Archive

Nikil Saval

16 November 2011

Among the endless, nearly bureaucratic proliferation of working groups at Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere—people of color, sanitation, media, alternative banking, sustainability, anti-racism allies, disability—one stands out for its simultaneous universality and total narrowness. The labor working group, in any occupation, has a very clear and dully unobjectionable task. More…

5 October 2011

The first planning meeting of Occupy Philadelphia was to be held at the Wooden Shoe Bookstore, an anarchist collective; the day of the meeting, Thursday September 29, 200 people showed up, so it was moved to the Arch Street United Methodist Church near City Hall. The church holds a capacity of 900 people. Last night, at the first General Assembly, there were at least a thousand. More…

11 July 2011

Here’s a statistic: upwards of 60,000 Vietnam veterans are believed to have killed themselves since the end of the war. That’s more than the number of Americans who died in the war—think of the size of Maya Lin’s memorial, then double it, and you’ll have an idea of what it means. But then, that number is unconfirmed, and possibly quite low. The number of veteran suicides, like all things related to the Vietnam war, is a point of contention. More…

7 February 2011

All the conditions that nurtured a powerful left in California have virtually disappeared. Today, the educational plans of the Sixties administrators read like fables, while California’s legendary liberal consensus has unraveled to the extent that no Orange County conservative would identify with the Ronald Reagan who, as governor, signed into law the largest tax increase in California’s history. More…

9 August 2010

Tony Judt began as an intellectual historian; he will be remembered by many as a bracing critic of Zionism, a vigorous proponent of European-style social democracy, and—tragically—a victim of ALS. I have heard many describe as “moving” his snatches of memoir, published over the last year of his life. This is true—but what may have been even more moving was the extent to which he devoted his last days to making the case for the welfare state. More…

11 May 2010

Jason Farago must be the only person left on the planet who will miss Gordon Brown. I’m including even diehard Labour voters here, who must have secretly hoped for or expected yesterday’s resignation announcement. For the periods on the either side of the height of the financial crisis, Brown was spectacularly unpopular. More…

3 March 2010

Solnit brings to public light the findings of academic social scientists, who have discovered that in periods of disaster people more often than not behave with altruism and empathy towards each other, rather than, as conventional understanding has it, violently and selfishly. This discovery alone is fascinating and unexpected, but in Paradise Solnit wants more. More…

2 December 2009

Obama and the State Department publicly and fiercely condemned the coup, in a manner one would not have expected from the coup-loving Bush administration (which supported the 2002 coup against Chavez, and the 2004 coup against Aristide in Haiti). This difference, however, was merely rhetorical. Privately—characteristically—Obama began to cave to Republican pressures. More…

14 September 2009

In April 1975, North Vietnamese forces overwhelmed the South and took Saigon. American troops, who had mostly withdrawn by 1973, had no way of stemming the tide. “COMMUNISTS ENTER SAIGON,” ran the AP wire: “VICTORY IN INDOCHINA” was the banner that ran across the New Left Review’s May-June issue of that year. More…

Originally published in Issue 8: Recessional

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28 August 2009

When CNN.com asked its readers for their thoughts on the reconstruction of New Orleans, one Mississippi resident responded, “New Orleans has always had a European feel to it. Why not enhance this by making it like Venice, Italy? Leave the areas that didn’t flood as they are and make the rest like Venice with canals for roads and the houses and properties on concrete ‘islands.’” More…

31 May 2009

Alex Ross is the most important arts critic writing for the New Yorker. I do not mean he is the best writer (though he may be) or the most intelligent (also possible). Rather, more than his contemporaries, he draws an attention of rare sensitivity to modern classical music—a sphere of cultural activity that shows few signs of recovering in any respect from its mid-20th century decline. More…

31 May 2009

An angled picture gracing the book’s jacket shows Rudd bellowing into a megaphone—the image that gave Garry Trudeau the character of “Megaphone” Mark Slackmeyer in Doonesbury. From the memoir, it is clear that Rudd has almost entirely lost this booming self-confidence. More…

2 December 2008

A friend pointed out to me that I can’t call the place Bombay anymore—I’ve always insisted on it, against the weird, historically suspicious nationalism of the ’90s. But now these acts of terrorism have cemented the name in the world imagination. If I continue to refer to Bombay, people will wonder, “Hasn’t he been watching the news?” More…

6 August 2008

Few movies have been so adept at providing easy metaphors for their own incompetence. But The Dark Knight, while doing this, eagerly does more: it presents itself as not just a comic book movie (though it is decidedly that); it is also an allegory, as thick as the Divine Comedy, for the condition of America’s debilitated relationship to the world. More…

13 January 2008

It helped Pennebaker’s documentaries that they were nearly contemporary with their subject, humanizing him against the tide that claimed him as a new Isaiah. But since then, Dylan’s music has gotten worse, while his image in the nostalgic public mind—thanks to marketing by record labels and their useful idiots in the media (like Scorsese)—has been perpetually burnished. More…

10 July 2007

Bobby Seale, 70 years old, founder and former Chairman of the Black Panther Party, is heavy-lidded, heavy-set, and bald. This is ironic: if the Black Panthers were united on anything, it was their hatred of baldness. Full, picked-out Panther afros (particularly those of women) are distinct symbols of pride, self-worth, revolutionary progress. More…

14 February 2007

The familiar vegetarian “conversion” narrative relies on epiphanies: that moment when, staring at the lamb bourguignon, one suddenly imagines the live lamb within the cooked meat. Gandhi gave up meat for a time after suffering nightmares of animals he had eaten bleating and squealing within him. 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…

5 October 2006

In neighborhoods already bereft of their old industrial working-class base, the claim that Ratner will revitalize Brooklyn’s natural, irreplaceable working-class origins is self-fulfilling. If the opposition, as has so often been claimed, is obsessed with the “character” of Brooklyn, then Ratner is too, only more successfully. More…

26 September 2005

Recently, against this sentimentalized Benjamin, we have been given composer Brian Ferneyhough’s and poet Charles Bernstein’s extraordinary and utterly bizarre opera, Shadowtime, which had its North American premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival in July. “Shadowtime is a ‘thought-opera,’ based on the work and life of Walter Benjamin,” Bernstein writes in the program. More…