For a little while during the last century, Calumet, Michigan, was one of the wealthiest towns in the country. The vast copper deposits on which it stood had made it rich, had built its streetcar system and its opera house and its fine, stone business blocks. But Calumet was a company town, and when the ore began to run thin, the company said the miners had to work harder for less money. In the summer of 1913, they struck, and their bosses brought thugs from the tenements of New York City to the wilds of the Upper Peninsula to break the strike. Miners and hirelings battled through the long, grim autumn without either side gaining the upper hand, but winter brought a catastrophe so devastating that it not only ended the strike—it killed the city.
To James Thurber, Robert Benchley was simply the best there was: “he stands alone, in a great good place all his own.” And he is still the best, one of those very rare humorists who remain funny to another generation. Benchley made himself a fortune by making people laugh, but he always was ashamed of how he earned his living. In a profile of this most amusing, most melancholy man, Neu A. Grauer conducts us through Benchley’s world, a place filled with malign inanimate objects sworn to perplex and humiliate him.
If any two individuals could be said to personify the opposite poles of the ideology that has divided America’s foreign policy since the end of World War II, they are George Kennan and Paul Nitze. Long before anyone had coined the terms hawk and dove, these highly able adversaries embodied that clash of values. In an engrossing and important essay, Gregg Merken tells how, with the highest circles of our government as their forum, they have battled each other for an immense prize: the power to define this nation’s grand strategy against the Soviet Union.
David McCullough’s Washington, D.C.…Winslow Homer’s watercolors…Wolfgang Mozart’s first American promoter…and, with a plenitude worthy of this fe cund season, more.