Charles Manson and the Apocalypse to Come

By Dan Sinykin

Joan Didion, in “The White Album,” famously identified the Manson Family’s most explosive night of murder as marking the end of the ’60s. “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled.” This timeworn narrative, which Didion also helped codify with her essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” tells us that the idealism of the ’60s descended rapidly into nihilism and violence. Manson — along with the deaths at the Altamont Free Concert and the violence of the Weather Underground — has long served as the periodizing marker for this end. Continue reading

Letter from Utopia: Talking to Nick Bostrom

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufmann, focuses on Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. It was reading Superintelligence’s meticulous, cosmos-encompassing thought experiments, with Bostrom’s lucid prose calmly outlining unprecedented urgencies posed by existential-risk scenarios, that made me want to explore literary aspects of public-intellectual practice in the first place. Bostrom is Professor at Oxford University, where he is founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, and directs the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Center. His 200-plus publications include the books Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Human Enhancement (Oxford University Press, 2009). Bostrom has an intellectual background in physics, computational neuroscience, mathematical logic, and philosophy. He has been listed on Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers list, and on Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers list. Here Bostrom and I discuss applications of his book across any number of fields — from history to philosophy to public policy to practices of everyday life (both now and in millennia to come). Continue reading

If They Were Émigrés: Drawing Inspiration from Old Political Cartoons

By Sasha Razor, Gala Minasova, Vladimir Zimakov

A hundred years ago, give or take a few days, the October Revolution (which actually took place in November — don’t ask) forever changed the political landscape of the world. The ensuing Civil War (1918-1921) shifted the boundaries of Russia, displacing two million refugees: blue-blood aristocrats, White Army generals, a future laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and many a cabaret dancer and peddler of bagels. By 1921, the population of Russian exile became so massive that the League of Nations created the first international special commission for coordinating efforts to assist refugees. In the years that followed, the colonies of Russian émigrés kept growing in China, France, and Turkey — the latter serving as a transit point to the United States. The exodus even reached our fair city; Los Angeles was home to over 2,000 Russian expats in the 1920s. Continue reading

Laying a Groundwork for Hope in Israel-Palestine Through Grassroots Efforts

By Elisha Waldman

This November brings the 70-year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly partition plan calling for the establishment of two separate states in British mandatory Palestine. As everyone knows, that initiative didn’t work out quite as imagined. Debate over the ongoing conflict that has simmered ever since tends to focus on the military and politics, the violence and the failed negotiations. But what is so often overlooked is the impact the conflict continues to have on the people themselves, the civilians, and especially the most vulnerable among them, children with serious illness. Continue reading

Ishiguro Before and After: On Translating a Nobel Laureate into Ukrainian

By Tetiana Savchynska

On October 5 I awoke to the news that Kazuo Ishiguro had received this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. I was overjoyed. Over the past few months I had been translating his latest novel, The Buried Giant, into Ukrainian, and therefore felt a particular kinship with both the author and his characters. As with all my previous translations, during the translation process I had been worried about the work’s reception in Ukraine. I had often asked myself, “Would the book receive enough publicity? Would The Buried Giant make a splash in Ukrainian or remain largely unnoticed?” Continue reading

Yoo Jae-ha’s K-Pop Masterpiece Because I Love You, 30 Years After His Untimely Death

By Colin Marshall

Thirty years ago this month, a Korean singer-songwriter by the name of Yoo Jae-ha died at the age of 25. Had the car accident that killed him happened a few months earlier, before he released his first and only album Because I Love You, Korean pop music, now better known as “K-pop,” might have taken a different sonic direction entirely. Though he died believing it had failed, his record has not just risen to the status of a beloved pop masterpiece but emanates an influence still clearly heard in hit songs in South Korea today. The posthumously granted title “Father of Korean Ballads,” as well as a music scholarship and yearly song contest, honor his memory, but on some level they also acknowledge that Korean pop music may never see — or more importantly, hear — an innovator like him again. Continue reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates Discusses We Were Eight Years In Power, the Trump Administration, and the Influence of Hip-Hop on His Writing

By Pamela Avila

“You should be scared. You laugh not to cry, but don’t laugh too much, you should be scared,” said author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates to 1,270 people on November 6 during a sold-out event for his latest collection We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Coates was in conversation with Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. She came with no softball questions, and Coates held no punches. Continue reading

Try to Get Some Distance Between Yourself and Your Moment: Talking to Anthony Reed

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Anthony Reed’s Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing, winner of the Modern Language Association’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize. Reed, an Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale, is currently completing a study of how recorded collaborations between black poets and musicians refract historical shifts in the aesthetic and political possibilities available to these artists and to broader cultures. Many related concerns arise amid the dense texualities read closely in Freedom Time, Reed’s first book. Continue reading

Why is Tilda Swinton in Bangladesh? The Dhaka Lit Fest, Of Course.

By C.P. Heiser

The Dhaka Lit Fest is happening this week in the capital of Bangladesh, a touch over 8000 miles away from Los Angeles. It’s hosting over 200 participants from nearly two dozen countries, and will welcome thousands of visitors over the course of its three days. Launching one of the world’s most exciting literary festivals, in the middle of the world’s densest megacity, is accomplishment enough. But managing it year after year, meeting increased expectations, and handling the particular challenges of a place like Bangladesh, make the Dhaka Lit Fest one of the most remarkable literary events in the world. Continue reading