m_topn picture
Atlantic Monthly Sidebar

Go to this issue's Table of Contents.

J A N U A R Y  2 0 0 1 

77 North Washington Street

OVER the past five years readers of The Atlantic Monthly have grown familiar with the work of Benjamin Schwarz. He has written articles and reviews for the magazine on a range of subjects: World War I, the history of the American South, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. foreign policy. Schwarz's article "The Diversity Myth," which argued that Americans underestimate the intractable nature of ethnic strife around the world because we ignore or misunderstand our own brutal history, was The Atlantic's cover story in May of 1995. With his wife, Christina, a novelist, Schwarz has also written about Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, traveling in the Big Bend region of Texas, and what the advent of casino money and a casino culture has done to life in and around Tunica, Mississippi.

A few months ago Schwarz accepted an invitation to join the magazine's staff as a senior editor, moving to Boston from his home near Los Angeles. One of his tasks will be to expand the portion of the magazine devoted to criticism of various kinds, especially about books; an expanded books section will be evident next month. "The Atlantic's books section can strike a perfect balance," Schwarz says. "It doesn't have the same pressing need as a newspaper's weekly book review or a daily Web site to survey the literary scene comprehensively, but at the same time its discussions are going to be fresher than those in a quarterly, which too often are engaged in debates already tabled."

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the range of his interests, Ben Schwarz has pursued a remarkably varied career. He holds a B.A. (1985) and an M.A. (1989) in history from Yale, and was a Fulbright scholar at Oxford. He has been a foreign-policy analyst at The Brookings Institution and at the Rand Corporation, and was the executive editor of World Policy Journal, where his chief mission was to bolster the coverage of cultural issues, international economics, and military affairs. He is alert to a spectrum of political and philosophical views -- he writes for both the liberal Nation and the conservative The National Interest, and for many other publications. He won the 1999 National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in book criticism.

"The Atlantic's books section has long treated history more fully and seriously than any other general-interest magazine's, and we'll continue to do so," Schwarz says. "But we plan to devote the same care and attention to fiction and literary biography. And we'll also be giving readers thoughtful, clever, sometimes barbed, culturally oriented criticism that speculates on the social causes and contexts of literary phenomena -- focusing on what George Orwell, the master of such criticism, called 'the external conditions that make certain writers popular at certain times.'"


Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; January 2001; 77 North Washington Street - 01.01; Volume 287, No. 1; page 4.