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Easy Chair

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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Triangulation

As of this writing, the United States, which has 4.2 percent of the world’s population, accounts for nearly 30 percent of total COVID-19 mortalities. Among Americans, a common response to…

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Things to Come

On March 30, during one of the daily briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak that had so captured the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, Governor Andrew Cuomo uttered a sentence…

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A Malevolent Holiday

On the fifteenth of March in Paris, as the novel coronavirus outbreak—just deemed a global pandemic—ravaged Spain and Italy, I strapped my infant son into his stroller, grabbed a bottle…

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The Striking Gesture

“I  was not elected to do small things,” President Donald Trump said upon announcing his new Middle East peace plan at the end of January. Trump was not elected to…

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The Wanderer’s Port

I  landed in Lisbon late on a temperate Thursday in January. This was the end of an unusually pan-European week for me. I’d spent the previous two days in a…

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Losing My Religion

In the Seventies, when I came of age politically, being a lefty was all about believing that “the people” would always save us, if they just knew the truth. We…

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An Incoherent Truth

Last fall, Tobi Haslett, a young writer and critic with Marxist leanings, noticed a shift in the contours of popular intellectual debate. “Something is happening out there in the dark…

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On Courage

As of this writing, we are still about three months away from the first vote of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination—­and already “our side” seems set to tear…

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Lefty Lingo

The only letter I’ve ever sent to the New York Times was in the 1980s, objecting to the paper’s suddenly pestilent use of “draconian.” During Iran–Contra the complaint must have…

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Whiteout

This past spring and summer, political correctness—perhaps inevitably—took a full turn and became a campaign to erase the worst things that dead white men have done in our history. This…

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Patrios

“Nationalism” is rapidly overtaking even “populism” as a foremost political bogeyman. Yet progressives will often still embrace “pa­tri­ot­ism.” The elevation of the last term is meant to deflect Trump-­style accusations…

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The Deep State of Dementia

My first reaction upon seeing what was supposedly a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing what was alleged to be a mine from the broken hull of what we were…

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Semantic Drift

Regarding the purported rules of En­glish syntax, we tend to divide into mutually hostile camps. Hip, open-­minded types relish the never-­ending transformations of the way we speak and write. They…

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What We Do in the Shadows

The celebrity scandal of the year has been the discovery of just what lengths some actors will go to in order to get their children parts in our leading universities.…

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Fifty-Fifty Follies

Last spring, the BBC officially took up a “50:50 challenge” to achieve an equal number of male and female experts on news and current-events shows within the following year. We’re…

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