On Surveillance: A Conversation

“Remember that great line from 1984? ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face—forever.’ The way I look at these recent revelations about our surveillance capacities—I think that what’s been revealed to us, essentially, is the boot of the future. This massive surveillance/intelligence system, documented by Snowden and others—this is the boot of the future. And the question is going to be, eventually, who wears the boot?”

“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don't Read Or Write About EducationFrom the Print

If in recent years one type of writing has managed to at least hint at the genuine problem in education, it is the adolescent fantasy novel. [...] The structuring desire of every novel of this sort is the same: a well-resourced school that offers a meaningful education. The anxiety that eventually takes over the story is also the same: that the school will turn out to be just as authoritarian, just as banal and arbitrary as its real-life counterparts.

Three PoemsFrom the Print

… Sunset wears a crown
Like a wound wears a crown.
Even I believe in something
When looking into water at sunset.
Even then the gods are at work.
The eyes see something beautiful beyond,
The shells of snails twirling like a galaxy
Made from a mathematical formula
Like a flame trying to become a rose…

The Sound of TED: A Case for Distaste

A decent strategy with TED might be to reclaim our teenage capacities and treat these videos as hopelessly passé—ignore them to death. Critiquing them, even as I have done, will do what criticism has done for television: creating an added enjoyment as you go on consuming the crap you despise…

Four Short Essays From "The Hard Problem"

One time I was in therapy for being sad, and while I was there I learned about The Power of Positive Thought. I know this sounds like magic and/or fake and/or antithetical to the open-eyed truth telling to which we’ve all dedicated ourselves as writers, but if you would like to not kill yourself after years and years of sitting at a desk with little or nothing to show for it, it’s a really great option…

Ragnarök on the Seine

The convicted Norwegian murderer and black metal icon, Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes, is to appear at a hearing before the public prosecutor, having been charged with one count of public provocation of racial hatred, and one of glorifying crimes of war and crimes against humanity…

Misrepresenting Rural Poverty: The New Country Noir and the Lives it ForgetsFrom the Print

We’re living in a golden decade for rural escapist fare: the latest, most extreme iteration of a cultural construct that effectively removes people living there from society’s list of concerns. The effect of these savvy new Westerns is, in some ways, even more insidious than their progenitors’, since they incorporate the countryside’s decline into the genre’s standard narrative, and, in so doing, effectively ignore that decline by aestheticizing it. Now the cowboys aren’t discovering the west, they’re preserving it, this parallel society living alongside ours, all unknown and neglected folkways and byways, comfortingly unchanged in the face of global hyperactivity…

The Weight of Words

We felt that people still respond to a beautifully printed object—and that the quiet, solitude, and time requested by such an object make for the best environment for encountering certain voices.

Regarding Diptychs

And yet, there is no escaping the strength of the number three. A triangle is the sturdiest shape in architecture. The Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome, the pyramids, the molecular structure of diamond—all derive their stability from the strength of three. And of course, the Christian Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—a holy triptych that collapses into one idea: God. The diptych can’t escape this rule of three, and perhaps this is also part of its power. Just as the triptych is secretly a portrait, the diptych is, in a sense, a triptych…

Letter from the Editors: The Reader is Going All-Print!

It is our pleasure to announce to you the latest development here at the American Reader: effective October 1st, 2014, we will be turning our full focus to our print journal. The website will still be an active part of the magazine. Our “Day in Lettres” blog will continue, along with weekly dispatches from the editors about what we’re reading and engaging with, and regular updates regarding new issues and upcoming events.

Staff Picks: Print Favorites

This October, the American Reader is going (almost) all print. In celebration of this shift, the editors have put together an unranked list of twenty of our favorite stories, poems, plays and essays that have appeared in our print edition over the past two years.

What Will Happen to Kim Kardashian in the Revolution?

Guy Debord tells us the spectacle is what our modern economy looks like: it is what we have produced, and what we consume, congealed into an image. “The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.” In an earlier piece, I suggested that the capital accumulated in the images of Ferguson is our squandered defense budget, expressed on suburb streets and pointed at our own citizens.

It all makes more sense if you don’t distinguish between E! and CNN, between Kim Kardashian and Rosemary Church. The TV is just trying to entertain you, to give you what you want to see so you’ll keep buying. That is, you who it thinks it knows but no longer does…

The Prince Returns: In Defense of Lawrence Durrell

And now, in 2014, Durrell has failed to be appreciated in any substantial way by modern audiences. In fact, the opposite is true: he is positively derided in most serious literary circles nowadays, and his books are rarely studied in universities. His novels are said to be antiquated and selfish, indulgent and over-written. His prose, once thought to be incisive and muscular, is now judged as florid and confusing…

Gaza, Ferguson, and the Perils of White Guilt

On Monday night, a ninety-year-old woman named Hedy Epstein in Ferguson, MO, was arrested wearing a t-shirt that said, “Stay Human.” This was the tenth day of protests over the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Epstein, a Holocaust survivor and a Jew, said of her arrest, “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I’d have to do it when I was ninety”…