Tag Archives: The Paris Review

The Hedgehog’s Array: April 22, 2016

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Now’s the Time,” Eric Olson
“If I were to die today, my loved ones would be grief-stricken, my son would be orphaned, and my colleagues would have to mark my students’ exams. That would be terrible for them.”

“A groundbreaking artist, Prince astonished right to the end,” Steve Smith
“There was never a time, not even a passing moment, that Prince didn’t matter.”

“Note To Self,” Elaine Blair
“To throw in our lot with the essay — to place it at the center of our literary culture — is to accept the idea of a more or less continuous self that can make its observations, emotions, interpretations, and opinions intelligible to others.”

“On the Road,” James McWilliams
“The trade-off for submitting voluntarily to the pain of a marathon—which really can be otherworldly—is the opportunity to transcend your anger, to step outside normal life and build a unique narrative out of a sanctioned act of rebellion.”

“Still Tilting at Windmills,” Stephen Phelan
“On a recent Saturday morning, I caught The Cervantes Train from Madrid’s Atocha Station. Don Quixote greeted me on the platform.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array—November 6, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others,” Vinson Cunningham
“HONY joins organizations like TED and the Moth at the vanguard of a slow but certain lexical refashioning. Once an arrangement of events, real or invented, organized with the intent of placing a dagger—artistic, intellectual, moral—between the ribs of a listener or reader, a story has lately become a glossier, less thrilling thing: a burst of pathos, a revelation without a veil to pull away.”

“Satan in Poughkeepsie,” Alex Mar
“Satanists make use of ritual—not in a spiritual way, but as psychodrama, a way to use taboos to get their adrenaline flowing.”

“Ghosts Stay Near Home,” Thomas W. Laqueur
“Charles Darwin wanted to be buried in his village churchyard, and the dean of Westminster Abbey would have been just as happy if he had had his wish. But he did not. The world of science needed him in the Abbey.”

”Buster Keaton’s Cure,” Charlie Fox
“Here he is, a little man in his trademark outfit of porkpie hat and rumpled suit. He ignores all conversational prompts, playing dumb and nodding a little as if out of beat with the situation, mid-daydream. ”

“Pilgrimages to Paris,” Victoria Olsen 
“On my last day in Paris I stopped in Père Lachaise, the famous cemetery — or rather, the cemetery for famous people. I was looking for someone, though I wasn’t sure what seeing her tombstone was going to do for me.”

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The Critical Fate of the Major Novel

9780374239213I read Jonathan Franzen’s Purity in one sitting: It came in the mail, I opened it up, and despite frequent breaks and every intention of doing something else with my time, I ended up finishing the novel before the next day broke.

This isn’t a ringing endorsement of Purity as a book. It is, I would say, an interesting mess. It has a huge plot in which everyone ends up connected to everyone else, but when the pieces come together, it’s not exciting—just over-determined. Franzen has continued his commitment to “transparent access” (i.e. uninteresting prose). The result is a certain predictability and a sentence-by-sentence flatness.

The Franzen news cycle has, by this point, come and gone, at least until Franzen himself gives another press interview and (inevitably) says something a little ill-considered (or at least easily misrepresented). But it reminded me of the cycle of coverage that surrounded another “big” novel this year—Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. There, too, the coverage ended up being linked to Ishiguro’s biography and to a remark he made in an interview about concerns that the book would be viewed as “fantasy.”

And, much like Purity, The Buried Giant was not a book that lent itself to an easy “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” It, too, was an interesting mess. It attempted a lot of things and failed at some of them. The best reviews were those that set aside the task of delivering some sort of definitive verdict to consider the novel as a complex whole. And this has been the case, too, with Purity. (For good reviews in the sense I mean, I would recommend Lydia Kiesling at the Millions and Elaine Blair at Harper’s, along with James Meek at the London Review of Books.)

An “interesting mess”–type book is a challenge for a reviewer because, as a category, it resists the somewhat more headline-friendly declaration that the novel is the “best yet,” the “worst yet,“ the “most challenging yet,” or the “most disappointing yet.”  Or you can sidestep this kind of difficulty in order to talk about the author. Or you can simply make your declaration anyway. Continue reading

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The Hedgehog’s Array: July 31, 2015

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Terry Castle: The Anti-Paglia,” Helen Andrews
“Like Paglia, Castle’s entrée into the literary tradition of sexual inversion was a teenage fascination with Oscar Wilde—she dreamed of being ‘male, dandified, and in some sort of filial relationship to various 1890s Decadents.’ Unlike Paglia, her grown-up persona is less flamboyant, more Jamesian.”

“Bedeviled by Books in Translation,” Michael Robbins
“As most translators’ prefaces attest, every translation, unless it’s a crib, negotiates in its own way the problem of how to achieve two contradictory desiderata: to be faithful to the original, and to create a work of art in the new language.”

“Masks,” Jake Orbison
“But looking back years later on the word’s full legacy, confessional’s greatest shortcoming is in its implication not for the poets of the past but for those to come. If all of us have taken our clothes off, where do we go from here?”

“Saigon Summer,” Sarah Mansfield Taber
“One summer evening in Saigon in 1974, we were invited to dinner at the home of another U.S. embassy employee, probably a covert operative like my father.”

“Mutually Assured Content,” John Herrman
“But for everyone else—the papers and magazines that became sites, the sites that became blogs, the blogs that became generalist news organizations—accepting the platform bargain is accepting that most of what they did before is legacy and burden. Most magazines never truly figured out the web, and never will.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Uber and the Lawlessness of ‘Sharing Economy’ Corporates,” Frank Pasquale and Siva Vaidhyanathan
“One could make a strong argument that France would benefit from more taxi drivers and more competition. But that’s for the people of France to decide through their elected representatives. The spirit of Silicon Valley should not dictate policy for the rest of the world.”

“Checked Out,” Siva Vaidhyanathan
“The Library of Congress, like all the majestic libraries that connect our nation to its history and future, is a temple to the Enlightenment. But it’s more than that.”

Our intern recommends:

“Fitted,” Moira Weigel
“Like confession and therapy, activity trackers promise to improve us by confronting us with who we are when we are not paying attention. The difference is that they produce clarity constantly, in real time.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: June 19, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“A Living Landmark,” Jamelle Bouie
“The attack on Emanuel AME sits in a long history of violence against black churches.”

“The Internet Accused Alice Goffman of Faking Details In Her Study of a Black Neighborhood. I Went to Philadelphia to Check,” Jesse Singal
“Alice Goffman conducted some amazing ethnographic research, and her book is almost entirely true, not to mention quite important. Alice Goffman is going to have a really hard time defending herself from her fiercest critics.”

“First Thoughts on Laudato Si’,” Alan Jacobs
“For Maritain, any true humanism must incorporate the ‘vertical dimension’ of our relationship with God; Francis is clearly saying, with a similar logic, that any valid (any whole and healthy) ecology or model of ‘creation care’ must incorporate our relationships with one another and with God. Thus one cannot think of what’s good for the environment without also thinking of what’s good for human culture.”

“Our Failed Food Movement,” James McWilliams
“In so far as the Food Movement’s goal has been to reduce the impact of factory farming, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the reform effort—at least in the way it articulates and pursues its mission—isn’t working.”

“Kid Chocolate,” Brin-Jonathan Butler
“Trejo is one of the oldest boxing gyms in Cuba; it’s outdoor, and every great champion the country has produced has passed through and was forged in the open air. Different sets of the same mildly sinister women who look like the Macbeth witches guard the entrance from tourists and procure a toll for entry, snapshots, or stories.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: May 22, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Monkey Day Care,” Michelle Dean
“As a toddler in 1981 and 1982, I attended a day care with monkeys. Or, perhaps more precisely, I was part of a study in the form of a day care that involved monkeys. I was two, then three. I remember nothing.”

“The Joy of Slow Computing,” Nathan Schneider
“There is a habit in tech culture of saying that the latest app ‘democratizing’ whatever it happens to do. This is lovely, but best not to confuse it with actual democracy.”

“The Inexplicable,” Karl Ove Knausgaard
“In many ways, I find it repellent to write about Anders Behring Breivik. Every time his name appears in public, he gets what he wants, and becomes who he wants, while those whom he murdered, at whose expense he asserted himself, lost not only their lives but also their names—we remember his name, but they have become numbers.”

“A Brief History of Spacefarers,” Margaret Lazarus Dean
“Stories about astronauts are stories about risks. It is precisely the risks they take that make us admire them, that makes the wonders they encounter so wondrous.”

“Google, Why Won’t You Let Me Forget My Divorce?,” Christopher Null
“I asked a friend who was a former Googler for advice, and much to my surprise he said that he actually knew a guy who worked on that very product. An insider would surely be able to fix this with a few taps of the keyboard, right? Wrong.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Virtual Reality as Moral Ideal,” Matthew B. Crawford
“In the old Mickey Mouse cartoons from the early and middle decades of the twentieth century, by far the most prominent source of hilarity is the capacity of material stuff to generate frustration, or rather demonic violence.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: February 13, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“AA Envy,” Helen Andrews
“Why this special treatment for twelve-step programs? Because all the other moral languages in which modern Americans are fluent, the languages that sound so inspiring and correct when talking about politics, turn useless in the face of addiction.”

“One Wine, Two Wine, Red Wine, Blue Wine,” Damion Searls
“The most well-known color-translation problem is Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’—the sea rarely being, of course, what we would call the color of wine of any color.”

“A Place of Pasts,” Joseph Mitchell
“In the fall of 1968, without at first realizing what was happening to me, I began living in the past. These days, when I reflect on this and add up the years that have gone by, I can hardly believe it: I have been living in the past for over twenty years—living mostly in the past, I should say, or living in the past as much as possible.”

“Iammmmyookkraaanian,” Peter Pomerantsev
“After decades in Moscow with its aestheticised cynicism and London with its apolitical resignation, Kiev’s uprush of utopias was refreshing, and occasionally disturbing. Soon I found myself sitting in cafés scribbling my own pet utopia: Ukraine as a Russia 2.0.”

“A Clever Collection,” Matthew Walther
“We hit astonished, indeed open-mouthed, upon the truth, namely that the teenaged Austen was already a prudent, wise, humble person trying to make sense of a world full of boorishness and stupidity.”

“Your Snitching Gadgets,” Jacob Silverman
“Always-on data collection, combined with porous privacy policies and insecure devices, are changing our expectations for security and privacy. What matters now is not just what our devices and apps collect but also why, for whom, when, and how.”

“Why Max Weber Matters,” Duncan Kelly
“For those who hold fixed ideas about Weber the political animal, Ghosh’s claims will be hard reading. But part of the problem with seeing him as a straightforward nationalist was that even incandescent rage about national shame was allied to a profound understanding of geopolitics and political responsibility.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Cézanne and the Modern,” Leann Davis Alspaugh
“Henry Pearlman liked to say that every time he saw his art collection, it gave him a lift. We should all be so lucky.”

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