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Essays

Of  Freedom and Liberty

September 8, 2020

As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his 1762 treatise, The Social Contract, humans are free but are everywhere in chains: literal chains, made of forged steel; or perhaps metaphorical ones, made of gold and silver, illusion, ignorance, indifference, whatever binds and traps us.

The 2020

September 8, 2020

We were passengers forced to jump into the water when our ship, the 2020, after years of creaking, cracked in half and sank down into the darkness. The ship was long thought to be beautiful. For it gleamed in the sunlight. And it gleamed in the moonlight. It throbbed like a beacon, could be seen across great distances. And since it was like a beacon it was taken for a beacon. 

Shades of Gloom

March 2, 2020

We’re a worried bunch, we Americans. We’re anxious. We’re gloomy, even doomy. We’re angsty, despairing, depressed. There’s a widespread sense that things are certainly not right with the world, and perhaps not right with us. If Dickens were with us, he might call it the most uncool of times.

Illustration by Kelsey Dake

The Curse of Cool

March 2, 2020

In the fall of 2005, at the shuttle terminal of New York’s LaGuardia airport, I entered the security line and noticed, in front of me, a slight and slightly stooped older woman. After a couple of blinks, I recognized Joan Didion.

Waterlogged

March 2, 2020

Imitating the Architecture of Nature

Lisa Golightly, <em>Flood Line 333</em>, 2015.

Lines of  Sight

March 2, 2020

The town of Dunwich, once a thriving medieval port on England’s Suffolk Coast, has for centuries been crumbling into the sea. All that now remains of the old structures is a small collection of hilltop ruins, flanked by a nineteenth-century church and a handful of newer homes built far from the water’s edge. Served by a single pub and a few guesthouses, the local economy has long catered principally to visitors, many of whom are part of a long line of artists and poets who have been drawn here since the Victorian age to contemplate the town’s picturesque decay. 

Photo by Dan Schwartz

Ill Nature

March 2, 2020

When the glacier finally melted, the last of the green turned yellow and brown and the dry season came like an omen. Its white-blue ice had given water to all thirteen communities of Quispillaccta in Peru and, to women and men wise enough to receive them, messages: Plant here; plant that.

Photograph by Emily Ding

Fossil Combing

March 2, 2020

“You’ve come in the worst conditions,” Paddy Howe says drolly. It’s September and the seaside town of Lyme Regis is still basking in summer.

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