Bill Kauffman

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The City Beat
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The City Beat

[This review first appeared in the June 1991 issue of Chronicles.]

Red Love is “third generation Leninist” porno star Suzie Sizzle’s yet-unmade dream project, the love story of her aunt and uncle, the Rosenberg-like spies Dolly and Solly Rubell.

The Last Jeffersonian
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The Last Jeffersonian

From the December 1990 issue of Chronicles.

Let Vermont State Senator John McClaughry describe himself (with what he calls “a notorious Ozark accent”): “I am a 1700’s Virginia republican, an 1800 Tertium Quid, an 1830’s Loco Foco, an 1850’s Republican,

Sinclair Lewis
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Sinclair Lewis

From the August 1992 issue of Chronicles.

Late in life, Harry Sinclair Lewis of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, figured something out: he would soon be forgotten. In a mock self-obituary, Lewis foresaw that he would leave “no literary descendants. . .

War From a Cabbage Patch
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War From a Cabbage Patch

“Gene just isn’t a nice person.”

—Bobby Kennedy

You know you are not in for a Doris Kearns Goodwin/David McCullough hagiography when a biographer uses as an epigraph a character assessment by the thuggish Marilyn-mauling (Joe) McCarthyite RFK.  (Isn’t the

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Cherished Void

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From the July 1995 issue of Chronicles.

Gene Roddenberry was a hustling ex-cop who wanted to strike it rich in television, and he did, with a series called Star Trek, which he once described (before his slide into self-mythicizing

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New York vs. New York

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From the July 2001 issue of Chronicles.

        “The feeling between this city and the hayseeds. . . is every hit as hitter as the feelings between the North and South before the War. . . . Why, I know a

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Up, Up, and Away

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From the June 1998 issue of Chronicles

In a recent PBS documentary about the exploration of Mars, a NASA scientist lectured, “We are, after all, one planet. . . . Once we get ofFour planet, especially once there’s a colony

The Way Home
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The Way Home

Wendell Berry’s latest harvest of essays contains characteristically wise observations on mobility, industrial agriculture, and other maladies of our age, but it also displays a Berry seldom glimpsed—that is, Wendell Berry as a rural Kentucky Democrat reluctant to quit a

Hicks’ Town
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Hicks’ Town

In 1932, Marxist literary critic Granville Hicks and his wife, Dorothy, bought an eight-room farmhouse in Grafton, New York, a rural hamlet ten miles east of Troy, where Hicks taught English to the young engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  For

War From a Cabbage Patch
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War From a Cabbage Patch

“Gene just isn’t a nice person.”

—Bobby Kennedy

You know you are not in for a Doris Kearns Goodwin/David McCullough hagiography when a biographer uses as an epigraph a character assessment by the thuggish Marilyn-mauling (Joe) McCarthyite RFK.  (Isn’t the

The Patriot
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The Patriot

Edward Abbey used to say that he took great pride in getting more radical as he got older—no easy task for the anarchist son of a communist father, but an impeccably American maturation just the same.  As the American Empire

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New York vs. New York

        “The feeling between this city and the hayseeds. . .is every hit as hitter as the feelings between the North and South before the War. . . . Why, I know a lot of men in my district who would

“I’m Liberated; Free at Last!”
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“I’m Liberated; Free at Last!”

Pat Buchanan has taken more punches than Chuck Wepner, hut unlike the Bayonne Bleeder, Buchanan has a good right hook (or is it now a left?) of his own.

The year began with Buchanan defending his feisty anti-interventionist manifesto A

Come Home, America
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Come Home, America

Greetings from New York, where a new hate crime is taking shape: It is called “place-ism,” and it will be defined in the criminal code as the belief that a particular place, be it a neighborhood, village, city, or state,

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Blame America First

“America First,” he said, whereupon the skies opened, the thunder cracked, the rains came . . . who knew the empire was so sensitive?

The corporate-media response to Patrick J. Buchanan’s A Republic, Not an Empire—and when is the

The Militia of Love
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The Militia of Love

Carolyn Chute’s return address includes the postscript, “No Fax/No Phone/No Paved Road.” The self-taught novelist of Maine’s backwoods can add “No More Good Reviews,” for with her latest book, Snow Man, she has committed an unpardonable act of literary

The Making of an Individualist
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The Making of an Individualist

“To be merely queer is no achievement, but to be brilliantly individualistic is a fine art which Geneva brought to perfection,” wrote Warren Hunting Smith, who died last November at the age of 93.

Mr. Smith lived something of a

The Anti-American Century
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The Anti-American Century

The anti-American Century began with a bad moon rising. Our new possessions across the sea were awash in colonial gore. Surveying from afar the corpses of Filipino independence fighters and our blood-spattered flag, Mark Twain suggested that we substitute the

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Massacre in Littleton

Eric Harris, the dominant half of the trenchcoated psychopathic duo who rampaged through Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, was the demented product of two enduring legacies of the Cold War: the consolidated super-school and the rootless military family.

This

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Another Election Day Come and Gone

Election Day 1998 dawned as a November morning out of William Cullen Bryant, with “piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.” We walked to the firehall polling place, passing the pioneer cemetery, burial ground of veterans of the Revolution,

Dorothy Day and the American Right
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Dorothy Day and the American Right

The title “Dorothy Day and the American Right” promises a merciful brevity, along the lines of “Commandments We Have Kept” by the Kennedy Brothers. After all, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement and editor of its newspaper lived among

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The Hollywood Ten(nessean)

Fifty years have passed since the orgy of squealing and sanctimony, of perfidy and posturing, that begat the Hollywood blacklist. What a cast of characters paraded before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC): at this table, communist screenwriters making $2,000

Up, Up, and Away
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Up, Up, and Away

In a recent PBS documentary about the exploration of Mars, a NASA scientist lectured, “We are, after all, one planet. . . . Once we get ofFour planet, especially once there’s a colony on another planet, national boundaries start to

Don’t Feed the War Machine
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Don’t Feed the War Machine

“His sympathies were for race—too lofty to descend to persons,” a wit once said of the abolitionist Senator Sumner. For how else could a man countenance the slaughter of his countrymen, not only rebel Southerners but noble Robert Gould

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A Well-Preserved Woman

My wife is president of our county’s landmark society, and though my inability to tell a cornice from a frieze renders me a hapless consort in matters architectural—more Denis Thatcher than Hillary Clinton—I am nonetheless proud of her. For preservation

World Citizens on Main Street
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World Citizens on Main Street

“It’s a small, small world,” or so chirp the marionettes of Michael Eisner’s Disney, the outfit that brought you NHL hockey in Orange County and a free Pocahontas glass with the purchase of a Happy Meal at the McDonald’s in

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A GOP Event

Republican Congressman Steven Gunderson of Wisconsin, who hosted the homosexual “circuit” party called the Cherry Jubilee at a federal building in Washington last April 13, was upset by our article about the event written by Marc Morano (“Sex, Drugs,

A Mighty Long Fall: An Interview With Eugene McCarthy
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A Mighty Long Fall: An Interview With Eugene McCarthy

Senator Eugene McCarthy is America’s senior statesman without a party. An Irish-German Minnesota Catholic who left the seminary for academe, McCarthy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 and the Senate in 1958. He was the link between

The Spirit of Atlantic
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The Spirit of Atlantic

“The Empire is peace.”
—Napoleon III

Bill Williams was an Eagle Scout, basketball star, paperboy, and jazz drummer in the Atlantic, Iowa, of the Depression. He was a wholesome mixture of small-town bohemian and Jimmy Stewart: he shared bottomless ice

Who Can We Shoot?
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Who Can We Shoot?

Who better to kick off a discussion of American populism than Henry James? In The Portrait of a Lady Sockless Hank had Henrietta Stackpole define a “cosmopolite”: “That means he’s a little of everything and not much of any. I

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Colin Powell, R.I.P.?

With impeccable timing, I interviewed Eisenhower biographer and Colin Powell booster Stephen E. Ambrose just days before Powell’s Noble Renunciation of Ambition. But before our chat disappears into that void (de?)populated by Milton Shapp’s Inaugural Address and the Oscar acceptance

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Last of the Taft Republicans?

Bob Dole is the last of the Taft Republicans, according to Murray Kempton—if only it were so! Isolationists (that is, Middle Americans who do not want our sons or brothers sent to die or kill on foreign sands) cherish Dole’s

Cherished Void
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Cherished Void

Gene Roddenberry was a hustling ex-cop who wanted to strike it rich in television, and he did, with a series called Star Trek, which he once described (before his slide into self-mythicizing and lucrative licensing deals) as “Wagon Train

Once Upon a Time in America
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Once Upon a Time in America

One of the strangest rituals in the United States Senate is the annual reading of President Washington’s Farewell Address. The chore of recitation usually falls to a freshman nonentity eager to curry favor by performing what is regarded as a

Alice of Malice: The Other Side of Rooseveltism
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Alice of Malice: The Other Side of Rooseveltism

The true nature of the New Deal was revealed in one of those brilliant ironies that flash lightning-like in a midnight storm. It happened September 13, 1933, the Nativity of a new secular holiday: NRA Day. An interminable parade up

The First Arkansas Bill
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The First Arkansas Bill

“The Price of Empire is America’s soul and that price is too high.”
—Senator J. William Fulbright
August 8, 1967

The oily whoremaster in the White House dodged the draft thanks to another Arkansas Oxonian named Bill, but the debt

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Karl Hess, R.I.P.

Karl Hess—one of the supplest and most creative political thinkers of post-Republic America—died on the same day as Richard Nixon did. His memorial service in Kearneysville, West Virginia, was attended by zero living presidents, which was meet for a

Come Home, America
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Come Home, America

Unanesthetized amputation cannot be more painful than enduring—no, “endurin'”—a Bruce Springsteen monologue about “growin’ up.” Stopping a concert dead in its tracks, he’ll mumble and stammer and “uh, like” his way through a tortured and tortuous tale peopled with Wild

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Sports and Local Sovereignty

Since 1940, the Batavia Clippers have played baseball in the lowest of the low minors, the Class A (formerly D) New York-Pennsylvania (nee PONY) League. The ballpark, Dwyer Stadium, named for the shoe store owner who served as club president

There Are Left the Mountains
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There Are Left the Mountains

Archibald MacLeish—”macarchibald maclapdog macleish,” e.e. cummings dubbed him—wondered, from his sinecure as Librarian of Congress in 1940, why “the writers of our generation in America” had such a provincial indifference to the war in Europe. They seemed, in Bernard

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The Merchants of Death of Sunset Boulevard

Playwright Robert Sherwood, the six-foot-seven weather vane of midcentury liberalism, once complained, “The trouble with me is that I start off with a big message and end with nothing but good entertainment.” That’s no trouble at all, as writer-director Preston

Gerald Who?
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Gerald Who?

Snaking out from the Middle Atlantic states is a long distinguished line of political and literary Copperheads: Millard Fillmore, Horatio Seymour, Harold Frederic, Edmund Wilson, and the Pennsylvania duo of James Buchanan and John Updike. These men were certainly not

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Losing Their Vitality

H.L. Mencken, in 1923, noted the “amalgamation of the two great parties. Both have lost their old vitality, all their old reality; neither, as it stands today, is anything more than a huge and clumsy machine for cadging jobs. They

Trespass Against Us
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Trespass Against Us

Larry Woiwode, the North Dakota novelist (I do not mean that in a diminishing way), has described his fiction as “a continuing spiritual exercise that any reader may join in on.” His fifth novel, Indian Affairs, is a fitfully

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Sinclair Lewis

Late in life, Harry Sinclair Lewis of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, figured something out: he would soon be forgotten. In a mock self-obituary, Lewis foresaw that he would leave “no literary descendants. . . . Whether this is a basic criticism

The Global Villager
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The Global Villager

Terry Teachout was a clumsy, nearsighted teacher’s pet who grew up in Sikeston, Missouri, population 17,431—”A Community That Works!” as its boosters trumpet.

Teachout stumbled through Little League and Boy Scouts, he tells us in his memoir, and distinguished himself

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A Perceptive Political Critic

Dwight MacDonald, one of our few perceptive political critics in that bleakest of decades, the 1940’s, wrote of the Henry Wallace campaign of 1948: “Populism today is a shell which can be filled with any content, even Stalinism, and hence

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Henry and Louise in the Lair de Clune

“Rochester had sprung up like a mush-
room, but no presage of decay could be
drawn from its hasty growth.”

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

The day after his 101st birthday, novelist Henry W. Clune escorted my wife and me to a fine