Books
Covering the Balkans

Covering the Balkans

A Rough Guide to the Dark Side comes close to saying something profound – and then stops. A critique of mainstream news media, an account of corruption in post-millennial Serbia, music industry non-fiction, and a drug memoir. It tries to do too many things. Ironically, it’s the addiction theme that brings it all down. More»

The Price of Power

The Price of Power

You Can’t Be President, by Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur is an epistolary analysis of exactly what that electoral process entails. The first line of the first chapter sets the tone: “Despite what you learn in school of in Junior Scholastic magazine, you can’t be President.” More»

Marxism for the Olympics

Marxism for the Olympics

“Sport has established itself as the spearhead of an army in battle order, which crushes anyone who is stupefied by it,” writes Marc Perelman in Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague. Fittingly, for a project rooted in Adorno and the France of May 1968, Perelman’s concern is with sports as a mass phenomenon, one he locates at the core of capitalist society. More»

Bleak Houses

Bleak Houses

Calling Owen Hatherley’s A New Kind of Bleak a book about architecture is like saying Orwell’s Animal Farm is a book about a farm. Yes, it’s about Hatherley’s travels through the United Kingdom, in which he analyzes edifices ranging from the National Space Centre in Leicester, (affectionately called “The Maggot,”) to Preston’s bus station. However, it’s also about gathering the evidence necessary to indict British urban planning. More»

Near Death of a Salesman

Near Death of a Salesman

Late in Dave Eggers‘ moving new novel A Hologram for the King, his protagonist Alan Clay, a onetime corporate sales manager for Schwinn who is now tenuously self-employed as a consultant, is lying on his belly in a Saudi Arabian operating room, trying to think of something other than the tumor inside him. “I sold capitalism to the communists,” he thinks. More»

Spain, the False Nine

Spain, the False Nine

The original title for Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s detective novel, Off Side, is El delantero centro fue asesinado at atardecer which translates to “The center forward was murdered at dusk”. The title comes from a series of florid notes sent to FC Barcelona: “Because you use your centre forward to make yourselves feel like gods who can manage victories and defeats, from the comfortable throne of minor Caesars: the centre forward will be killed at dusk.” More»

Creating Susan Sontag

Creating Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag created Susan Sontag. The first volume of her journals and notebooks, Reborn, made that clear. As her son and the journals’ editor David Rieff writes, the entries show a young person who “self-consciously and determinedly went about creating the self she wanted to be.” The recently published second volume, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, reinforces the notion that she – and, by extension, we – can consciously create our identities, or at least personas. More»

De-“Randing” America

De-“Randing” America

It’s easy to ignore Ayn Rand. The extremity of her views makes it easy to write her followers off as fringe characters in the already-far Right. However, ignoring Rand and her Objectivist philosophy has in fact facilitated her movement from the fringes toward the mainstream. Now, thirty years after her death, it’s dangerous to ignore her. More»

Prison Makes You Christian

Prison Makes You Christian

Two weeks ago, I went to an awards dinner together with several students. We work on an education project in an Arizona prison. The hotel dining room was filled with hundreds of people, nearly all of whom were religious volunteers engaged in prison ministries. More»

Imperial Aftertaste

Imperial Aftertaste

“Mushroom soup, bitter greens with tomatoes the size of peas, rare roast beef sliced as thin as paper, noodles in a green sauce, cheese that melts on your tongue served with sweet blue grapes” — Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen’s first meal in the Capitol is not distinguished by arcane preparation but the availability of high-quality ingredients. More»

Legitimating Colonial Violence

Legitimating Colonial Violence

Nathan Englander’s new collection of short stories normalizes bad politics. The author’s inability to engage with critical difficulties within American Jewish and Israeli culture leaves key stories littered with futile symbolism. It’s too simple to suggest that Englander lacks courage. More»

Literary Game

Literary Game

The English debut of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich is a major literary event, despite the book’s restrained ambitions. Because the author’s posthumous fame shows no sign of abating, this disconcerting tale is bound to reach a much larger audience than the specialized nature of its subject matter would otherwise suggest. And deservedly so, for it provides ample evidence of Bolaño’s brilliance. More»