Viewed through the lens of dogmatic perversions in the Soviet Union and China, communism is often seen as the antithesis of American society; an atheistic dystopia founded by Karl Marx, one of the post-Enlightenment's wayward secular philosophers. But Marx came from a deeply religious background — generations of rabbis on both sides — and his original motivation lay in that most Christian of principles: helping humanity's downtrodden.
Herman Koch's new novel The Dinner is a meal that may give you indigestion, but you'll relish the burn. The book begins with two couples meeting for dinner in a posh Amsterdam restaurant: Paul Lohman, the entertainingly bilious narrator, his brother Serge, a rising politician almost certain to become prime minister in the next election, and their wives. But the dinner conversation is grim, even shocking. Each couple has a teenage son, and the two boys have committed a ghastly crime — a crime that's been captured on grainy viral video.
Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Robert Frost, famous for such poems as "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Road Not Taken." Fans of Frost's works have another reason to pay special attention to his legacy this week: Jonathan Reichert, professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, has just donated a rare collection of Frost materials to the university.
Over the past six months, the headlines from Aleppo, Syria, have been horrifying. As the conflict between rebel forces and the government continues, the city has been overrun by tanks and artillery, and assaulted by shots, explosions and fires.
But Aleppo's present belies a much richer past. It's Syria's largest city, and one of the world's oldest continually inhabited urban areas. Over the centuries, it has served as a major crossroads for trade and commerce.