fox journalist who survived a boss battle with Donald Trump. Sisterhood is powerful. 


Voter ignorance has worried political philosophers since Plato.

have been serious; Hobbes, for one, called the idea “useless.” A more practical suggestion came from J. S. Mill, in the nineteenth century: give extra votes to citizens with university degrees or intellectually demanding jobs. (In fact, in Mill’s day, select universities had had their own constituencies for centuries, allowing someone with a degree from, say, Oxford to vote both in his university constituency and wherever he lived. The system wasn’t abolished until 1950.) Mill’s larger project—at a time when no more than nine per cent of British adults could vote— was for the franchise to expand and to include women. But he worried that new voters would lack knowledge and judgment, and fixed on supplementary votes as a defense against ignorance. In the United States, élites who feared the ignorance of poor immigrants tried to restrict ballots. In 1855, Connecticut introduced the first literacy test for American voters. Although a New York Democrat protested, in 1868, that “if a man is ignorant, he needs the ballot for his protection all the more,” in the next half century the tests spread to almost all parts of the country. They helped racists in the South circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment and disenfranchise blacks, and even in immigrant-rich New York a 1921 law required new voters to take a test if they couldn’t prove that they had an eighth-grade education. About fifteen per cent flunked. Voter literacy tests weren’t permanently outlawed by Congress until 1975, years after the civil-rights movement had discredited them. Worry about voters’ intelligence lingers, however. Mill’s proposal, in particular, remains “actually fairly formidable,” according to David Estlund, a political philosopher at Brown. His 2008 book, “Democratic Authority,” tried to construct a philosophical justification for democracy, a feat that he thought could be achieved only by balancing two propositions: democratic procedures tend to make correct policy decisions, and democratic procedures are fair in the eyes of reasonable observers. Fairness alone didn’t seem to be enough. If it were, Estlund wrote, “why not flip a coin?” It must be that we value democracy for tending to get things right more often than not, which democracy seems to do by making use of the information in our

ILLUSTRATION BY YAREK WASZUL

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

BOOKS

NONE OF THE ABOVE The case against democracy. BY CALEB CRAIN

oughly a third of American vot-

R ers think that the Marxist slogan

“From each according to his ability to each according to his need” appears in the Constitution. About as many are incapable of naming even one of the three branches of the United States government. Fewer than a quarter know who their senators are, and only half are aware that their state has two of them. Democracy is other people, and the ignorance of the many has long galled the few, especially the few who consider themselves intellectuals. Plato, one of the earliest to see democracy as a problem, saw its typical citizen as shiftless and flighty:

Sometimes he drinks heavily while listening to the lute; at other times, he drinks only water

and is on a diet; sometimes he goes in for physical training; at other times, he’s idle and neglects everything; and sometimes he even occupies himself with what he takes to be philosophy.

It would be much safer, Plato thought, to entrust power to carefully educated guardians. To keep their minds pure of distractions—such as family, money, and the inherent pleasures of naughtiness— he proposed housing them in a eugenically supervised free-love compound where they could be taught to fear the touch of gold and prevented from reading any literature in which the characters have speaking parts, which might lead them to forget themselves. The scheme was so byzantine and cockamamie that many suspect Plato couldn’t

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votes. Indeed, although this year we seem to be living through a rough patch, democracy does have a fairly good track record. The economist and philosopher Amartya Sen has made the case that democracies never have famines, and other scholars believe that they almost never go to war with one another, rarely murder their own populations, nearly always have peaceful transitions of government, and respect human rights more consistently than other regimes do. Still, democracy is far from perfect—“the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” as Churchill famously said. So, if we value its power to make good decisions, why not try a system that’s a little less fair but makes good decisions even more often? Jamming the stub of the Greek word for “knowledge” into the Greek word for “rule,” Estlund coined the word “epistocracy,” meaning “government by the knowledgeable.” It’s an idea that “advocates of democracy, and other enemies of despotism, will want to resist,” he wrote, and he counted himself among the resisters. As a purely philosophical matter, however, he saw only three valid objections. First, one could deny that truth was a suitable standard for measuring political judgment. This sounds extreme, but it’s a fairly common move in political philosophy. After all, in debates over contentious issues, such as when human life begins or whether human activity is warming the planet, appeals to the truth tend to be incendiary. Truth “peremptorily claims to be acknowledged and precludes debate,” Hannah Arendt pointed out in this magazine, in 1967, “and debate constitutes the very essence of political life.” Estlund wasn’t a relativist, however; he agreed that politicians should refrain from appealing to absolute truth, but he didn’t think a political theorist could avoid doing so. The second argument against epistocracy would be to deny that some citizens know more about good government than others. Estlund simply didn’t find this plausible (maybe a political philosopher is professionally disinclined to). The third and final option: deny that knowing more imparts political authority. As Estlund put it, “You might be right, but who made you boss?” 68

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

It’s a very good question, and Estlund rested his defense of democracy on it, but he felt obliged to look for holes in his argument. He had a sneaking suspicion that a polity ruled by educated voters probably would perform better than a democracy, and he thought that some of the resulting inequities could be remedied. If historically disadvantaged groups, such as African-Americans or women, turned out to be underrepresented in an epistocratic system, those who made the grade could be given additional votes, in compensation. By the end of Estlund’s analysis, there were only two practical arguments against epistocracy left standing. The first was the possibility that an epistocracy’s method of screening voters might be biased in a way that couldn’t readily be identified and therefore couldn’t be corrected for. The second was that universal sufrage is so established in our minds as a default that giving the knowledgeable power over the ignorant will always feel more unjust than giving those in the majority power over those in the minority. As defenses of democracy go, these are even less rousing than Churchill’s shruggie. n a new book, “Against Democracy”

I (Princeton), Jason Brennan, a politi-

cal philosopher at Georgetown, has turned Estlund’s hedging inside out to create an uninhibited argument for

epistocracy. Against Estlund’s claim that universal sufrage is the default, Brennan argues that it’s entirely justifiable to limit the political power that the irrational, the ignorant, and the incompetent have over others. To counter Estlund’s concern for fairness, Brennan asserts that the public’s welfare is more important than anyone’s hurt feelings; after all, he writes, few would consider it unfair to disqualify jurors who are morally or cognitively incompetent. As

for Estlund’s worry about demographic bias, Brennan waves it of. Empirical research shows that people rarely vote for their narrow self-interest; seniors favor Social Security no more strongly than the young do. Brennan suggests that since voters in an epistocracy would be more enlightened about crime and policing, “excluding the bottom 80 percent of white voters from voting might be just what poor blacks need.” Brennan has a bright, pugilistic style, and he takes a sportsman’s pleasure in upsetting pieties and demolishing weak logic. Voting rights may happen to signify human dignity to us, he writes, but corpse-eating once signified respect for the dead among the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. To him, our faith in the ennobling power of political debate is no more well grounded than the supposition that college fraternities build character. Brennan draws ample evidence of the average American voter’s cluelessness from the legal scholar Ilya Somin’s “Democracy and Political Ignorance” (2013), which shows that American voters have remained ignorant despite decades of rising education levels. Some economists have argued that ill-informed voters, far from being lazy or self-sabotaging, should be seen as rational actors. If the odds that your vote will be decisive are minuscule—Brennan writes that “you are more likely to win Powerball a few times in a row”—then learning about politics isn’t worth even a few minutes of your time. In “The Myth of the Rational Voter” (2007), the economist Bryan Caplan suggested that ignorance may even be gratifying to voters. “Some beliefs are more emotionally appealing,” Caplan observed, so if your vote isn’t likely to do anything why not indulge yourself in what you want to believe, whether or not it’s true? Caplan argues that it’s only because of the worthlessness of an individual vote that so many voters look beyond their narrow self-interest: in the polling booth, the warm, fuzzy feeling of altruism can be had cheap. Viewed that way, voting might seem like a form of pure self-expression. Not even, says Brennan: it’s multiple choice, so hardly expressive. “If you’re upset, write a poem,” Brennan counselled in an earlier book, “The Ethics of Voting” (2011). He was equally unimpressed by the argument that it’s one’s duty to vote.


“It would be bad if no one farmed,” he wrote, “but that does not imply that everyone should farm.” In fact, he suspected, the imperative to vote might be even weaker than the imperative to farm. After all, by not voting you do your neighbor a good turn. “If I do not vote, your vote counts more,” Brennan wrote. Brennan calls people who don’t bother to learn about politics hobbits, and he thinks it for the best if they stay home on Election Day. A second group of people enjoy political news as a recreation, following it with the partisan devotion of sports fans, and Brennan calls them hooligans. Third in his bestiary are vulcans, who investigate politics with scientific objectivity, respect opposing points of view, and carefully adjust their opinions to the facts, which they seek out diligently. It’s vulcans, presumably, who Brennan hopes will someday rule over us, but he doesn’t present compelling evidence that they really exist. In fact, one study he cites shows that even people with excellent math skills tend not to draw on them if doing so risks undermining a cherished political belief. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In recent memory, sophisticated experts have been confident about many proposals that turned out to be disastrous—invading Iraq, having a single European currency, grinding subprime mortgages into the sausage known as collateralized debt obligations, and so on. How would an epistocracy actually work? Brennan is reluctant to get specific, which is understandable. It was the details of utopia that gave Plato so much trouble, and by not going into them Brennan avoids stepping on the rake that thwacked Plato between the eyes. He sketches some options—extra votes for degree holders, a council of epistocrats with veto power, a qualifying exam for voters—but he doesn’t spend much time considering what could go wrong. The idea of a voter exam, for example, was dismissed by Brennan himself in “The Ethics of Voting” as “ripe for abuse and institutional capture.” There’s no mention in his new book of any measures that he would put in place to prevent such dangers. Without more details, it’s diicult to assess Brennan’s proposal. Suppose I claim that pixies always make selfless, enlightened political decisions and that

“ Yours was the blue Prius with the two stoners passed out in back, right?”

• therefore we should entrust our government to pixies. If I can’t really say how we’ll identify the pixies or harness their sagacity, and if I also disclose evidence that pixies may be just as error-prone as hobbits and hooligans, you’d be justified in having doubts. While we’re on the subject of vulcans and pixies, we might as well mention that there’s an elephant in the room. Knowledge about politics, Brennan reports, is higher in people who have more education and higher income, live in the West, belong to the Republican Party, and are middle-aged; it’s lower among blacks and women. “Most poor black women, as of right now at least, would fail even a mild voter qualification exam,” he admits, but he’s undeterred, insisting that their disenfranchisement would be merely incidental to his epistocratic plan—a completely diferent matter, he maintains, from the literacy tests of America’s past, which were administered with the intention of disenfranchising blacks and ethnic whites. That’s an awfully fine distinction. Bear in mind that, during the current Presidential race, it looks as though the votes of blacks and women will serve as a bulwark against the most reckless demagogue in living memory, whom white men with a college degree have been fa-

• voring by a margin of forty-seven per cent to thirty-five per cent. Moreover, though political scientists mostly agree that voters are altruistic, something doesn’t tally: Brennan concedes that historically disadvantaged groups such as blacks and women seem to gain political leverage once they get the franchise. ike many people I know, I’ve spent

L recent months staying up late, read-

ing polls in terror. The flawed and faulty nature of democracy has become a vivid companion. But is democracy really failing, or is it just trying to say something? Political scientists have long hoped to find an “invisible hand” in politics comparable to the one that Adam Smith described in economics. Voter ignorance wouldn’t matter much if a democracy were able to weave individual votes into collective political wisdom, the way a market weaves the self-interested buyand-sell decisions of individual actors into a prudent collective allocation of resources. But, as Brennan reports, the mathematical models that have been proposed work only if voter ignorance has no shape of its own—if, for example, voters err on the side of liberalism as often as they err on the side of conservatism, leaving decisions in the hands of a politically knowledgeable minority

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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in the center. Unfortunately, voter ignorance does seem to have a shape. The political scientist Scott Althaus has calculated that a voter with more knowledge of politics will, on balance, be less eager to go to war, less punitive about crime, more tolerant on social issues, less accepting of government control of the economy, and more willing to accept taxes in order to reduce the federal deficit. And Caplan calculates that a voter ignorant of economics will tend to be more pessimistic, more suspicious of market competition and of rises in productivity, and more wary of foreign trade and immigration. It’s possible, though, that democracy works even though political scientists have failed to find a tidy equation to explain it. It could be that voters take a cognitive shortcut, letting broad-brush markers like party ailiation stand in for a close study of candidates’ qualifications and policy stances. Brennan doubts that voters understand party stereotypes well enough to do even this, but surely a shortcut needn’t be perfect to be helpful. Voters may also rely on the simple heuristic of throwing out incumbents who have made them unhappy, a technique that in political science goes by the polite name of “retrospective voting.” Brennan argues that voters don’t know enough to do this, either. To impose full accountability, he writes, voters would need to

know “who the incumbent bastards are, what they did, what they could have done, what happened when the bastards did what they did, and whether the challengers are likely to be any better than the incumbent bastards.” Most don’t know all this, of course. Somin points out that voters have punished incumbents for droughts and shark attacks and rewarded them for recent sports victories. Caplan dismisses retrospective voting, quoting a pair of scholars who call it “no more rational than killing the pharaoh when the Nile does not flood.” But even if retrospective voting is sloppy, and works to the chagrin of the occasional pharaoh, that doesn’t necessarily make it valueless. It might, for instance, tend to improve elected oicials’ policy decisions. Maybe all it takes is for a politician to worry that she could be the unlucky chump who gets punished for something she actually did. Caplan notes that a politician clever enough to worry about his constituents’ future happiness as well as their present gratification might be motivated to give them better policies than they know to ask for. In such a case, he predicts, voters will feel a perennial dissatisfaction, stemming from the tendency of their canniest and most long-lasting politicians to be cavalier about campaign promises. Sound familiar? When the Founding Fathers de-

signed the federal system, not paying too much attention to voters was a feature, not a bug. “There are particular moments in public afairs,” Madison warned, “when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn.” Brennan, for all his cleverness, sometimes seems to be struggling to reinvent the “representative” part of “representative democracy,” writing as if voters need to know enough about policy to be able to make intelligent decisions themselves, when, in most modern democracies, voters usually delegate that task. It’s when they don’t, as in California’s ballot initiatives or the recent British referendum on whether to leave the European Union, that disaster is especially likely to strike. The economist Joseph Schumpeter didn’t think democracy could even function if voters paid too much attention to what their representatives did between elections. “Electorates normally do not control their political leaders in any way except by refusing to reelect them,” he wrote, in “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” (1942). The rest of the time, he thought, they should refrain from “political back-seat driving.” Why do we vote, and is there a reason to do it or a duty to do it well? It’s been said that voting enables one to take an equal part in the building of one’s political habitat. Brennan thinks that such participation is worthless if what you value about participation is the chance to influence an election’s outcome; odds are, you won’t. Yet he has previously written that participation can be meaningful even when its practical efect is nil, as when a parent whose spouse willingly handles all child care still feels compelled to help out. Brennan claims that no comparable duty to take part exists with voting, because other kinds of good actions can take voting’s place. He believes, in other words, that voting is part of a larger market in civic virtue, the way that farming is part of a larger market in food, and he goes so far as to suggest that a businessman who sells food and clothing to Martin Luther King, Jr., is making a genuine contribution to civic virtue, even though he makes it indirectly.This doesn’t


seem persuasive, in part because it dilutes the meaning of civic virtue too much, and in part because it implies that a businessman who sells a cheeseburger to J. Edgar Hoover is committing civic evil. More than once, Brennan compares uninformed voting to air pollution. It’s a compelling analogy: in both cases, the conscientiousness of the enlightened few is no match for the negligence of the many, and the cost of shirking duty is spread too widely to keep any one malefactor in line. Your commute by bicycle probably isn’t going to make the city’s air any cleaner, and even if you read up on candidates for civil-court judge on Patch.com, it may still be the crook who gets elected. But though the incentive for duty may be weakened, it’s not clear that the duty itself is lightened.The whole point of democracy is that the number of people who participate in an election is proportional to the number of people who will have to live intimately with an election’s outcome. It’s worth noting, too, that if judicious voting is like clean air then it can’t also be like farming. Clean air is a commons, an instance of market failure, dependent on government protection for its existence; farming is part of a market. But maybe voting is neither commons nor market. Perhaps, instead, it’s combat. Relatively gentle, of course. Rather than rifles and bayonets, essentially there’s just a show of hands. But the nature of the duty may be similar, because what Brennan’s model omits is that sometimes, in an election, democracy itself is in danger. If a soldier were to calculate his personal value to the campaign that his army is engaged in, he could easily conclude that the cost of showing up at the front isn’t worth it, even if he factors in the chance of being caught and punished for desertion. The trouble is that it’s impossible to know in advance of a battle which side will prevail, let alone by how great a margin, especially if morale itself is a variable. The lack of certainty about the future makes a hash of merely prudential calculation. It’s said that most soldiers worry more about letting down the fellow-soldiers in their unit than about allegiance to an entity as abstract as the nation, and maybe voters, too, feel their duty most acutely toward friends and family who share their idea of where the country needs to go. 

BRIEFLY NOTED Substitute, by Nicholson Baker (Blue Rider). In 2014, the au-

thor spent four weeks as a substitute teacher in his Maine school district—in an efort, at a time of fraught debates about education policy, to “know what life in classrooms was really like.” In his finely detailed chronicle, each day becomes a chapter. Baker is genial and patient, doling out compliments to his endearing, snarky, overmedicated, and underengaged charges, who range in age from kindergarten to high school. Over time, he grows irritated with teachers’ methods of crowd control and with the “diabolical worksheets” of a one-size-fits-all educational philosophy. His ideas are provocative—he proposes slashing the school day to two hours—and his general view is unenchanted: “School isn’t actually about eicient teaching, it’s about free all-day babysitting while parents work.” Genghis Khan and the Quest for God, by Jack Weatherford (Viking). Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior who conquered swaths of Central and Eastern Asia in the early thirteenth century, is not commonly considered a paragon of tolerance. But this account of the laws and customs of his court presents a figure who not only believed in freedom of religion but pioneered its implementation. Faced with unifying an empire that encompassed numerous warring religions, the Mongols crafted policies that, Weatherford argues, influenced the architects of the U.S. Constitution. ( Jeferson and Franklin admired a French biography of the leader.) Analysis of Khan’s thought bolsters the claim, and adds a welcome dimension to a misunderstood figure. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien (Norton). This powerful novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, deals with the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Two Chinese women who grew up during the Cultural Revolution meet in Vancouver, where one, exiled after her role in the protests, lives in the other’s home. The novel moves back and forth across decades, from the nineteen-forties to the present, as the women piece together the violent story of their interconnected families. The crux of the connection is the friendship between their fathers, who were eminent composers. Both music and storytelling, the novel implies, have, and impart, the power to endure. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (Viking). The protagonist of this novel is a Russian count who, after the Revolution, is imprisoned by the Bolsheviks in the luxurious Hotel Metropol and remains there for the next three decades. The count’s sedate life provides an ironic counterpoint to the grim doings of Bolshevik and Stalinist Russia, most of which occur out of sight. The count, made to take a job as a waiter, uncovers various mysteries of the hotel, while friendships with foreign diplomats and a close association with a Party member keep him somewhat abreast of outside events.The novel would be more compelling if these terrors intruded more, but Towles gets good mileage from the considerable charm of his protagonist and the peculiar world he inhabits. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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BOOKS

THE ENEMY NEXT DOOR Do good neighbors make good citizens? BY JOSHUA ROTHMAN

arlier this year, the small Long

E Island town where I live—a seaside

village of a few thousand people—held its municipal election. The choice was between a party that favored development and another that opposed it, and the lead-up to the vote was tense. Leaflets flooded mailboxes. Signs, bigger each week, sprouted on lawns. On Facebook, voters insulted the candidates and one another with frank exuberance; around dinner tables, talk was of the irreparable damage one party or the other would inflict on village life. “It really is a shame that every four years the Village has to deal with the smut and name calling that has seemingly become a tradition,” one party spokesperson lamented on Facebook. Perhaps, the spokesper-

son continued, this was symptomatic of a broader condition: elections across the country appeared to have “degenerated” and become “hate filled.” As election day approached, life in the village seemed to have divided into two streams—a neighborly stream, which ran pure and clear, and a political stream, which was muddied and turbulent. When you met a neighbor in line at the pharmacy, it was easy to get along. But at home, contemplating his political position—or, worse, reading about it online—you were filled with contempt and disbelief. People were friendly on the street but angry in their heads; they chatted amiably in person but waged war online. They liked and loathed one another simul-

As Election Day looms, we’re enraged by neighbors we’ve grown to like and trust. 72

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taneously, becoming polarized not just politically but emotionally. As the weeks passed, we were doubly in suspense. We wanted to know which party would win, but also whether our town could return to normal. Feelings had been aroused that seemed incompatible with neighborly life. Where would they go? Our local political spokesman was right, of course, to say that our town’s experience was typical. Across America, at moments of extreme political polarization, it is as though a veil had been lifted. Walking the dog one morning, you notice a Trump sign planted in the yard across the street. You’ve known that family for years—but now, you feel, some fundamental fact about them has been revealed. Later, when you run into them at the park, you find yourself talking about the Giants, the weather, or the kids, as usual. Your neighbors don’t seem any more evil than they did last year. Questions cluster. If Trump weren’t running for President—if the Republican nominee had been Ted Cruz—would that sign have been as revelatory? When your neighbors see your Hillary sign, do they, too, have an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” moment? And what about when the election is over? What should you do with all the anger and disdain you feel for neighbors who are, in your view, poised to destroy America? At the heart of these questions is the relationship between politics and everyday life. Politics matters enormously; it’s right to care, to feel alarmed, and to argue. At times, it seems frivolous to look at life through any other lens. And yet politics can become a poisonous influence in our lives. Like a tacky filter on Instagram, it can color our perceptions too radically; it can play too large a role in the construction of our identities and social lives. It fills us with unwanted passionate intensity. Perhaps, somewhere in the territory of the self, a border marks the place where our lives as citizens end and our sovereignty as individuals begins. If such a border exists, though, it doesn’t feel very secure. he search for a division between

T civic life and neighborly life is the

subject of Nancy Rosenblum’s “Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America” (Princeton). Rosenblum, a political scientist at Harvard, ILLUSTRATION BY NISHANT CHOKSI


has spent her career investigating how political and social life intersect. In “Good Neighbors,” she draws on a wide range of historical, literary, and sociological sources—from the stories of Raymond Carver to an ethnography of Crown Heights, Brooklyn—to produce a kaleidoscopic picture of American neighborliness. She concludes that we live in two democracies: a political democracy, in which we function as citizens, and a “democracy of everyday life,” in which we function as neighbors. These two democracies operate separately, and often at cross-purposes. Politics, Rosenblum points out, hinges on abstractions. To participate in political life, one must adopt an abstract identity (“progressive,” “conservative”) and stand up for abstract ideas (“equality,” “liberty,” “American exceptionalism”). We tend to justify our political positions by citing airy principles: the separation of church and state, the eiciency of the market. Neighborhood life, by contrast, is practical and concrete. When our neighbors approach us on the sidewalk, they do so as idiosyncratic individuals, rather than as embodiments of sociopolitical categories. The quality of neighborly life hinges not on abstractions but on actions. Do her Friday-night dance parties disturb your sleep? Does his leaf blower gust upon your yard? It’s on this “plane of repeated mundane encounters,” Rosenblum writes, that neighborly relationships succeed or fail. The essence of neighborliness, she finds, is reciprocity: one good turn for another. And yet neighbors, unlike friends, don’t always share tastes and interests, and so end up trading unlike goods. (“He is all pine and I am apple orchard,” as Robert Frost puts it, in “Mending Wall.”) You give me vegetables from your garden and, in exchange, I make you kimchi; in return for your babysitting, I shovel your driveway; I compliment your outfits and you ignore my Airbnb. Are we even? It’s hard to say, not least because neighbors so often exchange goods unintentionally. You enjoy my wily cat and my well-tended lawn; I delight in the antics of your eccentric family. These unacknowledged and perhaps unconscious exchanges contribute to our neighborly concord. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,”

Scout’s reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, leaves gifts for her—chewing gum, twine, Indian-head pennies—in the hollow of a tree; she feels guilty for never giving him anything in return. But “Scout’s regular presence,” Rosenblum writes, was itself a gift: she and her friends made Boo’s life more interesting just by being kids. This nebulous give-and-take contributes to “the delicacy of neighbor relations.” So does the fact that neighbors stick around. We may encounter our neighbors in spontaneous situations, but we can’t react to them spontaneously. Instead, we have to consider the long-term consequences of our actions. If a couple fighting in the next apartment is keeping us awake, we might want to bang on the wall. But, because they are neighbors, we think about the future. We wonder if it will be awkward to run into them in the elevator tomorrow. In the face of too much information, we cultivate a studied ignorance. Throughout American history, Rosenblum finds, the word we have used to describe our neighbors is “decent”: good neighbors are “decent folk.” Decency, here, is a circumspect sort of virtue. Being decent doesn’t necessarily mean being good. It means accepting the flaws in others and returning, despite disruptions and disappointments, to the predictable rhythms of reciprocity. And that often requires the setting aside of principles—the adoption of an attitude of “live and let live.” When we praise the decency of our neighbors, Rosenblum writes, we are making a moral judgment—“but a limited one.”

T neighborly life becomes more eth-

here are times, of course, when

ically demanding. Many of the stories in “Good Neighbors” are about bad neighbors. Years ago, Rosenblum found herself in a war with a “noise bully” in her building whose air-conditioning unit was so loud that it tormented the family who lived next to him. Rosenblum and her neighbors banded together to try to force him to remove it. The noise bully, Rosenblum writes, “motivated this project,” and he is a recurring character in “Good Neighbors”—a cross between Dr. Moriarty and Newman, from “Seinfeld.”

But bad neighbors don’t always mean to be bad. In Willa Cather’s “My Ántonia,” two families, the Burdens and the Shimerdas, find themselves living near one another on the Nebraska frontier. Although the Burdens are relatively well-of Virginians and the Shimerdas are impoverished immigrants, they put aside their diferences to exchange companionship, supplies, and advice. But the relationship doesn’t last. The Shimerdas receive gifts from the Burdens but are too isolated and disorganized to reciprocate, and the Burdens come to think of the Shimerdas as incompetent freeloaders. Neighborliness, Rosenblum notes, is often portrayed sentimentally—“Little House on the Prairie,” “Home Improvement”—but its rules are brutally practical. Charity cases like the Shimerdas are denied the “moral identity” of being good neighbors. When society is pushed to the brink—by war, violence, or disaster— some neighbors renounce that identity, while others embrace it. Rosenblum tells the story of James Cameron, an African-American teen-ager who, in 1930, was charged, along with two friends, with murder and rape. Around ten thousand people gathered outside the jail where Cameron was being held, demanding that he and his friends be hanged. Cameron’s friends were dragged out and killed; when he was led through the crowd, he recognized “people I had grown to love and respect as friends and neighbors . . . neighbors whose lawns I had mowed and whose cars I had washed and polished.” Cameron found this neighborly betrayal “impossible to explain.” Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during the nineteenforties felt a similar horror when, after waving goodbye to their neighbors, they received no recognition in return. The sharp pain of these betrayals, Rosenblum argues, derives from the faith we place in neighborliness. When politics turns against us—when we can’t trust Congress, the courts, or the police—we still look to neighborliness as a source of “democratic hope untethered to public political institutions.” We pray that our neighbors will remember how well they know us and, restrained by the pull of “quotidian life THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

73


at home,” find themselves unable to treat us like bogeymen. That hope isn’t entirely unfounded. Rosenblum tells of a group of families who, appalled by the idea of internment, threw a surprise party for their Japanese-American neighbors, giving them “gifts of heavy pants and nightgowns to wear in the camps.” In another town, a man worked his Japanese neighbors’ orchards, saving the proceeds and handing them over upon their return. In many firsthand accounts of communal viciousness, participants recover their better selves when confronted with a reminder of everyday life—“a memory, a familiar gesture in the present, the appearance of a person they know from home.” Moments before James Cameron was to be killed—he survived and went on to become a civil-rights activist—he heard a woman’s voice pleading for his life. Cameron thought she was the Virgin Mary, but Rosenblum suggests that she might have been a neighbor. In another account of Cameron’s near-lynching, Rosenblum learns of a thirteen-yearold African-American girl who happened to be walking toward the courthouse. In the street, she encountered a familiar man—a Klansman—who lived near her house and knew her parents. He drove her home. osenblum is careful to point out

R that these moments of neighborly

kindness aren’t, strictly speaking, political. In fact, they are anti-political. They come about because neighbors insist on relating to one another as individuals, rather than as members of parties or groups; they flow from the neighborly principle of one good turn for another, rather than from a political principle such as the universal rights of man. All the same, it’s tempting to see this kind of neighborliness as a potential cure for our political ills. Call it the unified theory of democratic life: good neighbors make for good citizens, and vice versa. A version of this popular notion lies behind the “town hall meetings” staged by campaigns and news networks, which aim to smooth the rough edges of political disagreement by invoking a mood of open-minded neighborliness. It also serves as a consoling touchstone in political speeches.

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THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

“For all our blind spots and shortcomings,” President Obama said, in last year’s State of the Union address, “we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common efort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.” This summer, speaking about the five police oicers slain by a gunman in Dallas, Obama said that “America is not as divided as some have suggested.” He cited Americans’ “unity in recognizing that this is not how we want our communities to operate.” In both cases, the implication was that, by tapping into a reservoir of neighborly good will, we might arrest the slide into polarized dysfunction. This is a comforting idea. As individual voters, we can do very little to reform our broken political system, or to change the apocalyptic tenor of today’s political campaigns. But, as neighbors and friends, we can redeem politics through ordinary human decency. Rosenblum is skeptical of this theory. She describes it as a species of “social and political holism.” Instead, she argues, American life is characterized by “pluralism.” That word usually connotes something like multiculturalism—e pluribus unum—but Rosenblum uses it to describe individuals, rather than society as a whole. As individuals, she writes, “we are manysided, if not protean, personalities,” and we each inhabit many “diferentiated spheres with their own identifiable norms and institutions.” We are, simultaneously, citizens, workers, neighbors, parents, lovers, and souls; in each of these spheres, we observe and uphold diferent rules and values. Sometimes these values are in conflict with one another. But “preservation of multiple spheres is the great promise and charge of liberal democracy,” Rosenblum maintains. “Good Neighbors” is one of several recent books that, at a moment when politics feels all-pervasive, aim to reclaim some space for apolitical life. Earlier this year, in “On Friendship” (Basic), the philosopher Alexander Nehamas traced a route similar to Rosenblum’s: quoting C. S. Lewis, he argued that friendship is “a sort of secession, even a rebellion,” from our lives as citizens. Civic and professional life force us into socioeconomic, racial, and political cat-

egories. In many cases, Nehamas writes, “it is through our friends and through them only that we find the space, the means, and the strength to refuse to become what the world around us would have us be.” In another recent book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” (Twelve), the journalist Sebastian Junger examines the enduring appeal of life in small groups, hived of from mass society. Soldiers in combat, Junger writes, “all but ignore diferences of race, religion, and politics” within their platoons; in such environments, “individuals are assessed simply by what they are willing to do for the group.” This is what they miss when they return from deployment. Pluralism feels good in practice. It’s in theory that it’s hard to accept. In “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity,” published in 1989, the philosopher Richard Rorty placed the yearning for ethical consistency at the root of Western thought. From Plato onward, Rorty wrote, moral philosophers have attempted “to bring together the public and the private, the parts of the state and the parts of the soul, the search for social justice and the search for individual perfection.” The goal was, in efect, to create a universal list of virtues, which applied equally to children, parents, spouses, citizens, and generals. No such list exists. The qualities that make you a good boss won’t necessarily make you a good parent; the qualities we value in a romantic partner may not be the ones we value in a friend. The word “good” means diferent things in diferent spheres. Our values aren’t conveniently unified. They’re discontinuous. And yet a variety of forces push us toward holism. Transparency is one of them: when your e-mails are leaked, or your hot-mike blunders are unearthed, your “protean” personality becomes a vulnerability. Social media, too, tend to make us more holistic, because they construe the airing of political views as an act of friendship. And the moral arguments in favor of holism are powerful. Activists seek to live holistic lives, and we often admire them for it. On college campuses, meanwhile, an “intersectional” approach to identity promises to make it impossible to ignore diferences of race, religion, and politics; by bringing every aspect of one’s


identity to bear on every situation, moral consistency might be achieved. It’s the opposite of life in a platoon. The intensity of this year’s Presidential campaign has made the allure of holism particularly potent. Four years ago, Obama voters and Romney voters may have thought each other deeply misguided. But this year many Trump supporters believe that Hillary Clinton is a corrupt liar who ought to be in jail, while many Clinton supporters believe that Trump is an American Mussolini. We look at each other with a new level of horror. It’s tempting to commit a kind of moral synecdoche—to take a part (e.g., voting for Trump) for a whole (being a bad person). To the extent that we avoid this, it’s by adopting a pluralistic view of the people around us. We recognize that, with one part of themselves, they may sincerely hold views that we abhor, while, with another, they may exercise virtues that we admire. This position represents more than a pragmatic shrug. In its strongest form, pluralism is a theory of selfhood. American democracy, Rosenblum thinks, is founded on this theory. We have in common the understanding that we contain multitudes. Reconciling ourselves to the contradictions of pluralism is what makes it possible for us to unite as a people. By contrast, truly holistic societies— those committed to the coördinated enforcement of norms—tend to be repressive. Totalitarian regimes, Rosenblum writes, enforce holism through informants, housing committees, and other forms of neighborly surveillance, at the cost of the “political derangement of the lives of people living side by side.” And yet neighbors living in democracies can derange themselves, too. They use political rhetoric to intensify everyday tensions; they judge one another by abstract political standards. Rosenblum quotes from Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” in which, driven by ordinary envy and jealousy, neighbors turn on one of their own—a kind, attractive, and well-liked woman who bakes cookies for the neighborhood kids and babysits for free. They dismiss these good turns by charging her with the political crime of being a faux-progressive gentrifier. “There was no larger consciousness, no solidarity, no political substance, no fungible structure, no true communitarianism to [her] sup-

posed neighborliness, it was all just regressive housewifely bullshit,” one neighbor complains. In short, the unified theory of democratic life can be applied in reverse. If someone’s a bad citizen, then she must be a bad neighbor, too. It’s easy to apply this logic in 2016. Pluralism provides a bulwark against it. It urges us to remember that our neighbors aren’t bad people all the time—just when they think about politics. The reverse is true, too, of course. Our “good” political beliefs don’t make us good people all the time. Some of us could probably stand to be a little more pluralist about ourselves. his summer, after our village

T held its election, we stopped car-

ing what our neighbors thought about zoning; we returned to seeing one another as regular people who might watch our kids or borrow our kayaks. That state of afairs lasted for about a month, until the Presidential election gained steam. Thankfully, given Rosenblum’s analysis, it seems likely to return when the election is over. And yet it can also be alarming to think that neighborly and political life are entirely diferent streams. Their separation makes it possible for neighborliness to survive alongside political disharmony—but it also means that we can’t rely on neighborliness to save us from political dysfunction. Just as lecturing the noise bully about the Constitution wouldn’t have persuaded him to move his air-conditioner, so a surge in neighborly decency won’t solve political polarization. The only way to redeem our politics is with better politics. We already know how to become a less polarized country. Redistricting reform would help. So would more political participation in local and midterm elections among centrist voters. (Right now, those elections are skewed by voters with more partisan views.) A little less Facebook wouldn’t hurt, either. But pluralism may protect neighborly life a little too well. Much of the time, our own neighborly decency deceives us; it insulates us from the true craziness of political life. After the election, the return of neighborliness will be reassuring. It shouldn’t be. The political stream is still tumbling along out there, as turbulent as ever.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

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MUSICAL EVENTS

A SUDDEN SHADOW The Met highlights the darkness in Rossini’s “William Tell.” BY ALEX ROSS

with a phrase that climbs the notes of a triad and turns grandly at the top. (This is based on a traditional Alpine melody, which Rousseau had notated in his “Dictionary of Music.”) These phrases move across an ever-expanding spectrum of major and minor chords, in a sonic impression of infinity. Something even more tremendous happens ten bars before the end. The chorus and the soloists have joined in a collective prayer: “Liberty, descend again from the skies / And let your reign begin anew!” The high winds and strings perform the Alpine turn. Just as we are on the verge of a final C-major triumph, with a line ascending stepwise from G to B, the harmony swerves down into A minor. Mozart loved this sort of deceptive cadence, using it to bittersweet efect. Amid the roar of Rossini’s massed forces, it casts a sudden, chill-inducing shadow. C major is quickly reasserted, but a cosmic message has been sent: there is no freedom without loss, no utopia outside of Heaven. At the same time, the composer might be delivering a conscious and faintly chastening farewell. He seems to say, “You thought of me as a mere entertainer, a bon vivant, but I had other worlds in me, and you will see them for only an instant.” is playing at the Metropol“ T ell” itan Opera for the first time in

othing in the brilliant operatic

N career of Gioachino Rossini be-

came him like the leaving it. When, in 1829, “Guillaume Tell” had its première, at the Paris Opéra, the composer was thirty-seven; he had written some forty operas and attained wealth and fame. Although he went on composing for decades—his “Stabat Mater,” completed in 1841, and “Petite Messe Solennelle,” from 1863, showed how much music remained in him—“Tell” was his final opera. Biographers have long debated the reasons for Rossini’s withdrawal, failing to reach consensus. We are left with a gnomic remark that he reportedly made in 1860, eight years before his death:

“I decided that I had something better to do, which was to remain silent.” The last scene of “Tell” is, not by accident, colossal and sublime. The titular hero has helped the cantons of Switzerland rise up against Hapsburg oppression and, in the process, won the famous archery contest involving an apple balanced on his son’s head. As the sun breaks through the clouds, revealing ice-capped peaks, Tell exclaims, “Everything here changes and grows in grandeur!” His son, Jemmy, adds, “In the distance, what an immense horizon!” The change of weather is mirrored in the music. Over glistening harp arpeggios, other instruments enter one by one—horns, clarinets, oboes, flutes—

Gerald Finley gave a masterpiece of a performance in the title role. 76

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eighty-five years. Its long absence was lamentable but not entirely inexplicable. It is a score of forbidding dimensions: even though the Met has made various cuts, the production still clocks in at more than four and a half hours. And the lead-tenor role—that of Arnold, a conflicted Swiss in love with a Hapsburg princess, Mathilde—is punishing. At the end of a long evening, the singer is required to peal out a string of high Cs against chorus and orchestra. Yet the ongoing Rossini revival has brought forth tenors equal to the challenge. In 2011, when “Tell” was revived at Caramoor, Michael Spyres made a strong stab at Arnold. Two seasons ago, when Gianandrea Noseda brought the members of the Teatro Regio di Torino to Carnegie Hall for a concert performance of “Tell,” John Osborn dispatched the part with practiced elegance. In a video from the Rossini Opera Festival, ILLUSTRATION BY GOLDEN COSMOS


in Pesaro, Italy, Juan Diego Flórez sings it with alarming ease. Bryan Hymel, who sang Arnold at the Met, had the necessary stamina, cleanly hitting his high notes, although his tone was at first narrow and pinched. He also brought to bear a sinewy lyricism that is essential for grand opera in the French mode. Gerald Finley gave a masterpiece of a performance in the title role. The Canadian baritone has lately made a move into Wagner, singing Hans Sachs and Amfortas; the resultant darkening of his voice lent gravity and psychological complexity to the part of Tell, who makes his presence felt more through asides and responses than with bravura arias. From the start, with a muscular lament over the Swiss people’s lack of freedom (“How burdensome is life! / We no longer have a fatherland!”), Finley established character through urgent shaping of phrases and minute variations of timbre. Significantly, his Tell never shakes of a vaguely troubled air. In his central aria, “Sois immobile” (“Remain motionless”), not only does he seem to be imploring Jemmy to stay in place; he also seems to be trying to halt the passage of time. All of this confirms what has long been obvious: that Finley is one of the supreme singeractors of our day. At Noseda’s “Tell,” Angela Meade sang Mathilde with blazing accuracy and force. Marina Rebeka, at the Met, lacked Meade’s imperious agility in rapid-fire fioritura, although her rich, chiaroscuro tone and her fierce dramatic commitment provided ample compensation. There was much fine singing in the supporting roles; in particular, Sean Panikkar, as the Austrian captain Rodolphe, showed a degree of power and weight that I hadn’t heard in his previous outings at the Met. He seems ready for bigger assignments at the house. Fabio Luisi, in the pit, fell short of the transcendent atmosphere that Noseda summoned at Carnegie, but he led with authority and passion nonetheless. The production, by Pierre Audi, unfolds in a dreamlike version of the late nineteenth century. The Austrians are black-clad figures out of a Victorian gothic chiller; the Swiss tend toward beatific white. The sets, by George Tsypin, try for a middle ground between the pictorial and the surreal, with A-frame

structures suggesting chalets and boulders hovering, Magritte-like, above the stage. Many ideas swirled about; few cohered, yet the sombre strangeness of the concept somehow hit the mark. At the end, Audi has the chorus gazing out at the audience, aglow with hope. Bands of yellow evoke beams of sunlight. In the final moments, though, Tell rushes of to the side, as if fleeing a resolution in which he does not believe. That gesture registers the tremor of unease that passes through Rossini’s score as the curtain falls. he White Light Festival, Lin-

T coln Center’s annual exploration

of musical spirituality, opened with a production entitled “Human Requiem,” in which the Rundfunkchor Berlin, under the direction of Simon Halsey, sang Brahms’s “A German Requiem”with piano accompaniment. The Berliners, so transfixing two seasons ago in Peter Sellars’s staging of the “St. Matthew Passion,” have specialized in unconventional approaches to familiar scores, converting them into quasi-theatrical pieces.The “Human Requiem”—Brahms once ofered that phrase as an alternative title for his work—took place in the great hall of the Synod House, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The beginning was a gorgeous shock: members of the chorus had infiltrated the audience, disguised in flannel shirts and the like, and, when they began to sing, the divide between performer and listener dissolved. During the second movement, I found myself scurrying out of the way of a phalanx of basses bellowing “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras” (“All flesh is grass”): the power of that moment was redoubled. At times, the staging bordered on the twee, as when the soprano soloist, Marlis Petersen, sang “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” while floating on a swing suspended from the ceiling. For me, it was enough to be swept up in the sounding throng, experiencing music as a purely physical sensation. 

1 Social Notes from All Over From the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune. Havre, July 21: A woman wanted to speak to an officer about another woman who was badmouthing her. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

77


THE BETTER LIFE A Kerry James Marshall retrospective. BY PETER SCHJELDAHL

Marshall’s “Bang” (1994): an embrace of painting’s age-old narrative function. an exhilarating Kerry “M astry,” James Marshall retrospective at

the Met Breuer, is a big deal for three reasons: it marks the museum’s blessing of Marshall and, in turn, Marshall’s benediction of the museum, and it airms a revival of grandly scaled, thematic figurative painting. Marshall, now sixty-one and based in Chicago, has achieved prominence as an artist of universal appeal—he won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 1997—with a particular focus. He has strictly depicted African-American life and experience since 1980, when he made “A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self.” Executed in the antique medium of egg tempera, the painting is in blacks and grays, save for the whites of the eyes, a shirt collar, and a gap-toothed grin. Small in size but jolting in impact, the portrait bears

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hints of ghastly blackface caricature, but turns them around into astute ironies of a self-aware, unconquerable character—not an “identity,” a term that is as reductive in art as it is in politics, and which Marshall bursts beyond. He doesn’t argue. He tells. Most of Marshall’s imagery is celebratory, and often at mural scale. His keynote is a commitment to blackness both represented and literal, modelling flesh in pigments of acrylic carbon, ivory, and Mars Black. “School of Beauty, School of Culture” (2012) convenes eight women, two men, two toddlers, and the artist, who is seen in a mirror, his face obscured by a camera flash. The adults sport smart styles of dress, hair, and posture, in luscious colors pegged to a dominant coral and blue-green. Background details done in gold glitter pop forward from the wonderfully

handled deep space. Floating free, and noticed only by the children, is a distorted image of Walt Disney’s blond Sleeping Beauty: an ideal that is implicitly, and decisively, shrugged of by the kids’ glamorous mothers and aunts. Other of Marshall’s subjects include lovers in intimate interiors or lyrical landscapes; artists at work on paint-bynumbers self-portraits; people relishing, or enduring, life in public housing and inhabiting utopian suburbs; and upper-middle-class matrons in living rooms filled with civil-rights-era memorabilia. There are also enlarged panels from Marshall’s raucously Expressionist comic strip about a black superhero, “Rythm Mastr.” A rare Caucasian figure in a show of some eighty works is that of a head severed by an axe-wielding Nat Turner, in a history painting redolent of baroque gore (all those postmortems of David and Goliath) and ambiguously pitched between menace and dread. But the show’s cumulative, epic efect is neither political protest nor an appeal for progress in race relations. It’s a ratification of advances already made. Marshall’s compliment to the Met is expressed by a show within the show, of works from the museum’s collection that he particularly values. He selected paintings by four modern AfricanAmerican artists—Horace Pippin, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Charles Wilbert White (a W.P.A. muralist who was an inspirational teacher of Marshall’s in college)—and three African sculptures: a Dan mask, a Senufo oracle figure, and a Bamana Boli (a featureless animal encrusted with “sacrificial” matter, including blood). But most of the works are by dead white men, from Veronese and Holbein through Ingres and Seurat to Balthus and de Kooning, with surprising nods to George Tooker, Paul Cadmus, and Andrew Wyeth. In each case, an intellectual spark leaps to some aspect of Marshall’s art: eloquent figurative distortion, from Ingres and de Kooning; dark tonality, from Seurat and Ad Reinhardt; and theatrical violence, from nineteenth-century Japanese prints. Only one choice baled me: a blushy Bonnard nude, which feels antithetical to Marshall’s manner. (Is that the ironic point of its inclusion?) “Kerry James Marshall Selects,” as

COURTESY THE ARTIST AND THE PROGRESSIVE CORPORATION

THE ART WORLD


the sub-show is titled, amounts to a visual manifesto, with which Marshall pays homage to a personal pantheon of forebears even as he shoulders in among them. The gesture confirms him as the chief aesthetic conservative in the company of such other contemporary black artists as David Hammons, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson, who are given to conceptual and pointedly social-critical strategies. Marshall’s untroubled embrace of painting’s age-old narrative and decorative functions projects a degree of confidence that is backed both by his passion for the medium and by the authenticity of his lived experience. Marshall has said, “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it.” (The artist’s father, a postal worker, took Marshall and his mother and his two siblings to Watts for a year before settling in South Central.) Marshall’s childhood was marred by violence—friends and neighbors were stabbed or shot with awful frequency—and enriched by a budding enthusiasm for art. His first visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in 1965, stunned him. “I went from floor to floor looking at everything, in the same way that in the library I went down the stacks and looked at every art book, without discrimination,” he later wrote. In 1968, when he was thirteen, a teacher’s nomination won him placement in a summer drawing course at the Otis Art Institute, a school dedicated to relatively traditional training. He set his heart on attending that college upon graduation, but it took him four more years to qualify for admission, two of them spent working odd jobs to save enough money to enter Los Angeles City College, and two acquiring suicient academic credits there. His already active bent for AfricanAmerican subjects was confirmed and amplified at Otis, where he took a course in collage with the prominent artist Betye Saar, and was galvanized by reading Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” which directly inspired his “Portrait of the Artist.” The painting, he has said, is, like Ellison’s novel, about

“the simultaneity of presence and absence”—about being real but unseen. A residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem brought Marshall to New York, in 1985. There he encountered the influence of painting-averse postminimalist and conceptual artists. In 2000, he recalled his renegade response, and what it led to, this way: “I gave up on the idea of making Art a long time ago, because I wanted to know how to make paintings; but once I came to know that, reconsidering the question of what Art is returned as a critical issue.” The reconsideration landed in an improbable place: lessons from the Old Masters applied to the modern American experience. At first, Marshall availed himself of stylistic ideas that had marked the rise of neo-expressionist painting in the early eighties, with coarse figurative images and paint built up in rough marks and patterns that recall the muscular temerity of Julian Schnabel, among others. From Leon Golub, a too little regarded master of violent themes, Marshall adopted the format of unstretched canvas fastened flat to a wall. His growing ease with rendering space came to fruition in the midnineties, with vast paintings of housing projects, such as Nickerson Gardens, in Watts, which had been his family’s home for a time and which he recalls fondly. My favorite work in the show is the Fragonardesque “Untitled (Vignette)” (2012), in which a loving couple lounges in parkland made piquant by a pink ground, a dangling cartire swing, and an undulating musical staf in silver glitter, with hearts for notes. Marshall’s formal command lets him get away with any extreme of sweetness or direness, exercising a painterly voice that spans octaves, from soprano trills to guttural roars. There have been other significant African-American painters in recent years, including Robert Colescott, whose somewhat similar engagement with art history ran to fantasias of interracial romance, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose linear panache qualified him as the greatest of American neo-expressionists. But Marshall’s “Mastry” has a breakthrough feel: the suggestion of a new normal, in art and in the national consciousness. 


THE THEATRE

SHOWOFFS Gay relections on the stage. BY HILTON ALS

ontemporary performers who

C write their own material seldom

escape the trap of having written their own material. The impulse to perform—to write with your body in front of others—is diferent from the push it takes to author a script, which requires that you dream alone. A number of monologuists, including Wallace Shawn, Spalding Gray, Karen Finley, and Anna Deavere Smith, started producing diverse, substantial work decades ago, but many of the younger performers who’ve tried to follow suit have failed to understand that one’s “I” is rarely enough—or, in some cases, can be entirely too much. Often, writerperformers confuse the actor’s desire to be seen, to be “exposed” before an

audience, with expository writing that’s shapeless because it insists on telling all. This is solipsism, not theatre (or, at least, not interesting theatre). The gay performer Daniel Alexander Jones is filled with good will and charm. Tall, honey-colored, and intelligent, he is best known for his drag alter ego Jomama Jones, a black American singer who left racism behind—or so she thought—to live in Europe, where she acquired a new accent and a siddity way of thinking and moving. Watching Jomama, one is reminded of Josephine Baker in Le Vésinet or Tina Turner post-Nutbush, living in Swiss comfort. She’s a construction with flashes of realness—in her soothing but powerful voice, we hear the girl she once was and the star she always longed

Adam Bock’s “A Life,” with David Hyde Pierce, looks at the loneliness of lost love. 80

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to be. Jomama is just one of the performers in “Duat” (a Soho Rep production, at the Connelly), a play that tries to show us who Daniel Alexander Jones is behind the wigs and the makeup, by telling the story of his youth in Massachusetts in the eighties and how culture—in the form of Zora Neale Hurston, Diana Ross, and others—helped shape him. “Duat” is a complicated piece whose ideas are too big to work onstage. One gets the sense that Jones and his director, Will Davis, didn’t want to leave anything out of this overstufed production, for fear that Jones would never have another chance to recount his past. First, we’re in Daniel’s bedroom, with the performer and two versions of his younger self, played especially well by Jacques Colimon (a sexy, knowing scamp) and Tenzin Gund-Morrow. We hear about Jones’s multiracial background, his first gay love afair, and how he started to make art. That’s all fine, but when Jones stages a pageant of his favorite Egyptian deities—as a way of illustrating the inspiration for his spangled diva, Jomama? I couldn’t say—the piece derails. Jones calls his work “Afromysticism,” and he has a scholar’s love of black art, but everything gets further confused in the second part of the show, where Jomama appears as a version of a schoolteacher who was nice to Jones when he was a boy. Now his two younger selves will be part of a talent show at, I believe, the school Jones attended, where Colimon’s character falls in love with a man who looks not unlike the man with whom Jones had his first sexual experience, and—well, on and on. In a program note, Jones writes that “Duat” marks the first time that the two halves of his performing self—Daniel and Jomama—have come together, but wouldn’t the nearly two-and-a-half-hour spectacle have been more accessible if he’d limited his story to one person? In “Duat,” Jones is dramaturgically at war with his most inspired creation, one that benefits from the freedom of his imagination, not from the limitations of his “truth.”  he fifty-four-year-old play-

T wright Adam Bock says that he’s

proud to be identified as gay; it describes who he is. We’ve come a long way since Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee had to dance around the ILLUSTRATION BY MIKKEL SOMMER


question, both in their lives and in their work, where they used increasingly strained metaphors to describe their inner queerness.There’s nothing strained about Bock’s new play, “A Life” (at Playwrights Horizons); it has the rightness and the finality of a poem by the gay Alexandria-born master C. P. Cavafy. Like Cavafy, Bock is interested in loneliness, and how it fills up the room after love is gone. The fortyish Nate Martin (David Hyde Pierce, giving one of those performances that take you over, moment by sensitively explicated moment) lives in a small New York City apartment. There’s a sofa, a desk, some books on a shelf—Richard Sewall’s “The Life of Emily Dickinson,” for one. No clutter. And there’s nothing cluttered about Nate, either; he has a boy’s agility, and, like a boy, he’s charming (and occasionally tiresome) in his need—his desire— to tell us about himself. Nate does this by recounting his many love afairs. Using astrology as a tool, he tries to figure out why none of them worked out, why he was dumped or did the dumping. As he talks, his voice hovers somewhere between hope and despair, self-assertion and doubt. Whatever it takes to live—ego? determination? blind faith?—Nate doesn’t have it. He’s the kind of guy people strain to remember over late-night drinks, long after he’s gone; he’s a faded sketch even before he dies. That he does die comes as a surprise, but not as big a surprise as the loss we feel when this genial fellow is silenced. Bock builds on that silence in the scenes that follow—from the discovery of the body by Nate’s friend Curtis (the nuanced Brad Heberlee) to the funeral parlor—with sounds, words, and movements that seem strange, as if perceived from underwater. The director, Anne Kaufman, doesn’t try to make the script more than it is; she helps to reveal the subtleties and the weirdness at its heart. Hyde Pierce and the rest of the cast are ideal collaborators for what Bock and Kaufman want to convey, which includes the feeling one gleans from these lines in Cavafy’s “Remember, Body”: Body, remember not just how much you were loved, not just the beds where you have lain, but also those longings that so openly

glistened for you in the eyes, and trembled in the voice—and some chance obstacle arose and thwarted them.

ate’s sister, Lori (Lynne McCol-

N lough, who plays multiple roles),

says at Nate’s funeral that one reason he wanted to move to New York was that he loved the theatre. Then she makes a lame sort of jazz-hands gesture, and you laugh, because it brings to mind all those guys who love Liza and Meryl and Patti LuPone. I don’t know if Sherie Rene Scott, who plays Mollie Malloy in the outstanding revival of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 comedy, “The Front Page” (at the Broadhurst), is a gay icon yet, but I doubt she’ll escape being one after this show, which has a surfeit of fantastic actors, who give the production everything they’ve got. The director, Jack O’Brien, who utilizes the best of what Broadway has to ofer—a big stage, a solid budget, slick production values—has not only created a milieu in which the performers can shine; he allows them the space to establish their characterizations. (The set designer, Douglas W. Schmidt, working with Ann Roth on costumes and Brian MacDevitt on lights, has created a hyperstylized and yet still believable world.) The cast is large, and it takes a director of O’Brien’s skill to keep all those hoops in the air without losing sight of the story, or of the internal lives of the characters—who are newspapermen, for the most part. Hildy Johnson ( John Slattery) is trying to get out of the game, despite the pressure from his boss, Walter Burns (Nathan Lane), who wants to keep Hildy on the job, because Hildy’s the best. Hildy is drawn back into journalism, against his better judgment, when a beleaguered worker named Earl Williams ( John Magaro) escapes from prison on the eve of his execution. Williams had one friend in this world, Mollie, a casual acquaintance who earns her living walking the streets. One gets the feeling that Mollie’s hair, under her cloche hat, is always damp with perspiration; she’s anxious, a doll melting in the rain of her own sadness and hysteria. When the newspapermen twist her concern for Earl into something from Page Six, her words—“I never said I loved Earl

Williams and was willing to marry him on the gallows”—resonate both as a plot point and as a portrait of innocence; Mollie’s a literalist, because she has so little to hang on to, except the truth of her feelings. Although Scott has relatively few scenes, she does a lot to make the play we’re watching credible, with her perfectly tuned but not overwhelming theatricalism. She believes in Mollie, believes in the machine-clatter of her voice and her tendency to look away, like a hurt dog waiting to be struck again, as she hopes for love among writers who are less interested in the truth than in their own cynicism. wonder what Scott would have

I done with the hideously cheap sen-

timent that makes “Falsettos” (at the Walter Kerr) one of the most dishonest musicals I have ever seen. Originally produced on Broadway in 1992, the piece is made up of two one-acts, which were first given life Of Broadway a few years earlier. Directed by the frequent Stephen Sondheim collaborator James Lapine (he co-wrote the book with William Finn, who is responsible for the music and lyrics), this more than twoand-a-half-hour show begins in 1979: Marvin (Christian Borle) is leaving Trina (Stephanie J. Block), with whom he has a son, Jason (Anthony Rosenthal), because he’s gay, and in love with Whizzer (the always attractive Andrew Rannells). Trina goes to a shrink named Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz)—whom Marvin also sees at the beginning of the play— and falls in love with and eventually marries him. The second part of the show is set in 1981; Marvin and Whizzer broke up, but are now back together, still family, of a sort. When Whizzer contracts AIDS and lies dying, Trina, Mendel, and Jason realize that they’re part of the family, too. What can you do with a show that opens with a song called “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” and uses AIDS to endow it with seriousness? The rot at the center of “Falsettos” is slathered in self-congratulation. Finn and Lapine use Jews, AIDS, and so on to rope in a particular audience, which is then held captive to their seemingly endless array of self-referential songs and weak humor. They queer the complications in diference. 

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 7, 2016

81


THE CURRENT CINEMA

GOOD FIGHTS “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Loving.” BY ANTHONY LANE

Mel Gibson’s new film tells of a conscientious objector in the Second World War. rom the Blue Ridge Mountains

F of Virginia, on the trail of the di-

vine, comes Desmond Doss. We see him as a child, played by Darcy Bryce, scrapping with his brother and clouting him with a brick—the sole occasion, in “Hacksaw Ridge,” on which the hero harms another person. Quaking with guilt, and awaiting a whipping from his drunken father (Hugo Weaving), Desmond stares at a picture on the wall and reads the inscription: “Thou shalt not kill.” Easier said than done, in a time of war. Yet such was the mission of Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who was drafted in 1942 and joined the military as a conscientious objector. He served as a medic with the 307th Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for what the citation called “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action,” at Okinawa. Conspicuous is right; after the bulk of the regiment was forced to retreat, Doss, alone and exposed to continual enemy fire, went to the aid of some seventyfive injured comrades, lowering them, one by one, over an escarpment to safety. 82

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Only when there was no one else to rescue did he descend. No wonder he became a talisman to the troops; in “Hacksaw Ridge,” preparing for a renewed assault, they calmly delay until Doss has finished his prayers. All this is a far cry from Doss’s rural home, where he and his brother are seen climbing a ridge not for combat but for fun and for the beautiful view. As a lanky youth, now played by Andrew Garfield, Desmond falls in love with a nurse (Teresa Palmer). He woos her with a gee-whiz grin and, in a benign foreshadowing of the horrors to come, donates blood. She, in turn, gives him a Bible before he goes of to basic training, at Fort Jackson. There a problem arises, for Doss refuses to hold a rifle: a stance that not even Gary Cooper, as the devout pacifist of “Sergeant York” (1941), could match. Such mulishness puts Doss at odds with the other recruits, like the strapping Smitty (Luke Bracey), and with their drill sergeant, played by Vince Vaughn, who equips the character not just with the standard snarl and bark but also with a twinge of genuine curiosity. What is

driving Doss, this goofy kid, whose principles are as upstanding as his quif? Only through the intervention of a loved one does he survive a courtmartial, earning the right to enter the battlefield unarmed. He does use a rifle, but only once, as the handle for a homemade stretcher. Courage of this order reaches beyond recklessness, and during the Okinawa scenes, which consume the final hour of the movie, Garfield’s boyish features are racked and seized in a kind of trance; the agonized efort to save others, we realize, entails a near-ecstasy of sufering. Here, in other words, is a movie directed by Mel Gibson. It has less in common with Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), say, than with Gibson’s own “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), in which the scourging of Jesus goes on and on, until you can scarcely look, and then goes on again. Is this in line with traditional, if extreme, strains of Christian iconography—with the contorted limbs and the scarified skin of Grünewald’s “Crucifixion,” from the early sixteenth century? Or was the filmmaker at the mercy of a thoroughly modern fixation? More than any other living director, even a fellow-Catholic such as Martin Scorsese, Gibson seems to be gripped by the spiritual repercussions of pain. Within the bounds of his vision, it is quite natural to cut from Doss inside a church, polishing the stained-glass windows, to a nasty accident on the road outside and the impaling of a victim’s leg. “Hacksaw Ridge” is the strangest release of the year: an implacably violent film about a man who wants no part of violence at all. Gibson asks us to observe the spectacle of spilled viscera, limbs in flight, rats feasting on mortal flesh, and one soldier using the sundered torso of another as a shield, so that we may better comprehend the faith that upholds Doss, inspiring him to bind the wounds of his friends (and even, in one stirring instance, his foe). He burrows down a tunnel as if harrowing Hell, and when, at last, he escapes from Hacksaw Ridge—the site of the climactic battle, its very name designed to bite deep—he is framed against the sun, pouring water over his ILLUSTRATION BY BILL BRAGG


half-naked figure to wash of the blood of other men. We are meant to imagine someone being baptized and born again. There are reasons to recoil from all this, and what private furies Gibson may be confronting, at the cost of more than forty million dollars, I hate to think. Yet the result, though corny at times, treads close to madness and majesty alike, and nobody but Gibson could have made it. he title of the new Jef Nichols

T film, “Loving,” is not just a pres-

ent participle, or even a sturdy gerund. The heroes of the story, which is grounded in a real-life case, truly were named Mr. and Mrs. Loving. This is a happy coincidence, and there is no denying that the movie would have lost some of its impact if their name had happened to be, for instance, Snodgrass. Not that we watch them fall in love. When the tale begins, the falling has already occurred, and we see the two of them—Richard ( Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga)—seated on a porch after dark. Mildred’s first words are “I’m pregnant.” Richard, rarely a man in haste, takes his time to savor the information. “Good,” he says at last. Such joy, however, is not universally shared, because Mildred is black and Richard is white. It is 1958, and we are in Caroline County, Virginia—neither a time nor a place in which to lose your heart to someone whose skin is a diferent color from your own. Richard and Mildred cannot be lawfully wed in Virginia, so they go to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony. Once home, they are woken by the local police, led by Sherif Brooks (Mar-

ton Csokas). Richard points to the marriage license on the wall. “That’s no good here,” the sherif says. The Lovings are temporarily jailed, and are freed on condition that they quit Virginia and stay away for twenty-five years. So it’s back to Washington, and a cramped existence that neither of them enjoys. Indeed, the emotional undertow of the film suggests that the rift between town and country folk runs as deep as any racial segregation. That is why, in defiance of the ruling, the Lovings return to Caroline County, initially for the birth of their first child (Richard’s mother is a midwife), and then permanently, because they cannot accept their exile. And so the legal strife grinds on, all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, finds in their favor. The law of the land is changed. The quiet joke of the film is that you could scarcely meet two less revolutionary souls. “You need to get you some civil rights,” Mildred is told, but the only marching we see is on television, and her boldest act is to write to Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, who passes her case on to the A.C.L.U. The Lovings’ strength is that of undemonstrative stoics; if they are allowed back into the state, Richard says, “we won’t bother anybody.” In tribute to that composure, the movie is restrained to a degree that will strike some viewers as exasperating, or even perverse, and that others will deem properly heroic. A drunken provocation in a bar stops before it can burst into a brawl; Richard’s mother greets him, when he comes home for the child’s birth, with nothing but an order

to “put some oil on the stove”; and the Supreme Court hearing passes in a brief blur, Richard having stated that he and Mildred will not attend. Their lawyer, amazed that anyone would spurn so august an occasion, receives only one command: “Tell the judge I love my wife.” The contrast with “Hacksaw Ridge” could not be more extreme. Both films, rooted in Virginia, deal with moral steadfastness, the cost of cleaving to it, and the triumph of that tenacity, but they might as well have been shot on diferent planets. One is a howl and the other an urgent whisper. One depends on bodies being tossed and torn, whereas the most potent scenes in “Loving” consist of Mildred on the phone, listening to news from the Court. Just as she holds the family together, so Negga possesses the film, and you can’t stop looking at her eyes. Troubled yet tranquil, they gaze out from the gloom of a jail cell, and there’s a wonderful moment when she closes them, on returning to Virginia, and exults in the light; you can smell the grass and the late-afternoon air. Admirers of Nichols, whose finest films, like “Take Shelter” (2011) and “Mud” (2012), are fraught with a foreboding more mysterious than any law could cope with, may be bemused that he has turned to this ennobling saga, yet you can still feel the dramatic pressure. After all, what could be tenser than going to bed, every night, half-waiting to be rousted as a criminal, on a charge of sleeping beside your spouse?  NEWYORKER.COM

Richard Brody blogs about movies.

THE NEW YORKER IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF ADVANCE MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS INC. COPYRIGHT ©2016 CONDÉ NAST. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. VOLUME XCII, NO. 36, November 7, 2016. THE NEW YORKER (ISSN 0028792X) is published weekly (except for five combined issues: February 8 & 15, June 6 & 13, July 11 & 18, August 8 & 15, and December 19 & 26) by Condé Nast, which is a division of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. PRINCIPAL OFFICE: Condé Nast, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. Elizabeth Hughes, publisher, chief revenue officer; Risa Aronson, associate publisher advertising; James Guilfoyle, director of finance and business operations; Fabio Bertoni, general counsel. Condé Nast: S. I. Newhouse, Jr., chairman emeritus; Charles H. Townsend, chairman; Robert A. Sauerberg, Jr., president & chief executive officer; David E. Geithner, chief financial officer; James M. Norton, chief business officer, president of revenue. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Canadian Goods and Services Tax Registration No. 123242885-RT0001. POSTMASTER: SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO THE NEW YORKER, P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684. FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS, ADDRESS CHANGES, ADJUSTMENTS, OR BACK ISSUE INQUIRIES: Please write to The New Yorker, P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684, call (800) 825-2510, or e-mail subscriptions@newyorker.com. Please give both new and old addresses as printed on most recent label. Subscribers: If the Post Office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within one year. If during your subscription term or up to one year after the magazine becomes undeliverable, you are ever dissatisfied with your subscription, let us know. You will receive a full refund on all unmailed issues. First copy of new subscription will be mailed within four weeks after receipt of order. For advertising inquiries, please call Risa Aronson at (212) 286-4068. For submission guidelines, please refer to our Web site, www.newyorker.com. Address all editorial, business, and production correspondence to The New Yorker, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. For cover reprints, please call (800) 897-8666, or e-mail covers@cartoonbank.com. For permissions and reprint requests, please call (212) 630-5656 or fax requests to (212) 630-5883. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without the consent of The New Yorker. The New Yorker’s name and logo, and the various titles and headings herein, are trademarks of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. Visit us online at www.newyorker.com. To subscribe to other Condé Nast magazines, visit www.condenast.com. Occasionally, we make our subscriber list available to carefully screened companies that offer products and services that we believe would interest our readers. If you do not want to receive these offers and/or information, please advise us at P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684 or call (800) 825-2510. THE NEW YORKER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RETURN OR LOSS OF, OR FOR DAMAGE OR ANY OTHER INJURY TO, UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS, UNSOLICITED ART WORK (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DRAWINGS, PHOTOGRAPHS, AND TRANSPARENCIES), OR ANY OTHER UNSOLICITED MATERIALS. THOSE SUBMITTING MANUSCRIPTS, PHOTOGRAPHS, ART WORK, OR OTHER MATERIALS FOR CONSIDERATION SHOULD NOT SEND ORIGINALS, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED TO DO SO BY THE NEW YORKER IN WRITING.

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CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST

Each week, we provide a cartoon in need of a caption. You, the reader, submit a caption, we choose three finalists, and you vote for your favorite. Caption submissions for this week’s cartoon, by P. C. Vey, must be received by Sunday, November 6th. The finalists in the October 24th contest appear below. We will announce the winner, and the finalists in this week’s contest, in the November 21st issue. Anyone age thirteen or older can enter or vote. To do so, and to read the complete rules, visit contest.newyorker.com. THIS WEEK’S CONTEST

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THE FINALISTS

THE WINNING CAPTION

“It deployed when her carriage rear-ended an oxcart.” Daniel Pié, Chandler, Ariz. “I know her, but we were never close.” William M. Williams, Benton, Pa. “She’s the only surviving wife of Henry the VIII.” Purnima Gauthron, Mountain View, Calif.

“I know a specialist, but he’s in prison.” Joey Narain, Bloomfield, N.J.



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