Catching up #6

  • Peter Terzian, boyfriend of Steamboats Are Ruining Everything, reviews The Age Of Wonder, Richard Holmes’s account of the British scientists of the Romantic era, for The National (Abu Dhabi), 20 November 2008:

    What patterns could be found in the shifting night skies? What did it look like on the other side of the world, and who lived there? Could man find a way to fly? Could the dead be brought back to life? What was life, anyway? These were imaginative as well as empirical questions. To solve them required inspiration and originality, the traits celebrated by Romantic writers and thinkers. The Romantic scientists bridled at the “purely mechanistic universe” described by Newtonian physics. Like their poetic counterparts, they believed in an “infinite, mysterious Nature.”

  • Keith Gessen assesses Edward Said and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn for Bookforum:

    Both came from cultures that had been violently uprooted and dislocated; both were exiled, their lives threatened; both found refuge eventually in the United States—and became outspoken critics of this country. Both fought the regimes they opposed with words and the application of counternarrative. Both wrote famous accusatory tomes—Orientalism (1978), The Gulag Archipelago (1973)—that, through the sheer accrual of evidence, fundamentally altered the worlds they described.

    Most interesting of all, both lived to see their political projects succeed to a degree they could never have anticipated. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991; Israel acknowledged the existence of the Palestinian people, and their right to a state, in the 1993 Oslo Accords. And both writers were, immediately and thoroughly, critical of what had once seemed their fondest wishes: While the West celebrated the Yeltsin regime, Solzhenitsyn warned that it was in irresponsible free fall; at almost the same moment, Said denounced Oslo as “a Palestinian Versailles.” Both, sadly, were right.

  • In the forthcoming n+1, Wesley Yang subjects the average frustrated chump to a cost/benefit analysis:

    The players of the Game made explicit the workings of a new sexual economy, one that was always implicit in the old, but was mediated by illusions that, it turns out, did more than merely obscure. We had disaggregated community, love, sex, and the family to allow a new protocol of maximum efficiency to establish itself.

  • Interviewed by the Tisch Film Review, A. S. Hamrah condemns contemporary film criticism:

    To blame the Internet for editors’ and publishers’ lack of imagination isn’t fair. It’s only half the story. If magazines and newspapers were publishing writers worth reading, and who were writing original and unexpected things, and giving them enough space to do it, people would read them. Instead, they publish toadies.

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