Tennessee Williams at 100

Tennessee Williams is aging beautifully, now that he's gone. When he died in 1983, his career had all but ground to a halt. More than two decades had passed since his last Broadway success.

Party at the OK Corral

Allan Metcalf's new book claims that the word "OK" is America's greatest invention. This offers a pair of provocations. How can "OK" be an invention? On a certain day, a certain guy just dreamed up the expression that has become the most frequently spoken word on the planet? And even if it is an invention, can one little word really be greater than jazz, baseball, and the telephone? Is it better than The Simpsons?

James Baldwin: Still Angry After All These Years

When I play reverse time travel and imagine historical figures turning up today (what would Ben Franklin say about the iPad? Or Jane Austen about Jersey Shore?, etc.), James Baldwin's name comes to mind. The essayist and novelist spent four decades picking at the scab of American race relations.

Kevin Kline: The Essential Man

After Kline's more than three decades on stage and screen, it's no surprise when he turns in a fine performance. He glides from heavy drama ("The Ice Storm") to really heavy drama ("Sophie's Choice") to silly comedy ("The Pirates of Penzance") to really silly comedy ("A Fish Called Wanda"), to say nothing of all that he's done onstage. Through all these roles, a distinctive Kline-esque style has emerged.

Movies: The Nuclear Option

Lucy Walker has made a horror film about the slaughter and wreckage of a nuclear attack. "Countdown to Zero" has all the essential flourishes of the genre: explosions, screaming crowds, buildings falling to ash. That the film is a documentary—an awfully persuasive one, at that—makes it all the creepier.

Popcorn Movies With Brains

Every summer, the question grows more pertinent: what's so special about special effects? The more potent that Hollywood's CGI tools get, the less exciting and surprising they seem.

Why Obama's Tough Talk About BP Won't Help

From the no-nonsense tone to the rolled-up sleeves, Obama looked and sounded the part of the engaged chief executive, so the pundits who all but ordered him to the gulf should be satisfied. But his implied threat of punitive action is beginning to have a familiar ring—too familiar.

New York in World War II

Seventy years after it sweated and struggled to funnel troops to the front line, New York City has become the front line. Lower Manhattan still bears the scars of the 9/11 attacks, and if the Times Square bomber hadn't been so feckless, midtown would have its own crater and makeshift shrine.

Patriot of the Moment: Walt Whitman

If I were to count up the things I love best about America, this tableau would be high on the list: Walt Whitman, on a street in Washington, exchanging a respectful bow with Abraham Lincoln as the president's carriage rolled by.

Orson Welles: Back From the Dead

Film opens Nov. 25: It must have seemed that black had turned white and upside had turned down when Orson Welles, a man used to being praised as the youngest this and most brilliant that, began to hear himself mocked as "an international joke" and "the youngest living has-been." When Walter Kerr made that savage assessment in 1951, Welles was only 36.

The Novels of Thornton Wilder

When Thornton Wilder wore his glasses, which was much of the time, he had a mild, professorial air—like an owl, some said. Catch him without spectacles, though, and the change was extreme.

Reagan Was Wrong

To conservative Cassandra Henry Fairlie, Republicans sowed their present-day destruction from the start.

Wynton Marsalis Goes to Washington

Even a day later, Wynton Marsalis couldn't explain why he was crying so hard during the speech he gave last Monday night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. "Man, I don't know," he told me. "I'm not really a person that's effusive.

Charles Darwin's Art Attack

Darwin revolutionized our understanding of mankind's origins. Now scientists think they can apply his theories to the source of our creativity without it sounding like a lot of monkey business.

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