Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Hedgehog’s Array: August 12, 2016

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Noteworthy reads from the last week (or so):

“Monstrous Births,” Sarah Blackwood
“Perhaps it might be time to abandon altogether the idea of childbirth as a moral experience?”

“Are you dating a Fox News spy? Read it at Gawker, as the news site careens toward bankruptcy sale,” Matt D. Pearce
“It is time to soak up Gawker Media’s final days of freedom before the irreverent, influential and financially doomed media company goes up for sale next week.”

“Lives and Misfortunes of Lorenzo Da Ponte,” Antonio Muñoz Molina
“We imagine a very old man walking in New York in the twenties and thirties of the nineteenth century, recalling as if in a dream all the lives that he had lived, as remote as the opera performances that he used to attend in the Vienna of his youth, in an extinguished world.”

“Make America Austria Again: How Robert Musil Predicted the Rise of Donald Trump,” David Auerbach
“Trump is one of the most emotionally needy figures in American political history.”

“Delusion at the Gastropub,” Heather Havrilesky
“Food is personal. It’s sensual, it’s nostalgic, it’s political. But contrary to the slogans of our officious foodie overlords, food is not everything.”

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Desperately Seeking Relevance

Andrew Grill via flickr.

Andrew Grill via flickr.

“Relevance is the only job security that exists in today’s uncertain business world” proclaims the subheading of “4 Ways to Become More Relevant,” Geoffrey James’s 2013 piece for INC.com. The struggle for “relevance” isn’t restricted to anxious employees; it is said to be the burden facing movie stars like John Travolta, ambitious college basketball coaches, authors of children’s books, Baby Boomers, and, if the Trump campaign is to be believed, Mitt Romney.

In the strict dictionary sense of the word, relevance is neither virtue nor vice. That which is relevant could be true and good and beautiful, or it could be false and bad and ugly. Martin Luther King, Jr. was relevant to the American Civil Rights Movement, but so was Birmingham’s Commissioner for Public Safety Bull Connor. To grasp the former’s wisdom and the latter’s brutality, the discussion must extend beyond mere relevance.

In its current wave of usage, relevance talk tries to transcend this vacuity, if only slightly. According to motivational speaker Ross Shafer, for instance, “relevance is taking action to make sure you matter to your customers, your clients, your members, and your teams. If you don’t matter to your constituents, they can go away and not care if you exist.” Malevolent actors can “matter” and in the strictest sense meet Shafer’s criteria, but he obviously means to link relevance to success, popularity, and profit. Continue reading

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The Murderer’s Reckoning:
An Interview with John J. Lennon

 

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John J. Lennon’s essay “The Murderer’s Mother” appears in our 2016 summer issue. In this interview, Lennon, who is incarcerated at Attica for a drug-related murder, tells us more about his background, how he came to writing, and what it’s like to be a journalist behind bars.

The Hedgehog Review (THR): What was life like growing up?

John J. Lennon (JJL): I grew up poor, with a single mother, in a Brooklyn housing project. But I had more opportunities than most kids in the projects because my mother made money running hot dog stands. She was able to send me away to boarding school from fifth to eighth grade. It was mostly upper class, privileged kids, about thirty of us, living in a mansion on the Hudson River. In the seventh grade, I won second prize in an essay-writing contest. They gave me a $75 savings bond. (Two years later, I would swipe it from my mom’s drawer, cash it at a discount, and buy drugs.) Things got bad in my adolescent years. I’d learned my real father committed suicide and then we moved to Hell’s Kitchen. Mom enrolled me in public school, and all of a sudden, life was much less sheltered. At the time, the reputation of a murderous Irish mob called the Westies—most of whom were sent away to federal prison in the 1980s—seemed to rule the neighborhood.

Just to give you a flavor of the time, here’s a short anecdote: It was 1991 when I first met Danny, a then-thirty-something Westie who had somehow managed to avoid indictment. My friend Terrence and I were holding down our street corner. Full of swagger with dark hair and blue eyes, Danny winked at me when he walked by, “What’s up, kid?” “You know,” Terrence told me after he passed by, “Danny killed a guy before.” When I heard that, it wasn’t just fear I felt, but admiration, too. It was then that I began to see murder more as a revered deed among gangsters than as the mortal sin it was among civilians.

THR: Tell us more about the crime that sent you to prison.

JJL: Alex, the man I killed, was, like me, in the drug game. At the outset, the murder was about money, drugs, and respect. As sick as it sounds, it was also about this need for me to complete my image. (I think many murders committed within gangster culture have a lot to do with broken boys and young men who want to earn status in a subculture that they otherwise cannot earn in mainstream culture.) I shot Alex several times with an AR-15 while he sat in a car, then dumped his body off a pier. It was a terrible crime, for which I’m deeply sorry. This all happened in December 2001. Continue reading

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