Our finely-tuned journalistic sensors tell us it’s summer here in Texas, and we’re celebrating by bringing you the Summer Books issue. At 40 pages, this is the weightiest edition of the magazine in a long while-we hope not just in terms of pulp and printer’s ink.
The issue opens with longtime contributor Robert Sherrill’s review of Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger. As Sherrill notes, Kissinger’s war crimes have been summarized elsewhere (and here, in a biting TO essay by Sherrill himself last year), but they “never lose their bloody impact from repetition.” We read lots of books in this office, but seldom anything as powerful as Hitchens’ devastating indictment of the former secretary of state: “His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs; strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown it is time for justice to take a hand.”
We can only begin to imagine where we would be as a nation today if he had not extended the war in Indochina for the most cynical, political reasons, or where Latin America might be if Salvador Allende’s democratically elected experiment in Chile had been allowed to stand or fall on its own accord instead of being undermined by the U.S. government.
Another writer who has written about the cynical use of power while covering the Karen Silkwood case and Three Mile Island for the Village Voice is Anna Mayo. We welcome her to these pages, writing about The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation, Gayle Greene’s biography of the British physician whose research on radiation revolutionized medical practice and challenged international nuclear safety practices. Given the current administration’s incestuous relationship with the nuclear industrial complex, Stewart’s life (she’s 95 and still going strong) and dire warnings about the nuclear industry are more important than ever.
We welcome back once again Alix Ohlin, writing about Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. A cell biologist by training, Ehrenreich practices the kind of journalism to which we should all aspire. Her story of her attempt to survive by working a series of low-wage jobs-as a waitress in Florida, cleaning woman in Maine, Wal-Mart employee in Minnesota-has struck a chord with readers throughout the country and tells us volumes about who we are as a nation today.
The issue closes with Alan Pogue’s haunting photographs of Israel and the Occupied Territories, taken during his visit to the Middle East last spring, months before the recent incursion into Hebron. We asked Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye to provide a text, and she graciously offered a long manuscript, from which we selected several excerpts. Alan’s photos and Naomi’s words convey a truth about the Middle East that too often eludes the U.S. media.
But rest assured, not all is gloom and doom in these pages. Not hardly, as the saying goes in these parts. In between Kissinger and the West Bank are Terry Southern and Bob Dylan and the English translation of Mexican author Elena Poniatowska’s masterpiece Hasta no verte Jesus mío. And so much more. Read on!. — BB