Graduation season is upon us, and college students across the nation are listening to esteemed commencement speakers. Some get treated to the likes of Bill Watterson, Jon Stewart, or Barbara Kingsolver. (I got to listen to The Rock.) In the thrill of the moment, it feels like it hardly matters who’s at the podium. One wonders if audiences really grasp the material in these speeches right away, or if the speaker’s words only become clear later on. Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s iconic Kenyon address in 2005, our own Kevin Hartnett tried to find out.
To celebrate the release of Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine, the Cabinet editors put their own magazine on trial, filling up an NYPL auditorium with academics and writers who, perhaps inevitably, began to compete in a kind of irrelevance-off. Which begs the question, answered well by The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones in Bookforum: how relevant to the wider culture is a magazine like Cabinet, anyway?
"[T]hat might be what liberal readers needs right now: Not just portraits of the Brexit and Trump-voting domestic Other, but a clearer sense of their own worldview’s limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions." The New York Times's Ross Douthat assembles a "Books for the Trump Era" reading list, including Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, Christopher Lasch's The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, and Samuel P. Huntington's Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity. You can also read our own review of Houellebecq's latest here.
When asked about his tenure as a professor of creative writing, Harry Crews used to say, "I may be at the university, but I damn sure ain’t of the university." But in talking to his former students, Crews's biographer, Ted Geltner, found that in spite of the writer's efforts to distance himself from academia, he really was a passionate, memorable teacher. (Bonus: Yours truly named one Crews work his "most representative" Florida book.)