Martha Nussbaum on Our Political Crisis

Feisal G. Mohamed

Experiences we have while reading a book can indelibly mark our response to it. I first flipped through the pages of Martha Nussbaum’s Monarchy of Fear while taking an Uber to the airport.

As Giorgio Bassani (1916–2000) began writing in the late 1940s, Europe was reeling from World War II. Among those most confused and stricken by it were writers and artists, for whom the Nazis’ defeat and their gradually uncovered atrocities spelled an intellectual crisis.

Don Paterson’s new prose work is learned, intensely reflective, shot through with illuminating perceptions–and sometimes baffling and sometimes maddening. To be all of these, as well as crotchety and cavalier, it has to be at least substantial  .   .   .

The world of opera, both in its plots and in its singers’ personal histories, is filled with tales of women oppressed and exploited by men. “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” (Thus to art, thus to love), as Tosca despairingly sings in Puccini’s great aria.

According to a statement cited by The New York Times, Donna de Salvo, chief curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, has made explicit her aim in organizing the new retrospective of the work of the artist Andy Warhol on view until 31 March 2019: “To humanize Warhol and get people to actually look at what he made is not as easy as it might sound.”

What do we make of the end?

            The beginning is easy, nothing more American. A simple white Dutch church, founded 1767, built 1801, First Reformed, just as it said on the title card. We see a hand writing, hear a voice speaking.

“For her part, Alice was starting to consider really rather seriously whether a former choirgirl from Massachusetts might be capable of conjuring the consciousness of a Muslim man.” Having just ordered hotdogs from a halal cart on the Upper West Side, the twenty-something publishing assistant  .  .  .

Don’t Call Us Dead–the second full-length collection by the twenty-nine-year-old American poet Danez Smith–could stop you short, several times over, with its title alone. Don’t call us dead: that imperative is at once a reclamation (don’t you call us dead; that’s for us to say), a rebuke (don’t just call us dead, do something), and a revision  .  .  .

In everyday life and through the mediation of technology, we constantly listen to voices without being able to see the person vocalizing. As a practical matter, we may ask, Who is this?

Early on in Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud, Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman), a single dad whose record store in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn is on its last legs, tries to inveigle his teenage daughter Sam into their weekly jam session.