Contents | May 2001

The Atlantic Monthly | May 2001
In This Issue

hen Jeffrey Tayler settled in Moscow, in 1993, he was optimistic about Russia's prospects for reform and prosperity. No longer. In this month's cover story ("Russia Is Finished") Tayler explains how centuries of political repression and other deeply rooted factors have created a culture of apathy and corruption that all but ensures Russia's descent into social chaos and strategic irrelevance. Tayler is the author of Siberian Dawn (1999) and Facing the Congo (2000). Articles he wrote for The Atlantic are included in Houghton Mifflin's Best American Travel Writing (2000).

The first edition of Peter Mark Roget's thesaurus, in 1852, marked the culmination of an epic lexicographical effort that may have permanently altered the course of the English language—perhaps for the worse. Simon Winchester ("Word Imperfect") makes a case for consigning Roget's project to the dustbin of history. Winchester has written more than a dozen books, most notably the best-selling The Professor and the Madman (1998). His next book, The Map That Changed the World, about the birth of modern geology, will be published in August.

The "greatest gambling mind in the world" may belong to a Minnesotan with an IQ of around 70. Jack El-Hai ("One Smart Bookie") sketches a profile of the bookmaker Max Weisberg, whose inability to tell right from wrong has, in effect, given him immunity from prosecution. El-Hai is working on a biography of the lobotomy pioneer and practitioner Walter J. Freeman.

You've seen it before. You'll see it again. Ian Frazier ("Techno-Thriller") offers a sneak preview of something that's coming soon to a theater near you. Frazier's last article for The Atlantic described the pleasures of sulking. He is at work on a book about Siberia.

Anthony Doerr ("The Hunter's Wife") lives in Boise, Idaho. His first book of short stories, The Shell Collector, will be published next year.

Some 15,000 items end up in Grand Central Terminal's Lost and Found each year. What happens to them? Richard Rubin investigates, in the inaugural installment of an occasional photo feature called Special Collections.

This past February, Avery Dulles, the scion of a great establishment family, became the first American theologian to be made a Roman Catholic cardinal. J. Bottum ("One Establishment Meets Another") reports from Rome. Also in Notes & Dispatches this month: Benjamin Ryder Howe, from San Salvador, on what happens when a country abandons its own currency and switches to the dollar; Bill Donahue, from Portland, Oregon, on intimate surveillance in the nation's highest-tech senior home; Peter Maass, from Mogadishu, on how Africa's Mad Max zone became the ultimate experiment in unfettered capitalism; and Carl M. Cannon, from Washington, D.C., on Presidents and baseball.

The secret to hosting a successful dinner party lies not in what you serve your guests but in where you seat them. Mary Killen ("Putting Guests in Their Place") offers practical tips from the halls of high society. Killen, an advice columnist for The Spectator, in London, writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph and the British edition of House & Garden.

Though governed now by China, Hong Kong and Macau have managed to retain their cosmopolitan character—so concludes Jamie James ("Hong Kong and Macau Reflagged"). James's first novel, Andrew and Joey, will be published this winter.

On May 3 National Public Radio's All Things Considered will mark its thirtieth anniversary. Bill McKibben ("Everything You Need to Know") looks back on the show's three decades and on the formula behind its enduring appeal. McKibben is currently a fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life, at Harvard University. His most recent book is Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously (2000).

The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, and Breathing Lessons helped to establish Anne Tyler's reputation as an astute and humane chronicler of the grief that often underlies the commonplace. Katharine Whittemore ("Ordinary People") considers Tyler's literary reputation and the disconcerting lightness of her new novel, Back When We Were Grownups. Whittemore is a senior editor at FamilyFun. Her writing has appeared in Smithsonian, Lingua Franca, and The American Prospect.

The caustic, anarchic wit of Auberon Waugh was one of the defining features that gave the British magazines The Spectator and Private Eye much of their zest during the 1970s and 1980s. Geoffrey Wheatcroft ("Bron and His 'Affec. Papa'") looks back on Waugh's career and on the influence that his complex relationship with his father, Evelyn, exerted on his life and writing. Wheatcroft is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic. His article on the decline of the BBC appeared in the March issue.

Something startling happened to Philip Roth when he reached his sixties: at an age at which most authors begin to decline, Roth began writing his best books. Jason Cowley ("The Nihilist") reviews Roth's new novel, The Dying Animal. Cowley is the literary editor of The New Statesman. His first novel, Unknown Pleasures, was published last June.

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 2001; In This Issue - 01.05; Volume 287, No. 5; page 8.