Archive

Keith Gessen

7 February 2014

In recent years Nemtsov had returned to the scene as a fearless critic of Putin. This was incongruous: Nemtsov liked to go skiing in France with his oligarch friends; he enjoyed the company of young ladies. Why rock the boat? And yet, year after year, his name appeared as the coauthor of reports denouncing the corruption of the Moscow mayor, or of the Putin administration. More…

What is an author for? asks Medvedev. Is he a private citizen who tries to produce masterpieces of literature—whereupon his responsibilities end? The answer, especially in contemporary Russia, must be no. The author must be willing to answer for his texts. The only justification for an essentially unproductive life is that it be lived without compromise. More…

26 July 2013

What Navalny’s anticorruption platform is not—and the repeated insistence that if good, moral people were in charge of the government, instead of bad, immoral people, things would be entirely different—is a politics. Politics begins where corruption ends. What do you do with the funds freed up by a no longer corrupt system? How do you distribute them? More…

20 June 2013

Gestures of pure art are really not useful right now . . . your privileges, such as they are, whether of being “straight,” that is, a member of the majority, or the privilege of being an author, needs to be used without any shame or shyness, and without being afraid of didacticism—in some part on behalf of those whose much more serious and dangerous heroic acts no one will ever describe or record. More…

12 June 2013

Goals are so rare in the playoffs; teams can go for periods at a stretch without scoring one. You begin to think: the ice is so clogged up with giant defensemen, hockey sticks, linesmen, goalie pads, goalie helmets, bodies of fallen men with broken legs from blocking shots . . . how is anyone ever going to score? It’s going to go on like this forever, 0-0, am I even going to have time to get up and go to the bathroom? More…

25 March 2013

The old question in Soviet studies used to be: Was Stalinism a continuation of Leninism, or a betrayal of it? If you were on the right, you answered that it was a continuation; if you were on the left, a betrayal. The new question is whether Putinism is a continuation of Yeltsinism, or a betrayal of it. If you are on the right (and in the US this includes most liberals and neoliberals), you believe that it’s a betrayal; if you are on the left, you believe that it’s a continuation. More…

24 May 2012

The Rangers do it differently. They physically insert themselves between the defenseman and the boards, and set up shop. The defenseman cross-checks them in the back repeatedly, with impunity. The Rangers dig and grind along the boards until someone can pop open to the front of the net. It’s a labor-intensive process, but the Rangers finally undertook to do it, and it was a sight to behold. It was almost enough. More…

12 May 2012

Ovechkin is the oddest player going. On highlight reels he is always scoring acrobatic goals—goals while flinging himself through the air, goals from his knees, goals from his back—but in actual games what you see is that he’s out of control. Ovechkin is graceless. His great rival, Sidney Crosby, when he skates, looks like he’s barely touching the ice. Ovechkin looks like he’s trying to dig a hole in it. More…

22 March 2012

I have trouble talking about books because to me it feels like narcissistic display. I’m reading this great book because I’m so great. Now, that’s not what people really mean when they talk about books, but it makes it difficult for me. “What is a book you wished you had read earlier?” A book I had read earlier in order to do what? More…

Daniel Smith and n+1 editor Keith Gessen talk about Gessen’s article for Vanity Fair, “The Book on Publishing” (October 2011). This article uses Chad Harbach’s book The Art of Fielding as a lens to examine developments in print and electronic publishing. Keith and Daniel discuss what these changes mean for the industry, the authors, and the reading public. More…

23 May 2011

Americans have always been suspicious of our cities. Before the Civil War, writers competed to denounce them in the strongest possible terms, culminating in the twin Transcendentalist broadsides of Emerson’s Nature and Thoreau’s Walden. The latter prompted Henry James, himself no fan of the city, to describe its author as an “essentially sylvan personage.” More…

16 March 2011

It was a miraculous time! For family reasons I moved to Belarus, finished my career here. When I came, I immersed myself into this Chernobylized space, it was a corrective to my sense of things. It was impossible to imagine anything like it, even though I’d always dealt with the most advanced technologies, with outer space technologies. It’s hard even to explain. More…

7 March 2011

It’s just so crazy, in order to follow this incredibly rigorous public moral code you end up doing things that people don’t usually do, like sitting with a middle-aged Saudi man in a hotel room. The compromise we came up with was to sit in the hallway on my floor where there were armchairs. We did the interview. They were vacuuming the floors around us. More…

16 December 2010

I made a lot of inaccurate predictions in the book, which we left in. I guess honesty’s important. But one that was correct, I think, was that I felt like there was this credit heart attack, a real collapse of economic activity, and that after the restoration to normal, of the basic plumbing of credit, you would see a bounce back of activity, you would see an inventory restocking, but you’re still going to hit a wall. More…

15 December 2010

My new life is substantially more relaxing than my old life. I moved to Austin. I am enjoying a life of leisure down there. It’s amazing how little I miss New York. I thought I would miss it more than I do. Maybe it’s just that I’m more adaptable than I think. But Austin’s a great town. It’s very laid back. I wonder how much of what I thought was finance driving me crazy was really New York. More…

28 July 2010

Look, the interview process is short, relative to how long you’re going to have to live with these people, right? And almost anybody with any amount of self-control can portray themselves as someone completely different through the space of five or six interviews. But, not everybody’s such a sociopath and is willing to do that just for a job. More…

2 July 2010

And I always used to think that the reason that financial markets’ memory is so short is not because individuals are short-sighted or they easily forget lessons bought at very high cost, but that the average life of an investor is kind of like the life of a mayfly, I mean, they just turn over really fast. More…

25 June 2010

Suddenly, you see Link 1 go. You’re like, “Holy cow. Six months ago I thought that was a 1 percent probability, but now it’s just happened, well, maybe the next link isn’t a 1 percent probability, it’s a much higher probability, and now if I multiply all these probabilities together, there’s like a meaningful probability that we could get blown up!” More…

24 June 2010

People talk about corruption, but really effective corruption requires something like organization. Like Argentina. It’s organized, it’s very organized corruption. Africa is certainly corrupt. But it’s more that it was chaotic. The infrastructure is poor, volatility is high. In Africa, anything can happen. More…

23 June 2010

What was happening was that the pay scale for finance was just—incredibly out of whack. You had guys who were literally just a couple of years out of college, maybe they’d done a year or two at an investment bank, making several hundred thousand dollars a year doing pretty low-value-added Excel-modeling tasks. More…

22 June 2010

I had never heard of Bernie Madoff, OK? But one of the guys here who is very active in the options world, which is what Bernie Madoff was allegedly trading, as soon as the headline came across—it didn’t say what he was arrested for—he said two things. He said, “I knew it, I knew that guy was a fraud.” And the second thing he said was, “This is going to be huge. This is going to be the biggest thing ever.” More…

21 June 2010

Ah, yes, but here’s the question. Who paid that Mexican guy to hammer together those houses? Well, the developer. Where did the developer get the money from? The developer got the money from a bank. Where did the bank get the money from? The bank got the money from a depositor. The depositor doesn’t think he spent the money. The depositor still thinks he has a claim on the money, right? More…

25 November 2008

n+1: All right, let’s get to it. Is America now a Third World country? HFM: No, we’re a First World country with a weak currency. From time to time, the dollar’s been very weak; from time to time, it’s very strong; and unfortunately what tends to happen is people tend to just extrapolate. But over the very long term, currency processes tend to be fairly stable and mean-reverting. More…

Originally published in Issue 7: Correction

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4 November 2008

I remember the New Yorker “Talk of the Town” when the first rumors of the Lewinsky scandal came out. One of Clinton’s aides was interviewed, not knowing whether the rumors were true or not, convinced (as was the case) that the Republicans, looking for one thing (Whitewater), had found something else (Lewinsky), but adding: “If you want to know who I blame, I blame Clinton. I blame him.” More…

10 April 2008

In New York, they saved. They saved on orange juice, sliced bread, they saved on coffee. On movies, magazines, museum admission (on Friday nights). Train fare, subway fare, their apartment out in Queens. It was a principle, of sorts, and they stuck to it. To be poor in New York was humiliating, a little; but to be young—to be young was divine. More…

1 April 2008

It’s been a really turbulent couple of weeks. Obviously the market has been in some, uh, degree of crisis since the last time we spoke, but what’s new is that it’s really been spreading … The particular market that I trade, I’ve seen prices much more distressed than they are today. But I’ve never seen the financial system as a whole more distressed. More…

5 October 2007

Chemistry is a huge, huge thing in hockey. A great pitcher is a great pitcher. And a QB needs some chemistry but he’s got a lot of options. And even the NBA has become one-on-one. But in hockey you don’t know what’s going to click. More…

9 January 2007

When I was in elementary school, we used to play a game that was called “Would you prefer to be frozen or burned alive?” At the time, I always chose frozen. It seemed like it would be possible to just curl up in the snow and die, which I had read about in White Fang. Whereas with burning, what I really imagined was boiling—in a big pot. More…

First of all, I am so grateful to be blogging on this blog. I mean, look at my predecessor. This is a guy who two weeks ago was living under the desk at the n+1 office, who’d never read a book his entire life, he had problems in the head, he had no girlfriend—and he started a lit-blog. Now he’s taking over the New York Times Book Review. More…

27 June 2006

Barbara and I talked on the phone maybe a dozen times and saw each other half that often; I can’t claim I knew her well. And yet if the first thing you wonder about most powerful and impressive people is what they are really, truly like, this was not the case with Barbara Epstein. More…

12 March 2006

How much money does a writer need? In New York, a young writer can get by on $25,000, give or take, depending on thriftiness. A slightly older young writer—a 30-year-old—will need another $10,000 to keep up appearances. But that’s New York. There are places where a person can live on twelve or thirteen thousand a year—figures so small they can be written out. More…

31 October 2005

Whenever people suggest to me, either explicitly or otherwise, that the writing world is a meritocracy, that people eventually get what they deserve and the rest fall out, that the world, in short, is a fair world, I think of Patrick Giles. “I never established myself as a freelancer,” he’d say, frustrated with the course of his career. More…

15 May 2005

A case could be made that he was, and will be, the last great American novelist, the beneficiary of a cultural field sowed by Partisan Review, Commentary, Dissent. He was historically necessary: the novelist of the post-war Jewish cultural ascendancy. He could write novels for adults, with references to Spinoza and Marx, because there were enough adult readers—men among them—to support his doing so. More…

14 February 2005

I did not come to Harvard so that my roommate could sleep with, or almost-sleep-with, the Vice President’s daughter. In my secret dreams, or even from past experience, I would have thought that it would be I who slept with, or almost-slept-with, the Veep’s handsome daughter. But to have a roommate who did, that is also something. And to realize this, that it is something, may just be the beginning of wisdom—or almost-wisdom, as the case may have been. More…

Originally published in Issue 2: Happiness

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20 October 2004

My mood swings on this are so violent. I was sure at the end of the third debate that Kerry would sweep the nation. But watching five minutes of the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, while we were staying with my in-laws, convinced me that we were going to lose by just as much. Debates, I realized, are a 19th—no, actually, an 18th-century political format that has, wonderfully, survived. More…

16 October 2004

What if all the libels, brazen lies, gerrymandering, and fake voter registration groups that tear up the cards of Democrats are a shift from the symbolic violence of games to real violence in a real war where anything goes and not even the past will be safe if the enemy wins? More…

What to do—you can’t play here with my nerves, my angel. I played for ten hours, and ended up losing. Over the course of the day things were very bad at times, and at other times I was up, and then my luck changed. I’ll tell you all about it when we meet. For now, I’ll give it one more shot today, with what remains (very little, a drop). More…

So, you know, here it is on the counter. Which, frankly, it’s there because I just haven’t found another place to put it. But it’s here. And I’ll keep it another week. And if someone comes in, to be honest, I’ll sell it for whatever price they offer me. And then you can come by, we can use that money, we can buy a Coca-Cola. More…