Scialabba viewed from the Antipodes

by John Quiggin on September 6, 2009

Thanks to the continued tyranny of distance as regards the transport of books, my copy of George Scialabba’s book, What are Intellectuals Good For arrived about the time the CT seminar on the topic went live. I had a variety of thoughts on reading the book, but in a lot of ways they reinforced the point made by the transportation delay: the public intellectual business, even now, is quite nationally specific. This is not to say that Scialabba is in any way parochial: on the contrary, his cosmopolitan outlook is a striking contrast with the insularism that characterises many metropolitan intellectuals, not to mention their eponymically provincial counterparts.

Still, reading his discussion of the New York intellectual scene is rather reminiscent of looking at a map of the NYC subway system. It’s fascinating, I’ve visited some of the stops and heard a lot about others, and there are some big achievements to admire, but as regards getting around Brisbane, it doesn’t have a lot of immediate use to me.

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