Book Review

An online-only review of books and arguments about books.

Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement

Feminism folded itself into the wings of history; Solanas refused to budge.

Solanas’s legacy is hard to qualify. She has been alternately reviled and adored, and ultimately beatified, by radical feminists; anxiously decried by mainstream liberal feminists; and dismissed by everyone else. Though SCUM has been published in several editions over the years with prefaces by figures including Michelle Tea, Vivian Gornick, and Avital Ronell, Solanas’s life and work have remained largely unexamined, functioning more as a cautionary tale than anything else.

Under Color of Statute

Under Color of Statute

Did the Civil Rights Act change the Constitution?

Other laws, of course, have also helped shape the country. But the Civil Rights Act is different in one major way: for many Americans born since its passage, it is very difficult to imagine political and social life without it. Imagine the United States losing the Civil Rights Act’s bans on employment discrimination, or on the segregation of public places. Imagine us giving up its tools for the integration of schools and other public facilities. For a lot of people, it’s nearly unthinkable. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that the Civil Rights Act is in this way so different from most other laws—that it’s so different in kind—that it’s that it’s just a different variety of thing .

N1BReading

N1BReading

What n+1 editors and contributors are reading this month.

David Owen’s The Man Who Invented Saturday Morning: And Other Adventures in American Enterprise should be way, way more famous than it is. Somebody reissue it. The collection of essays— published in Harper’s and the Atlantic in the 1980s— is about advertising, market research, how to get people to do what you want them to do. Owen goes to Liverpool with a bunch of Beatles fanatics, attends a convention for convention planners, close-reads trade magazines, explains how divorce rates influence the toy industry. The conceit, in retrospect, is a little flimsy, but it doesn’t matter: his essays are among the least tortured journalism I’ve ever read, and his choice of subject matter—novel, seemingly slight—epitomizes the kind of obsolete intellectual audacity that, for whatever reason, you only ever really come across in out of print books.

Mission Fatigue

Mission Fatigue

“So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one.”

Ever since the publication of The Kite Runner in 2003, the Afghan-born American novelist Khaled Hosseini has been the foremost practitioner of what we might call humanitarian fiction—work designed to jar privileged readers out of their complacency by reminding them of the extreme hardships and injustices suffered by people in other parts of the world.