Always filled with interesting pieces, the New York Review of Books' new issue is particularly chock-a-block with familiar names, though slightly out of context: We've got Nicholas Kristof wondering "Aid: Can It Work?" (Kristof admits challenges, but the man is nothing if not an optimist; his column alone is evidence of that, but also his belief in making an individual difference: Halfway through we learn that "For my entire adult life, I've sponsored help for children through Plan USA, based in Rhode Island, and I've visited 'my' children in the Philippines and in Sudan. It's a modest program, but it helps keep children in school, buys them school uniforms, and helps them drink clean water from wells" and he cites a few other people and organizations making a difference). Frank Rich also strikes out for more column inches in his "Ideas For Democrats?" which looks at various "back-on-track" plans by the likes of Gary Hart, Ted Kennedy, Rahm Emanuel and Peter Beinart (though he spends the lion's share of the piece bashing Beinart: "Beinart's hyperventilating over the threat of a supposedly resurgent left is a reminder of the habits of mind that led him to the mistakes this book wants to apologize for. Once again, worst-case logic has become a filter, preventing him from looking clearly at the evidence") (hat tip: Ankush Khardori). Finally Joan Didion meticulously examines and takes apart Dick Cheney in "Cheney: The Fatal Touch" which looks at the careful language Cheney uses to shrug off his real motivations and imply passivity in the path he took to where he is (for good measure, NYRB stalwart Tony Judt examines how Bush has unfurled his policies with relative impunity in the London Review of Books, which almost counts).
As long as we're namechecking, a quick note on this weekend's New York Times Book Review, and the preponderance of Slate-ees in its pages: Jack Shafer on "It's News To Me" by Ed Kosner; Stephen Metcalf on Greil Marcus' "The Shape Of Things To Come"; Troy Patterson on "Chuck Klosterman IV" (you don't get your name boldfaced when you name your book after yourself); and Play mainstay Bryan Curtis on Adam Felber's "Schrödinger's Ball."
And as long as we're on the subject, two things: (1) It's odd that J.D. Biersdorfer is ID'd as writing the Q&A column for the Circuits section of The Times — did they bring it back?; and (2) Tony Scott, we beg to disagree: "The United States Of Arugula" is an excellent title. Don't you be mesclun around with puns!