News / Locked

    🔒 The Court Gone Wrong

    What is happening on the Supreme Court of the United States?  The Court has overruled Roe v. Wade. It has rejected the whole idea of a right to privacy. It is sharply restricting the ability of federal agencies to protect safety, health, and the environment. It is limiting voting rights. It is expanding the rights…

    🔒 Digitization, Surveillance, Colonialism

             As I write these words, articles are mushrooming in newspapers and magazines about how privacy is more important than ever after the Supreme Court ruling that has overturned the constitutionality of the right to have an abortion in the United States. In anti-abortion states, browsing histories, text messages, location data, payment data, and information…

    🔒 The Autocrat’s War

    The Emperor Nicholas was alone in his accustomed writing-room in the Palace of Czarskoe Selo, when he came to the resolve. He took no counsel. He rang a bell. Presently an officer of his Staff stood before him. To him he gave his orders for the occupation of [the Danubian] Principalities. Afterwards he told Count…

    🔒 Taste, Bad Taste, and Franz Liszt

    I My title may appear provocative, but I doubt whether anyone is likely to disagree that of all the great composers Liszt is the one most frequently accused of bad taste, and also that the accusation has never threatened his status among the great. Indeed, as Charles Rosen once suggested, the accusation in some sense…

    🔒 The Earth, stuffed to the gills with burning coals

    *   *   * The Earth, stuffed to the gills with burning coals and consuming itself from its birth bristling with folds that sharpen into peaks, sometimes of short hairs sometimes forming dark dense beards and hollowed out with giant cavities filled with restless water from which emerged the grand debris of its genesis…

    🔒 Over our heads masses are moving, whitish

    *   *   * Over our heads masses are moving, whitish cottony, ghosts on the weather maps Windings, swirls, languid scrolls under the sting of the wind, wandering herds   Floating bodies. Appearing. Disappearing. In our own image.   We, more unstable than plants fixed to the ground or the fish sheltered in water…

    🔒 The Unjust Fate of Man

    On the sandy path that goes by my door and leads to the station of dreams, where I had just walked, a muffled cry  reached my ear. I stopped walking and saw a clump  of dry, drowsy grass. The cry came from the ground.  A root deplored being without news from the stem up there…

    🔒 Before Nightfall 

    Leaning in summer tuxes across the balcony   or reclining like nudes with their hair thrown back,   some trees, after high conversation, complained   about having to go back to the deaf earth again.   The leaves pulled on their arms to keep them   from going and to get even closer to whom?…

    🔒 Mother death

    *   *   * Mother death you came to him so mildly so cruelly alternating authority with seduction   He out-of-breath following you or fleeing you   In the end you wore the features of Morphine and clasped her to you cruelly mildly   I gave his body to flames married his ashes to…

    🔒 The Cult of Carl Schmitt

             I          As a political thinker, the German philosopher Carl Schmitt was enamored of symbols and myths. His biographer has shown that during the 1930s Schmitt was convinced that providing National Socialism with a rational justification was self-contradictory and self-defeating. The alternative that was conceived by Schmitt, a conservative who was an eminent member…

    🔒 Surrealism’s Children

         Back when I was an idealistic young soul, I enrolled in a PhD program in French and Comparative Literature, intent on making a career in academia. Those were the days when New Criticism and Semiotics held sway, and texts were to be read without interference from outside influences. The approach we were taught,…

    🔒 Memoirs of a White Savior

    Last year, a student came to my office hours to discuss her post-graduation plans. She said she wanted to travel, teach, and write.  “How about joining the Peace Corps?” I suggested. She grimaced. “The Peace Corps is problematic,” she said.  I replied the way I always do when a student uses that all-purpose put-down. “What’s…

    🔒 Projection

    This is the work of your own hands strange to say, all these stories carved with a certain severity, each woodcut brought forward in strokes, a register of darkness removed.            There’s a tower and a bridge. A figure midway across  watches the shadows below. Midway between what? Today and tomorrow, if you like,…

    🔒 Rapunzelania

    It is not wholly myself, this shadow tugging itself loose  as though it knew better where to go from here what to do and see before the ship leaves with the tide. Not a thousand ships, you understand, just the one. Tall and proud, I suppose, and in a dreadful hurry, what with the wind…

    🔒 Prehistoric 

    I burned a hole in cloth, watching the threads   shrivel back like the stockinged legs of the wicked witch of the east, who leaves no path of return so you had better keep those shoes on   while you learn to grow up with your mistakes like good siblings: you will fight but make…

    🔒 Exile to Exile 

    We live in a state of constant strife; the truths we relied on no longer seem certain; we are unsettled, shaken, adrift. Even those of us lucky enough to retain our health, homes, families, and jobs feel exiled from the lives we once knew. The bonds of friendship and community that secured us have loosened,…

    🔒 The Sorrow Songs

    I On New Year’s Day in 1863, Thomas Wentworth Higginson was stationed in the Sea Islands of South Carolina, presiding over a large group of Unionist whites and formerly enslaved black workers who had gathered to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. A prominent prewar abolitionist, Higginson had recently become commander of one of the first black…

    🔒 The Holocaustum of Edith Stein

    Edith Stein, a soulful modern thinker, was murdered in Auschwitz in August 1942. Born to a Jewish family in 1891, she was baptized into the Catholic faith on New Year’s Day 1922. In October 1933, she began the process of becoming a Carmelite nun, in which capacity she would take the name Teresa Benedicta of…

    🔒 The Metaphysician-in-Chief

    On February 22, 1990, Vaclav Havel spoke to a joint session of the United States Congress as the newly elected president of a free Czechoslovakia. Just a few months earlier, he had been detained (the last in a long line of arrests) by the StB, his country’s infamous secret police; he said he didn’t know…

    🔒 Glass of Milk

    Was a swell commandment: drink up, sleep.  She’d relinquished the vampy black and absconded to her toddler color (muddy sunset) as we, one from each grief stage, commissioned to flock her, petal’d her pale strapless,  pressed the appliqué along her spine with dancer’s glue, all funds sunk into that silk, hence the wan hors d’oeuvres,…

    🔒 Ouroboros

    Frigid in vibrating daylight, with no distinction between indoors and out.  Ailene on the gurney asked her children, Am I dying? and received a coward’s answer.  How she eyed the ward, panicked, more alive than ever.  Once a lounging   teenager, biting the brush end of her braid, the lattice more alive than ever with…

    🔒 Albino Deer

    Stunning as noon sun or psychosis aftermath, vase flung into the garden, but surely the porcelain was speaking and the mother, she couldn’t let it go on terrorizing the household, could she?   White noise, attention span frail as a ghost crab  clattering into surf, washed backwards into the mist  of Ansel’s photographs, synth to soften…

    🔒 A Wounded Loyalty

    You shall not hate your brother in your heart, you shall surely reprove your fellow and not bear guilt because of him. Leviticus 19:17 “This last winter was another lost in fog. As usual he did nothing.” In this way A.B. Yehoshua introduces readers to the anonymous, plodding, intellectually undistinguished Israeli protagonist of his story…

    🔒 Lviv: A Canary’s Diary

    February 20, Sunday Yesterday, at home in Kyiv, we listened to Boris Johnson’s speech and immediately bought tickets to Lviv. My husband Roman suggested a week ago that S, our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and I stay with my parents in Lviv, but I refused, despite the American and British embassies having already relocated there (and my…

    🔒 War and the Liberal Hegemony

    Why did the United States intervene in the Second World War? The question is rarely asked because the answers seem so obvious: Hitler, Pearl Harbor, and what more needs to be said? To most Americans, World War II was the quintessential “war of necessity.” As the late Charles Krauthammer once put it, “wars of choice,”…

    🔒 The World as a Game

    What is a game? Ludwig Wittgenstein famously chose this nebulous concept to illustrate what he meant by “family resemblance,” where the individual members of a class can be determined to fulfill no necessary and sufficient conditions for admission, and instead only share some traits with some others in the class, others with others. Yet we…

    🔒 |||to|||name|||every|||one|||

    1. three hundred nameless walk holding names behind their backs bone to bone muscle to muscle let us stretch their memory between our lines 2. saved by death from life name yourself mouth-holes stare 3. outside, it’s not death that whitens with bones in the leaves of trees you look closer but indeed, it is…

    🔒 night forty-eight

    1 I wear a second-hand country a second-hand city apartment bed pillow blanket ability to walk across a park without checking under my feet without checking over my shoulder but Poland is not safe Lithuania is not safe Germany is not safe 2 I wake up from loud conversations behind the wall fuss jostling banging…

    🔒 An Open Letter to an Enemy of Liberalism in My Native Land

    Dear Professor Legutko, Early this year, when Russians were positioning their troops along Ukraine’s borders and liberal democracies were debating what it all might mean, I started reading your books. I have heard that they are influential in Poland, and I am concerned about the weakening of liberal democratic commitments in our native land and…

    🔒 A Dangerous Desire to Do Right

    War begets war: it is an old truism, and internecine wars — of the type twice fought on American soil — typically have their antecedents in prior wars. Consider our Revolutionary War, whose cri de coeur was “no taxation without representation.” But how often we overlook that Britain imposed these heightened taxes on the colonists…

    🔒 And the Bleat Goes On

    Wait long enough and every enjoyment is eventually placed on the altar, gussied up, and sanctified. Rock ‘n’ roll lyrics were once a readymade source of ridicule, regarded as gibberish written by and for bubblegum brains and blasting out of transistor radios to drive mom and dad mad. The late-night television host Steve Allen, equipped…

    🔒 Soul-Making Studies

    I’ll admit to being biased here. Teaching a great books course at Columbia — I was a graduate student, my charges were freshmen — was the pedagogical experience of my life. I was never the same again, and I know that many of my students also weren’t, because they told me so, and because, decades…

    🔒 The Oblomovization of the Western World

    Ilya Ilyich Oblomov is a mid-nineteenth century landowner outside of Saint Petersburg. An honest and decent man, he suffers from a natural tendency towards inertia. He lives less in his home than on his sofa, and less on his sofa than in his capacious dressing gown of Persian fabric, and less in his dressing gown…

    🔒 The Deer Seeing Himself in the Water

    In the clear water of a spring, A Deer gazing at himself one day Praised the beauty of his antlers And could hardly bear the sight Of his slender legs, Whose shape he saw vanish in the waters. “What a disproportion between my feet and my head!” He said, grieving when seeing their shadow, “My…

    🔒 Two Goats

    As soon as the Goats have grazed, A certain sense of independence Makes them seek out fortune; off they go To the parts of the pasture Least frequented by humans. There, if there is a place without roads or paths, A cliff, a mountain with precipices, That is where these Ladies walk away their whims;…

    🔒 The Animals Sick from the Plague

    An evil that spread terror, An evil that the Heavens in their fury Invented to punish the crimes of the earth, The Plague (we must call it by its name), Able to replenish in one day the river Acheron, Made war against animals. They didn’t all die, but all were struck: You didn’t see any…

    🔒 The Coach and the Fly

    On a steep, sandy, arduous trail, One from all sides exposed to the Sun, Six sturdy horses pulled a Coach. Women, a Monk, old men—all got off. The team was sweating, snorting, spent. A Fly arrives, and gets near the horses; Claims to be urging them with her buzzing; Stings one, stings the other, and…

    🔒 The Rat and the Oyster

    A Rat living in a field, a Rat with a small brain, has one day had enough of the paternal Gods. He abandons the field, the grain, and the stubble, Quits his burrow to roam the countryside. As soon as he is outside of his home: “How vast and wide is the world!” he says….

    🔒 Sheila Heti and The Fight for Art

    On the fourth page of Pure Colour, the fourth and most recent novel by the Canadian writer Sheila Heti, it is proposed that there are three kinds of beings on the face of the earth. They are each a different kind of “critic,” tasked with helping God to improve upon His “first draft” of the…

    🔒 “I want to be able to say anything I wish to say”

    The following conversation took place in Russian in 1995 at Headington House, Isaiah Berlin’s home near Oxford. ADAM MICHNIK: What do you consider yourself to be: an Englishman, a Jew, or a Russian? ISAIAH BERLIN: I have lived here for seventy years now and people see me as an Englishman. After all, Oxford is the…

    🔒 The Poem of the Beautiful Landscapes

    Why are the landscapes beautiful, and the approaches to the forest at twilight drawn to the melody of the pipes warming in your breast, and the bluish puddle on the other side of the railroad tracks make the tune in your heart tremble and the body yearn to step over its banks as if once,…

    🔒 Cross Purposes: Polanski and Huston

    We have to understand how movies have taught us to feel. That spell is always waiting to take us beneath the tracery of storyline so that we may plunge into the pit of what the story is about. And why we are breathless to see what happens while wondering if we will ever escape the…

    🔒 How to Talk to God

    Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for You As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. I, like an usurped town, to another due, Labor to admit You, but O, to no end; Reason,…

    🔒 Bière de Garde

    How good it is, to sip a beer outdoors, with winter drawing near, above the wreckage of a meal. How good, before the bill comes due, to watch a copper light gleam through an ale infused with chanterelle and trust yourself to only those sensations of the tongue and nose, what’s felt, and how it…

    🔒 Beulah Land

    Going home means anywhere but here, putting aside worn grays for the bright amber of a fall morning. No more counting days in the clack and steam of laundry. With the hush of brakes a Greyhound bus glides beneath the trees and past a shuttered smelter. Grisaille shadows. Chains of geese. A swath of sheepish…

    🔒 Last Song

    after Guiraut Riquier It’s for the best that I stop singing. Songs should come from happiness, and lately I’ve felt less and less inspired, with my horizon shrinking. When I recall my darkest days and contemplate a world ablaze and dread extinctions of tomorrow, who could wonder at my sorrow? My fire dwindled long ago….

    🔒 After Wyatt

    They slip away, those creatures who once caught my eye and ventured near, near enough to smell of snow as cold lingered in their fur and breath warmed my sleeping ear; who ate an apple from my hand and lounged in sunlight, unconstrained. Such old affections slip away, all but one, la douce dolor: she…

    🔒 Mortifying

    Thirty-five minutes into the movie The Piano Teacher, there occurs an indelible scene. In a dim bathroom cluttered with drugstore label sprays, lotions, and other feeble concoctions designed to fend off decay, a middle-aged woman in a silk robe briskly zips open her pocketbook and removes a folded slip of paper, which she unfolds to…

    🔒 The War Has Happened

    It is a dreary world, gentlemen. GOGOL The most consequential event of our time, I pray, will be the heroism of the Ukrainians. Here are men and women fighting and dying for liberal democracy. It was beginning to seem as if such a thing were no longer possible. Worse, no longer desirable. Here in the…

    🔒 Gender: A Melee

    The king was pregnant. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness It turns out the supply-side cheerleader George Gilder was more correct than not when he forecast, in the poignantly titled Sexual Suicide in 1973, that women playing at being men would spell the collapse of Western civilization and probably the social order…