The View from 35,000 Feet

Anna Badkhen

Enroute from London to Melbourne, 2002

The travel I witness is often forced: exodus, the tribulation of exile, flight from violence or famine. I have spent my life documenting the world’s iniquities, and my own panopticon of brokenness comprises genocide and mass starvation, loved ones I have lost to war, friends’ children who died of preventable diseases. For nearly each elegant vignette I read in Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, my world seemed to proffer an evil twin, until the looking glass of the novel became akin to a funhouse mirror: the book smoothed away much of the wretchedness I know.

A New Moral Imagination on Immigration

Pramila Jayapal

New American citizens hold American flags during a naturalization ceremony at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey, October 2, 2018

Our job is to tell the truth about immigration instead of cowering before falsehoods. As long as we accept the Trump administration’s rhetoric on immigration and try to merely gain small victories against a harsh, restrictionist policy, we will lose—politically, economically, and, most importantly, morally. Instead, we must disperse the fog of lies and scapegoating and make clear that a sensible, humane system of immigration laws is best for everyone.

Penelope Mortimer: A Writing Life

Lucy Scholes

Writer Penelope Mortimer, 1975

The story of British novelist Penelope Mortimer is, in part, the all too familiar tale of a woman writer plagued by her readership’s inability to separate the life from the art. This situation was made all the more complicated because Penelope drew so very heavily on her lived experience when it came to the fiction she put down on the page. As debates around this issue still rage today, despite the fact that Penelope’s books languish for the most part out of print, there’s no better time for readers to discover both the fascinating story of her life, and her once highly acclaimed writing.

‘Oceania,’ Art of the Islands

Jenny Uglow

Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015–2017

“Oceania” is not the historical, ethnographic show that Western museum-goers might expect. At the entrance a shimmering wave of blue material cascades from the ceiling. Titled Kiko Moana, this flowing wave uses ancient techniques of weaving, embroidery, layering, and cutting, but it’s a contemporary work in polyethylene and cotton, created by four Maori women from the Mata Aho Collective in New Zealand who have also compiled an online archive of stories about the supernatural spirits of the waters. Old and new technologies meet.

My Father’s Art

Anna Shapiro

David Shapiro: Untitled (self-portrait), 1932

It is my experience that most people in the arts feel a kind of comfort in lacking worldly success. They fight for it, and suffer over it, but it is so much safer not to have it—safer from envy, judgment, exposure; from the dangers attendant on superseding parents or companions—that, either through the work itself or by way of fumbling encounters with the world, they ensure it won’t happen. But this doesn’t seem true of my father. I think he naïvely, to the end, possibly through arrogance, expected the work to be its own ambassador. It had once been enough.

How Trump Fuels the Fascist Right

Bernard E. Harcourt

President Donald Trump speaking to members of the press outside the White House, Washington, D.C., November 20, 2018

President Trump is no mere entertainer or buffoon, as many want to believe. Instead, he is carefully, skillfully, and consistently speaking directly to his hardline nationalist supporters in their exact language, making their tropes and memes his own. We have been insufficiently attentive to how carefully crafted and targeted Trump’s new right discourse and politics are, how they deliberately encourage and mobilize extremists, and normalize them as a crucial political constituency. We tend to say that Trump is “dog-whistling” to white nationalists and supremacists; but it is far more serious than that. President Trump is enabling extremist violence through what sociologists refer to as “scripted violence.”

Is Literary Glory Worth Chasing?

Tim Parks

King Darius I (circa 550-486 BC) receiving gifts in one of his palaces, twentieth century

Is writing worth it? Does it make any sense at all to pursue literary glory? Are the writers we praise really the best anyway? In 1824, the Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi decided to take on the subject in a thirty-page essay, of kinds. In fact, he puts his reflections somewhat playfully in the mouth of Giuseppe Parini, perhaps the finest Italian poet of the eighteenth century, a man from a poor family who spent all his life seeking financial and political protection in the homes of the aristocracy. What follows here is nothing more than a brief summary of what he says. Judge for yourself how much of this rings true today.

What Cold War Liberalism Can Teach Us Today

Jan-Werner Müller

Isaiah Berlin, 1980s

Liberalism is in crisis, we’re told, assailed on left and right by rising populists and authoritarians. The center cannot hold, they say. But if liberal democracy itself is under threat of collapse because of this weakened center, why are the great defenders of the “open society” such as Isaiah Berlin, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Karl Popper, and Raymond Aron so little invoked?

New York City’s New Nightlife Mayor

Alex Carp

Saturday night in a bar, Manhattan, March 2018

This year, Ariel Palitz was appointed as the senior executive director of New York City’s Office of Nightlife, the city’s first. In New York, the idea was championed by a city councilman who saw some of his favorite bars and smaller music venues close, and others receiving little help when threatened by rising rents or trouble complying with city codes. Palitz describes herself as a liaison between the city agencies, nightlife businesses, owners, residents, employees, patrons, and entertainers. Her colleagues call her the night mayor.

Anna Atkins & Photography’s Blue Beginnings

Megan N. Liberty

Anna Atkins: Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit, from Part
XI of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, 1849–1850,

In 1843, Anna Atkins, daughter of the prominent British scientist John George Children, began work on her book of photograms (the full edition of which would include over 400 prints) documenting specimens of British algae, what is now considered the first book to be fully illustrated with photography and the first use of photography for scientific documentation. Two exhibitions at the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building, “Blue Prints” and “Anna Atkins Refracted,” celebrate this astonishing historical achievement, as well as the legacy of Atkins’s work for contemporary artists.