Recent links of note:
Christopher Bray, The Critic
In Book II of Plato’s Republic, Glaucon tells the story of Gyges, a humble shepherd who discovers a magical ring enabling him to become invisible. Since nobody can hold him to account, he insinuates himself into the king’s court and, using his powers, kills the monarch and takes the throne. The life of Louis Althusser, that great advocate of Marxist determinism and denier of human consciousness, was something like this—save that, instead of actually becoming invisible, he shrouded himself in ill-informed drivel and climbed atop a heap of academics who really should have known better. Should have known? Should know: Althusser made up quotations for his thesis on Hegel, “had read about as much Marx as Margaret Thatcher had” (says Christopher Bray in The Critic), and managed to accidentally strangle his wife, but literary theorists and their students still turn a blind eye to the unreality of his fanciful thinking. Whereas most of us figure out object permanence in our childhood, Althusser and his radical devotees are still playing peek-a-boo today, whispering to one another in so many words: “If I don’t exist, you don’t exist, and we can get away with anything.”
“I won’t read American Dirt—but not because the author has the wrong skin color”
Lionel Shriver, The Spectator
Jeanine Cummins and her publisher, Flatiron Books, have recently attracted the culture mob’s ire for her new American Dirt. The story centers on a Mexican woman and her son making a dash for the U.S. border to escape a murderous cartel. If it “sounds thematically one-dimensional and . . . polemical,” as Lionel Shriver writes for The Spectator, that’s probably because it’s calculated, just as books have been for decades and decades, to offer timely commentary and thereby profit from a modish moment. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, yet hardly a crime, and though we’ve seen plenty of the like in Hollywood, this incident represents the first major incursion of chattering censors into the world of book publishing. The backlash the book has received is hardly warranted, Shriver argues, because it draws impossible lines in the sand. Detractors claim that, since Cummins is white, it doesn’t matter how well she means or how meticulously she researches her subject—she’s profiting from someone else’s suffering, and ought to be canceled. “You can’t patent topics and classes of character,” Shriver replies. “Fiction writers rightly avail themselves of an infinite array of toys in the global playpen.” Forbid basing a story on something that’s “not yours,” and you might find yourself without a leg to stand on.
“John O’Sullivan on the Left v. the nation”
“Roger Kimball: Sovereignty or Submission”
Exclusive audio from The New Criterion’s “Sovereignty or Submission” conference in Washington, D.C.
“Sally Matthews and ‘Salley Gardens’”
Jay Nordlinger on a soprano and her pianist in recital.