Reviews

Said of the Sixties

Said of the Sixties

Revising Said’s “out of place” self-image is a project worth pursuing further

Although Brennan’s book prioritizes Said’s English-department dramas, his longstanding anti-militarism is arguably at least as interesting a thread to follow, and one that seems destined to stay interesting longer.

Electric Cars: An Update

Electric Cars: An Update

Doors rattle, touchscreens melt

Which automaker “had to his credit,” in the words of Michigan senator Arthur Vandenberg, “more erratic interviews, more dubious quotations, more blandly boasted ignorance of American history, more political nonsense and more dangerous propaganda than any other dependable citizen that we have known”? Well, Henry Ford. But also, a hundred years later, Elon Musk.

The Wantok System

The Wantok System

A horizon of maximum difference, a test bed for linguistics and for linguists

New Guinea remained on my radar: a horizon of maximum difference, a test bed for linguistics and for linguists. Elsewhere, linguistic differences usually stem from geographic isolation. But in much of New Guinea the diversity is actually deepest in places where travel is easiest. Instead of using religion, clothing, or food, Papua New Guineas have distinguished themselves above all through language. Call it tribalism or, as linguists do, the “constructive fostering of variegation” through “intentional language change.”

Devil’s Haircut

Devil’s Haircut

Dorkiness in the service of mind-expansion

The negative consensus surrounding the show has now reached sufficient mass that one can now put it on the couch. At its psychic root, all the criticism appears to converge at one point: Koolhaas himself, and the methodology he represents.

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

American Dirt in Mexico

Notice how the register of the prose, with its figures and rates, evokes the rhetoric of nonfiction. The use of general, declarative sentences about Mexico, in particular, makes me think of what my journalism professors used to call the nut-graf—the paragraph in the article where the journalist briefly pauses her account of the news to establish, in the most efficient way possible, the context for the events on which she is reporting. The result is that Cummins’s book often slips into didacticism.

Adrift

On Amit Chaudhuri

Chaudhuri’s attachment to a middle-class cultural moment limits his novels’ social scope; but it also suggests a certain feeling for collective life, famously foreign to modernism. For, as his early novels make clear, Chaudhuri’s writing emerged out of a modernist world; the sense of shared imaginative space in the middle-class Calcutta of his childhood allowed Chaudhuri early on to lose patience with modernism’s asocial obsessions, replacing alienation with affirmation, atomized angst with a troubled but real impression of community.