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Politics

Illustration by Melody Newcomb

Collusion

She had moved to Germany to be a writer but quickly found there wasn’t very much to write about. Germany was calm. The people were friendly and straightforward. If you managed a few words of German they would say, “Your German is very good.” When you gave them exact change they would smile.

Illustration by Anna Sudit

The News From the World of Beauty

In late summer of 2017 I was at an artists’ colony in rural Virginia. A hot topic of conversation among the artists there was how we were reading the news, and how often. Some of the artists at the colony were reading the news obsessively every morning, either because they were addicted to it or because they felt it was their social responsibility to stay informed about the invariably breathtaking choices of our current president and those who surround and respond to him. Some artists were ignoring the news altogether—every headline, every scandal, every tweet—choosing to entirely suppress the outside world during the span of the residency. The rest of the artists stayed lightly informed, but consciously attempted to prevent the news of the world from gaining much purchase on their inner lives.

<i>The City Always Wins</i>. By Omar Robert Hamilton. MCD, 2017. 320p. HB, $26.

Songs From the Revolution

Recently, after a season of heavy protests, a number of my friends vanished from social media. Some went quiet, some quit altogether. The ones who persisted were the ones who’d always been  vocal, who’d already learned how to fold civic engagement—and occasional resistance—into their daily lives without experiencing the whiplash: engage, protest, engage, burnout.

<i>Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life</i>. By Yiyun Li. Random House, 2017. 224p. HB, $27.

Unsettled

In 2011, the writer Yiyun Li and I were both asked to judge a fiction contest for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. I panicked, that certain swoon-panic of the fellow author who is a fan, at her name next to mine. I was enamored of all her abilities, from mechanical to aesthetic—a certain gelid elegance, sharpness in syntax and diction, fluidity of theme in dark and light with such self-possessed strokes. And I—in my head and sometimes truly with my pen, an impulsive maximalist-stylist, always straddling rough and rougher—studied her register but found it impossible to emulate. So when we judged that contest together, I tried to calmly and coolly interact with her without a stutter. We both had agreed on the same winner almost instantly. I completely agree with you, Porochista. It’s my favorite too, so let’s go ahead with it? she wrote, words I held on to for months. Eventually I realized we had even more in common than I dared suspect: her East Asian immigrant to my West Asian immigrant, English as a second language, nuclear physicist fathers, and California as home.

Photo by Valerie Schmidt

The Useful Village

In the fall of 2015, Germany designated Sumte, population 102, as a sanctuary for nearly 800 refugees. What followed was a living experiment in the country’s principles.

By Juan Carlos

Prince of Peace

San Salvador’s upstart mayor, Nayib Bukele, has promised a new way forward for a city besieged by decades of violence. His biggest obstacle, however, may not be the city’s gangs, but the city’s idea of itself.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story. Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig. Amazon Studios / Magnolia Pictures, 2016. 110 minutes.

Extras

Disgrace is a public phenomenon, defined by public measures—of perception, opinion, consensus. To suffer disgrace is to arouse a collective sense of betrayal, bounds demolished, moral or social compacts violated. Reprieve from disgrace is also a public phenomenon, something a certain kind of documentary makes plain. Having suffered disgrace, occasionally a public individual will sit for a documentary portrait, as both former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and Laura Albert, the writer behind the literary persona JT LeRoy, have recently done. Weiner and Author: The JT LeRoy Story apply documentary means to restorative ends, where a kind of suspense attends the effort to marry a frayed reputation to a private self, disgraceful behavior to mitigating context, image to some more tangible thing. 

Of Movements, Rebellions & Revolutions

A revolution is an opinion that has got its hands on some bayonets. So said Napoleon Bonaparte, who knew about such things. Fair enough: Throughout history, most revolutions have been brought about at the point of a spear or the end of a gun barrel—for, Mohandas Gandhi and Václav Havel notwithstanding, violence often precedes political change.

Can Taxes Be Lowered?

I The average citizen thinks of Government as a remote, incorporeal agency, that takes away a large part of his income if he is very rich, and gives him a large part of his income if he is very poor. What the government does with its money is of rel [...]

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