N1BR: Issue 4

August 2009

When the reading is over and the inevitable question-and-answer session begins—and there’s nothing wrong with that, of course—the question invariably arises. “When exactly did you start writing?” As though it could be traced back to an exact date and time, like one’s first cigarette, or the loss of one’s virginity. More…

Communist ideologues are not known for their parenting skills. Take Marx, who saw families (especially his own) as obstructions to political ends; Che, a notorious ladies’ man who barely saw his children at all; Mao, with his four wives and ten (or more) kids; or even Stalin, who, before driving Nadezhda Alliluyeva to suicide, impregnated a 13-year-old during his Siberian exile. More…

Books on atheism have been selling like—well, like spiritual self-help books. The unexpected publishing success of Dawkins and Dennett, Hitchens and Harris has left some of us, at least on the more religious side of the Atlantic, fantasizing that we might be at the dawn of a secular New Age. More…

In a 1998 essay recently reprinted in his book Close Calls with Nonsense, critic Stephen Burt christened the “Elliptical school” of poetry, which encompasses writers prone to “hinting, punning, or swerving away from a never-quite-unfolded backstory,” who “believe provisionally in identities (in one—or in at least one—‘I’ per poem),” but who, amid their “fast-forward and cut-up,” “suspect the I’s they invoke.” More…

As the US prepared to invade Iraq, Arthur Houghton began to worry about the fate of the country’s archaeological heritage. An antiquities collector and former White House international policy analyst, Houghton tried to locate the office in the Defense or State Department concerned with protecting Iraq’s heritage during the invasion. More…

It’s clear why academics would be interested in a book about peer review, but How Professors Think is being marketed for a general readership. Here, peer review serves as a proxy for all the acts of judgment that make up the university, all the decisions about who is admitted, who is rewarded, what is worth studying, and why. More…

Image: Clare Grill, The Overachievers. 35" x 28". oil on linen on panel. www.20x200.com/artists/clare-grill.html