Christopher Lydon 公开
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Prison time can be the strangest interval in a long life: it is experienced, year by year, as a slow-burning hell on earth, often revalued later as productive, enlightening, redemptive turn-around time. Chris Hedges has documented an old story of transformation in a true story of today. It’s titled Our Class: 30 men in New Jersey’s Rahway State Pri…
 
Jonathan Franzen might just be the last of the fine-grained, big-book portraitists of “the way Middle America lives”—specially the intimate deceptions that family relations are made of. Franzen is a realist with an edgy American sense of humor, and twenty-first-century dread as well. You feel his artistic kinship still with the Infinite Jest of Dav…
 
Who else could be said to make you smarter, just listening to the sound of his music? Only Mozart, that we know. For 300-and-some years now, he has set the standard for whatever lies beyond perfection. “Too beautiful for our ears,” said the Emperor of the Enlightenment, Joseph the Second, “and far too many notes, my dear Mozart.” Too many melodic i…
 
Thomas Mann was one of those cultural giants the world doesn’t seem to make anymore—artists with authority, almost as big as their countries, at the level of Mark Twain, say, Voltaire, or Emerson! In his heyday a century ago Thomas Mann was called “the life of the mind in Germany”: the darkly philosophical novelist of obsession and illness in The M…
 
It’s hard not to notice that we’re flunking tests, right and left, and running out of strategies against global-size troubles. COVID, we said, was our test for the age of viruses. At summer’s end the variants are gaining and most of the world is unvaccinated. Afghanistan became a 20-year test of the notion that a public-private force of money, dron…
 
Those twin towers of the World Trade Center wrote two epic stories into the skyline of Manhattan: rise and fall. Most of us saw the hellscape of fire and smoke in the fall of the towers, live on television, 20 years ago. But the rising up 30 years earlier, in a star-crossed real-estate power play, is where the artist and writer Justin Beal finds ro…
 
This show first aired on December 17, 2020. Erroll Garner, the jazz pianist, is undergoing an upward revaluation of the sort that artists dream of: a reputational transition forty-some years after he died. In his time, mid-twentieth century, Erroll Garner was a pop star on records and concert stages worldwide. He could make the piano sound like a b…
 
The war for Afghanistan is over: the Taliban won in a walk. We’re shocked, more than surprised, but then what? Is this our American empire at sundown we’re seeing? And how would we feel about that? Is it the end of a collective delusion of world dominance? And who fed that fantasy? Was Joe Biden’s exit planning really worse than George Bush’s entry…
 
This show first aired on August 8, 2019. Spoiler alert! (Really.) The big movie to reckon with this summer may be as much about the mood of 2019 as about the Helter-Skelter 1960s. It’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth big film, with a surprise streak of fantasy and mercy in it. He’s revising the course of events of 50 summer…
 
This mood we’re in: stuck, anxious, alone, desperate for an exit ramp, even to another bad stop on the same old highway. COVID, climate, chaos—or is it capitalism that’s trapped us? We meet broken institutions with our same old behaviors, expecting a different result, the Einstein definition of insanity. And still we say: keep hope alive. Hope! The…
 
This show was first broadcast on October 22, 2020. A bold new life of JFK cues Emerson’s line: “there is no history, only biography,” particularly when the life of a man and the American Century roll out together. John F. Kennedy was born – April 1917 – just days from the U.S. entry into World War One, one day after Lenin arrived at the Finland Sta…
 
That blood-red full moon of July looked for sure to be on fire, but only because we saw it through smoke that had drifted thousands of miles east across North America. We’re sorting through glimpses of an apocalypse this hour, reaching for the eerie, uncanny feel of this climate summer of ’21: oceanic flooding in German cities, and now inland China…
 
You can’t help noticing the badge of success in American business has changed. Robber barons a century ago built monopolies, then palaces. In our second gilded age today, winners at the Bezos, Branson, and Elon Musk level need their own private space programs to play astronauts, floating in space to certify the excess of our staggeringly uneven con…
 
We know their songs, not so much what they were going through, those Black women artists who wrote and sang so many anthems of American life: Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” and Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues”; stars beyond category like Ethel Waters singing “Shake that Thing” in the ’20s; then Gospel hits like “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” on tour in …
 
This show first aired on May 28, 2020. John Maynard Keynes was a philosophical giant in twentieth-century England. In his day job, he was a public economist; in America he was a political football for the very idea of “deficit spending” to charge up private investment in a recession. It made the name “Keynes” a cuss word until our politicians fell …
 
This show first aired July 18, 2019. Middlemarch, a novel by the woman who gave herself a man’s by-line, “George Eliot,” may be the most honored masterpiece you’ve been avoiding all your life. Here’s the point: read it this summer. You’re ready to love Middlemarch if you second-guess marriages, like your own; second-marriages, too. You’re ready to …
 
What we call Alzheimer’s—the loss of memory, mind, autonomy—wasn’t always called a disease. It was an aspect of aging, a symptom, a condition: senile dementia. Shakespeare made it the last of his seven ages of man, ending in “second childishness and mere oblivion / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Well into the twentieth century…
 
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