Benjamin DeMott

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Article — From the August 2007 issue

Battling the hard man

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Notes on addiction to the pornography of violence

Article — From the October 2004 issue

Whitewash as public service

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How The 9/11 Commission Report defrauds the nation

Article — From the November 2003 issue

Junk politics

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A voter’s guide to the post-literate election

Article — From the September 1995 issue

Put on a happy face

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Masking the differences between blacks and whites

Article — From the December 1993 issue

Choice academic pork

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Inside the leadership-studies racket

Article — From the October 1984 issue

Mobile souls

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The Brothers Karamazov maps a multitude of transfigurations

Readings — From the September 1984 issue

The L.L. Bean sublime

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Article — From the March 1981 issue

Ordinary critics

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Immanuel Kant and the Talking Heads

Article — From the July 1975 issue

Hot-air meeting

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The new books — From the January 1965 issue

Koestler’s kit

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The new books — From the September 1964 issue

Character building

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’64

The new books — From the June 1964 issue

The need for watering places

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The new books — From the April 1964 issue

Of snobs & taxes & unimpressed men

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The new books — From the February 1964 issue

The way we feel now

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The new books — From the December 1963 issue

Seasonable truths

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The new books — From the October 1963 issue

Poets, presidents, and preceptors

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The new books — From the May 1963 issue

Slightly cheerful news about our schools

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The new books — From the March 1963 issue

Designs for the new politics

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The new books — From the January 1963 issue

Cultural politics

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1963

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Secrets and Lies·

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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Seeking Asylum·

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

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Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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