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Happiness Is Notoriously Difficult To Describe

Preface to the Paperback Edition of George Kateb’s Utopia and Its Enemies (1972, 1963). “Of course, no honest person claims that happiness is now a normal condition among human beings; but perhaps it could be made normal, and it is upon this question that all serious political controversy really turns.” “Happiness is notoriously difficult to […]

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Sierpinski Schmierpinski – On What the Writer Intends

The below is from the radio program “Bookworm” (4/11/96) with Michael Silverblatt. It is an interview with David Foster Wallace about Infinite Jest and this snippet focuses on the structure of the novel (and the novelist’s intentions). MS: Yes it does, but I wanted to suggest, at least for me, that the organization of the […]

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Ellen Willis Is Essential

About a year ago there was a very dismissive review written by Lisa Levy published in the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) of the essay collection The Essential Ellen Willis (“Irritated Critics“) . Ellen Wills is a wonderful writer who will teach you so much–especially if you’ve never heard of her; especially if you are young; especially if you […]

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The Work of Language

This is from Dan McCall’s preface to the Norton Critical ed. of Melville’s Short Novels. ********* He read voraciously; in Moby-Dick he said, “I have swam through libraries.” When he began to read Shakespeare, for example, something not altogether conscious or voluntary began happening to him. In American Renaissance, …F. O. Matthiessen concludes that Melville’s […]

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Let No One Be Called (Updated: Audio)

Let No One Be Called (3:11) Perhaps it is better to have no legends. Let there be no letters composed into rigid words. Let no words be graven onto replicating presses. Let the forms be broken and the letters be molten. Let there be no more legends on the earth. Let life live and death die. […]

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The Custom House: Louis Agassiz with Christoph Irmscher

Episode 2 is now available for download: Agassiz, Inc. Please share far and wide, early and often. Thanks! This week I speak with biographer Christoph Irmscher about the legacy of Louis Agassiz, one of the most influential men in the development of the practice of science in America.  Irmscher’s book is called Louis Agassiz: Creator […]

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The Money Virtue As American Rational Religion

The most virtuous and honest character in Dickens’ Hard Times, Stephen Blackpool, often confronts the confusion, ambiguity, paradox, and unfairness of “interests” with an aggrieved and exasperated cry that “it’s all such a muddle.”  Even his virtuous acts of self-protection are disallowed by law, but the law is one that restricts the impoverished while it […]

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Training in Belief and Reason

On the a.m. dog-walk I listened to a podcast regarding, primarily, the “will to believe.”  (“Psychological Anthropology” on Entitled Opinions) The author/academic (Tanya Luhrmann) interviewed has written at least two titles on modes of belief, Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft, an investigation into modern practitioners of magic in London, and When God Talks Back, field […]

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Calculable Obligations: Motivations of Money and Technology

Debt, that is, as opposed to a promise, is a calculable obligation. I was reading a review of two books on the current state of global indebtedness in the London Review of Books (“Forgive Us Our Debts” by Benjamin Kunkel) when it seemed clear to me that this is the basic ground of all domination […]

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My Favorite Book

On a job application for a teaching position one is asked to write a one-page essay on “my favorite book.”  Here’s what I’ve got.  Thoughts? Do you have a favorite?  If so, can you let me know what it is an why it’s dear to you? My Favorite Book I don’t have one.  To be […]

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WFHB’s Interchange – A Targeted Divide: What Bullets do to Bodies and Lives

AUDIO: What Bullets do to Bodies and Lives This is the special 90-minute finale for our series A Targeted Divide. […]

WFHB’s Interchange – A Targeted Divide: Crime, Decline, and the Rise of the Citizen-Protector

AUDIO: Crime, Decline, and the Rise of the Citizen Protector For our second show in our three-part series, A Targeted […]

WFHB’s Interchange: A Targeted Divide: Gunning Down the Bill of Rights

AUDIO: Gunning Down the Bill of Rights Today we begin a series of three programs on Guns in the USA […]

WFHB’s Interchange – Undermining Zinctown: The Feminist Socialism of Salt of the Earth

AUDIO: Undermining Zinctown We open with music composed by Sol Kaplan for the film Salt of the Earth. Kaplan was […]

WFHB’s Interchange – An Interview with Jasper Bernes on Logistics and Food Systems

AUDIO: Capital’s (Hidden) Art of War and the Belly of the Revolution In the book of Genesis in the Hebrew […]

On Allan Sekula: In the American Grain (WFHB’s Interchange)

AUDIO LINK: Shooting the Gulf: Allan Sekula In the American Grain In his most famous essay, “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson […]