By Nathan Bierma
Content & Context
TIMELINE: APRIL 2004
Ten years after the Baath Party cut off his right ear at al-Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, Khalid Abid Nimer returned to the hospital to have his ear restored. One of the first maimed Iraqis to receive an operation in which surgeons construct an ear from cartilage in the rib cage, Nimer kissed his surgeon, saying, "I'm reborn." The past was present elsewhere last month, along with other attempts to redeem it. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts returned the painting "Les Jeunes Amoureux" to the daughter of a Jewish art dealer, after determining that it was one of hundreds the Nazis had stolen from him. After 60 years, the remains of the aircraft of Saint-Exupery, the French writer and aviator who vanished during World War II, were found in the Mediterranean Sea, bringing some resolution to an enduring mystery. A youth who had been missing for seven years was found when a taxpayer recognized her missing-person picture in an IRS booklet. Not all attempted revisions of the past were welcomed; an organization of Holocaust survivors renewed requests for the Mormon church to stop posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims. But other looks back were revealing. A new exhibit at the Paris Police Museum displayed Pablo Picasso's application for French citizenship, which was denied on fears he was a Communist sympathizer. Echoes of the more recent past rang most loudly last month, as government hearings and new books raised the question of what signs of September 11 were evident in the months and years before.
Viscountess Dilhorne, who trained carrier pigeons for British troops during World War II, died at age 93, it was reported last month. Col. Aaron Bank, who helped create the Green Berets, died at 101. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was the first prime minister of Fiji. Estee Lauder was a cosmetics icon. Dr. Rosemary Park was a champion of college education for women. Philip Hamburger covered 14 presidential inaugurations in over 60 years at the New Yorker.
From the New York Times :
SUUTARILA, Finland — Imagine an educational system where children do not start school until they are 7, where spending is a paltry $5,000 a year per student, where there are no gifted programs and class sizes often approach 30. A prescription for failure, no doubt, in the eyes of many experts, but in this case a description of Finnish schools, which were recently ranked the world's best. Finland topped a respected international survey last year, coming in first in literacy and placing in the top five in math and science. Ever since, educators from all over the world have thronged to this self-restrained country to deconstruct its school system—"educational pilgrims," the locals call them—and, with luck, take home a sliver of wisdom. "We are a little bit embarrassed about our success," said Simo Juva, a special government adviser to the Ministry of Education … The question on people's minds is obvious: how did Finland, which was hobbled by a deep recession in the 1990's, manage to outscore 31 other countries, including the United States?
• Before A-Rod and Jeter, there were J-Creigh and Woodward. That would be James Creighton Jr., the world's first true baseball star, and John B. Woodward, an outfielder who became a Union general in the Civil War. Both played for the Excelsior Club—sort of the Yankees of the early 1860's—and now both reside in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It is there … as the Red Sox [were] gathering in Baltimore for the North American debut of the baseball season, that history buffs assemble[d] for the first organized tour of some extraordinary monuments and their century-old baseball adornments. They mark the resting place of some 200 important figures in the early decades of the game. All but a few of them … are forgotten. But intensive scholarship is showing that the cemetery is the final resting place for … a Who's Who of baseball heroes and dignitaries of the 19th century.
Book News and Essays:
- Minnie Lamberth wins inaugural Paraclete Press Fiction Award at Festival of Faith and Writing (Paraclete press release).
- AAP says sales of religion titles rose 50 percent in 2003, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- British public libraries are in decline, report says, from the London Guardian.
- Are Amazon reviews true book critics? From the Washington Post.
- Exploring the first-person plural in literature, by Laura Miller in the New York Times
- Alan Wolfe on four new books on atheism and doubt in America, in the New Republic.
- Tyndale, More and the making of the English Bible, from First Things.
From B&C: Mark Noll on Englishing the Book (excerpt)
James Wood on God's Secretaries in the New Yorker