Coxey’s Army

Jacob Coxey knew both the joys and the sorrow’s of America’s industrial era.

-Benjamin F. Alexander, Coxey’s Army: Popular Protest in the Gilded Age


Just Kids from the Bronx

My father wasn’t a joiner, so we were never synagogue members.

-Carl Reiner, in Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way It Was: An Oral History by Arlene Alda


On Elizabeth Bishop

She began with the idea that little is known and that much is puzzling.

-Colm Toibin, On Elizabeth Bishop



Juror No. 1: Conceived in a Murphy bed a block from the Boardwalk, the silence in the room covered up by the screams from the Rotor, the simple, elegant ride that went nowhere, an enormous barrel that spun so centrifugal force pinned the riders and they faced one another across an abyss when the floor dropped away.

-Robert Thomas, “Of My Peers,” in Bridge

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son & Much More


“Throughout I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, [Krent] Russell explores multiple, often bizarre manifestations of American masculinity in addition to his own, including the Insane Clown Posse-worshipping juggalo scene, the cult of the warrior in professional ice hockey, and even Amish baseball-enthusiasts. If there is a running theme in this book—and I think there is—it’s the author’s struggle to capture these people and places fully without apologizing for them, and their brand of often-bizarro cultural politics, while at the same time trying desperately, often pathetically, to ‘fit in.’” Here.

The wonderful Anthony Trollope at 200. Here.

“A propulsive, sun-baked, blood-soaked read that captures one of the most turbulent times in recent Los Angeles history.” Here‘s a piece on Ryan Gattis and his novel All Involved.

He’s our national laureate of the weirdness of our normal lives.” Here‘s Steven Millhauser (Voices in the Night).

He grew up outside Cleveland, “where to call yourself a writer would be precocious. Or pretentious,”says novelist  Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See). Here.

A new book makes clear  the “centrality of dissent in American history.” Here.



On Marx

He spent much of his life in London unraveling the mysteries of the capitalist economic system: in his sardonic way, he joked that the capitalists would pay for the boils on his backside that he had acquired from long hours in the library of the British Museum. He never wavered in his belief that capitalism was an irrational system, a cosmic insult to the intelligence of workers and employers alike. Nor did he waver in his belief that it could not exist forever; he was not the only nineteenth-century writer who never imagined that capitalism might be sustained indefinitely by the creation of a welfare state that would prevent the misery that might drive the poor to revolt.

Alan Ryan, On Marx: Revolutionary and Utopian

Hand to Mouth

I admit it–I’ve been fired for doing some stupid shit.  I’ve been fired for consistent tardiness because I simply didn’t care, and more than once because I gave my boss the finger. And as a manager, I’ve fired people for being dumbasses–stuff like showing up to work too hung over to stand up straight. Once I had to fire a guy because he went and got knuckle tattoos. I’ve even fired someone for relentless creepiness. That was the one time I thanked God for at-will states. He wasn’t a terrible worker, and there was nothing to point to, but he did brush his groin with his hand once too often while looking at the girls up front.

-Linda Tirado, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America


In Walt We Trust

Walt Whitman lived one hundred and fifty years ago. He never had as many readers as he wanted or felt he deserved, and in many respects, not least when it comes to his sexuality, he remains something of a mystery. Nevertheless, he is the greatest poet America ever had, and, read closely, I am convinced he is the cure for what ails us.

-John Marsh, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself

Star-Spangled Banner

Because Congress took so long to single out The Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem, the song could have easily faded into obscurity.

-Marc Ferris, Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem



Unrequited love is more romantic than mutual love and makes a far better story. Our earliest understanding of the idea of love emphasized the state of wanting, not mutuality or possession: In ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphic sign for love meant “a long desire.” The state of not having, though on its surface an anathema in our rapacious consumer culture, is truly the essence of narrative. Whether the protagonist seeks treasure, a military victory, or a beloved, not having generates tension and suspense with the constant and pressing question: Will they get what they seek?

-Lisa A. Phillips, Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession