- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

Having spent March in Paris — gray, wet and riotous — I returned last weekend to Washington to find my living room floor strewn with a month’s worth of magazines.

A welcome sight it was, too. Paris may have many a beguiling quality when cops and young people aren’t beating up on one another, but as far as magazines go, it’s a pretty barren scene. There’s Paris Match, of course, plus a number of French knockoffs akin to such celebrity-driven publications as Us and People — with many featuring French rock stars who aren’t yet known outside the borders of the hexagon, as the French like to refer to their native land.

I wasn’t shocked, but I certainly was surprised to discover on newsstands that worthy French fashion monthly Elle showing a healthy-looking young woman, arms flung out to both sides, bare down to her bikini bottom. Her figure was more Paris Hilton skinny than anything along the lines of a Pamela Anderson. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to see that much bare skin turning up — larger than life — all over the walls of bus shelters around town.

Moreover, the rich diversity of American magazines was refreshing after a month of mag deprivation. The April issue of Harper’s, a publication that leans pretty much leftward, carries a lively forum bringing together four men knowledgeable on matters military and political. During a recent meal at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Arlington, they discussed and argued about “the unthinkable” — an American coup d’etat.

Given that, as the introduction to the piece says, “the linchpin of any coup d’etat is the participation, or at least the support, of a nation’s military officers,” it seemed reasonable for Harper’s to bring together men well qualified to discuss the state of America’s military culture, its relationship with the wider society and the “steadfastness of its loyalty to the ideals of democracy and to the United States Constitution.”

It makes for quite a read. Take Edward Luttwark, for instance — who, among his many other books, wrote one titled “Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook.” He says he has planned such a coup for other countries. “But it just wouldn’t work here. You could go down the list and take over these headquarters, that headquarters, the White House, the Defense Department, the television, the radio, and so on. You could arrest all the leaders, detain or kill off their families. And you would have accomplished nothing.” Yet the thinking of the group hardly leaves it there. It’s a compelling article.

While you still have Harper’s in your hands, take a look at “The Fraternal Corrections: Opus Dei and the Catholic Church” by Terry Eagleton. With the film based on that everlasting best-seller “The Da Vinci Code” arriving in movie theaters May 19, you may enjoy boning up on that organization and its pivotal role in the book and film. Mr. Eagleton actually is reviewing a recent book, “Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church,” by John L. Allen Jr. It’s a pretty entertaining piece, and Mr. Eagleton gives you a lot more solid material than what you get from Dan Brown in his novel.

• • •

The March 27 New Yorker has a worthy and moving tribute by Calvin Trillin to his late wife, who often appeared in his books, in “Alice, Off the Page.” He’s neither maudlin nor sentimental, but he does convey quite beautifully how life with her must have been. He concludes by sharing a thought she often expressed about how lucky she was to have survived cancer for 25 years in spite of the fairly rough treatments for the disease. “I try to think of it in those terms, too,” Mr. Trillin writes. “Some days I can, and some days I can’t.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Louis Menard reviews Francis Fukuyama’s latest book, “America at the Crossroads.” Mr. Fukuyama, who delivered a series of Castle Lectures at Yale last spring, has since expanded his book in which he proposes a new approach to foreign policy, terming it “realistic Wilsonianism.” Should you wish to pursue his theories further, you can pick up the spring issue of American Interest. (Mr. Fukuyama is chairman of its editorial board.) The lead essay, written by him and titled “The Paradox of International Action,” is adapted from a chapter in that very book, “America at the Crossroads.” By the end, he tells us “what genuine U.S. global leadership requires.”

• • •

Wind up your month’s magazine reading with the April 3 edition of New Republic, an issue that may just ruffle a few feathers. The cover story, “Father Con,” by Damon Linker (paired with artwork that’s clever but somewhat unkind) claims to be “a critical examination of a religious radical.” That would be the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, who also has a new book forthcoming: “Catholic Matters,” timed for that most sacred month for devout Christians, remembrance of the Resurrection.

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