The enduring art of literary hate mail, Shakespeare as a springboard for spanking, some thoughts on why giving up writing might not be wrong, and Lydia Davis on why we should read translated works. Plus: Vinson Cunningham on what qualities make an essay uniquely American: “As much as one might wish to lay claim to the sensibility of, say, Montaigne—the ruminative philosopher’s ideal, the notion of the essay as neutral attempt—most of us Americans are Emersons: artful sermonizers, pathological point-makers, turntablists spinning the hits with future mischief in mind.”
Slavery, it turns out, influenced everything about Brooklyn from its industrialization (sugar, tobacco, cotton) to the early racial makeup of its neighborhoods. Now that I work for a museum, I can’t become a visitor myself without asking: what are the questions that allow people to dig into unfamiliar material, to lose themselves in it?
In April, the Atlantic Monthly published an article that was so ill-advised I hesitate to post a link to the article for fear of increasing its page count and further sensationalizing the author’s bogus argument. The article was about creative writing programs. An impassioned, somewhat jilted, author, Jon Reiner, makes a case for why instead of going to MFA schools, wanna-be published authors should go out and live—similar to arguments for why writers need to have “real-life jobs” before writing. Considering the sheer number of Creative Writing MFA programs in the U.S, there is a high likelihood that young, well-educated, straight-out-of-college aspiring writers are going to slip their way into those cherished programs, but of the many faults, Jon Reiner made, the gravest perhaps is how he grossly misjudges the lives of those “young” students. His stance that younger students have not lived comes from a ridiculously, narrow and American perspective; for he assumes MFA students grew up in American suburbs and were pampered by their middle to upper class families. But, believe me, I don’t want to write a post about his article article, especially so belatedly. In fact, I’ve only mentioned it to say how it got me thinking about my lack of long-term job experience and how as a young girl growing up in a developing country jobs, first jobs especially, didn’t always seem like a job in the quintessential sense.
The 2012 education platform released by the Republican Party of Texas last summer contains more than just a troubling attack on critical thinking skills in the classroom. Considered in a broad historical context, the GOP’s platform lays bare fundamental inconsistencies in the conservative thought that birthed it. The product of a grossly divided intellectual legacy, it represents an extraordinary cheapening of our American heritage.
As opposed to wit, which is often just pedantic cruelty, more ingenious than funny, rarely instructive or heartening, aphorism is, historically, a manly form, laconic, from the Spartan polis of Laconia.