The Intellectual Situation
Friend of the Pod by The Editors
Listening to podcasts is a soothing kind of saturation, like ASMR, if you replaced the crinkly sounds and sensuous whispering with reedy-voiced dudes and cool girls with vocal fry. It’s hard to get riled up by a podcast, when the hosts are inarticulate and the episodes run over an hour. The overall effect is pacification, a balm for burnout. As we fall asleep to podcasts and extend our time online into the first REM cycle, their murmuring voices drift into our dreams. There are words in our heads—thoughts, opinions—but for once, they’re not our own.
Coalition of the Willing by The Editors
What white nationalists call the “invasion” of the West by non-native Muslims over the past few years is in reality a refugee crisis caused by the West, by America’s failed attempt to remake the Middle East in its own image, which ushered in political chaos and destroyed the foundations of social peace in countries all over the region. And that doomed project would never have made it out the door but for the country’s political leaders and commentators relentlessly exaggerating the threats posed by terrorists and the states that supported them.
The Pink by Andrea Long Chu
Feminism never succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself. This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women.
Spadework by Alyssa Battistoni
It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought.
Good Night, Boa Vista by Zoë Dutka
He asked the owner of the shop for a glass of water, and she acted as if she hadn’t understood, though it’s the same word in Portuguese as it is in Spanish: água. I bought a bottle from the fridge and asked him his name. He looked up when he heard me speak. Jesús was his name, he had been in Boa Vista for six days, and the only money he’d made was twenty reais (around $5) for mowing someone’s lawn. Another migrant had lent him a bike so he could look for work. He would do any kind of job, he went on, he only wanted to send his mother food for her to eat. That’s how he said it, comida para ella comer. I went to the car to get some groceries. His face tightened as he looked into the plastic bag, not from disappointment but because he clearly despised himself; his need for water, his need to eat.
Fiction and Drama
The Amphibians by Elias Rodriques
Driving this stretch of A1A in the daytime, I always look for the sand and soil mix at the edge of the road. Strands of green, barely rooted down in the loose soil, flare when the wind passes by. They grow thicker the farther they get from the road as the land slopes downward to the Intracoastal. In the night it’s so dark that I can’t see past the road’s end, but I know they’re there, clinging to the patch between the pavement and the water. This my favorite part, I say. Could live my whole life out here.
Jackpot by Mona Simpson
The youngest son of a wealthy Muslim merchant, my father had been sent to a Jesuit school where he’d studied twelve hours a day. The merchant and the Jesuits agreed about the Stoics. As a result, my father spoke five languages, read seven, and when he attended graduate school he knew everything already, he told me once. I asked then about his father. Dead, he replied.
The Promise by Christopher Urban
I personally had had it pretty bad, which is to say good, at the time of my application. I barely managed to scrape together my personal statement before the deadline, which I had already asked for an extension of, such was my struggle. Not only had I never published anything, I hadn’t written much either, and precisely because I was able to prove my lack of track record publishingwise without foreclosing its potential, I was seen, according to my agent, to be on the path of greatest success.
Special Journey to Our Bottom Line by Elizabeth Schambelan
What is happening, in initiation as in interrogation, is that a person is being stripped down, rendered utterly abject. “The systematic destruction of a person is what we’re talking about,” said a University of Washington administrator in 2000, in reference to Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges being beaten with tape-wrapped newspapers, deprived of food and sleep, blindfolded, and forced to stick their heads in toilets. One of Sanday’s informants said that by the end of his initiation, he was nothing more than “a whimpering, blindfolded form whose every feeling was completely under the control of the brothers.” This is a perfect description of the condition to which CIA interrogators hoped to reduce detainees—“learned helplessness,” as it was fondly called by James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the consultants who designed the program.
Sexism in the Academy by Troy Vettese
The problems of misogynist PIs and tepid reference letters may stem from the same root: the widespread assumption that only men can be brilliant. This view is prevalent in the hard sciences, but also in literature, musical composition, and philosophy. “As predicted,” noted Sarah-Jane Leslie and her coauthors in a recent article in Science, “the more a field valued giftedness, the fewer the female PhDs.” Philosophy is nearly off the charts in this regard. Yet not only do men not seem to believe in the possibility of female genius, they seem to doubt female competence.
The Hidden Fortress by Rose Réjouis
At times, I catch myself feeling afraid that my book will be misunderstood, that it will be read backward, like the prayer of parents asking for their children to come home safe from war but that God may hear as a request to slaughter the children of others, to burn their fields, to leave nothing after the war but smoke and silence. Sometimes, I wonder if there is a spell at work when we write, one that causes what is said to be said without us. And indeed, that is perhaps what writing is, isn’t it: what is said there is said without us. If I could stop writing, I think maybe I would.
Ogresse by Rose Réjouis
Who will I tell my theories to when she is far away? Who will listen when I say I think that the issue facing women is one of transmission? We have been triaged and then separated from our mothers and our grandmothers. Each of us is stuck in an emergency room of one’s own. So we put blinders on and get used to distancing ourselves from body and soul. These days, we are often meddling. What should we really attend to? What truly requires our attention?
The Shallow Now by A. S. Hamrah
Clearly I was concentrating on the wrong things, so I tried to snap out of it. I paid more attention to Cleo’s life and Aparicio’s stoic performance, how she has to clean the dog shit off the tile floors she mops in the family’s carport, where they park their too-big car. The Felliniesque party section of the film, which starts with the taxidermied dog heads on the wall of a country house, reminded me of a Lucrecia Martel film, but a mild one, in which the bourgeoisie aren’t so bad.
Vernacular Modernism by Thomas de Monchaux
The entire building responds to the repositioning of the body engaged in the activity it shelters. At the entrance, a kind of building-within-a-building, a frame of timber and glass that’s like a conceptual mudroom, gives you a place to pause at arrival and departure. It is mirrored by a similar building-within-a-building that houses the circulation desk and staff. In these mirrored places, host and guest, staffer and visitor are put on an equal footing, placed into a reciprocity at their moment of routine encounter—ever so slightly raising that routine into ritual.
Other People’s Blood by Tim Barker
Those who praise Volcker like to say he “broke the back” of inflation. Nancy Teeters, the lone dissenter on the Fed’s Board of Governors, had a different metaphor: “I told them, ‘You are pulling the financial fabric of this country so tight that it’s going to rip. You should understand that once you tear a piece of fabric, it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to put it back together again.”