Start of the week links

November 15, 2021

Just a few.

I had missed this when it came out, but new technologies are letting us identify some of the carbonized papyri in the “Villa of the Papyri” at Herculaneum.  This is effectively a rich man’s library of the 1st century CE, frozen in time by the Vesuvius explosion of 79 CE.  In 2018, scholars identified one scroll as part of Seneca’s history of the civil war—a lost book, until then.


This piece suggests Abigail Spanberger was right, but maybe not in the way she thought she would be: 

“College-educated voters are way less likely to identify as moderate. So as Democrats have traded non-college-educated voters for college-educated ones, white liberals’ share of voice and clout in the Democratic Party has gone up. And since white voters are sorting on ideology more than nonwhite voters, we’ve ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of “racial resentment.” So as white liberals increasingly define the party’s image and messaging, that’s going to turn off nonwhite conservative Democrats and push them against us.”


I do love Laurie Colwin, whose book “Happy all the Time” I have recommended to very many people. This is a nice piece about her.


Good piece on Mark McGurl’s new book.  McGurl is a lit theorist who has written a lot on various intersections between art and commercialism; his The Program Era is still a book I think about.  Now he’s gone one that is kind of on . . . fan fiction?  And self-publishing?  And Amazon.


Pretty good review of my friend Gene Rogers’s new book Blood Theology, on Blood and Christianity, and against Gil Anidjar’s rather (imho) half-baked and lopsided book Blood.  This is a good summary of Rogers’s view: “Rogers disputes some of the details, but not the overall critique. His disagreement is twofold. First, accounts like Anidjar’s tell a one-sided story, because the symbolics of blood are far more labile than the rigid hermeneutics of violence would suggest. Second, blood-talk isn’t going anywhere. And perhaps theology is uniquely suited to reimagine it.”


Ernest Hemingway is under some suspicion at present, and there are surely good reasons for that, but the beginning of this piece, by Joan Didion, from 1998, ably explains something of his style’s power, the way its steel austerity renders it hard to plop bullshit on it.

"The very grammar of a Hemingway sentence dictated, or was dictated by, a certain way of looking at the world, a way of looking but not joining, a way of moving through but not attaching, a kind of romantic individualism distinctly adapted to its time and source. If we bought into those sentences, we would see the troops marching along the road, but we would not necessarily march with them. We would report, but not join. We would make, as Nick Adams made in the Nick Adams stories and as Frederic Henry made in “A Farewell to Arms,” a separate peace: 'In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more.'"


Be well, everyone.