Just some small pieces, for you to enjoy.
A good piece: the value of the humanities must be at least visible to those outside the academy, because the questions at the heart of the humanities are questions all of us are asking, all the time. I deeply believe this.
Helpful small intro to Walter Tevis, author of the novel (that became the miniseries) The Queen’s Gambit. He also wrote The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Amazing.
Important: The middle class, once a synonym for “white,” has become quite racially diverse over the past four decades. This means that “[p]ursuing racial justice and improving the well-being of the American middle class are now, more than ever, complementary goals for public policy.”
A nice piece on the Babur Nama, the Mughal Emperor Babur’s autobiographical work. Talks about other ones:
According to the Victorian administrator and Persian scholar Henry Beveridge, husband of the translator of this volume, Annette Beveridge (their son, William Beveridge, was instrumental in the formation of the British Welfare State) the Babur Nama “is one of those priceless records which are for all time, and is fit to rank with the confessions of St. Augustine and Rousseau, and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton. In Asia it stands almost alone.”
This last sentence is not quite accurate: there was in fact a wonderfully rich tradition of Islamic autobiography out of which the Babur Nama grew, and which includes such masterworks as the witty and urbane Memoirs of Usamah Ibn-Munqidh, a Syrian Arab landowner from the time of the Crusades, and the wise, measured and ironic Mirror for Princes of Kai Ka’us Qabus, an 11th-century Seljuk vassal of the Ziyarid dynasty, whose grandfather built the great Gunbad-i-Qabus tomb tower on the Caspian steppe, and had his corpse suspended halfway up in a rock crystal coffin.
What is true, however, is that the Babur Nama is the culmination and climax of that Islamic autobiographical tradition as much as the Taj Mahal is the climax of its architectural legacy.
OK, these may be good books; I’d also mention al-Ghazali’s Deliverance from Error. But this is good.
Want to know about Substack? This piece makes some sense of it.
Great start of quote:
Because of parish closings, consolidations and mergers, and the ongoing vocation crisis, priests are ministering to larger and more complex church communities. This makes crafting the weekly homily a challenging proposition. “It probably was easier to make homilies relevant when there was some kind of cohesion among the congregation to begin with, whether it was the same ethnic group or socioeconomic level,” Bishop Stowe acknowledges. “So you have to work harder at it. But isn’t that what it means to be Catholic—the universal church?"
Amazing story about evil and our complicity in it:
The truth is that the elite world that Epstein ascended into, the one I tapped into by way of the black book, is populated with hordes of loathsome, boring, untalented people living their bumbling, idiotic lives while just so happening to wield some share of the preposterous global bounty that he and the rest were after. For all the mystery surrounding Epstein’s fortune, its existence is hardly more inscrutable than the wealth of any of his other billionaire peers. He earned it the same way they all did, which is to say precisely not at all.
This wasn’t some masterful hack into the global aristocracy. It’s what everyone does. It’s what the whole thing is. There is no scam here. It’s grifters grifting grifters all the way down.
Good essay about Mary and George Oppen. Worth your while.
That's it, everybody. I hope your New Year's Weekend is going well. Rest up.