Carolyn Forché

We had developed a signal to let each other know when all was well: two rings followed by silence. Now, after three rings, I picked up.

Nan Z. Da 

Sometimes you are shown something, and it goes right to your heart like poison.

Martin Hägglund

Life cannot make sense as life without death. Only a finite life can make sense as a life

Peter Brooks

They had been judged to have committed crimes. But what kinds of choice did they have in that?

Thomas Pynchon’s “The Secret Integration” and The Saturday Evening Post

Terry Reilly

Pynchon uses the form of an apparently simple, entertaining adolescent boys’ story to engage and then to manipulate the Post readers.

Leon Trotsky

Not every exasperated petty bourgeois could have become Hitler, but a particle of Hitler is lodged in every exasperated petty bourgeois.

Renée DiResta

As Lenin purportedly put it, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” In the era of computational propaganda, we can update that aphorism: “If you make it trend, you make it true.”

Reginald Dwayne Betts 

When people call me formerly incarcerated or a returning citizen, I do not feel like they are less likely to deny me employment, or housing, or to shake my hand.

Francine Prose 

Try as I might, I can no longer see the beauty that overlays the horror; all I can see is the horror.

Jabari Asim

“Hmph!” That single syllable epitomized the tangled web encompassing whites’ misdeeds and the desire for absolution from the people they’ve wronged.

Cailin O’Connor

James Owen Weatherall

The propagandist’s message is most effective when it comes from voices we think we can trust.

Frederick Douglass

David W. Blight

Late in 1854, and especially during the first half of 1855, Frederick Douglass spent many weeks at his desk writing his ultimate declaration of independence, My Bondage and My Freedom, his second, more thorough and revealing autobiography.

Deborah Baker

Hatibagan, 139 Cornwallis Street, Calcutta, Early Twentieth Century

Calcutta, the capital of the province of Bengal, was once known as the Second City of Empire. Like London, the First City of Empire, it sat astride a river, the Hooghly, that carried traffic rivaling the Thames.

Tom Sleigh


I wanted to blow up the tanks of words, the RPGs of words, the bayonets of words that had only

one definition, one derivation, one root that went back before  .  .  .

Lyric Distance in Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

Adam Keller

In the preface to his then unpublished oeuvre, Wilfred Owen characterized his poems as elegies, a move that has sparked much debate among his few devoted critics about the generic boundaries of his work.

or, Foam on the Wave

Lily Tuck

On my mother’s side, I am related to the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was born in Dessau, Germany, in 1729. By the age of six, despite many health problems, which included scoliosis, he had learned the entire Bible by heart.

Ilan Stavans

Susan Sontag, in an essay called “Afterlives” published in The New Yorker in 1990, called Joaquin Maria Machado de Assis, who, along with journalist Euclides da Cunha, was Brazil’s most famous nineteenth-century literary figure  .  .  . 

J. D. McClatchy

Because I was the eldest child in my family, and because my father was off fighting in the Pacific, my mother kept an elaborate Baby Book, recording my earliest this and latest that. A few years ago, in a forgotten attic box, she discovered the book and sent it to me.

J. D. McClatchy

I hesitate before starting with this particular detail. I want to begin with what for me was a simple fact but what to others may seem a tiresome metaphor. The psychiatrists didn’t invent this metaphor, but I suppose they helped popularize and therefore trivialize it.

Alexander Chee 

1. Sometimes music is needed.

2. Sometimes silence.

3. A novel, like all written things, is a piece of music, the language demanding you make a sound as you read it.

Gregory Pardlo

For generations, or so I’ve heard, Brooklyn families have shrugged off the city swelter, crowding I-87 North en route to the Catskills for summer weekends. In July 2016, partly in search of traditions that might bind our family to a community, Ginger and I joined the exodus.

Afterword to a new edition of French Lessons

Alice Kaplan

After three decades, the adventure of a young Midwesterner learning French, entering with passion into centuries of borrowed habits and rituals, seems like ancient history–so radically has the place of French in the world changed, along with the place of France.

Yunte Huang

On the last day of summer in 2015, after giving a lecture in Knoxville, Tennessee, I rented a car and drove across the state line, over the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge, to visit the picturesque town of Mount Airy, North Carolina, better known nowadays as Mayberry, USA.

(Ruminations on Doctor Zhivago)

Jane Costlow

What does Russia–or Russian literature–have to say to Americans concerned with the environment and sustainability, with how small corners of earth like a single farm might thrive, and what role they might play in seeding hope within our larger communities?

(The Truth of Chelsea Manning)

Lida Maxwell

As the inauguration of Donald Trump loomed in January 2017, President Barack Obama made the decision, against the advice of his defense secretary, Ashton Carter, to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence.

Seth Lerer

“I wouldn’t want to get those shoes wet.”

            The aquarium assistant, a girl of maybe twenty-five with red hair, crooked the hose under her arm, stopping the water with a bend.

            “Those are such nice shoes. Tell your dad,”

Giulio J. Pertile

It might seem counterintuitive to speak of John Ashbery, the principal figure in the New York School of poets, as a pastoral poet. Ashbery’s verse has always dwelt on the heady distraction of metropolitan living, its haphazard and abstract qualities tuned most closely to the …

Rachel Kushner

When I heard that the HMS Bounty had sunk, I thought my favorite lounge and restaurant was underwater. No, someone said, the HMS Bounty  sank–the actual ship. But wasn’t it burned by the mutineers?

Marie Borroff

The cover illustration of Scientific American for February 1970 displays, greatly enlarged, a section of an electronic circuit manufactured by “LSI” or “Large-Scale Integration” technology.