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Easy Chair

Flesheater Blues

A few months ago I introduced a screening of Robert Frank’s rarely shown and somewhat notorious film Cocksucker Blues at a cinema house in Los Angeles. Legally, the film can…

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Government Forces

As a small child, I would sometimes sit with my parents in our suburban London living room and watch the six o’clock news on the BBC. One evening, I saw…

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Night Watch

When I was a kid, we played a game: would you rather be given eternal happiness or told the secrets of the universe? I always chose secrets. In Eugene, Oregon,…

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A Choice We’re Making

On May Day 2000, I participated in a “guerrilla gardening” action in London, digging up Parliament Square to plant crops. It was a utopian gesture—one of many made in those…

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Down South

In June 1997, I boarded an all-night bus from the Port Authority to Asheville, North Carolina, with my friend Cynthia. We had no plan but to live there for the…

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Objectivity

Facts, notoriously, do not care about our feelings. They are not subjective, but objective. The “I” who experiences emotion is located in time and space, the owner of a single…

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French Lessons

The optimists went to the gas chambers (or so it’s been said). The pessimists went to America. The collabos went to Maxim’s (for steak). The orphans went to the country…

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Broken Links

A young woman is waiting in her New York apartment for her fiancé to arrive and take her to city hall to get married. When he doesn’t turn up, she…

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Skiing and Nothingness

My first skis, at age two, were Olin brand, a fluorescent coral pink. They had no edges. Their sidewalls were pure white, like cut cake. They glowed, a special and…

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Capital Flight

Once upon a time in a galaxy not far from London, a group called the Association of Autonomous Astronauts was born. The AAA announced a bold “Five Year Plan for…

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Sample Truths

One of the few clear goods to have emerged from the social and political turmoil of the past decade is a collapse of faith in public opinion polls. Last fall’s…

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Dangling Man

It’s a dramatic scene. A man clings to the branches of a fruit tree, a look of terror on his face. He’s certainly in a pickle. The tree is bent…

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Under the Surface

One morning in September, a dapper Frenchman seated next to me in the garden of the Château de Tocqueville gestured solemnly at the front page of Le Monde, the house…

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Rich Image, Poor Image

After New York City experienced record rainfall this summer, my basement flooded. Water destroyed boxes of books and manuscripts, sitting several inches deep in a plastic crate full of photographs.…

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Continental Divide

Decades ago, my father implored me to get acquainted with James Baldwin. As is often the case with such parental injunctions, I ignored him for a long time, but once…

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Death Valley

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep in my room at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel near West Hollywood. I’d just come to the end of a…

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Unending Struggle

In 1974, a pair of scientists who would go on to win the Nobel Prize published a paper demonstrating that the chlorofluorocarbons used in aerosol sprays and refrigerators were harming…

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Attention

We live, we are told, in distracted times. The internet has destroyed our ability to concentrate, condemning us to a future of agitated doomscrolling. Our alienated children stare at their…

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Name Stakes

Since becoming a father, I have thought a lot about what exactly we’re doing when we name something or someone after someone else. Three years ago, my wife and I,…

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You Must Change Your Life

In 1829, Agathon-Jean-Francois, Baron Fain, wrote a memoir of his time serving as secretary to the emperor Napoleon. A reader searching for details about great battles or power struggles will…

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Campaign Literature

From a certain angle, Donald Trump’s presidency may not have moved the United States in entirely the wrong direction. One of the few areas to benefit from his stewardship, the…

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Another World Is Possible

When I moved to New York City in 2008, my perception of safety (and everything else) was conditioned by a lifetime of American cop shows. Though I’d grown up in…

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Shades of Blue

Late on election night, when the betting markets were just realizing that Trump’s path to victory had narrowed, and leading voices on the left were lamenting the failure of anything…

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Complexity

With two supporters, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, just elected to the House of Representatives, the QAnon conspiracy theory looks set to survive in some…

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Solo Act

A decade ago, when my fiancée and I were living in a semilegal converted nylon factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I’d just published my first book—a coming-of-age memoir into which…

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You Say You Want a Revolution

Morality is often reduced to choices, and imperfect choices at that. This is the human condition; to accept it and do the best we can is a brave thing, and…

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A Game of Chance

Shirley Jackson’s devastating 1948 short story “The Lottery” takes place in what might be a provincial corner of America in which an annual, compulsory lottery lends a degree of adventure…

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Which Side Are You On?

On December 20, 2014, a twenty-eight-year-old man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley walked up to a parked patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, pulled out a semiautomatic handgun, and fired…

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