“Bank failure,” says John Steele Gordon, “is as American as apple pie.” Our first one took place in Rhode Island in 1809; the latest almost certainly happened just about the time you are reading this. In between there have been tens of thousands—while Great Britain, on whose financial system ours is founded, has not had a single major bank failure in over a century. Why are we so bedeviled? In a spirited explanation of why our government thought it wise to guarantee billions of dollars’ worth of very-high-risk investments in the 1980s, Gordon traces today’s calamity right back to basic disagreements between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
In 1967 a veteran of the 82d Airborne’s Normandy drop named William Linzee Prescott went to look at another war, as the first civilian painter to visit Vietnam with the Army Combat Artist Program. To Morley Safer, who knew Vietnam as a correspondent, Prescott’s watercolors are a haunting record of the conflict, and Safer tells why in the lively commentary that accompanies these previously unseen paintings.
Gifford Pinchot, the highborn, highhanded zealot who invented our modern concept of conservation … John Wilkes Booth’s other victim tells his story … rediscovering the major black American artist who took the Paris salon by storm a century ago … and, as a long bright antidote to short gray days, more.