Friday, July 26, 2013

In U.S.-Russian Relations, Another Desperate Struggle over the Rights of Political Dissidents

Remember 1989?  I technically wasn't born yet, but I hear there was some killer pastel spandex going around and some rockin' electric synthesizer music.  It was also a year in which the United States was offering political asylum to Russian soldiers who broke the technical law of their nation in favor of the higher law of conscience by deserting its armed forces in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Frat-Boy Feminism?

With all due respect to our devoted readership among spam websites in Russia and Palau, I think it is time we attract some fresh eyes to this blog by talking about something everyone loves to discuss: the sexual habits of 20-somethings.  Before delving into the subject, however, of which Matt Yglesias and Ross Douthat have kindly reminded us with a recent series of posts, we have to enter some basic caveats.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Sheepdog's Revenge

"I was desired to raise and hold the platform on its central balance, whilst he [...] threw a noose over the neck of one of the Wolves. We hauled it up motionless with fright, as if dead, its disabled legs swinging to and fro [....] Letting him drop to the ground, the farmer left him to the dogs [...] on which the curs rushed upon it, and satiated their vengeance on the destroyer of their master's flock."
~ John Audubon, "Pitting of the Wolves," Collected in Nature Writing: The Tradition in English.

Oh wolfie! I hate ta’ see the form o’ yee
On grassy rainy quilted lea.
Throo’ nights o' dense mystiferous fog
Ah stan’ guard here, this ol’ sheep dog.
Ah hate ye, wolf, Ah ken ye’ would,
Given ‘arf a chance, eat all me brood!
An’ thro’ slavering jaws ye would ha’ done
Wi’ ewes and rams and li’ll wee ‘uns
And drinking up yon sheeplings dear
Ye would belike cause many a’ tear.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Review of George Scialabba's "For the Republic": Part Two

II.  Foreign Policy

Virtually alone among the left-wing intelligentsia, George Scialabba came around early to the right ideas on U.S. foreign policy and stuck by them, through fair weather and foul.  This involved not only emancipating himself from the militarist and interventionist assumptions of both political parties (achieved no doubt through a reading of Chomsky and I.F. Stone), but also, (let us admit with a grudging nod toward the wisdom of the Euston Manifesto crowd), guarding against a common tendency among anti-imperialists to apologize for the crimes of whatever regime happens to be arrayed against the United States in a given geopolitical imbroglio.  This passion for moral consistency Scialabba picked up from the small number of courageous Cold War intellectuals-- Orwell, Silone, Dwight MacDonald-- who strove not to take sides in that conflict or to swallow any of the pious hypocrisies of either the "Worker's Paradise" or the "countries of the free world" (you know-- like Franco's Spain and apartheid South Africa).  Scialabba has held to their principles admirably.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Review of George Scialabba's "For the Republic": Part One

I was going to start this review with a brief meditation on the nature of book reviewing as an art-form-- just a paragraph or two-- but that turned into a rambling and semi-coherent post in its own right before I ever got around to talking about Mr. Scialabba, so I will not attempt to make any clever general observations at the outset today but plunge directly into the matter at hand.  But just to show that I'm not blind to the irony of ruthlessly mocking the art of book reviewing the night before writing a review myself, let me just announce that this one is not above any of the flaws of the genre I described in the previous post.  In the four-part scheme I laid out there, Scialabba's book is in the "good books written for a moral purpose" sector, and accordingly, this review will be of the "I wish I had written this book and describing it is as close as I can come to doing so" type.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Preface to Book Reviewing

Reader-- beware the book reviewer; he is a scheming and duplicitous beast.  He may aspire to many things in practicing his craft, but rest assured that reviewing books is not one of them.  This is true for the single and tragic reason that the vast majority of books published in any given year, on any given subject, are no good at all.  Odds are that you have already read books just like them and will do so again, and you will gain nothing by spending time on them.  If they are fiction, they probably tell you the story of an idealistic young MFA student who studies poststructuralism in grad school and has an affair with an older woman or man (features, surely, of the universal human drama).  If they are nonfiction, they probably contain one familiar idea which is adequately conveyed in the introduction, or even in the title (saving you the trouble of even turning to the front flap of the dust jacket).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

“Bros”: A Review of the Latest High-Concept Drama Brought to You by Your Local Premium Cable Channel

“Mesmerizing…. Powerful…. Spellbinding….”
~Webster’s New World Dictionary

“The great fictional tapestry of our time.  The phrase ‘voice of a generation’ is often used capriciously and insincerely, so I hesitate to employ it on this occasion, but I will say this—decades from now, when they ask, ‘what was it like?’, they need only watch ‘Bros’ to know the truth.”
~ Drunk guy at Alpha Delt party in transit to toilet

“It’s like if you took War and Peace or Life and Fate or A Dance to the Music of Time or Remembrance of Things Past or something else I haven’t read and made it into an hour-long TV show with no commercials and lots of sex scenes and nudity and none of the boring parts and then had journalists in highbrow magazines get paid to watch it and host web forums about it.  That’s what it’s like.”
~The Atlantis

“The credo of the new post-feminism.”
~ The New York Review of Texts