February 2011

New fiction from David Foster Wallace

by David Alm February 28, 2011

Well, no — it’s not new — but it’ s new to u s. Th is week’s New Yorker features a previously unreleased short story, titled “Backbone,” by David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008. The author of Infinite Jest allegedly struggled for years to surpass that achievement, which made him very, very famous [...]

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The sour apple

by Annie Murphy February 27, 2011

The irony is no longer lost on me. I am returning from a Comparative Literature conference in New York City on the topic of irony, and I have just realized that I’ve analyzed the city from the outside; I have the mindset of a Southerner-turned-Washingtonian, studying New York City as if I were an anthropologist [...]

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Arts, sciences, and… guns?

by David Alm February 27, 2011

In the wake of January’s shooting just outside Tucson, Arizona, lawmakers in that state are trying to push three bills through the legislature that would allow professors and students over 21 to carry guns on the state’ s college campu ses. The rationale, of course, is that people should be prepared to defend themselves the next [...]

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How the internet saved reading

by Jeff McMahon February 26, 2011
Image of a book and an Amazon Kindle reader.

Last week when my friend David Alm published his lament of digital publishing in these pages, I happened to be writing an introduction for a visiting writer. I recognized in my draft a soft rebuttal to David’s post, but I decided it had to complete its original mission before I could post it. This introduction [...]

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Union busting is disgusting

by Rebecca Lehmann February 25, 2011

For the past week and a half, protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, have been lined up outside and inside the state capitol building protesting Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget and its attack on union rights. In addition to asking certain state workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance, the bill contains provisions which [...]

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We like what we like, or, is it all just politics?

by David Alm February 25, 2011
image of newspapers

Why do we like what we like? Yes, it’s a big question, possibly best addressed in a philosophy seminar. But it has political implications, as Michael Washburn pointed out in his recent post on the VIDA study and why he, as a book critic, has only reviewed a handful of books by women compared to [...]

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How does it feel to be a problem? The Vida Study

by Michael Washburn February 24, 2011

A few years ago – 2007, I think – I organized and moderated a panel discussion on habeas corpus and the brazen disregard with which the Bush Administration’s then-recent actions treated the issue. The panel, moderator aside, was quite brilliant: Corey Robin, David Cole, and Aziz Huq each took turns briefly and incisively providing historical [...]

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The Sunset Limited: Cormac McCarthy’s eulogy or anthem to meaning?

by David DiSalvo February 24, 2011

[Spoiler Alert: this post contains information about the ending of the play] HBO has long benefited from a reputation for taking chances on risky material. Some of these risks spawned culture-changing juggernauts like “The Sopranos”, while others teetered then rapidly fell into abject failure (“John from Cincinnati” comes to mind). While entertaining the possibility of [...]

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Rock & Sling, Poetry, Arroyo, Ecotone

by Cynthia Newberry Martin February 24, 2011

One I’d heard of before. Three I hadn’t. Some were free at AWP; some were not. In each one, I found something that made me glad I’d lugged it home–either connecting with the words of writers I didn’t know or finding new poems and stories by writers I did. Two of these journals have stunning covers [...]

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Navaratri: Nine divine nights and one attempt at learning a goddess dance

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 23, 2011

I lucked out, living in Hurumzi. I live right by a small, tucked away Hindu temple. As a Jewish-American woman living in a predominantly Muslim world, I’ve sometimes taken comfort in the “otherness” of Hinduism here, visiting the temple, barefoot, on my days off, just to enjoy the cavernous silence of its inner courtyard — [...]

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Our digital ruin, a certain fate

by David Alm February 22, 2011

I have a very bleak outlook on the future of education, reading, thought, and human experience. But I’m not an especially dark or pessimistic person. My view is colored by the rise of one thing, which seems to be steamrolling a lot of other things out of existence: digital technology. It’s not a new outlook, [...]

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Online? Expect to be read

by Marilyn Kallet February 20, 2011

A young friend of mine who works for a hip magazine in a super-hip city recently Tweeted a negative reference to her workplace. A few hours later, her boss called her in to the office, and told her she was lucky to be working at such a great place, and to NEVER say negative things [...]

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Why know-it-alls make bad authors

by David Smith February 17, 2011

As I was doing research for a Contrary book review, I happened upon an interesting blog post by Norwegian author Stian M. Landgaard. Since the blog is in Norwegian, I hope the author won’t be too mad at me for producing a free translation. (Hey, I can at least do a better job than Google [...]

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Let’s talk about Shop Class

by David Alm February 17, 2011

Last fall I finally got around to reading Matthew Crawford’s 2009 book Shop Class as Soulcraft: an Inquiry Into the Value of Work, a rich and compelling meditation on American education, “knowledge” work, and the intrinsic value of mastering a skill. While I have told a great many people about the book, which I loved, [...]

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Piko in Paje – ancient Swahili lady lessons on pleasure and pain

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 17, 2011
Piko & Henna

“Siri ya mtungi aijuae kata.” The secret of the water pitcher is only known by its ladle. – Swahili proverb Where did you learn about sex ? I mean, not just about sex, but about pleasure? My sex education happened haphazardly in hotel lobbies during Bar Mitzvah time-outs, when we’d lounge on couches after sweaty [...]

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