Fiction, Non-Fiction, “Popularity,” and “Seriousness”

Back in December-January, I wrote a series of posts on fiction and non-fiction writers, in particular, on the relative endurance of their writings in posterity. I wondered whether essayists and non-fiction writers stood less of a chance of having their work read by future generations than did novelists and fiction writers, what the causes forContinue reading “Fiction, Non-Fiction, “Popularity,” and “Seriousness””

Aguirre and the Rainforest: Madness in a Theater Made For It

Werner Herzog‘s Aguirre: Wrath of God is a supremely effective cinematic meditation on madness. It is able to marshal several progressions: that of the cinematic narrative, the journey into, through, and hopelessly within, an alien jungle-land, the simple passage of time, and run them alongside the descent into insanity of the movie’s eponymous central character.Continue reading “Aguirre and the Rainforest: Madness in a Theater Made For It”

Goethe and Nietzsche on the Freedom Program

A couple of days ago, while whiling away my time on Twitter, distracted from writing, and possibly other, more “productive” activities, I noticed Corey Robin tweet: “What would Nietzsche say about the fact that I need the Freedom program to write about Nietzsche?” My glib reply: “I think he’d love the irony of it! YouContinue reading “Goethe and Nietzsche on the Freedom Program”

On Seeing a Tiger in the Wild

Despite being condemned to mediocrity, there is at least one percentile ranking out there in which I do really well. Among the many billion human beings that have lived on this planet, only a vanishingly small fraction has seen a tiger in the wild. I’m one of those lucky ones. It’s only happened once, andContinue reading “On Seeing a Tiger in the Wild”

David Brooks on “Centralization”

On May 23-24, 1865, the victorious Union armies marched through Washington. The columns of troops stretched back 25 miles. They marched as a single mass, clad in blue, their bayonets pointing skyward. Those lines, dear reader, are the openers of a David Brooks article about the “centralization” of power in Washington via the “Obama healthContinue reading “David Brooks on “Centralization””

Hegel’s Stoic and Prison Literature

In his Introduction to Hegel’s Metaphysics (University of Chicago Press, 1969, pp 30-31), Ivan Soll notes that, With great sociological and psychological insight Hegel says that “stoicism, the freedom which goes back into the pure universality of thought, could appear as a general form of the world spirit only in a time of general fearContinue reading “Hegel’s Stoic and Prison Literature”

Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will: Still Scary After All These Years

I have a confession to make: I had not seen Leni Riefenstahl‘s Triumph of the Will till Friday evening. I’ve talked about it, seen clips from it, read critical essays on it, and even seen a biographical film–The Wonderful, Horrible, Life of Leni Riefenstahl–about its director, but never seen Triumph Des Willens itself. On Friday night,Continue reading “Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will: Still Scary After All These Years”

Banville on Beckett: Can There Be An “Abstract Literature”?

Can there be an “abstract literature”? In his review of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941–1956 John Banville says No. At best, abstract writing can aspire to some form of, to quote Beckett, “nominalistic irony.” Banville  rejects Pascale Casanova’s claim that Beckett’s Worstward Ho was “the triumphant culmination of Beckett’s effort to forge an “abstract” literature,” a “pureContinue reading “Banville on Beckett: Can There Be An “Abstract Literature”?”

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Fallacy of the ‘Lone Gunman’

It is worth remembering, the next time you see Trayvon Martin‘s parent’s on television, trying to explain their pleas for justice, that you are looking at human beings who, in the giant totem pole that mankind has constructed of Humans Who Have Suffered Terrible Losses, occupy a fairly high position. The killing of Trayvon MartinContinue reading “Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Fallacy of the ‘Lone Gunman’”

Susan Matt on Homesickness, the ‘New Globalist’, and Technology

Susan Matt suggests that homesickness still afflicts the ‘new globalists,’ the cosmopolitans who would live ‘abroad,’ whether permanently or temporarily, away from home (“The New Globalist is Homesick”, New York Times, March 21, 2012). And technology, precisely by bringing them back into closer contact with loved ones and old haunts, and assuaging loneliness and longing,Continue reading “Susan Matt on Homesickness, the ‘New Globalist’, and Technology”