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Representative Texts from Hawthorne to Dickinson

In your daily busyness you are pressed for time to think and often choose instead anesthetization – watching any number of “boutique” and highly produced television shows. These may be good, but like most in the “televisual” medium, they are not meant to be indelible. I don’t just cast aspersions outward… Let us choose to […]

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WFHB’s Interchange – Just a Spoonful of America

Audio: Just a Spoonful of America The title of our show, “Just a Spoonful of America – Prescribing American Studies to Fight Fascism,” might be more than a little ironic given that fascism currently stands astride the planet once again. Perhaps our music tonight would offer a better chance at a cure. It comes from […]

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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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Glorifying War Shall Not Grow Old

Concerning War Movies (prompted by a conversation about Peter Jackson’s movie They Shall Not Grow Old). In J. D. Salinger’s […]

Cutting Down the Clouds

This winter they are cutting down our woods more seriously than ever,—Fair Haven Hill, Walden, Linnaea Borealis Wood, etc. etc. […]

Representative Texts from Hawthorne to Dickinson

In your daily busyness you are pressed for time to think and often choose instead anesthetization – watching any number […]

Between Hope and Defeat, History and Heaven

“God himself culminates in the present moment.” (Thoreau) What is “now” for? What if you “know” the future? Fairy tales […]

Absolute Solutions Necessary

Only two things to do: 1. zero out carbon emissions 2. exception: all technological and scientific labor exploring new solutions […]

Rachel Carson’s book had no real effect

Facing Global Climate Disruption and the End of Everything All At Once… David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth tries very hard […]