How to Fall in Love with a Love Story

By Katy Hershberger 

My husband and I met at work, and for two years we kept our relationship a secret in the office. When we tell people that, they imagine it as exciting and sexy: sneaking around for in-office trysts. But in truth, hiding our relationship was stressful and annoying. We lied to our colleagues, stood in awkward silence in the elevator, locked down our Facebook privacy settings, and entreated friends and family to never post a photo of us together. But when people listen to the story, our lives become most interesting as a Secret Office Romance, less so as just our lives. The reality isn’t always the best story. Continue reading

A Flâneur, But So What?: Franz Hessel and Objectivity in Weimar Berlin

By Amanda DeMarco and Daniel Liu

“Walking slowly down bustling streets is a particular pleasure. Awash in the haste of others, it’s a dip in the surf,” Franz Hessel’s 1929 Walking in Berlin opens with a celebration of the pedestrian’s-eye-view. Hessel was a Francophile who played a path-breaking role in bringing the concept of the flâneur to the streets of Berlin. In the essays that follow, Hessel traverses a good portion of the city, describing everything that passes before him. The result is an invaluable record of life in the city, one that Walter Benjamin called “an absolutely epic book whose source was not memory but rather leisure.” Continue reading

Why Do Koreans Love Herman Hesse’s Demian Above All Other Western Novels?

By Colin Marshall

Not long before moving from Los Angeles to Seoul, I went book-shopping with my Korean language exchange partner at The Last Bookstore downtown. Browsing the semi-organized upstairs stacks (often literal stacks, at least at that time), we came across a cache of Korean paperbacks from the 1990s. As I tried to find a book there that could teach me something more about Korean culture, it started to look like all of them were just Korean translations of Western literature, but my language partner thought I could fulfill my criterion nevertheless. “If you want to learn about Korea, you should read this,” she said, pulling down a Korean-language edition of Hermann Hesse’s Demian. Continue reading

Barret Baumgart: Navigating Climate Change with a Map of Dead Ends

By Landon Bates

I first met Barret Baumgart in 2007, when we were both undergraduates at U.C. Berkeley. Years later, when I was entering the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Barret had just graduated from it. He was waist-deep in the writing of this book. I’d sometimes see him around Iowa City in the evenings, after he’d spent 12 or 14 hours at his computer, having eaten little more than rice covered in barbeque sauce. He’d seem both rundown and wired, high from some discovery he’d made during the day’s research. The product of this labor is China Lake: A Journey Into the Contradicted Heart of a Global Climate Catastrophe. Continue reading

Trump the Merovingian

By Sara Lipton

President Trump’s recently completed overseas tour has left pundits struggling to explain his surprising affinity for the pre-modern Saudi Arabian monarchy. This hardly seems the attitude of a populist, a Christian conservative, or an ethnic nationalist, to mention just three of the labels that have been applied to him. Rather, the president’s preferences suggest that we should look further back than the 20th century to understand his political style and impulses. Continue reading

The Star Wars Prequels are the Most Politically Relevant Thing in the Trump Era

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein

In December 2015, with primary season about to begin, all eyes were on Donald Trump’s rise. That same month, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters worldwide, the first of four new Star Wars-related films in a span of three years. A month after Trump’s win, Rogue One was released, which debuted the prophetic line, “rebellions are built on hope.” The end of Trump’s first year will welcome the release of The Last Jedi, and the end of the second by the 2018 release of the yet-untitled Han Solo film. Future historians will be able to trace a timeline between these new Star Wars movies and the state of the Trump administration. Continue reading