Art for


Only Collect

The NSA, in its current form, owes less to 1984 than to 1991, the year the USSR dissolved and Congress passed the High-Performance Computing Act, the bill that funded the development of the US’s fiber optic network and the Mosaic web browser. The end of the cold war and the beginning of the internet, almost universally celebrated, were a disaster for the US intelligence establishment.

Against the Rage Machine

A strange mania governs the people of our great nation, a mania that these days results in many individual and collective miseries. This is the love of opinion, of free speech—a furious mania for free, spoken opinion. It exhausts us. We are aware that to say so (freely! our opinion!) makes us hypocrites. We are also aware that America’s hatred of hypocrisy is one of few passions to rival its love of free speech—as if the ideal citizen must see something, say something, and it must be the same thing, all the time. But we’ll be hypocrites because we’re tired, and we want eventually to stop talking.

Moscow, August 2013

This August I went to Moscow for the first time in over a year. I was there to help my grandmother move, a move necessitated in part by the fact that my sister, Masha, is leaving the country after twenty years. Masha is leaving the country because she is gay, and the Russian parliament, with the full support of the Kremlin, has decided that gay people are what’s wrong with Russia. A recent law even suggested that gay couples who had adopted could be stripped of parental rights; Masha adopted her son Vova twelve years ago. It was time to go.

The Magic Thyroid and Energy Boosting Chocolate Truffles

Thanks—MUCH belatedly—for the holiday card, and may your dreams come true in 2013, but I must say that I don’t believe in Christ or the power of wishes. As a nutritionist, I’ve seen too many of my clients “wish” to get well and stay sick despite implementing healthful diets and using the best doctors and supplements; and as a crazy person, I’ve wished too many times myself—by picking heads-up pennies from the sidewalk and stuffing them in my bra and saying out loud what I want, or staring at the moon and thinking hard about my desired object—for things that never came to pass.

The Friedmans

Jesse pled guilty. He spent thirteen years in prison, he was paroled as a Level 3 sex offender, and then he filed an appeal to vacate his conviction. He said he was innocent, that he had only submitted the guilty plea because of the impossibility of receiving a fair trial. A lower court had rejected this appeal, and on the second page of its ruling, the circuit court concurred. “We affirm the judgment of the United States Court for the Eastern District of New York,” the judges wrote, “because we conclude that the grounds asserted in the petition would not justify habeas corpus relief.” Jesse had waited too long to file his appeal.

Jesus Raves

Pastor Parker Richard Green is standing near the entrance, by the railing where there’s a view of the water, drinking a beer. He’s 26 and almost aggressively healthy looking. Tawny of skin, blue of eye, blond of crew cut, he looks like he’s straight from the manufacturer, a human prototype intended to indicate the correct proportion of biceps to shoulders. His brow is square and his jaw is square, and maybe even his whole head is kind of square, but he’s pulling it off.

Elephant States

Scott argues that many of the cultural traits and practices of the ethnic minorities of the Southeast Asian uplands, from Assam to Vietnam and from Malaysia to Southwest China—the emphasis on oral memory-keeping, fluid shifting of ethnic categories, embrace of millenarianism, swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture, and so on—are strategies of state-resistance.


Then are we still stuck in the 19th century? She is sensual, statement-making, with eye-catching jewelry; he is dressed functionally, rather simply? She is for the marriage, or, say, the sex market; he controls the job market? I am well aware that the question is decidedly out of style.


After I left Taaffe Place and moved deeper into Bed-Stuy, I frequently walked down the Bed-Stuy block, Stuyvesant between Lexington and Quincy, where Do the Right Thing, Lee’s sole narrative masterpiece, was shot. Whenever I’d ask a young man who was more or less the age Martin Lawrence was in that film if he’d ever seen it, he’d shake his head no or pass me by without a word.

Channel Zero

The script is basically a tissue of banalities and nonsense, enlivened mostly by Tom’s faulty speech: he spells important as impotent, refers to a dam as a darn, and is prone to bending idioms. When he runs into the Mayor, he often blurts out speak of my devil; once, when he’s asked to make an extra effort, he replies he’ll give it the old junior-college try.


How do you tell the history of the world? Not long ago this question would have seemed naive. The only people enthusiastic about universal history were complacent idiots who thought that history had ended with the cold war and the twin triumphs of democracy and globalization, or that it was moving toward an ever fuller manifestation of the glory of the Western way of life. Raining on their parade felt like a civic duty.

The problem, the Subalterns said, was that this agency was articulated in an “archaic” vocabulary—religious, superstitious, hierarchical, premodern—that did not translate into the modern, autonomous, egalitarian subjectivity that Marxism predicted would emerge under capitalism.


Ultimately, though, none of this matters. Because the translation-from-abroad market merely demonstrates what all serious American novelists must feel in their bones: now is not the time for literature, or at least for greatness in literature. Social consciousness has become the new beauty.