The Prescient Anger of Arundhati Roy

Nine months can make a person, or remake her. In October, 1997, Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her first novel, “The God of Small Things.” India had just turned fifty, and the country needed symbols to celebrate itself. Roy became one of them. Then, in July of 1998, she published an essay about …

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How Dr. Seuss Changed Education in America

In 1939, at the age of thirty-five, Theodor Seuss Geisel was tinkering with an invention that was doomed to failure. Geisel had published a few books under the name Dr. Seuss, but he was hoping that a device he had patented, the Infantograph, would be a money-maker at the techno-utopian New York World’s Fair, which …

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The Rock Critic Robert Christgau’s Big-Hearted Theory of Pop

Fifteen years ago, the rock critic Robert Christgau published a survey-of-the-literature essay called “In Search of Jim Crow: Why Postmodern Minstrelsy Studies Matter,” in The Believer. The essay, which is collected in “Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading,” gleans findings and arguments from academic sources and translates a takeaway …

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Eric Hobsbawm, the Communist Who Explained History

Eric Hobsbawm was a historian and a Communist. The first pursuit brought him great success. When he died, in 2012, at the age of ninety-five, nearly all of his books were still in print, his writings had been translated into more than fifty languages, and he was eulogized across the globe. He left behind an …

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How Cults Made America

Most people have never heard of Cyrus Teed, which is a shame. He was born in Trout Creek, New York, in 1839. As a boy, he worked along the Erie Canal, experiencing some of the worst labor conditions that nineteenth-century America had to offer. As Adam Morris recounts in a new book, “American Messiahs,” Teed …

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The Professor and the Adjunct

John Sexton entered Brooklyn Prep, a Jesuit high school, in January, 1956, as a curious and passionate student in search of guidance. He quickly became enchanted with a charismatic young teacher named Charlie Winans, who dotted his freewheeling lectures with fleeting bits of advice on everything from the ideal wife to finding one’s true purpose. …

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In Y.A., Where Is the Line Between Criticism and Cancel Culture?

Late last month, the author Kosoko Jackson withdrew the publication of his début young-adult novel, “A Place for Wolves,” which had been slated for a March 26th release. The book, which follows two American boys as they fall in love against the backdrop of the Kosovo War, had garnered advance praise (“a tension-filled war setting, …

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