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Robert Birnbaum

Robert Birnbaum’s Social Security number ends in 2247. He lives in zip code 02465 and area code 617. He was born in the 2nd month of a year in the 20th century. He doesn’t social network (used as a verb) except through his Cuban retriever Beny (named after Beny More, the Frank Sinatra of Cuba). Izzy Birnbaum also has cloud storage and uses electronic mail. He hopes his son Cuba is the second coming of Pudge Rodriguez. He mutters to himself at Our Man In Boston.


An Interview with Francine Prose

June 13, 2014 | Interviews

Even casual readers of literary warhorses the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books will recognize the name Francine Prose. She’s written more than a dozen novels dating back to 1973, from Judah the Pious (Atheneum, 1973) [...]

A Whole Lotta Soul

May 5, 2014 | Criticism

The music closest to my heart (and soul) has been jazz, blues, rumba, son, reggae, soca, R&B, and—later in life—gospel. (This, despite being a godless Jew.) Growing up in Chicago helped. It was home to the powerful WVON (Voice of the N [...]

Making Sausages: Images of Governance

March 14, 2014 | Criticism

During recent snowbound days, I indulged in a bout of binging the second season of House of Cards, the celebrated political drama starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and a brilliantly cast supporting ensemble. Actually, I did the same binge with the [...]

Howard Zinn. Photo by Robert Birnbaum

Howard Zinn: The People’s Historian

February 21, 2014 | Criticism

Historian, activist, playwright, expert witness, and Red Sox fan Howard Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010, leaving a legacy of provocative scholarship and exemplary advocacy for social and economic justice, antimilitarism, and anti-imperialism. [...]

Take Down With Bad Intent: Books on Football

December 5, 2013 | Criticism

  Newton North HS, my son's team | photo by Robert Birnbaum   I am trying to recall if, as a young urban American male, I had any choice in becoming attached to the singularly northamericano sport of football. It's not like my local [...]

JFK Is Still Dead: Another Historiographical Moment

November 18, 2013 | Criticism

It was late in my seventeenth year, as a junior in high school, that I experienced the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I recall the first few hours that the news was spreading because I think it was the only time that I shared the experience with [...]

Bird, Duke, Mingus, and All That Jazz

October 18, 2013 | Criticism

  Lester "Prez" Young's Pork Pie Hat by Herm Leonard   Though I came early under the sway of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and the inimitable Diz and Bird (Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), I was never much interested [...]

Thousands of Words: Galleries in Books

September 6, 2013 | Criticism

One wonders if pop culture's preoccupation with novelty, the dazzling shine of newness, its inescapable immediacy—mixed with an endless outpouring of images—has diminished the import of photographic art. In a visually top-heavy information stream [...]

Reading the Pictures: Graphic Novels

August 7, 2013 | Criticism

For my generation, comic books received a bad rap. Parents were convinced comics were a contributing factor to a great epidemic of juvenile delinquency and a concomitant claim that the readers of comics were, by definition, stupid. It was not until t [...]

The Beginning of the End for Native Americans

July 10, 2013 | Criticism

As part of the general tumult for social and economic justice that accompanied the late 1960s anti-war movement (which I covered, in part, earlier), there was heightened interest and awareness in the genocidal march of history that decimated the na [...]

A Bookish Dissidence: A History of U.S. Alternative Media

June 5, 2013 | Criticism

  "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations." —George Orwell "More newspapermen have been ruined by self-importance than by liquor." —Walter Lippman In 1970, living on the nor [...]

Mayday, Mayday: Books About Activism

May 9, 2013 | Criticism

"The law in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."  —Anatole France“Those who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness.” — [...]

An Interview With Jessica Francis Kane

April 12, 2013 | Interviews

Author Jessica Francis Kane (@JessicaFKane) was born in Berkeley, California; grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and graduated from Yale. Her first short story collection, Bending Heaven, was published in the US (Counterpoint, 2002) and the UK (C [...]

A Syllabus of Fakery

April 3, 2013 | Criticism

Because April 1, the day known as April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day—along with May Day—is my favorite holiday, I have often wondered how it has escaped the commercialization or monetization that accompanies almost every other holiday in th [...]

March Madness for Book Lovers

March 5, 2013 | Criticism

It's March and the Great AMERICAN NOISE MACHINE is ratcheting up the decibels, promoting the hysteria known worldwide as March Madness. The 75-year-old basketball tournament, which began with 8 teams competing, has turned into an international spec [...]

Unusual Books: January 2013

January 1, 2013 | Criticism

Editor's note: We are very happy to announce that Robert Birnbaum, longtime contributor to The Morning News and Identity Theory, will also be joining VQR on a monthly basis to share a selection of unusual finds. Look for him the first Tuesday of ev [...]