Though everyone is tired of the online critics are too nice/ do critics even matter debate cropping up everywhere as of late, Daniel Mendelsohn’s “Critic’s Manifesto” may be the best thing to come out of the conversation yet: a clear formulation of what it means to be a critic and why that matters.
Caitlin Flanagan’s long Atlantic piece on Joan Didion has sparked a lot of conversation. Among the article’s contentious lines: “to really love Joan Didion … you have to be female.”
Hat tip to Melville House’s Dustin Kurtz for sharing The Gates Notes with the world. Now you can read real book reviews written by America’s wealthiest man. That’s almost as good as reading real book reviews written by one of the world’s most powerful conservative fundraisers.
Last week, Kyle Boelte reviewed On Immunity by Eula Biss, delving into its lengthy history of inoculation and public health. At the Harper’s blog, Jeffery Gleaves talks with Biss as part of their Six Questions feature, asking her about Susan Sontag, public versus private danger and the relationship between capitalism and anti-vaccination sentiment.
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.