Commentary

Power and the Harper’s Letter on Justice and Open Debate

Yesterday afternoon, Harper’s Magazine published an online letter, signed by 150 prominent journalists, novelists, academics, and other public intellectuals, condemning what they call “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.” This comes less than a …

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Uncategorized

“says he’s isolated & wants to destroy the world of Injustice”

I finished reading the “Cuba” section of Allen Ginsberg’s Iron Curtain Journals this morning, which is one of the most interesting first-person accounts of life during the Cold War I have ever encountered. The whole thing reads like an intellectual spy thriller, complete with nuclear tensions, a Marxist-Leninist police state, undercover informants, illicit sex, and …

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Uncategorized

“But then my Servant who I had intended to take down with me, deceiv’d me.”

Reading Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is a depressing experience, even under the best of circumstances. But read under quarantine, with healthcare and economic systems in collapse and hundreds of thousands of deaths expected by summer, the novel assumes a degree of realism that feels positively oppressive. Perhaps this feeling is rooted …

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News & Notes

Misanthropic Humanism and the Politics of Comic Futility

Kurt Vonnegut owes a good measure of his popularity, both as novelist and public intellectual, to his gift for treating the most depressing aspects of postmodern American life with cheerful contempt. His steadfast good humor renders dissident fictions palatable for mainstream audiences, while also appealing to those more politically active readers who are convinced the …

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News & Notes

Singularity and Multitude in Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

The fraught relationship between global capitalism and cultural identity looms large in the work of contemporary Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid. His novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, for example, tells the story of Changez, a young Pakistani man who attends Princeton University on scholarship before going to work for Underwood Samson, a high-powered asset valuation firm in …

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