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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Secret Life Of The Banana, by Annie Correal, New York Times

Every week, a ship like this one brings 40 container loads of bananas — or about four million — to the Red Hook terminal, a fifth of the 20 million bananas distributed around New York City each week.

When bananas arrive in New York, they begin a second journey, traveling in a large loop around the city. They may be handled by customs officials in Brooklyn, blasted with a ripening gas in New Jersey, haggled over at an enormous produce market in the Bronx and finally taken in an unmarked truck, at night, to a fruit stand near you.

“If you ever saw what it took …,” said Joe Palumbo, the owner of Top Banana, a wholesaler in the Bronx.

Destiny Averted: Mining The Past To Save The Future, by Joshua M. Silverstein, Los Angeles Review of Books

The frightening new book Destined for War illuminates the shifts in the balance of power on the Pacific Rim that may carry us closer to a new global war, thanks to the inexorable rise of China and its potential — perhaps inevitable — military clash with the United States. A meditation on the perils of war and the challenging possibilities of peace between these two great powers, this book asks uncomfortable questions, provides few comforting answers, and leaves the reader uneasy with dangerous knowledge.

Harvard professor and former Defense Department official Graham Allison lays out a theory to which he has devoted much of his recent scholarship: “Thucydides’s Trap,” which he defines as “the severe structural stress caused when a rising power threatens to upend a ruling one,” as happened when a rising Athens challenged the supremacy of Sparta in ancient Greece — a war chronicled by the Greek historian Thucydides. The ruling power seeks to protect the status quo, while the rising power asserts the prerogatives of its newfound wealth and influence.

'Happiness' Explores The Complex Push And Pull Of Human Relationships, by Nina Martyris, NPR

In her new memoir, Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After, Harpham relives the heartbreak, hope, and terror she experienced as she watched her infant daughter cross the abyss of a life-threatening disease. Into this tension-torqued story of sickness and health, she works in the fraught tale of her own evolving relationship with Morton, loading the memoir with an added intensity.

Hampering Threadlike Pressure: A New Biography Of George Eliot, by Paul Delany, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Great literature has always been the […] Forgiveness of Sin,” W.B. Yeats wrote in 1901, “and when we find it becoming the Accusation of Sin, as in George Eliot […] literature has begun to change into something else.” Eliot’s problem, as Yeats recognized, lay in finding a balance between her conflicting instincts: to sympathize with people and to judge them. Eliot felt it her duty to cultivate “direct fellow-feeling” and be generous toward the little people, even though, as she well knew, they had often failed to be generous to her.

The Eliot problem helps to explain why some 15 biographies of her have appeared over the past 30 years or so. (There doesn’t seem to be any Dickens problem or Trollope problem that requires such obsessive attention.) Philip Davis’s The Transferred Life of George Eliot is the latest entry in this series, and it is a brief for the greatness of George Eliot as a thinker, a novelist, and a person, and thus a justification of literature as she chose to write it. Davis’s particular approach is “to understand [Eliot’s] life through her work because it was to her work that she transferred and dedicated her life.” What defines Eliot, in Davis’s view, is “her commitment to the role of imaginative sympathy in understanding,” which makes her not just a great writer, but also an admirable person.