Encountering Derek Walcott

By Alan Warhaftig

Derek Walcott, born in St. Lucia in the Windward Islands, died on March 17, 2017 at the age of 87. He was the greatest poet produced by the strong literary culture of the Anglophone Caribbean, and is often listed among the greatest poets of the English language of the second half of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and was knighted in 2016. Continue reading

Brevity in the Age of Trump and Twitter

By Jerry Griswold

Donald Trump prefers communicating with the public via Twitter, a messaging service that insists a “tweet” be no longer than 140 characters. (As a way of measuring, you should know that the previous sentence — since spaces and punctuation are included in the count — is exactly 140 characters long.) To his critics, this suggests an inability to have long thoughts or possibly Attention Deficit Disorder. But it is worth noting that brevity, while perhaps unknown in previous presidents, is a genre with a long historical pedigree. Continue reading

Female Trouble

By Tausif Noor

Here is an anecdote that sounds like a disclaimer: a year ago, I went out with a writer, who asked on our first date who I’d been reading. I mentioned Ottessa Moshfegh and Mary Gaitskill. His eyes widened. “Veronica is my favorite novel. I once met Mary at a writing retreat. She is unflinching.” I liken the experience to a reverse Bechdel Test of sorts: is it possible for two men discussing Gaitskill to refer to her in terms that don’t indicate their speakers’ own trepidation? Continue reading

Follow the Money — Silk, Silver, and 16th Century-Style Globalization

By Peter Gordon and Juan José Morales

Lost travelers, when asking for directions at a country store in the backwoods of northern New England, are likely to be told — or, at least, so goes the myth — “You can’t get there from here.” We can’t get to an understanding of China and its place in the world of the 21st century if the understanding of where we are today is determined by a historical narrative that starts in mid-18th century with the rise of Anglo-American dominance. Continue reading

The Zoo, Revisited

By Ian MacAllister-McDonald

The second act of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo was originally a self-contained one-act called The Zoo Story, written in 1958. In it, a laconic textbook editor named Peter is approached in Central Park by Jerry, a disheveled hustler who’s spent his life on the fringes and is desperate for a meaningful human connection. If you have had a homeless person approach you and start talking in a way that doesn’t make perfect sense, then you can imagine Peter’s unease. Likewise, if you’ve ever been surrounded by people, but still somehow managed to find yourself deeply, suffocatingly lonely, then you can imagine Jerry’s desperation. The play is about these two men: one who wants to mind his own business and the other who needs someone to talk to, and how they reach the worst kind of compromise. Laugh-out-loud funny at times and heart-wrenchingly sad at others, The Zoo Story is an almost-perfect short play. Continue reading

Literary Cookbooks: The Power of Culinary Melancholia

By Rhian Sasseen

There came a point this winter at which I realized that I was reading more cookbooks than novels, more cookbooks than poetry collections, certainly more cookbooks than newspapers. When I turned on the radio and tried to listen to the day’s events, I found myself compelled, rather, to turn it off and to flip through a Madhur Jaffrey or Nigel Slater volume instead. I stirred ginger into chickpeas and cream into gratins instead of learning what the oligarch would do next. I made elaborate lists of ingredients and recipes to cook almost compulsively, and in this, I was more diligent than any diary keeping or calendar. Continue reading

Why Does a Historian Write a Memoir?: On Writing Adventures of a Postmodern Historian

By Robert A. Rosenstone

I can’t answer the title question for the other 450 scholars in my profession — the majority in recent decades — who have felt the need to write essays or books about their own lives and careers. For me the process was a long struggle to understand, through the dark and shifting screen of memory, aided by documents and publications, if and how my works of history, written over the last half century, have both reflected and inflected the larger culture. My goal in writing a memoir was not, however, simply to obtain a deeper sense of self-knowledge, but also to share with others the hard-won insights I have earned by researching, thinking, and writing about the past. Continue reading

“Take it Seriously”: An Interview with Ecologist and Author Daniel Botkin

By Sam Ribakoff

Daniel Botkin is a world-renowned ecologist and professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara’s school of Environmental Studies, who has worked on many conservation efforts around the world, including at California’s Mono Lake and Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. He’s also a published author with a knack for poetic titles; The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, Discordant Harmonies, and Beyond the Stoney Mountains all invoke the beauty and complexity of nature and the environment. Continue reading

Nowruz at UCLA

By Orly Minazad

Tehrangeles is aflutter with the advent of the Persian New Year — Nowruz — on March 21st. Eager celebrants might have watched truckloads of potted Hyacinths dressed in colorful wrapping being unloaded for Jordan Market on Westwood Boulevard. Up and down the street store displays are decked out with the Iranian flag, painted eggs and figurines of our very own Santa Clause, Haji Firuz. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in LA’s Persian Square, and everyone’s invited to the party. Continue reading

Eating Korea: an Anthony Bourdain-Approved Search for the Culinary Soul of an Ever-Changing Country

By Colin Marshall

Koreans I meet for the first time tend to draw all their questions from the same well. What they ask starts out basic — why I came to Korea, what kind of work I do, how did I become interested in Korea in the first place — and then gets more culturally revealing. Having asked how long I’ve lived here, for instance, they often follow up with, “Until when will you live here?”, I question I wouldn’t even imagine asking a recent arrival in America. When the subject turns to matters of the table, as in this food-centric society it always does, they almost invariably ask not “Do you like Korean food?” but “Can you eat Korean food?” — a matter not of taste, they imply, but ability. Continue reading

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