Arena: The 50 Year Argument - The New York Review of Books.

Books On Saturday night BBC Four broadcast an intellectual feast, a new Martin Scorsese documentary for Arena about the The New York Review of Books. As anyone who watched the programme will know it was unafraid to quote at length from the magazine's articles, journalistic poetry which makes what counts for discourse in other place seem infantile. Throughout, as the narrations shifted from extract to extract, I quickly decided I wanted to read the rest of these articles as well as those listed on screen in some capacity.  That would require me to annotate the programme.  Find below the results of the next eight hours of my life.

Listed below is every article, as far as I can determine, which is either highlighted on screen or which features in narration, in the order within which they're featured in the programme.  I haven't included everything from every cover, just those articles which are clearly being emphasised either through animation or some other means.  Many are subscriber only and I've indicated these thusly: [so].  The documentary also features examples of other books and articles from elsewhere.  At the bottom, I've added links to the profiles of contributors who appear in the programme [full list].

For further reading The 50 Years blog offers a range of other material including this freewheeling but thematic list of headlines.  The very first issue is also available to read for free in its entirety (here's the 50th too, not so free). Audio from the evening of readings and reflections featured in the film is also available.  Martin Scorsese gave a Q&A about the documentary when it was untitled and that's inevitably available on YouTube as well as, as you can see above, a seven minute piece about that evening which constitutes the journal's only sortie there.  But they are still very social media savvy, with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ profiles.


Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks. FEBRUARY 21, 2013.

In Zuccotti Park by Michael Greenberg.  NOVEMBER 10, 2011.

The Decline of Book Reviewing by Elizabeth Hardwick. Harper's Magazine. OCTOBER, 1959.

What Is Art? by Frank Kermode. February 20, 1964. [so]

Selma, Alabama: The Charms of Goodness by Elizabeth Hardwick. APRIL 22, 1965.

The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After by Irving Howe. DECEMBER 26, 1963.

A Long View: Goldwater in History by Richard Hofstadter. OCTOBER, 1964.

Understanding the Vietcong by Joseph M. Kraft. AUGUST 5, 1965. [so]

The Christian Pope by Hannah Arendt. JUNE 17, 1965. [so]

Crime Without Punishment by Philip Rahv. MARCH 25, 1965. [so]

James Baldwin and the “Man” by F.W. Dupee. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

On James Baldwin by Darryl Pinckney. APRIL 4, 2013. [audio and further annotation of articles in the talk]

Rescuing Homosexual History by Keith Thomas. DECEMBER 4, 1980. [so]

Talking It Up by Russell Baker. MAY 11, 2006. [so]

The Gentle Genius by Ingrid D. Rowland. JANUARY 10, 2013. [so]

Literary Journalism: A Discussion [audio]. APRIL 3, 2013.

Pride and Prejudice by Zoë Heller. SEPTEMBER 27, 2012.

See My Agent by Andrew Kopkind. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

Terror in Chile I: The Chicago Commission Report by Chicago Commission of Inquiry Into the Status of Human Rights in Chile. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

Terror in Chile II: The Amnesty Report by Rose Styron. MAY 30, 1974. [so]

The Balkan Crisis: 1913 and 1993 by George F. Kennan. JULY 15, 1993. [so]

Bush and Iraq by Anthony Lewis. NOVEMBER 7, 2002.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means by Mark Danner. APRIL 30, 2009.

Egypt: The Misunderstood Agony by Yasmine El Rashidi. SEPTEMBER 26, 2013. [so]

The Responsibility of Intellectuals: A Special Supplement by Noam Chomsky. FEBRUARY 23, 1967.

Politics in Vietnam by Joseph M. Kraft. JUNE 23, 1966. [so]

Getting Out of Vietnam: A Special Supplement. SEPTEMBER 16, 1965.

Report from Vietnam I. The Home Program by Mary McCarthy. APRIL 20, 1967. [so]

Fascinating Fascism by Susan Sontag. FEBRUARY 6, 1975.

35th Anniversary Issue. OCTOBER 22, 1998. [C-Span interview with Barbara Epstein][video of commemorative event]

It's Stolen Your Face by Susan Sontag. Omnibus. 23rd NOVEMBER 1978.

Shooting America by Susan Sontag. APRIL 18, 1974. [so]

Photography Unlimited by Susan Sontag. JUNE 23, 1977. [so]

In the Wilds of Leopardi by Tim Parks. March 28, 2013, 2:38 p.m.

Our Moloch by Garry Wills. December 15, 2012, 5:25 p.m.

1789—2011? by Robert Darnton. February 22, 2011, 9 a.m.

The Lost Pleasure of Browsing by Charles Rosen. October 13, 2009, 4:12 p.m.

In Another Country by Gore Vidal. JULY 22, 1971. [so]

Sexual Politics: A Surprising Examination of Society's Most Arbitrary Folly by Kate Millet. Book. 1970.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Book. 1963.

Patriarchal Attitudes : Women in Society by Eva Figes. Book. 1971.

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. Book. 1970.

The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov by Edmund Wilson. JULY 15, 1965. [letters back and forth linked at bottom]

The Question of Orientalism by Bernard Lewis. JUNE 24, 1982. [so]

Orientalism: An Exchange by Edward W. Said and Oleg Grabar, reply by Bernard Lewis. AUGUST 12, 1982.

A Man Half Full by Norman Mailer. DECEMBER 17, 1998.

10th Anniversary. OCTOBER 18, 1973.

That War Again by A.J.P. Taylor. JANUARY 16, 1969. [so]

Talking of Michelangelo by Ernst Gombrich. JANUARY 20, 1977. [so]

Picasso and L’Amour Fou by John Richardson. DECEMBER 19, 1985. [so]

Deep Time and Ceaseless Motion by Stephen Jay Gould. MAY 14, 1981. [so]

The Megrims by W.H. Auden. JUNE 3, 1971. [so]

The Lost Moments of History by Hugh Trevor-Roper. OCTOBER 27, 1988. [so]

To the Reader by The Editors. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

Off-Centaur by Jonathan Miller. FEBRUARY 1, 1963.

How Politics Are Haunted by the Past by Jeremy Waldron. FEBRUARY 21, 2013. [so]

Glories of Classicism by Stephen Greenblatt and Joseph Leo Koerner. FEBRUARY 21, 2013. [so]

Torture and Truth by Mark Danner. JUNE 10, 2004.

Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story by Mark Danner. OCTOBER 7, 2004.

September 11 at the Movies by Daniel Mendelsohn. SEPTEMBER 21, 2006. [so] [Town Hall reading]

On ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ by Michael Chabon. JUNE 9, 2005. [so] [Town Hall reading]

Obama’s Big Success—Sort Of by Michael Tomasky. APRIL 25, 2013. [so]

He Who Makes The Rules by Haley Sweetland Edwards. Washingtonian Monthly. March/ April 2013.

Tony Judt: A Final Victory by Jennifer Homans. MARCH 22, 2012.

Prometheus Bound derived from Aeschylus by Robert Lowell. JULY 13, 1967. [so] [featured poem]

On Robert Lowell by Derek Walcott. MARCH 1, 1984. [so]

New York: Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion. JANUARY 17, 1991. [so]

What Future for Occupy Wall Street? by Michael Greenberg. FEBRUARY 9, 2012. [so]

The Question of Machiavelli by Isaiah Berlin. NOVEMBER 4, 1971.

On the Pursuit of the Ideal by Isaiah Berlin. MARCH 17, 1988. [so]

A Genius for Friendship by Timothy Garton. Ash SEPTEMBER 23, 2004. [so]

The Suicide Bombers by Avishai Margalit. JANUARY 16, 2003.

Israel: A Partial Indictment by Avishai Margalit. JUNE 28, 1984. [so]

Egypt: The Misunderstood Agony by Yasmine El Rashidi. SEPTEMBER 26, 2013. [so]

What We Learned in Tahrir by Yasmine El Rashidi. December 11, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

Five Poems by Heberto Padilla by Heberto Padilla, translated by Mark Strand. OCTOBER 23, 1969. [so]

The End of Cambodia? by William Shawcross. JANUARY 24, 1980. [so]

Life in the New Vietnam by Andre Gelinas. MARCH 17, 1977. [so]

Up Against the Wall in Prague by Ronald Steel. SEPTEMBER 26, 1968.

How I Came to Dissent by Andrei D. Sakharov, translated by Guy Daniels. MARCH 21, 1974. [so]

In Answer to Solzhenitsyn by Andrei D. Sakharov, translated by Guy Daniels. JUNE 13, 1974. [so]

[The ten articles by Andrei Sakharov from while he was a dissident.]

The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Václav Havel. JUNE 22, 1995. [so]

Kicking the Door by Václav Havel, translated from the French by Tamar Jacoby. MARCH 22, 1979.

Revolution: The Springtime of Two Nations by Timothy Garton Ash. JUNE 15, 1989. [so]

Ten Years After by Timothy Garton Ash. NOVEMBER 18, 1999. [so]

On James Baldwin by Darryl Pinckney. APRIL 4, 2013. [audio and further annotation of articles in the talk]

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, filmed by François Truffaut. 1966.

A Project For The Employment Of Authors by Samuel Johnson. Universal Visiter. Book. April, 1756.


Robert Silvers, editor
Rea Haderman, publisher

The Filmmakers gratefully acknowledge the participation of:

Mary Beard
Ian Buruma
Michael Chabon
Mark Danner
Joann Didion
Hugh Eakin
Yasmine El Rashidi
Jason Epstein
Timothy Garton Ash
Michael Greenberg
Zoe Heller
Jennifer Homans
Avishai Margalit
Daniel Mendelsohn
Darryl Pinckney
Keith Thomas
Colm Toibin
John Ryle
Oliver Sacks
Derek Walcott

The following individuals appear in archive footage

Barbara Epstein, co-editor

W.H. Auden
James Baldwin
Isaiah Berlin
Noam Chomsky
Stephen Jay Gould
Elizabeth Hardwick
Vaclav Havel
Robert Lowell
Norman Mailer
Mary McCarthy
Andrei Sakharov
Susan Sontag
Gore Vidal

Portraits by Brigitte Lacombe.

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