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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

Famoustown

Famoustown

They would have never guessed that I was nothing like them, nothing at all, going not to my job but to my loft, about to sign a new lease on life.

The billboards began advertising the city long before I was even close to it. In fact, I’d barely left the Blandon City Limits when I saw the following question floating in my periphery: WHAT DOES FAMOUSTOWN MEAN TO YOU? Famoustown meant quite a lot to me, actually. Even though I’d never been there, it was a place I had been hearing about all my life. Big events were always taking place in Famoustown; it was a place that other places looked to for information on the current trends. It was also a place where famous people lived, and this had always given me pause. While I liked famous people just as much as the next person, I never wanted to be famous myself. After all, it didn’t take much to see what fame did to people, how it puffed up their pride, and let them speak every word with certainty; and how, over time, it seemed to make them resemble not the pleasant, ordinary people they surely were before fame found them, but rather mentally ill ghouls. And that wasn’t going to be my route, I knew.

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

The US has no prospects for improving the stability of Afghan politics through military force.

The US army, through a combination of historical ignorance and disastrous blundering, failed to populate Afghanistan’s post-invasion government with the people who could have given it a chance at real stability. The US pretended as though the Afghan civil war had never occurred, and allowed mujahedeen and warlords who had terrorized the country throughout the 1990s to assume positions of political power, which did not endear Afghans to their new rulers.

The Commission

The Commission

I carried groceries for Mrs. Perillo and then churned out at least two pages.

I live in Pigneto, which is considered the alternative heart of the capital, Pasolini’s old neighborhood, where every week some witty journalist comes on a mission to reveal to the world that between Prenestina and Casilina Streets there hides a Roman Williamsburg, and some inspired photographer follows him to immortalize the young hipsters who open clubs, reconvert old garages, emit metallic sounds from their Macs, shoot documentaries, and go shopping with their bicycles.

Sad and Boujee

Sad and Boujee

The radical and perpetually unpredictable voice of Percival Everett

Neglect is a fate all experimental writers risk, but if they happen to be black it can seem almost impossible to avoid. Everett always intended to chart his own course. He picked the novel up where Ishmael Reed had taken it, but pivoted away from Reed’s zaniness toward a prismatic allegorical realism, a constant reinvention of form designed to grapple with the vertiginous ends of America’s violent and often contradictory racial, economic, geographic, and sexual epistemologies—a project consonant in many ways with Wallace’s—but evidently not one that could generate the same kind of popular appeal.

New Hope for Britain

New Hope for Britain

The release of Labour’s manifesto marked the moment when the tide turned.

Opinion polls had long shown that left-leaning economic policies were popular in principle. The problem was that there were very few opportunities to vote for them in actual elections. What 2017 shares with 1983 is an unusually deep commitment to these policies, to tangible and plausible things.

A Thin Place

A Thin Place

Truth is you were ransacked and you will never cease to know that.

You drift gingerly out of the clinic. The air flaps and you quiver. You linger a minute at the squat wall between the carpark and the pavement—over there is the old St. Columba’s graveyard, where you always meant to go. This town was a “thin place” that pilgrims came to, in the belief that here the margin is finest between heaven and earth. You can’t fathom that. Heaven’s only a sweet con to mollify and defer you, an excuse for why some days here get so painful. No reason, no good reason. Would it be better or worse if you had reason to feel this joyless? Nothing matters and you’re meant to keep on going on.

Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

On Denis Johnson, 1949–2017

For all of its glorious derangement—hallucinatory tales of druggies and low-lives and murderers and fuck-ups, including a guy so far gone his friends all call him “Fuckhead”—Denis Johnson’s writing is always rooted in the conviction that life is sacred, that evil is a symptom of suffering, which is to say of estrangement from the sacred.

A Price Point That Would Guarantee Exclusivity

A Price Point That Would Guarantee Exclusivity

I set about visiting old haunts that summer, but soon realized few were left.

We had been gentrifiers, more humble and open than most, we assumed, and now our time to be called back into service had come again. There were surely other areas in premium metropolitan cultural centers out there that had lapsed to Negroes in the years after the Great War which remained affordable for the mostly white American middle class of 2015, and we’d have to go find one. He was, quite naturally, thinking about moving to LA, a cliché in the Brooklyn we were inhabiting, especially among the middle-class creatives who fashioned themselves as priced out, a sensation that inspired a cottage industry of Didion imposters writing “Goodbye to All That” imitations on the websites of once-veritable magazines. This is not, despite appearances, one of those. I remain too stubborn to read the writing on the wall.

Isn’t America a Dream?

Isn’t America a Dream?

Book Tour Diary

Something is always breaking down on the New York subway, and when the loudspeaker announces it to the ladies and gentlemen, you have to invent a new route to your destination. On one occasion, I found myself walking back and forth through a subway station with a group of Chinese people, Latin Americans, and Europeans. None of us could manage to figure out a new way to get to Queens, where not a single train seemed to be going.

La Sposina

La Sposina

What good was life on one’s own in the face of European decline and the increasing global irrelevance of your social class?

The pursuit of the good life—in both its moral and aesthetic guises—takes work. But you had Lorenzo. He was handsome and healthy, his shoulders made for polo shirts, his eyes designed to shine emerald green whenever he took off his aviators. His aunt and uncle were influential philosophy professors, and he was a post-doc, also in philosophy. They helped him score grants, and he, meanwhile, could be found at parties, where he’d say, “I’m a filmmaker,” in English, to anyone who’d listen.

Just the Beginning, Yale

On graduate labor and the Yale commencement protest

On Monday, Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, strode down the tree-lined streets of downtown New Haven, garbed in voluminous robes, a massive pendant, and a velvet cap with a gold, dangling tassel. Before him walked a scowling bulldog puppy that strained against its leash. Handsome Dan XVIII, the university’s mascot, was processing in his first commencement, and both figureheads were being very, very good boys.

Joli Mai

Joli Mai

Macron ascends.

The president has advanced an impressively coherent plan of action: an arctic blast of budgetary austerity (a word Macron prudently shuns, in favor of euphemistic references to “medium-term structural deficit imbalance” and the like) to bring France into compliance with European guidelines; deep cuts to public-sector employment; a reduction in corporate tax rates; and demolition of French labor law—making good on Hollande’s progress in this direction—to be pushed through over the summer by means of executive ordonnances, extending the retirement age and punishing the unemployed who balk at accepting jobs generously offered to them.

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

H.R. McMaster and the tragedy of American empire

H.R. McMaster is one of the United States’ most astute theorists of modern warfare. Unlike so many other military thinkers, he understands that history is complex, contingent, and irrational, and that no amount of technological superiority could tame the real world’s unpredictable dynamism. So how could he have gotten it so wrong? Why, in spite of his sophistication, did his solutions to the American disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately fail to produce even medium-term victory?

Refugee Stasis

Refugee Stasis

The camp is the end of the liberal order, the end of the post–World War II world, the end of human rights.

Refugees are being used to distract from the failures of globalized neoliberalism. The wider European public is subjected to irreconcilable political messaging daily: refugees are both helpless victims and violent sexual predators; they are flooding the borders but the borders are strong; they are children and they are adults posing as children; they are overwhelming our culture, but our culture is indomitable—but it must also be protected.

Business Is Bad for Business

Business Is Bad for Business

Why aren't American companies spending money?

For forty-years American management has leveraged capital mobility to demand concessions from organized labor. Holders of sovereign debt do the same to demand reductions in public spending and shrinking the public sector. This has severely strained liberals’ willingness to stimulate private investment through taxes and transfers. Meanwhile, corporate boards of directors continue to refuse to invest on any but their own terms. Loosening their grip on investment decisions is the only way through this impasse.

If Hollywood Can Do It, So Can We

If Hollywood Can Do It, So Can We

Jakob S. Boeskov and the art of Precrime

How do we defeat ISIS at its own game, in the dead zone of the egalitarian internet where power is synonymous with followers and page views? Enter Face Jagger, an offensive cyberweapon designed specifically for the CIA that hacks the faces of terrorists and uses their own technology (which has itself been coopted from Hollywood) against them.

NBA Playoff Update

NBA Playoff Update

There was a kind of spiritual unity in Mike D’Antoni’s mustache and Steve Nash’s bad hair.

Historically outflanked by the Lakers, with whom they share an arena, the Clippers have no true fan base and no real reason for existence, except to satisfy the unquenchable narcissism of Los Angeles, which needs all the teams.

Mirror Stage President

Mirror Stage President

No amount of coverage seems to be enough, and what coverage there is always falls short.

Compared to every other human on earth, Trump may occupy a singular position in the circuit of television production and consumption—at once its object, referent, and subject—but this doesn’t liberate him from being dominated by the merciless regime of the image; in fact, it binds him to it all the more.

Famoustown

Famoustown

They would have never guessed that I was nothing like them, nothing at all, going not to my job but to my loft, about to sign a new lease on life.

The billboards began advertising the city long before I was even close to it. In fact, I’d barely left the Blandon City Limits when I saw the following question floating in my periphery: WHAT DOES FAMOUSTOWN MEAN TO YOU? Famoustown meant quite a lot to me, actually. Even though I’d never been there, it was a place I had been hearing about all my life. Big events were always taking place in Famoustown; it was a place that other places looked to for information on the current trends. It was also a place where famous people lived, and this had always given me pause. While I liked famous people just as much as the next person, I never wanted to be famous myself. After all, it didn’t take much to see what fame did to people, how it puffed up their pride, and let them speak every word with certainty; and how, over time, it seemed to make them resemble not the pleasant, ordinary people they surely were before fame found them, but rather mentally ill ghouls. And that wasn’t going to be my route, I knew.

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

The US has no prospects for improving the stability of Afghan politics through military force.

The US army, through a combination of historical ignorance and disastrous blundering, failed to populate Afghanistan’s post-invasion government with the people who could have given it a chance at real stability. The US pretended as though the Afghan civil war had never occurred, and allowed mujahedeen and warlords who had terrorized the country throughout the 1990s to assume positions of political power, which did not endear Afghans to their new rulers.

The Commission

The Commission

I carried groceries for Mrs. Perillo and then churned out at least two pages.

I live in Pigneto, which is considered the alternative heart of the capital, Pasolini’s old neighborhood, where every week some witty journalist comes on a mission to reveal to the world that between Prenestina and Casilina Streets there hides a Roman Williamsburg, and some inspired photographer follows him to immortalize the young hipsters who open clubs, reconvert old garages, emit metallic sounds from their Macs, shoot documentaries, and go shopping with their bicycles.

Sad and Boujee

Sad and Boujee

The radical and perpetually unpredictable voice of Percival Everett

Neglect is a fate all experimental writers risk, but if they happen to be black it can seem almost impossible to avoid. Everett always intended to chart his own course. He picked the novel up where Ishmael Reed had taken it, but pivoted away from Reed’s zaniness toward a prismatic allegorical realism, a constant reinvention of form designed to grapple with the vertiginous ends of America’s violent and often contradictory racial, economic, geographic, and sexual epistemologies—a project consonant in many ways with Wallace’s—but evidently not one that could generate the same kind of popular appeal.

New Hope for Britain

New Hope for Britain

The release of Labour’s manifesto marked the moment when the tide turned.

Opinion polls had long shown that left-leaning economic policies were popular in principle. The problem was that there were very few opportunities to vote for them in actual elections. What 2017 shares with 1983 is an unusually deep commitment to these policies, to tangible and plausible things.

A Thin Place

A Thin Place

Truth is you were ransacked and you will never cease to know that.

You drift gingerly out of the clinic. The air flaps and you quiver. You linger a minute at the squat wall between the carpark and the pavement—over there is the old St. Columba’s graveyard, where you always meant to go. This town was a “thin place” that pilgrims came to, in the belief that here the margin is finest between heaven and earth. You can’t fathom that. Heaven’s only a sweet con to mollify and defer you, an excuse for why some days here get so painful. No reason, no good reason. Would it be better or worse if you had reason to feel this joyless? Nothing matters and you’re meant to keep on going on.

Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

On Denis Johnson, 1949–2017

For all of its glorious derangement—hallucinatory tales of druggies and low-lives and murderers and fuck-ups, including a guy so far gone his friends all call him “Fuckhead”—Denis Johnson’s writing is always rooted in the conviction that life is sacred, that evil is a symptom of suffering, which is to say of estrangement from the sacred.

A Price Point That Would Guarantee Exclusivity

A Price Point That Would Guarantee Exclusivity

I set about visiting old haunts that summer, but soon realized few were left.

We had been gentrifiers, more humble and open than most, we assumed, and now our time to be called back into service had come again. There were surely other areas in premium metropolitan cultural centers out there that had lapsed to Negroes in the years after the Great War which remained affordable for the mostly white American middle class of 2015, and we’d have to go find one. He was, quite naturally, thinking about moving to LA, a cliché in the Brooklyn we were inhabiting, especially among the middle-class creatives who fashioned themselves as priced out, a sensation that inspired a cottage industry of Didion imposters writing “Goodbye to All That” imitations on the websites of once-veritable magazines. This is not, despite appearances, one of those. I remain too stubborn to read the writing on the wall.

Isn’t America a Dream?

Isn’t America a Dream?

Book Tour Diary

Something is always breaking down on the New York subway, and when the loudspeaker announces it to the ladies and gentlemen, you have to invent a new route to your destination. On one occasion, I found myself walking back and forth through a subway station with a group of Chinese people, Latin Americans, and Europeans. None of us could manage to figure out a new way to get to Queens, where not a single train seemed to be going.

La Sposina

La Sposina

What good was life on one’s own in the face of European decline and the increasing global irrelevance of your social class?

The pursuit of the good life—in both its moral and aesthetic guises—takes work. But you had Lorenzo. He was handsome and healthy, his shoulders made for polo shirts, his eyes designed to shine emerald green whenever he took off his aviators. His aunt and uncle were influential philosophy professors, and he was a post-doc, also in philosophy. They helped him score grants, and he, meanwhile, could be found at parties, where he’d say, “I’m a filmmaker,” in English, to anyone who’d listen.