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The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 16. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.


Letter from the Editors

On The Point
[Jon Baskin]

Because The Point has never presented itself as advancing a specific literary or political agenda, we have found that some readers (as well as some non-readers) make assumptions about who we are or what we are trying to do. Common ones include that we are “centrists,” that we are, or pretend to be, somehow beyond politics—“post-ideological” or “apolitical”—or that our goal is simply to give equal time and respect to every viewpoint, as they used to do on the network news and still aspire to do in many kindergarten classes.



Elite – n. “a choice or select body, the best part,” borrowed from French (élite), from the Old French past participle éslite, meaning “picked out, chosen,” which in turn was taken from the Latin verb eligere (“to choose”).


Leaving Herland
Utopian literature and the future of #MeToo
[Nora Caplan-Bricker]

I believe most gendered behavior is socialized, and I also want to believe it. This faith feels inextricable from the central promise made to girls of my era: that we, like boys, could be whatever we wanted. But I don’t really know, because I, like you, don’t have access to a controlled experiment—a country like the one Charlotte Perkins Gilman imagined, high in the mountains, where women wouldn’t grow up as foils for men.

Blame the Victim
Guilt and repentance in the City of God
[Gal Katz]

No. I did not want it. The clarity of grievance constitutes a Cartesian moment; a new, unified and resolute subject emerges. In completely negating the event, I own myself. I was wronged, therefore I am.

“This Is the Girl”
Lindsay Lohan in the Black Lodge
[Philippa Snow]

In Mulholland Drive, a prostitute is pictured outside Winkie’s—in a detail so Lynch, so suggestive of male sexual violence without actually showing it, that it feels somehow tender rather than unethical—with a bruise shaped like a man’s hand, fingers tightly closed, around her arm. Undressing in The Canyons, Lindsay’s bruised all over. She is grabbed at, literally and otherwise, by many hands—and always has been.

Innocence Abroad
The awe and shock of Suzy Hansen
[Ursula Lindsey]

Hansen presents Notes on a Foreign Country as the antithesis of the Eat Pray Love variety of self-discovery tale. And yet hers is also a journey of individual enlightenment. It may no longer be fashionable to speak with authority or to find pleasure abroad—but the American preoccupation with personal growth is unwavering.

Symposium: What are intellectuals for?

Tired of Winning
[Jon Baskin]

Eventually, I began to notice in myself a tension that also existed at the heart of the project of n+1, and of many of the other little magazines. My aesthetic and cultural tastes, the reflection of a lifetime of economic privilege and elite education, did not always, or often, match the direction the magazines were trying to take me politically. This had not troubled me before, because I had never considered that—as the little magazines echoed Fredric Jameson in asserting, or at least implying—“everything is ‘in the last analysis’ political.” But now I had come to see that politics were not just an activity that people engaged in at certain times: when they voted, or protested, or wrote newsletters for think tanks. It was something that could be said to infuse every aspect of one’s experience, from which big-box store you shopped at for your year’s supply of toilet paper, to what restaurants you chose to eat at, to who you chose to sleep with. This was what it meant not just to engage in politics but to “have a politics.”

Black Fire
[Jesse McCarthy]

The Baldwin renaissance shows that there’s a deep yearning in our society not only for sensate, intelligent, moral reasoning, but also for the prophetic witness unique to the black radical tradition. By tapping into it, Coates cleared the air in a public sphere crowded with shrill and shallow analysis. Even when people openly disagree with him, as I have, they respect and perhaps fear the rhetorical power that crackles in his prose like fire behind a furnace door.

Enlightenment Idols
[Ollie Cussen]

It’s no real surprise so many different moments and traditions would produce their own versions of Voltaire and Rousseau—after all, every present has its history. What is curious is why that particular conversation keeps happening. Why, when we’re thinking about intellectuals, are we so eager to talk to the Enlightenment?

I Am Madame Bovary
[Anastasia Berg]

As for how “relatable” “Cat Person” seemed to so many, it would not be the first time a fantasy has seduced its readers by flattering them. “I am Margot,” a thousand voices cried. But perhaps after all she is only what we wish we were or could be: beautiful, naïve, faultless.

On Being an Arsehole
[Jonny Thakkar]

Philosophy trains you to presume that genuine listening, and so genuine conversation, involves helping people to clarify their thoughts, and while this might be true in some contexts, it can also have the effect of turning a heart-to-heart into an Oxbridge tutorial. “I know you’re upset, but you’ve said three different things that are in tension with one another” isn’t always the most helpful way to respond to a loved one’s distress, as I have repeatedly discovered—but old habits die hard.

What Something Is
[Robert L. Kehoe III]

For Gadamer, a responsible dialectical method could help open us up to the potential wisdom in what may at first appear “alien or unintelligible to us.” Language has to be shared, but to share it well it also has to be contested.

Switching Off
[Rachel Wiseman]

This was Brodsky’s answer to Gessen’s challenge … We can believe in the power of art and defend it vigorously without indulging in fantasies of its social utility. In times like these, we need critics. But we also need poets.


The Sting of Knowledge
Mladen Dolar on intellectuals and the university

The university is not an institution to be abandoned. In the longer run, one would hope that the type of extramural networks I’ve described might even help to reform it—in part simply by sabotaging “university discourse” and showing academia for what it is: the site of a politics of knowledge.


Wrestling in Paris
Diplomacy by takedown
[Andrew Kay]

When Snyder told me in an interview, “I’ve wrestled with some farmers,” singling out their exceptional hand strength and work ethic, he was trying to get me to see that the motions of wrestling mimic those of manual labor, its lifting and carrying and throwing. In some deep-seated sense—one that goes beyond any of the condescending explanations that might immediately come to mind—wrestling’s working-class roots and strange religiosity turn out to be linked, though it would take the Paris journey to get me to see how.


Useful Idiots
[Frank Guan]

The Idiot is an ideological novel composed under the assumption that reading and writing, in and of themselves, might substitute for ideology x. Despite her towering disdain for program fiction, Batuman appears to have reiterated its central principle on her own initiative.

Guaranteed Income
[John Thomason]

For those of us wishing to make a compelling case for a universal basic income in the 21st century, the history suggests a need to tackle a central question from the beginning: Just what is basic income for?

The Amazon Bookstore
[Antón Barba-Kay]

The reviews of the new Amazon store concluded on a note of relief. With all its gizmotopian technosyncrasies, it cannot actually compete with your neighborhood shop. … But if the physical bookstore is not about to compete directly with regular independent bookstores, what exactly is the point of it?

Slush Pile

The Life of the Mind, Enlightenment Now
What Arendt is content to leave unsettled Pinker has the tools to address head on. In fact, they may have been lying under our noses this whole time.


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