Online Only

Regular dispatches from our contributors.

An American Historian

An American Historian

Cover pages curling like scrolls around the name Ben-Zion Netanyahu

My books still in print include A General History of Taxation; Taxation Without Representation: A History of America in Ten Taxes; Import Quotas, Export Subsidies: A Journey through Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade; Embargo: A History; Blood Money: The Taxation of Slavery, and George Sewall Boutwell: Abolitionist, Suffragist, and Father of the IRS.

Rohmer in Quarantine

Rohmer in Quarantine

I was seized by the very Louise-like notion that I could make myself feel better by ordering a Himalayan salt lamp

As I embarked on my quarantined viewing project, the films started to reveal themselves as pricklier and more ambiguous than I remembered. Their explorations of what it means to exist in a public space, enmeshed within a web of relations with other people, celebrate the possibilities that emerge from that position just as much as they brood over the dangers that lurk there. They shed light on some of the less salubrious aspects of communal existence that, as we start to stagger back into the world like dazed bears after a long hibernation, we may have overlooked or forgotten.

The Easiest Job in the World

The Easiest Job in the World

We felt perfectly enclosed

Ethan and Esther had slept together the night before. All of us knew about it, but no one had talked about it. Including Ethan and Esther. That had kind of ruined the trip for Ethan, who had found himself watching Esther for outward sign of an inner flame, one that if it flickered did so very gently and very delicately, pale but nonetheless warm. Esther, in contrast, had spent most of the trip worried about her nausea, which had just now abated. She leaned back into her seat and gave an undirected sigh. She thought of the hot tub at the Airbnb and of how the clouds had boiled overhead on the beach.

Girl Janitor and the Knot

Girl Janitor and the Knot

I don’t even like wall mounts

At nine, the girl janitor got picked up by her girlfriend, who had a car. It was a nice hybrid car, half-gas and half-organic. The girlfriend stayed home all day and did home projects. Or she went to the hardware store to get things for her home projects. The home projects were expensive and never-ending. This week she was trying to install a wall-mount for the TV. The TV had legs and it sat nicely on the girlfriend’s vintage credenza but the girlfriend wanted the TV to hang on the wall. The janitor didn’t ask why.

Dead Generations

Dead Generations

The coup is a new inflection point, a dark event with no upside, but to see it clearly is to see it within cycles of upheaval

What brought Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, Wai Yan Tun, and Thet Naing Win into the streets? To read most of the coverage of the coup, you’d think they’d found themselves on one side of an old story: liberal democracy imperiled by authoritarianism. Yet Myanmar’s working classes had seethed under the previous National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s concessions to global capital; during five years of NLD rule, strike wave after strike wave convulsed Yangon’s industrial zones. It would be a mistake to read today’s resistance simply as an attempt to restore bourgeois democracy. Even so, it was the old story my dad turned to, which says that time should flow easily beyond authoritarian pasts. As February turned into March, and March into April—and as blood began to run freely, far too freely, in the cities and towns of Myanmar—I found myself wondering about scars past and present, about how they form and how they are carried. I found myself wondering what the old story can accommodate, and what it cannot.

Boy Trouble

Boy Trouble

On Sophie Calle

In France, Sophie Calle—at least in bourgeois-intellectual, Paris-centric circles—is more or less a household name. Yet, as is the fate of most blockbuster artists, her oeuvre is often flattened into the exaggerated silhouettes of a cartoon.

Extremity and Beauty

Extremity and Beauty

My aversion to Indian classical music turned to devotion

The alaap is a formal and conceptual innovation of the same family as the circadian novel, in which everything happens, in an amplification of time, before anything’s begun to happen. At what point North Indian classical singing allowed itself the liberty of making the introduction—that is, the circumventory exploration that defers, then replaces, the “main story”—become its definitive movement, I don’t know; it could go back to the early 20th century, when Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan’s romantic-modernist proclivities left a deep impress on North Indian performance.

The People, It Depends

The People, It Depends

What’s the matter with left-populism?

The New Deal is the ultimate horizon of Frank’s political imagination. In the 1930s, Frank argues, the Great Depression finally forced the American ruling class to rethink its unabashed elitism, leading inevitably to the rediscovery of the virtues of the populist tradition. The New Deal was at its heart, then, a cultural and rhetorical phenomenon with downstream economic consequences. He devotes orders of magnitude more attention and detail to poets like Carl Sandburg (whose epic The People, Yes gives the book its title), filmmakers like Orson Welles, and the oratory of FDR at his most fire-breathing than to the substantive economic policy of the President and his postwar successors. Frank even quotes, approvingly, labor secretary Frances Perkins’ remark that the New Deal was “basically an attitude.”