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I recently reorganised the books in my study, and collected my remnants of feminist theory on a separate shelf; a fragment of another world. There were copies of Feminist Review, work by Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly. There was also Adrienne Rich’s pamphlet, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” a dense and learned tract about the repression of lesbians. Consciousness-raising made little distinction between street and boardroom thuggery and the effects of laws in repressive states…. Consensual homosexual acts between adults are still illegal in as many as 70 countries. Most countries have moved to a liberalisation of those unjust and repressive laws. In Uganda, however, the Hon David Bahati has sponsored an anti-homosexuality bill far more draconian than the already existing code…. Bahati wants to get rid of those pesky “sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity”, as well as gay pornographers and paedophiles. There is no distinction in his mind between people who fall in love with people of their own gender, and sexual sleaze and crime: it’s all a filthy mess of HIV, pornography, western values, decadence, feminism and predation. The draft bill separates “the offence of homosexuality” from “aggravated homosexuality.” –“Uganda is Sanctioning Gay Genocide,” Sigrid Rausing, New Statesman
Armstrong’s lack of prejudice extended to Jews, an attitude that was comparatively rare among blacks of his generation. Outside his marriages, his closest adult relationship was with Joe Glaser, a Jewish gangster from Chicago who became his manager in 1935 and with whom he was intimately associated from then on. Armstrong described Glaser as “my dearest friend,” and those who knew both men well agreed that this was nothing more than the truth. He was similarly admiring of the Karnofskys, a family of Jewish peddlers from Lithuania for whom he had worked as a boy in New Orleans. In 1969 he wrote a lengthy memoir of his relationship with the Karnofskys called “Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907.” … The young Armstrong saw the Karnofskys’ problems up close, for they took him under their wing, treating him almost like a relative. “They were always warm and kind to me, which was very noticeable to me— just a kid who could use a little word of kindness,” he recalled. He shared meals with them and borrowed money from them to buy his first cornet. Thereafter he would identify with the Karnofskys and the other Jews of New Orleans so closely that he became an ardent philo-Semite who wore a Star of David around his neck (Joe Glaser gave it to him). “I will love the Jewish people, all of my life,” he wrote, adding that he learned from them “how to live— real life and determination.” –“Satchmo and the Jews,” Terry Teachout, Commentary
No one likes to eat anything anymore (“Accommodations must be made for my mother-in-law, who is lactose intolerant”), which makes the existence of a designer spork and performance dining all the more puzzling; Michelle Obama’s taste in sushi is, not surprisingly, beyond reproach
Money gives us pleasure, Brecht needlessly told us, but that is not what will be meant here— not the kind of pleasure ignited by money because we lust after the unlimited opportunities it promises. We should rather be thinking of something more banal and mysterious: of the intrinsic sensuousness of the actual money itself— small metal discs, or oblong strips of rustling, crackling paper. In Balzac, an artist tries to marry into a bourgeois family; he carelessly remarks that money is there to be spent—since it is round, it must roll. The father of the family, reacting with the deepest mistrust, replies: “If it is round for prodigals, it is flat for economical people who pile it up.” The opposite approaches of the bohemian and the rentier (by the end of the tale they have comfortably fused) converge in images of the concrete pleasures of money. Both are thinking of the ways in which hands unconsciously encircle coins, a physical sensation. One man high-spiritedly lets them roll loose, the other deliberately stacks them on top of each other, with greedy precision. The spendthrift and the miser both feel the coins between their fingers. –“Money as We Knew It?” Joachim Kalka, New Left Review
With the likely demise of Oprah’s book club we are forced to confront the terrible obscurity of today’s famous literary novelists, but is that bad? After all, Junot Diaz is no Jonathan Franzen, and as Tom Cruise reminds us (voicing Richard Price’s sentiments), “checkers sells more than chess”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”