Martin Peretz: What I Read

The ever-feisty editor emeritus of The New Republic talks with us from Tel Aviv

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is drawn from a conversation with Martin Peretz, editor emeritus of The New Republic, currently residing in Tel Aviv. 

My homepage is Ha'aretz, so that's the first thing I see in the morning. It makes me very angry, but I read it because it's an introduction to where most American pundits get their biased views of Israel. I think it is actually the intellectual center of anti-Zionist thought in our time. So I get up and take a shower and bristle.

Then I read The Jerusalem Post, which of course has its problems, too. And then, but not until then, I go down to my corner coffeehouse and up the street and I buy Ha'aretz in hard copy, The Jerusalem Post, and with Ha'aretz comes The International Herald-Tribune, which is a life-saver for me. And sometimes, but not always, they have the Financial Times, and more often they have The Wall Street Journal. So I'm abreast of what's happening.

People send me things, you know from odd places. Of course I read The New Republic every day and I saw yesterday what I think was a very interesting story--that Robert Mugabe was among the honored guests at the Vatican ceremony for the beatification of Pope John Paul. It's fascinating how this hyper-moral church--and I don't mean that sarcastically--is involved with Robert Mugabe.

I don't have a TV in my Tel Aviv apartment. I do have a television at home in Cambridge but I don't know how to work it and I don't have a TV in my New York apartment. And I'm not on Facebook or any of the other communication vehicles so I guess I'm sort of out of it, there. And I also write letters in longhand and receive letters in longhand.

I subscribe to Dissent magazine. It's a socialist magazine, a democratic socialist magazine. It's edited by Michael Walzer and an old student of mine, Michael Kazin. When I'm at home I read The Boston Globe just to remind myself that there are really painful newspapers. I just read a wonderful article. It probably hasn't appeared yet, but I just read the manuscript. My daughter spent ten days in Italy looking at Berlusconi for the coming issue of Vanity Fair. It's a very informative riot.

I go to concerts, and Tel Aviv is a wonderful place for dance. It's now a real center of avant-garde dance. I don't know a lot about dance but I appreciate it and my eyes are much sharper than they used to be. I see things that I wouldn't have seen before. I also saw a wonderful opera. The Cape Town Opera Company came to Tel Aviv and it had a long-running show of Porgy and Bess.

Let's see... what books. I'm reading a book by a friend called Oren Harman and it's called The Price of Altruism. It's sort of a biography of a man called George Price who was a dazzling scientist in many fields and set about trying to find out how come altruism has survived the forces described in the Darwinian revolution. Actually the book just won the Los Angeles Times 2010 Book Prize for science.
And then I am reading Jerome Groopman's book How Doctors Think. I've always wondered how doctors think about a multitude of problems that come up and how you diagnose when the diagnosis is mostly in percentages. Groopman is an  oncologist at Harvard Medical School. Another book that I'm reading is by Timur Kuran, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. That's great, because there's so much crap being written about how the Middle East tomorrow will be a democratic society.
I read during the day, after I take a long walk along Tel Aviv's promenade. There's a 15 kilometer promenade from south Tel Aviv all the way up. Anyway, I don't walk 15 kilometers, but I walk seven or eight, and then when my body is tired but my mind has not been exercised, that's when I read.
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