The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 23. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
Letter from the Editors
[Jesse McCarthy and Jon Baskin]
Not only was Harold Cruse dubious about the plausibility of eradicating prejudice from the souls of whites, but he believed that such a project—inevitably focused on interracial settings and the individuals who inhabit them—was of little concrete use to the largely unintegrated communities who were, and still are, paying the steepest price for the country’s discriminatory history.
“Don’t You Kneel”
Testimonies from a summer of protest
[THE VIDEO] “I was in my living room with my son. And it came through on my phone on my Facebook feed. And so I just clicked the link, and then I paused it. And the reason why I paused it, before even I watched the whole thing, is I wanted my son to see it.”
[PROTEST SUMMER] “Once they started shaking a fence and banging on it, the federal officers—like a movie scene—lined up across the street and came out, just shooting projectiles and fireballs at people. It was really like a war zone. They shot me in the leg. My husband got shot a couple times. It was shocking. You know, I’m a little bit of a rebel myself. So I had my leaf blower. They put it on really heavy with the tear gas. So we had like a line of like fifty people with leaf blowers and we were just blowing the gas back at them.”
[HOPE AND PESSIMISM] “I don’t look at Black and white. I’m looking at wrong and right. And I tell people that everybody that marched with Dr. King, you understand, patting him on the back, were talking about him on the corner. You know, he used to come to the city of Anniston when we had a mass meeting. I was very young, and we was going to a mass meeting and, I’m telling you right now, that old church wasn’t full when he came. He didn’t have the name then, they were just strategizing and getting protests together. I used to go down in Montgomery and sleep on the fairgrounds in little carts and stuff, looking up at the stars, to get up and march the next day. But I tell people, I understand that—hey, I’m gonna fight for my people. And I’m damn sure gonna fight for my family. That’s the way I am. And so if you want me to sit down and shut up, do what’s right.”
The relevance of the Cultural Revolution
Once we recognize the emancipatory and egalitarian dimensions of the Cultural Revolution, the problem becomes more difficult, not less. We now have to try to understand why collectivities advocating an emancipatory politics also engage in persecution of their own members, not only in our own contemporary experience but also in one of the most significant events in the history of revolutionary socialism.
Lovers in the Hands of a Patient God
[S. G. Belknap]
It was hard for me to believe, at first, that spiritual debates in the American colonies, say, or the conventions of mass-market storytelling could tell me anything about my love life. But they did. How had I missed it? Probably because what they have to offer is so counterintuitive,and maybe even something of a scandal: that here in America, the Land of the Will, it can be good—very good, crucially important even—not to will.
Symposium: What is sex for?
After my firsthand experience, I am not so sure that women actually make it out of the shimmering space of the postpartum experience. More likely, they combust and prolapse in it, and it is not them but their doubles who emerge out of its haze. It is their doubles who greet you with “It’s going great!” when you eventually do meet for fucking brunch.
We All Deserve to Heal
“I need to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone before…” Sex workers hear this all the time. We carry the secrets that men never tell their wives, their friends, not even their therapists. As whores, we are entrusted with the most profane and, I believe, the most precious personal stories.
A Deeper Longing
[Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist]
In our current culture, deeply marked by the sexual revolution, sexual freedom is most often thought of as a freedom from restriction. To be sexually free is to be liberated from taboos and prohibitions, to be able to do anything that one desires, as long as one’s sexual partners consent. But the Christian tradition sees sexual freedom as being a freedom for a certain kind of human fulfillment; it’s the freedom to use our sexuality in the way it was intended so that it can be a sign of God’s love.
I had forgotten to ask Louis whether to use the formal vous or the familiar tu in a sex club. Usually you use vous for strangers, but what if you were allowing the stranger’s husband to put your hand on his cock?
Little Things Are Big Again
Or maybe I was mistaken, blinded by cynicism. Integrated love didn’t have to bear the weight of such a grim outlook. He’d try, and I’d try, and together we might create something immersive, nurturing and revolutionary. Our love would envelop us, like a force field or a good angel with broad, unfurled cages for wings. And I’d never again have trouble hailing a cab.
A conversation with Eyal Peretz
[Eyal Peretz and Anastasia Berg]
In the most basic sense, when we first confront powerful images we say that we are out of words, right? All of a sudden we don’t know what to say. Or we say they take our breath away. We can’t just immediately articulate what is happening. We feel called by the encounter with the image to say something, yet we also feel that we are losing speech. This is a kind of simple concrete experience, I think, of, in extreme cases, the almost suffocating dimension that an image can have on us.
If McCarthy’s critics thought the Vassar girls were pitifully naïve and shallow—about sex as about many other things—they might have recognized that what happens to any of these women cannot ruin the faith they have and the pleasure they take in their own experiences; and in this alone they must have had more to teach us than they were ever given credit for.
Meaning a Life
Along with George’s Selected Letters, Meaning a Life is the only prose account of the Oppens’ composite life as they understood it. Inside that story Mary has nested another—a rare account of imagination, companionship and love becoming mysteriously and beautifully aligned.