From the monthly archives:

August 2023

In order of relative clout. I’ve been meaning to do some version of this for years …

Henry’s post on the correct way to argue with Hanania was good. In light of late revelations (probably you’ve heard), revisitation, for extra emphasis, may not be taken amiss. (Or skip it, if it looks like a dead horse.) [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: East Street seagull

by Chris Bertram on August 6, 2023

East Street seagull

What’s the best year to be born?

by Chris Bertram on August 5, 2023

I’ve been reading Gospodinov’s Time Shelter (highly recommended), and though I have not finished it yet, it has already made salient a question that I’ve asked myself before, as I suppose others have too: which was the best year to be born? I think my answer, at least for the UK and for the last 100 years, is 1948, ten years before I actually was.

Someone born in 1948 has escaped the risk of being killed by a falling bomb and has had the benefit of Britain’s new National Health Service. They turn 15 in 1963, perhaps “Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban/And the Beatles’ first LP”, and hit 20 in 1968. If they want, they can go to university, and if they do so it will be free and they will get a student grant from the government. But a degree is still not a prerequisite for decent employment and, either way, they will probably, manage to get established with a job and a career. (Women will benefit from the Equal Pay Act of 1970.) They may buy a house that will, allowing for a couple of blips, grow in value and provide the basis for further wealth. They hit 60 just about the time of the Lehman crash, but they can take early retirement with a final salary pension, fully indexed to inflation, so they will be insulated against the stagnant and falling living standards that came later. They are a bit too young to be very seriously at risk of dying in the COVID pandemic and, by the time they get to old to look after themselves, the UK may have sorted out its social care system. And though a person born in 1948 will have started to experience some of the climate crisis, they will certainly escape the disaster that is to come.
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Campus novels

by Chris Armstrong on August 3, 2023

I’m a complete sucker for them. I don’t know why: you’d think twenty-odd years as an academic would have cured me of the idea there is anything romantic or glamorous about universities. But I keep going back to the trough. Some good recent ones: Julia May Jonas, Vladimir; R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries; Rachel Henstra, The Red Word; Sally Rooney too. Further back, I loved On Beauty, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Marriage Plot. Even further, then of course The Secret History, Possession, all the David Lodges, Stoner, the whole caboodle.

How is my love for these books compatible with the fact that real-world academic life is increasingly crappy? It’s not obvious that they’re offering a rose-tinted version of reality to divert myself with – or not all of them, anyway. Should we expect to see fewer of them, now that academia is ever more precarious, bureaucratic, stressful? What the hell is going on with the Dark Academia craze? (I’ve dipped my toes in there too). Why are campus novels so enduringly popular, with academics and non-academics alike? Is it just that the setting WORKS so well, as a microcosm? What are their vices? And, well, which good ones have I missed?

Trump indictment open thread

by John Q on August 2, 2023

I don’t have anything original to say, but it seems important enough to discuss. I’m going to pre-emptively rule out Trumpism and bothsidesism: you can take that to X or tell it to Ernst Thaelmann.