Chronicles Magazine Correspondence

The Broken Promise of American Cities

There is a saying used in California when the going gets tough: “At least we have the weather.” No matter how expensive, dangerous, unclean, and generally inhospitable the state’s cities become, “at least we have the weather,” Californians say,...

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  • Correspondence

    The Patriot

    Italian journalists are forbidden these days from using the Italian word for foreign migrants who have stolen their way by subterfuge into Italy. By controlling which words people can use you can control their thought. It is a thoroughly fascist...

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  • Correspondence

    The Establishment

    We need a word for the forces that govern our lives. Establishment, a term popularized by Henry Fairlie in the 1950’s, is common currency. He meant by it “the whole matrix of official and social relationships within which power is exercised.”

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  • Correspondence

    Homesick in America

    “Darlin,’” she said, “I’ll get that. Go ahead and take it.” She was a weathered-looking woman with mousy light brown hair drawn back in a bun and the plain, honest look of one of those faces you see in Depression-era photos from the Dust Bowl,...

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  • VIEWS

    The Center Doesn’t Hold Here

    How do you make sense of New York? There’s lots of intelligence, talent, and ambition here. There’s also a lot of insanity. When Barack Obama won his first presidential election people in my neighborhood partied in the streets all night.

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  • Correspondence

    Recessional

    P.G. Wodehouse reached for Keats to describe his emotions when he read the first of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman saga. Fraser had already joined the glorious company of famously successful authors who were turned away from the doors of...

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  • Correspondence

    Worse at What It Is

    New York is always changing: It’s the city that never sleeps. When local writer Kay Hymowitz wrote a book about Brooklyn recently she talked about “creative destruction” on almost every other page. She had a point, and the city has seen both...

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  • Correspondence

    Race Against Reason

    We are living in a racially charged climate. Problems associated with the relations between the races seem endemic to all areas of our sad and beleaguered culture. Discussions of law enforcement are dominated by the alleged racism of police...

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  • Correspondence

    Never and Always

    I turn down the soothing voice of “Gentleman Jim” Reeves. He looks at me from the CD case, a face thought of as handsome in his day, though Jim seems too mature and, maybe, just a bit innocent, even naive, for our jaded time.

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  • Correspondence

    Dayton’s Holy Family

    “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that,” President Obama declared in 2012. But chances are you bought that, especially if you are a Midwestern entrepreneur and the product is Renaissance art.

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  • Correspondence

    Palm Sunday

    On Palm Sunday, I took a walk. It’s the first day of spring, and the sky is china blue, decorated with small cotton-like puffs of clouds. Flowers are blooming, and the ducks at the pond have laid their eggs.

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  • Correspondence

    Paris Holds Her Breath

    In the days that followed the November terrorist attacks, many here in Paris were paralyzed. This is a level of violence and death to which those of us in the First World are simply unaccustomed, though modern jihad threatens to change that very...

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  • Correspondence

    A Long Time Gone

    Two young people, one a 16-year-old schoolgirl, the other a 21-year-old carpenter, married in my mother’s home church in Houston’s West End on Valentine’s Day, 1953. The neighborhood was filled with wooden houses resting on cinder blocks, my...

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  • Correspondence

    Paterfamilias

    In America today, we seem to face two alternatives: accepting hordes of invaders with alien cultures and ideologies, who are unwilling to assimilate and whose presence endangers the vestiges of our civilization; or homogenizing America into a...

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  • Correspondence

    An American Tragedy

    The story of “America’s deadliest sniper,” Texas-born and -bred Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (credited with more than 160 “confirmed” kills), himself shot down in 2013 by a disturbed war veteran he was trying to help, has become a social litmus test,...

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  • Correspondence

    Charmless

    Early in Owen Wister’s 1905 novel Lady Baltimore, the narrator, recently arrived in Charleston from Philadelphia, remarks upon the stillness of the city, its “silent verandas” and cloistered gardens behind their wrought iron gates—“this...

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  • Correspondence

    Two Ways of Dying

    Thomas More’s world was one in which reminders of death were all around, and also one in which most people reflexively accepted the tenets of Christianity, including the knowledge that, in the words of an earlier English playwright, “the...

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  • Correspondence

    Flyover Math

    In January, George Mason University published a survey of the financial solvency of our country’s 50 states. Illinois came in at 48th place, just in front of Connecticut and New Jersey. The Land of Lincoln caught a bit of a break, it seems.

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  • Correspondence

    Suicide State

    “We don’t divorce our men; we bury them,” instructs Stella Bernard, played by a loony Ruth Gordon, in Lord Love a Duck (1966). That’s certainly better social policy than America has pursued since 1970, with no-fault divorce shattering...

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  • Correspondence

    Eating Crow

    The United States is now one vast diocese under the authority of the archbishop of antiracism. Yes, the Church of Antiracism has its hierophants, its clergy, its numberless drone-armies of proselytizers, its dogmas, its catechism, its rites of...

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  • Correspondence

    My Big Brother

    Not long ago, while reading A.J.P. Taylor’s impressively turgid English History: 1914-1945, I found, suspended in the tepid depths of all the fussily annotated tables and statistics, a sentence that all but knocked me out of my chair.

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  • Correspondence

    Old Route 66

    For years I’ve wanted to take a motorcycle trip on Old Route 66. I finally got my chance last September, along with other members of the Southern California Norton Owners Club. The ride was open to anyone with a vintage British motorcycle.

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  • Correspondence

    Canticle for the Apocalypse

    Something strange is haunting our dreams these days. The teenage cashier at the grocery store is conversing with a customer in front of my sister. “That’s right,” she says. “The only thing that will work now is for civilization to collapse...

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  • Correspondence

    The Country Girl

    The fall the Orioles won their first World Series, I was rooming off-campus with three other Towson State College freshmen in a three-story house on Evesham Avenue. The Baltimore of the mid-1960’s was not as much ashamed of its heritage as...

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  • Correspondence

    Interview With a Border Warrior

    In 2008, Sheriff Paul Babeu became the first Republican elected to that office in the 136-year history of Pinal County, Arizona...he was voted the 2011 Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association and has, since this interview was...

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  • Correspondence

    God and Man at Wabash

    On Monday, September 12, my friend and mentor died at the age of 82 from lung cancer after a decade of up-and-down health problems borne without complaint—a man whom I have loved more than any other man but my own father, starting from the time...

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  • Correspondence

    China's Lord of Heaven

    I have been spending my spring sabbatical in China. As I am a sinologist, specializing in traditional Chinese poetry, there is nothing surprising in that, except that I have not been here since 1981, when I led a tour group for less than three...

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  • Correspondence

    Of Monkeys and Mermaids

    Everyone inquires about you, of course, & I invariably assure them that motherhood flatters you & that you and your amiable Yankee husband grow daily more prosperous. But, alas, I have little in the way of gossip to retail.

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  • Correspondence

    Quo Vadis Fidel

    The emotional turmoil of present-day Cuba she gives voice to as a “detective of the unexpressed” can hardly be excelled by anyone in an overseas context. However the political economy of the moment remains fair game for foreign-policy analysis.

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  • Correspondence

    The European Waugh

    Auberon Waugh—Bron to his friends and enemies—inspired as much hate and contempt as he did love and admiration. Much the same was true of his father, the novelist Evelyn, but in real life the two men were very different, as those who knew them...

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  • Correspondence

    The Bookman

    I remember Granddad as an old man, sitting in his reading chair or working in his garden, but you could still see the younger man in him, the one who had ridden the rails during the Depression, seeking work in California and Oregon with his...

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  • Correspondence

    Johnny Johnson

    For Johnny Johnson, it was always Saturday night. He was the stuff of fictional heroes who prevail over their circumstances. A British army doctor who later joined the Royal Navy, Johnny came from a broken home, never married, and eventually...

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  • Correspondence

    Prosperity

    Declining prosperity is now a settled fact of American life. Prosperity is not measured by the day’s average of stock speculation, or the profits of bankers, or the munificence of government subsidies and salaries, or the consumption of luxury...

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  • Correspondence

    In Search of Flannery O'Connor

    In late June, a friend and I traveled into Central Georgia, looking for Flannery O’Connor. Mary Ann had never heard of Flannery O’Connor. She didn’t know Hazel Motes from a hole in the ground and assured me she had never encountered “A Good Man...

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  • Correspondence

    Remember Katyn

    I arrived in Poland just as the television announced the tragic death of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and many of Poland’s military and political leaders in an airplane crash at Smolensk in Russia. A week of mourning followed...

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  • Correspondence

    In Darkest London, Part 2

    This is the second part of a two-part article written by a white male Catholic convert, 48 years old, who has no specialist theological training whatsoever, is of strictly average intelligence, and represents no interest group or political movement.

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  • Correspondence

    The Lord's Shepard

    We had known it was a “white road” when we had found it on the map, but when my wife and I got to the start of it, we hesitated. There was a sign at the junction, and it made us stop and think: RD 103 EN LACUNE CIRCULATION DANGEREUSE ET...

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  • VIEWS

    Of Genes, Vowels, and Violence

    Why do the British speak English and not a variety of Welsh? Philip Jenkins, having fallen under the sway of a Harvard medieval historian, Michael McCormick, believes it is because the invading Germans of the fifth and sixth centuries killed all...

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  • Correspondence

    I Remember

    For some years I have lived in Québec as a friendly alien from the United States, traveling from time to time back to my native Minnesota and other states to practice law in my fields of interest. I am married to a French-Canadian wife who is a...

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  • Correspondence

    A Tsunami of Towers

    Here, you can see almost forever. It is a great green plain bounded by low wolds to the west and the North Sea to the east, by the River Humber to the north and the shining mudflats of the Wash to the south.

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  • Correspondence

    A Living Past

    It is a small town in Bavaria, and it is at least 32 degrees C. The camera weighs heavy in my hands, and I can feel speckles of sweat accumulating beneath my black rucksack, as it soaks up the sun like a square and sinister sponge.

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  • Letters to the Bishop

    Preparing for Battle

    May is once again upon us, bringing that mad dash in which you sprint from parish to parish, rubbing oily crosses on the smooth foreheads of gawky teens, confirmandi mentally and spiritually armed to do battle with the dragons facing God’s...

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  • Correspondence

    Love it or Leave It?

    Never has America appeared more incomprehensible in other lands than she has in the last month. We who are routinely published in America, who read for preference American books and magazines, who live and sleep and breathe and indeed dream...

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  • Correspondence

    Spy Kids and Labour Snoops

    In Great Britain as in the United States, terrorism has provided the perfect pretext for assaulting liberties enjoyed for centuries. Torture, detention without charge, wiretapping, international databases of citizens’ private information—all...

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  • Correspondence

    What Civilization Remains

    We once had a book about Eastern Europe at home, in between the encyclopedias and Robinson Crusoe. I do not remember its title nor the author’s name, but it contained highly atmospheric black and white photographs of Rumanian scenes.

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  • Correspondence

    Christmas in Abbeville

    Last winter, I traveled to Abbeville, South Carolina, for its Fifth Annual Olde South Christmas. To the casual observer, this event might appear to be merely an instance of savvy small-town marketing—an attempt to capitalize on the trade in...

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  • Letters to the Bishop

    Black Like Me

    I know May is a monster on your calendar, a whirl of confirmations requiring your presence in the backwater outposts of the Faith. The physical demands alone—the hours in the car, the parish suppers, the compliments and complaints—must weigh...

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  • Correspondence

    The Lady Vanishes

    In September 2000, I went to Burma to see the places where George Orwell had worked as a policeman in the 1920’s. As I planned my trip, I fantasized about meeting the brave and beautiful Suu Kyi, daughter of the national hero, Aung San, who was...

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  • Correspondence

    Imagination Deficit

    In spite of the Herculean labors of their spin doctors, politicians on the stump often say stupid things in the heat of the moment, and you are probably right to resent the unfairness of journalists who exaggerate the importance of such mundane...

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  • Correspondence

    Heading for Extinction

    Last year, an arresting headline on page three of Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper read “Japan Heading for Extinction.” The article bemoaned the contents of a government white paper addressing Japan’s declining birthrate.

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  • Correspondence

    The Right to Blaspheme?

    The vociferous and, at times, incendiary uproar that suddenly erupted in early February with the publication in Paris of 12 “satanic drawings,” supposedly caricaturing Muhammad, offered the world one more proof of the extent to which, thanks to...

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  • Correspondence

    Irreducible India

    When Vasco da Gama’s three battered little ships dropped anchor off Calicut on May 20, 1498, after a voyage of over ten months, they had finally found the sea route between Europe and India so long sought by Portugal’s kings and explorers.

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  • Correspondence

    Just Win, Baby

    In 1968, George Wallace said that there wasn’t a “dime worth’s of difference” between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Implicit there was the suggestion that Americans were not satisfied with echoes and preferred choices.

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  • Correspondence

    10,300 Nights in the Gulag

    The memory of the victims of communism has been honored with various initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. To that end, a spate of symposia and panel discussions were held in November and December 2003 in Italy, mostly in Rome and Milan.

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  • Correspondence

    Last Call?

    It was quiet at Drea’s Tavern on St. Patrick’s Day. It might seem unusual for an Irish bar to have so few souls stop in the third week of March, but there were reasons.

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  • Correspondence

    Gigantic Weaknesses

    One of the sights that most amazed me as I approached the center of Moscow for the first time was a huge poster, stretched across the flat rooftop of a large building not far from the Kremlin, boldly advertising PHILIPS in large letters that...

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  • Correspondence

    Lessons from Montgomery

    At 11:30 A.M. (CST) on Thursday, November 13, 2003, Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was removed from office, and the will of the people of the sovereign state of Alabama was thwarted by a unanimous vote of the nine-member...

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  • Correspondence

    Monumental in Everything

    I have before me, as I write these lines, a handsome white envelope, marked in pale-blue characters with the six-pronged, anchor-fish-hook-crown emblem of this once imperial and still maritime city, which was offered to me by a friend as I was...

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  • Correspondence

    A Question of Boredom

    Anybody who has ever watched a home video knows how painful is the passing of unedited time. No matter what or who is the subject of the exposition—sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, deep conversation, one’s own or other people’s children, Osama bin...

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  • Correspondence

    Tangerine Dreams

    Behind the recent headlines here in Mexico of massive peasant protests, blocked highways and international crossings, and demands for NAFTA treaty renegotiation lay a few facts about incompetence, corruption, and inefficiency.

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  • Correspondence

    The Unbeliever

    Suppose you are tired of hearing about roulette. Suppose the very thought of gambling, despite the metaphorist’s efforts to depict it as the great commonwealth of epochal disillusionment and hence universalize the experience, strikes you as...

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  • Correspondence

    Tainted Love

    Conservatives rightly honor George Washington, but why should any conservative so much as like Washington, D.C.? The answer seems as perplexing as the desire of a tourist to buy an “I Love D.C.” T-shirt from one of the Third World vendors on...

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  • Correspondence

    A Sentimental Return

    Returning to a city you once loved is always a perilous experience, for it is so easy to be disappointed—as happened to me several years ago when I returned to Venice, a seaborne city I had not seen for more than 40 years.

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  • Correspondence

    Children in the Hellmouth

    In the week before English schools closed for the summer, three educational news items grabbed the national headlines. This is not especially remarkable in itself: English education has been in a state of revolution for years, and unsettling...

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  • Correspondence

    Trick or Treat?

    During my first semester as a graduate teaching assistant, I was fired from my job at a coffee shop for mv inability to act phony. Anyway, this is what I suspected my particularly phony employer meant by a "bad attitude."

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  • Correspondence

    Flag Country

    I live in flag country. Here in east-central Illinois, amid the corn and soybean fields, the whistle-stop towns on their grid of well-maintained blacktops, the Stars and Stripes are as common as blue jeans.

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  • Correspondence

    The Poet Player

    Were the contemporary Paris audience of The Gambler to hear, as the curtain went down on Jean-François Regnard’s minor comic masterpiece of 1696, that the apparently chance sequences of dice values in a game of hazard like backgammon can...

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  • Correspondence

    Privatization in Serbia

    In articles dealing with the 2002 presidential election in Serbia, I have made passing references to Zoran Djindjic as “Serbia’s kleptocratic prime minister” and to his “corrupt establishment” that “controls the economy and the media more...

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  • Correspondence

    Unseen Places

    In Huysmans’ Against the Grain (1884), the precious hero Des Esseintes has “the idea of turning dream into reality, of traveling [from France] to England in the flesh as well as in the spirit, of checking the accuracy of his...

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  • Correspondence

    How Long, O Lord?

    Since the Middle Ages, the Balkan region of Kosovo-Metohia has witnessed firsthand the confrontation between Christianity and Islam. Metohia is a Greek word meaning “the Church’s land,” and Orthodox Christians consider Kosovo an outpost of their...

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  • Correspondence

    Memorial Day

    We used to go there on every Memorial Day—a small national cemetery off the road a piece in the woods. It was usually warm; the woods, deep, green, and moist. We would walk down a dirt path to the stone wall encircling the graves, sometimes...

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  • Correspondence

    What the Loser Wins

    The reason I am loath ever to set foot in the casino of Venice is that, in mournful contrast to just about everything else that fast moors me to her flooding shores, the Casinò di Venezia at Palazzo Vendramin is not an anachronism.

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  • Correspondence

    The Prosciutto War

    The mid-December 2001 E.U. summit in Laeken, Belgium, will probably be remembered most for its “prosciutto war,” which began when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to approve the new food agency to be located in Helsinki, Finland,...

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  • Correspondence

    Blizzard

    Storms and other phenomena of nature have their own distinct sounds. Those who have survived a tornado often say that it sounded “like a train.” A volley of cannon fire accompanies every thunderstorm.

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  • Correspondence

    A Dying Dictatorship

    Avenida 21, number 3014, is a nondescript house in an Havana suburb. The paint is peeling; the walls are plain; the rooms are sparse. Inside lives Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, a Cuban dissident working to free the Cuban people.

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  • Correspondence

    A Good Idea

    The most readily saleable kind of merchandise a writer keeps on offer is his natural gregariousness, with the widely advertised consequence that so many writers drink themselves to death.

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  • Correspondence

    Que Bueno?

    Colorado voters will likely be asked to decide this November on a proposal that would amend the state constitution to guarantee that public schools put non-English-speaking students in one-year immersion courses rather than the...

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  • Correspondence

    Holding On to a Culture

    For a political party that celebrates diversity, it is certainly an odd choice. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party of Minnesota, like the Democrats nationwide, has celebrated its role in promoting multiculturalism and massive immigration.

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  • Correspondence

    Little Goodbyes

    The sun is breaking through, the dark green grass shimmering as it is swept back and forth by the wind like the mane of a wild mustang running along a plain. Down here, near Madisonville along I-45 South, the rains had come hard and heavy.

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  • Correspondence

    Putting the Children First

    Until the mid-1970’s, public education in Louisiana, like that in much of rural America, was solidly and successfully based on traditional methodology and philosophy, which emphasized academic excellence, an honest curriculum, discipline, and...

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  • Correspondence

    Stage Fright

    In sober truth, if I were the person my correspondent suspects me of being, I would be offended. I would now be thinking of him as a sworn enemy. I would not dream of helping him to air his grievances or of looking for a kernel of substance in...

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  • Correspondence

    Educating for Jeopardy

    In 1986, I enrolled my oldest daughter in the same public school that my husband and I had attended. I knew from my experience in public education that there were problems, but I was hopeful that, with our participation in her schooling, she...

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  • Correspondence

    Dubious Allies

    “We love our children, but we need food,” says Masih Saddiq, a 50-year-old brickmaker, explaining why none of his 13 children were in school. They range in age from one-and-a-half to 25; all seem destined to spend their entire lives making...

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  • Correspondence

    A Brilliant, Fading Bliss

    Trekking north along the closest major artery, Canada-bound travelers are treated to a small hotel with a decorative windmill, several car dealerships, and a shopping center with a McDonald’s, a Blockbuster, and a Subway—all common manifestations...

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  • Correspondence

    A Winter's Tale

    The funeral home looked better on the outside. The solid, dignified impression given by the white pillars standing guard outside the large double doors disappeared when you stepped inside and walked on old carpeting into a dimly lit room with...

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  • Correspondence

    Dancing at LaRue

    The stars of the dance floor, a bantam couple, whirl to the "EE-II-EE-II-OO Polka," a tune that would be obscure to almost anybody but the Mellotones. Their feet, tiny to start with, push each between the other's with the precision of a...

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  • Correspondence

    The Women's Movement

    After an uninterrupted spell of a winter month or two here in Venice—all footsteps in the evening mist, and quiet conversation about the best way to cook pheasant, and a Neapolitan card game called "seven and a half—what one notices on arriving...

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  • Correspondence

    Gifts From Afar

    It was just before Christmas, and for some reason I thought the fishing would be good in the Dominican Republic during that time of the year. I had no information to that effect, but a friend, who does not fish, spoke favorably of DR.

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  • Correspondence

    Blair's War on Biology

    Faced with the prospect of having to drop the repeal legislation altogether in order to ensure the passage of the rest of the Local Government Act, Tony Blair had resorted to the time-dishonored tactic of stuffing the awkward legislative chamber...

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  • Correspondence

    When Will It Snow Again?

    It's late September in Russia, and Muscovites are already placing wagers on when the first snow will come. The weather has simply been too good to be true; the sun has been shining and the temperatures mild, which, to the Russian mind at least,...

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  • Correspondence

    Dashing Through Asia

    Not as horrible as Calcutta or as ugly as Seoul, Bangkok, spreading along the flat flanks of the Chao Phraya river, is the whorehouse of Asia. Berth girls and boys will do anything you like with a Coke bottle or Ping-Pong ball.

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  • Correspondence

    Whodunit?

    Taxi drivers in Belgrade, like their counterparts everywhere, know almost everything about almost everything. However, they do not know who murdered the controversial commander of the Serbian Volunteer Guard (SDG), Seljko Raznatovic Arkan and...

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  • Correspondence

    Oui Shall Overcome!

    Quebec shows its patriotism every year on June 24, one week before Canada Day—not because the French-speaking province gets a head start on the rest of the country, but because June 24 is the feast day of Jean Baptiste, the patron saint of Quebec.

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  • Correspondence

    Jamaicas of Remembrance

    Most visitors to Jamaica fly to Montego Bay on the north coast and head straight for the resort compound. Fating and drinking at an "all-in" price, confined to their bit of beach, pool, and garden, they are happily protected from reality.

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  • Correspondence

    Roll, Jordan, Roll

    So the anti-Confederate backlash comes to Dallas . . . but, then, maybe not. Maybe that isn't fundamentally what happened when the Dallas school board, in June, voted to rename mostly black and Hispanic Jefferson Davis Elementary School for...

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  • Correspondence

    The Talk of the Town

    Hillary Rodham Clinton is a "woman" to "women," she is in with the black community, she is in with the ethnics, she is the poster girl of the gay and lesbian community, she is a big deal with the Democrats, and she proved she was effective...

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