The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 26. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
Letter from the Editors
On Language Games
The charms of the language game of definitions can be difficult to resist, perhaps because it allows us to “play” at politics without ever leaving the smooth ground of conceptual manipulation. Yet this is also why it so often feels as if, far from making progress, the conversation is merely slipping from side to side.
“Alas! of mendacity and insincerity, … and depredation, as proved by over-paid places—of obtainment on false pretences, as proved by Non-Residence, Pluralism, and Sinecurism—be vicious—in the scale of vice.”
Where Dreams Come True
The national conservatives go to Orlando
[Joseph M. Keegin]
The national conservatives convened once again on the first weekend of November, a year after Trump lost reelection—this time far from the White House, in the COVID-contrary free state of Florida. The inaugural summit was in a Ritz-Carlton near the throbbing heart of power, the entire affair suffused with the thrill of victory: this year, it was at a Hilton near SeaWorld.
Sex and Sensibility
Of some recent bodies and minds
[S. G. Belknap]
“This doesn’t have to end,” she said. “You should know that I’m scared of you,” I said. And we held on to each other, grasping at arms and clothing. And that was it, the last kindness. We started arguing again, our voices started to rise, we pulled our bodies apart from each other, we started to edge in the directions we needed to go—then we told each other to fuck off and walked away.
The writing life and its discontents
The gig economy sucks and capitalism sucks and Twitter sucks and nepotism and schmoozing suck, so it makes sense that the fiction and cultural criticism that resonate with us reflect this experience of dissatisfaction. But … all this writing risks merely adding the experience of reading and writing to this long list of things that suck.
On identification and interventionism
The digital space can open out into the enormity and complexity of the world just as easily as it can shrink, abridge or caricature it. Illusions of proximity can trick us into thinking we understand and commiserate with distant and distinct forms of suffering, and in this cozy domain, presumptuous empathy becomes a fashionable application.
[John Michael Colón]
Why do ideas need novels?
Here is a syllogism featuring falsifiable yet true premises: graduate students are lonely; loneliness entails desperation and/or pining for the warmth of a body turned pale by the fluorescent lamplights of the library, i.e. horniness; therefore, graduate students are horny. The premises and therefore the conclusion, as they say, checks out.
[Peter C. Baker]
The letter is, like all of his letters, written in Italian. Amira has no way of knowing if he does this for her benefit, or in hopes of stymieing the censor. There is no indication of when it was written. It tells her nothing. It does worse than tell her nothing: it takes Ayoub—her Ayoub, the real individual—and overwrites him with an infinity of possible Ayoubs, each Ayoub changed forever by whatever he has had to endure, whatever he is still enduring (potentially right at this very moment), whatever he might yet have to endure in the future. Reading the letters makes Ayoub feel farther away.
Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man
As much as Mann challenges moral zealotry, he implicitly poses an even more dire challenge to those who would resuscitate his defense of nonpolitical art today. Is it possible to do so without eminently political—that is, illiberal and anti-democratic—consequences?
When I Get Home
Loving black art is something very different from listing its citational references. Loving When I Get Home is not an act of cartography. When I Get Home is both less, and thus more, than a map.
Worries bend to wonder. One moves through desiccated irony and a few justified doubts to say, without losing face, that Turrell’s art is the stuff of dreams.