News / Locked


    For some time now it has felt like history is itself the pandemic. In our country and elsewhere, it has been in overdrive, teeming with evils, flush with collapses, abounding in fear and rage, a wounding contest between the sense of an ending and the sense of a beginning, between inertia and momentum, with all […]


    Consider the plague. I mean the actual, literal, bubonic plague, the disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In this pestilential season the subject has been impossible to avoid, because so many people are calling coronavirus “plague” — even though, as pandemics go, they have almost nothing in common. Plague has an astonishingly high fatality […]

    The Doctrine of Hate

    Julius Margolin was born in 1900 in Pinsk. After studying philosophy in Germany in the 1920s he moved to Poland with his family, where he became active in Revisionist Zionism  and published a Yiddish book on poetry. From there he and his family moved to Palestine. For economic reasons, Margolin returned to Poland in 1936, […]

    The Wonder of Terrence Malick

    The best American film of 2019, A Hidden Life, was little seen, and nominated for nothing. Why be surprised? Or assume that our pictures deserve awards any more than the clouds and the trees? Try to understand how movies may aspire to a culture that regards Oscars, eager audiences, and fame as relics of our […]

    Owed To The Tardigrade

    Some of these microscopic invertebrates shrug off temperatures  of minus 272 Celsius, one degree warmer than absolute zero.  Other species can endure powerful radiation and the vacuum of space.  In 2007, the European Space Agency sent 3,000 animals  into low Earth orbit, where the tardigrades survived  for 12 days on the outside of the capsule. —The Washington Post, “These Animals can […]

    A Democratic Jewish State, How and Why

    The question of whether Israel can be a democratic Jewish state, a liberal Jewish state, is the most important question with which the country must wrestle, and it can have no answer until we arrive at an understanding of what a Jewish state is. A great deal of pessimism is in the air. Many people […]

    Dark Genies, Dark Horizons: The Riddle of Addiction

    In 2014, Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show, Parts Unknown, travelled to Massachusetts. He visited his old haunts from 1972, when he had spent a high school summer working in a Provincetown restaurant, the now-shuttered Flagship on the tip of Cape Cod. “This is where I started washing dishes …where I started having pretensions of culinary grandeur,” […]

    America in the World: Sheltering in Place

    I On the third week of America’s quarantine against the pandemic, a new think tank in Washington had a message for the Pentagon. “The national security state, created to keep us safe and guard our freedoms, has failed,” Andrew Bacevich, the president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told viewers on a Skype video […]

    Ancient Family Lexicon, or Words and Loneliness

    “Whoever knows the nature of the name… knows the nature of the thing itself, ” Plato observed in his Cratylus. To know is a complex verb, difficult but rich. According to the dictionary, it means “to have news of a thing,” “to know that it exists or what it is.” In classical languages, the concept […]

    Futilitarianism or To the York Street Station

    Wednesday, April 8th…a date etched in black for socialists and progressives, marking the end of a beautiful fantasy. It was on that doleful day that Senator Bernie Sanders — acknowledging the inevitable, having depleted his pocketful of dreams — announced the suspension of his presidential campaign. It was the sagging anticlimax to an electoral saga […]

    Night Thoughts

    Long ago I was born. There is no one alive anymore  who remembers me as a baby.  Was I a good baby? A bad? Except in my head that debate is now silenced forever. What constitutes a bad baby, I wondered. Colic,  my mother said, which meant it cried a lot. What harm could there […]

    Mahler’s Heaven and Mahler’s Earth

    Gustav Mahler: the face of a man wearing glasses. The face attracts the attention of the viewer: there is something very expressive about it. It is a strong and open face, we are willing to trust it right away. Nothing theatrical about it, nothing presumptuous. This man wears no silks. He is not someone who […]

    The Sludge

    I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest…. I’ve never been more loved and appreciated than when I tried to “justify” and affirm someone’s mistaken beliefs; or when I tried to give my friends the incorrect, absurd answers they wished to hear. In my presence they could talk and agree with […]

    Abolition and American Origins

    The turbulent politics of the present moment have reached far back into American history. Although not for the first time, the very character of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have been thrown into question by the hideous reality of slavery, long before and then during the founding era and […]

    Loosed Quotes

    THE SECOND COMING  Turning and turning in the widening gyre    The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere    The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst    Are […]

    On Indifference

    What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, My gait is no fault-finder’s or rejecter’s gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown. WALT WHITMAN The Olympian gods are not our friends. Zeus would have destroyed us long ago had […]

    From 2020

    1. The first half having been given up to space, I decided to devote my remaining life to time, this thing we live in fishily or on like moss or the spores of a stubborn candida strain only to be gored or gaffed, roots  fossicked out by rake or have our membranes made so permeable […]

    The Peripheralist

    During Black History Month earlier this year, the New York City streetwear boutique Alife brought to market a limited set of six heather grey hooded sweatshirts made of heavyweight, pre-shrunk  fourteen-ounce cotton fleece, with ribbed cuffs and waist. The garments, whose sole decorative flourish were the names of black cultural icons — from Harriet Tubman to […]

    The Indian Tragedy

    Earlier this year, the Republic of India turned seventy. On January 26, 1950, the country adopted a new Constitution, which severed all ties with the British Empire, mandated multi-party democracy based on universal adult franchise, abolished caste and gender distinctions, awarded equal rights of citizen-ship to religious minorities, and in myriad other ways broke with […]

    The Human Infinity: Literature and Peace

    Writers often talk of the torments of writing, of “the fear of the blank page,” of nights waking in a cold sweat because suddenly they see the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, of the story that they have been writing, sometimes for years. This distress is certainly real, but I insist also upon the pleasures of creation, […]