Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Where the Line Is Drawn, by Raja Shehadeh (New Press).

A Palestinian human-rights lawyer who has written several books about life under the Israeli occupation here focusses on his friendships with Israeli Jews, in particular with the Jung scholar Henry Abramovitch. "I was looking for solace in the midst of the chaos all around, and I found it with Henry," he writes. Over forty years, their friendship has been nurtured through letters, conversations in the Ramallah hills, and, initially, a studious avoidance of politics. Yet increasingly hopeless national politics, intractable identity narratives, and the quotidian humiliations of the occupation come to affect the assumptions and the expectations of friendship. Shehadeh describes with courage and grace the internal struggle to remain fair.

Henry David Thoreau, by Laura Dassow Walls (Chicago). This lucid biography presents a warmer and more socially engaged Thoreau, devoted to his friends and family and fond of belting out sea shanties at parties. He led boating and berrying expeditions, and brought home flowers to decorate his family's house. As a teacher, bucking common practice, he rejected corporal punishment, and took students on field trips, often to his treasured woods. His two-year sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond was, Walls argues, a kind of "performance art." Far from becoming the hermit of popular imagination, Thoreau used the experiment to transform himself into "a new kind of being, that product of modern commerce and communications: a celebrity. …

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