Why does Walter Benjamin haunt us so?
The figure is staged, even stage-managed, in advance of one’s acquaintance. “Dear Walter,” as some devoted fans have called him, is always already known. The details vary by account, but the key points are repeated, so often indeed that they take on an air of mythopoeia. Displaced, disregarded, despised, and rejected, fleeing the reflective embrace of politics and…
An account of empty boxes
So I continue to pace and dodge stacks of boxes. You might say, it’s not that I haven’t fully unpacked — but that I’m already halfway packed out. Weeks keep going by, and out of this in-between, paralyzed moment, the real stares back at me. — Jake Marmer
My father’s years as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force entailed family moves every two or three…
Late thoughts and latter-day visions
Kingsley Amis, dead in 1995 from drink and anger, wrote twenty novels and many works of non-fiction. They were all reliably diverting and funny. But Amis worried that his first book, Lucky Jim, which he published in 1954, would surpass all the rest, even though he was later twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize and then…
Contemplating that final act
I met David Foster Wallace once, at a swanky party thrown by Harper’s Magazine. I got the invitation because I was on the masthead, and I happened to be in New York at the time. In Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, a Great American Songbook band played Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” while Lewis Lapham danced elegantly with Francine…
A season of loss
Major League Baseball has limped through a pandemic-dominated season, with a bitter labour dispute as its unsettling centrepiece. As if disease and the game’s disappearance Weren’t enough. Once more, the billionaire owners tried to exploit the merely multimillionaire players with offers of pro-rated salaries and a truncated season. The fans, as usual, were the losers.
So it goes in professional…
A nation in isolation
Conceptual distinctions are easy to make but hard to implement. An old professor of mine, who specialized in hermeneutics, liked to say of the difference between theory and practice that in theory it was a clear divide, but in practice . . . I imagine that joke continued to elicit a chuckle among his students long after I…
Writing our histories differently
When the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opened in Winnipeg, in 2014, the controversies didn’t so much greet it as precede it on a red carpet of anger. That is to say, before the building by the distinguished American architect Antoine Predock even saw completion, the logic of the space had been comprehensively interrogated.
Sponsored by the much-reviled media magnate Izzy Asper and owned by what is still technically known as the Crown in…
The modern life of a timeless condition
In a culture where fast replies, constant stimulation and the omnipresence of social media rule the day, you might not expect that boredom is a booming business. Yet it is true: scholars from philosophy, psychology, art history, sociology and history—among others—have all tossed in their two cents on this suddenly fashionable subject, and not just by boring their own…
Before we take to the streets, this pervasive concept needs rethinking.
Public space is the age’s master signifier, a loose and elastic notion variously deployed to defend (or attack) architecture, to decry (or celebrate) civic squares, to promote (or denounce) graffiti artists, skateboarders, jaywalkers, parkour aficionados, pie-in-the-face guerrillas, underground capture-the-flag enthusiasts, flash-mob surveillance busters and other grid-resistant everyday anarchists. It is the unit of choice when it comes to understanding pollution predicting political…