Robert Service knows his subject. Assessing the Soviet Union’s demise in The End of the Cold War: 1985-1991, he starts by outlining Ronald Reagan’s fundamental change in U.S. policy. “[T]he assumption since the end of the Second World War,” he writes, “had been that the West should only try to contain the USSR; no US President had ever truly endeavored to reverse the expansion of Soviet influence around the world. Ronald Wilson Reagan was determined to change things.”
If I had to guess, Prince Hal (later Henry V) was Shakespeare’s favorite character, or at least the one he considered most interesting. The role is certainly Shakespeare’s most outspoken. The wayward prince who transforms himself into a hero-king has more lines and appears in more plays than any other of the Bard’s creations. Within a single play, only Hamlet and Iago have more lines than King Henry has in Henry V. Add in his lines from Henry IV Parts I and II, he surpasses them both.
There’s a line about satire you sometimes hear—a line how all truly great satire, the hilariously brutal stuff, is written by conservatives. Or, at least, a line about how all the best satirists end up expressing deeply conservative ideas.
It’s not exactly true, of course. The claim was born, I think, not so much from an idea about the universal form of satire but from the particularities of the 20th century’s tangled literary politics. When a kind of high liberalism is overwhelmingly dominant, as it has been in English-language cultures for over a hundred years, what other direction is there but conservatism for comic contrariness?
If you walked onto a certain street corner around midnight when Caron Butler was eleven years old, you would have caught him dealing crack to strung-out addicts, making more money in a night than most adults in his neighborhood make each week.
If you had tracked down Butler half his lifetime later, at twenty-two, you would have found him playing for the NBA’s Miami Heat as a rookie small forward. There, he was still making money, to be sure, but he was living a life that inspired his family, his friends, and strangers who marveled at his athletic prowess. What brought Butler from the streets of Racine, Wisconsin, to the heights of athletic stardom?