Category Archives: Articles of Note

Kevin Powers on Kurt Vonnegut

This is a great appreciation. Two segments:

But let me be more direct about what I really think this book is. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is wisdom literature. It is a book of awe and humbling clarity. Its lessons are so simple that by adulthood most of us have forgotten or taken them for granted only to be stunned upon being reacquainted with their fundamental gravity.

This is merely one example of Vonnegut’s unmatched moral clarity. He, more than any other writer I can think of, could cut through cant and sophistry and dissembling to expose our collective self-deceptions for what they are. His sentences are accusations that let you keep your dignity. 

Teju Cole

Everything I’ve read of his has stuck with me. This pair of questions from today’s paper is worth bringing to all sorts of art:

Every picture of suffering should elicit a question stronger than “Why is this happening?” The question should be “Why have I allowed this to happen?”

Cole, Teju. “When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.).” The New York Times, February 10, 2019, sec. Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/magazine/when-the-camera-was-a-weapon-of-imperialism-and-when-it-still-is.html.

Can’t run, walk.

Knee still in two pieces. Trying to take a “worthy” walk each day, which offers the chance to listen.

This week:
Monday: Start the Week How the world thinks
Tuesday: Richard White talking about his latest book
Wednesday: Bookworm with Tommy Orange.`
Thursday:
Friday: Bookworm, Joshua Cohen and BBC: In our Time: Hope

One thing I’ve noticed: about ten years ago a bunch of universities put these awesome courses on-line. For example, David Blight’s Yale course on the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a series of awesome lectures, is still there. But this practice seems to have stopped. Why?

One other thing I’ve noticed: It’s really hard to search the back content of podcasts. I’m having much better luck searching youtube for book talks, presentations, and speeches.

Anxiety: selling ourselves

Apart from this blog — 12 unique hits! This month! — I don’t do that much of this. Whippman’s points are solid, though, in a world where not everyone has the luxury of being an inner-city school teacher, a job with reasonable benefits and union protection from the worst vagaries of the market. She writes:

Kudos to whichever neoliberal masterminds came up with this system. They sell this infinitely seductive torture to us as “flexible working” or “being the C.E.O. of You!” and we jump at it, salivating, because on its best days, the freelance life really can be all of that.

But as long as we are happy to be paid for our labor in psychological rather than financial rewards, those at the top are delighted to comply. While we grub and scrabble and claw at one another chasing these tiny pellets of self-esteem, the bug-brooch barons still pocket the actual cash.

And I’d like to read this study and look at this “Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale.”