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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

On Hans Magnus Enzensberger

On Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Why should one not have readers? Was there any merit in being difficult or obscure?

He designed a fridge-magnet poem-kit (which, I believe, has now had a software program based on it). He wrote a skeptical book about Europe in 1987, before Europe was really a subject (Ach Europa! was the wonderful title of the original; Europe Europe in English). He wrote a children’s book, an opera libretto about a runaway Cuban slave, a world-best-selling math book (The Number Devil), a partial memoir (Tumult).

Mike Davis’s Specificities

Mike Davis’s Specificities

Repetitious and reductive appeals to the universal never satisfied him

The US working class was forged, for Davis, through its compounded historical defeat, which gave it a distinctive contradictory, battered, and lumpy form that could not be evened out through appeals to abstraction. Most importantly, the cycle of defeat and accommodation had separated the official labor movement from the Black working class, which he saw as the only possible “cutting edge” for socialist politics.

Baby

Baby

I guess when someone drinks your piss, you feel like they know you a little

When things were slow on the floor, I liked to duck into the locker room and study the clipboard. To me it was like poetry, this ever-changing list of all the girls on that night. Angelina, Kitty, Buttercup. I tried to memorize them all. Who could make the whole world bend to her? Scarlet, Candy, Foxy, Grace.

Classicist in Literature, Royalist in Politics, and Anglo-Catholic in Religion

Classicist in Literature, Royalist in Politics, and Anglo-Catholic in Religion

Footnotes #2

I’m interested in how words with particular identities and backgrounds—“spirit,” “God,” “thought,” “tranquility”—take part, without comment, and perhaps without full knowledge, in a metamorphosis, a movement across meanings that leads not so much from the “West” to the “East” as, subtly and suggestively, away from the Enlightenment to a new emergence and sense of the “literary.”

Our Godard

Our Godard

Godard never forgot that in art, as in life, beauty persuades

“Art today is Jean-Luc Godard,” the French poet Louis Aragon wrote in 1965. “Godard is not satisfied with the world as it is, he remakes it in his own manner . . . in Pierrot le fou red sings like an obsession.” It would again, decades later, in The Image Book. Godard has long been one of the few who believe that color is not a given, that it is a craft like any other. If his movies—the ones with Belmondo, with Gorin, with Miéville—have staying power, it is because he never completed his own search, for color or anything else. It is customary for any legendary artist to lapse into an academicism of the self. They have figured out how to do what they do and do so indefinitely. Godard wasn’t like that.

Bodies With No Surprises

Bodies With No Surprises

My name’s Farm and this is my power electronics project Liquid Plumr

“Volkisch Currents in Early Live Electronics,” said Tommy. “National Socialism and the Darmstädter Ferienkurse,” said Scott. “Sonic Armaments of the Waffenamt?!” Tommy shrieked.

Kids Those Days

Kids Those Days

Mikhail Gorbachev and his generation

Gerontocracy is a relative concept. At his death in 1984 Yuri Andropov was only 69, decades younger than Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein and the other ancients currently presiding over the US Senate. What mattered was not the absolute age of the Soviet leadership but their generational cohort. Soviet history can usefully be understood as the story of the youth, maturity, and senescence of a single age group: people who were children in 1917.