Autumn leaves

City Journal — the quarterly publication of the Manhattan Institute — has posted its Autumn issue online. I’m a subscriber, so I look forward to reviewing the issue at leisure when it arrives. It is the most beautifully produced political magazine in the country (subscribe here).

More importantly, the issue is full of the excellent, longer political articles that are its stock in trade. Manhanttan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald’s article on the Mexican government’s contribution to our crisis of illegal immigration explores an angle that is left dangling in most accounts of this issue: “Mexico’s undiplomatic diplomats.”

On a related note, Theodore Dalrymple (the physician Anthony Daniels) brings a clinician’s skills to his examination of the problem of immigration and national identity in Britain: “The suicide bombers among us.” Dalrymple observes the contribution of popular culture (including the BBC) to the problem. Reviewing one of his recent books, Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote of Dalrymple: “Dalrymple has acquired a following on the sarcastic right; if anything, it is the thoughtful left that should be reading him.” I think everyone should be reading him.

City Journal has also distinguished itself by regularly publishing essays on popular culture that meet the same high standards as its political articles. Over the past few years the magazine has published several such essays by Stefan Kanfer. In the current issue, Harry Stein reviews the career of the distinguished director Elia Kazan: “Justice to Elia Kazan.” Kazan was of course the original director of “Death of a Salesman” as well as of such great films as “On The Waterfront,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “East of Eden.”

Kazan’s directorial work inspired his actors to wring every ounce of emotion and then some out of their roles. When Warren Beatty stood up for Kazan at the Academy Awards ceremony in which Kazan received his long overdue recognition for lifetime achievement (discussed by Stein), Beatty stood apart from the Hollywood herd that shunned Kazan in tribute to what Kazan had done for Beatty in “Splendor in the Grass.” He made Beatty look like a serious actor. Stein’s timely essay focuses on the bloody crossroads where art and politics meet in Kazan’s career.

City Journal managing editor Brian Anderson closes out the festivities with the good news: “Conservatives in Hollywood?!” Anderson’s essay is full of glad tidings. Anderson mentions in passing the work of novelist screenwriter Andrew Klavan:

The PC concerns, internalized in scriptwriters’ heads even before any advocate complains, can produce bizarre incoherence. Novelist and screenwriter Andrew Klavan’s True Crime is about an innocent white man on death row, railroaded because officials needed to prove that the death penalty isn’t racially biased. “The only one who figures this out is this politically incorrect journalist who can see through the B.S.,” Klavan relates. The gripping 1999 movie version, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as journalist Steve Everett, transforms the innocent death-row inmate into a black man (played by Isaiah Washington). The movie works, even if it takes the anti-PC edge off Klavan’s novel.

But the screenplay leaves in a sequence depicting a black woman confronting journalist Everett for caring only about injustices against whites and not blacks—even though the movie now revolves around the reporter’s relentless quest to exonerate a wrongly convicted African American. “That scene no longer makes any sense,” Klavan laughs. “The screenwriter apparently found the original politically inappropriate.”

Klavan has a sense of humor; he’s also an incredibly smart guy. Anderson’s reference to Klavan caught my attention because Klavan is a contributor to the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here). Klavan investigates two books charting the rise of atheism. He discovers that Oxford theologian Alistair McGrath, observing this historical phenomenon, sees the wave of atheism gradually receding.

Sam Harris, on the other hand, would immolate religion to usher forth a future of “economic, cultural, and moral integration.” To this end, Klavan reminds us that the most concerted attempts at creating atheistic cults -— Communism and Nazism -— resulted in the murder of tens of millions of human beings. Klavan’s review is “Imagine there’s no heaven.”


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