“Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind.”[i]
A little over ninety years ago, in the fall of 1929, the U.S stock market crashed. The world at the time was far less interconnected than it is now, but ties of mutual dependence were already so tight that, like a string of pearls sliding down a drain, once one country went over the edge, the rest were doomed to follow. Over the next ten years, the nations of the world tried every remedy they could think of—raising tariffs on imported goods, creating welfare states, nationalizing industries, putting fascist dictators into power. None of it helped. The Great Depression lingered on. Why? Because the Great Depression was a global crisis—perhaps the first in human history—and the solutions put forward were, one and all, national solutions.
I’m taking a writing class with Gotham Writers’ Workshop right now, and one of the assignments was to create an imaginary bio for yourself. It was no holds barred, so I could have imagined myself as a legendary world traveller, universally admired academic, or much loved novelist and poet–all of which makes what I did end up writing somewhat puzzling:
One of the blessings of being a parent is that you get to see your favorite childhood films again. In my life, that has most recently meant seeing Mary Poppins many times over. I’ve enjoyed it because it turns out that it’s also a great film for grown-ups. In fact, it has given me the perfect name for a logical fallacy that’s been bothering me for some time. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce that The Columbia Review has published my essay “Zora Neale Hurston on Being Black in America, Ninety Years Later” on their website (the title has been changed to the one you see in the title of this post). If you have a chance click over there and give them a visit. Thanks!
[UPDATE: I’m pleased to let you know that this essay has been published on The Columbia Review‘s website.] Commencement season at Barnard College this year will mark the ninetieth anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston’s graduation with a BA in anthropology. As a graduate of Barnard’s sister institution, Columbia University, I feel the time is more than ripe to reflect on some of Hurston’s contributions. Continue reading
Ever since I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “Fairy-Stories,” I’ve wanted to write a post about it. Then Ursula Le Guin’s new collection No Time to Spare came out, and I wanted to include some of her comments too. So far, so good, two of my favorite authors backing up several points on which I’m quite passionate. Then Continue reading
The river’s roar is the subtle backdrop to everything in Kangding 康定. Five hundred—even a thousand—feet up the hillside it’s still there, echoing endlessly between the valley’s mountain walls. Continue reading
In one of Thomas Wolfe’s stories (“The Lost Boy”) a man in St. Louis calls to mind how far he is from his home on the East Coast and thinks, “Oh God! but it’s a big country!” Continue reading
The windows were large, clean, and clear, but all one piece. There was no way to open them, presumably so the passengers wouldn’t waste precious air-conditioning on days when there was no need for it to begin with. Continue reading
A little girl in a pink cardigan, no more than four, was running up and down the hallway. Each time she passed their compartment she slowed down and craned her head sideways to look inside. She had done this three times already, and showed no sign of losing interest. He couldn’t help but laugh as she careened past a fourth time and made a screeching halt to flash them a peace sign. Continue reading