How Oscar Wilde’s life imitates his art


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Wilde made his own life into a tragic, exquisite, grotesquely gorgeous work of art. That was his legacy to the 21st century. Nowadays Wilde’s queerness is being embraced with open arms. In 2017, he was among 50,000 gay men posthumously pardoned by the Ministry of Justice for sexual acts that are no longer illegal. Everywhere you turn these days, there seems to be another shrine to Oscar going up somewhere, whether it’s the Oscar Wilde Barand Oscar Wilde Temple in New York, or the Irish hotels set to open in London and Edinburgh. Wilde’s works, once considered to have a corrupting influence, are now taught in schools around the globe. He has become gay history’s Christ figure. The relics of his martyrdom have become attractions, sites of pilgrimage.

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Michele Mendelssohn — OUPblog

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Thomas Piketty: Capital in the twenty-first century


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Piketty presents himself as politically engagé, so it would be natural to cut to the chase and announce my view of whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, a comrade or an enemy.  That impulse is all the stronger because his title is a deliberate allusion to Marx’s great work, Das Kapital.  The title, after all, is CAPITAL in the Twenty-First Century, not Capital in the Twenty-First Century.  But I shall resist the temptation, because it would be a mistake.  There is a great deal to learn from this book whether or not one situates oneself where Piketty does on the ideological spectrum [as I do not], and that must be the focus of my attention in the first part of this discussion.

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Robert Paul Wolff — 3:AM Magazine

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Wedding Woes and Mutual Hatred


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In The Wedding, West offers a more nuanced and succinct take on the same themes. In the late summer 1953, the prosperous Coles family is gathered on the Vineyard for the nuptials of their lovely scion Shelby Coles to a white jazz musician. The impending wedding brings to a head the foundational illusion of their lives: that skin color is “a direct barometer of virtue,” as Shelby’s sister, Liz, sarcastically puts it. West tracks the idea’s evolution and its fallout by telling the stories of the family’s ancestors, black and white, from back when “cars hadn’t yet been invented, cocktails hadn’t yet been invented, and the idea of colored people taking vacations had not yet been invented either.” In a more recent flashback, a young Shelby gets lost, and the islanders are on the lookout for a “little colored girl.” But blonde Shelby isn’t recognizable as such, and when she tells her name to a white mother, the woman is at first confused and then reluctant to ask if she’s “colored.” “I couldn’t do anything as awful,” the woman says to her friends. “Supposing she isn’t? It might leave a scar.”

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Emma Garman — The Paris Review

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The problem with Facebook


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What’s your view?

“Antisocial Media” is not a hopeful book. Vaidhyanathan doesn’t think Facebook can be reformed from within, however many times CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologizes and promises to do better. “The problem with Facebook is Facebook,” he writes. It’s not just that the company makes its money by pimping its members to advertisers. It’s that the network is now so immense that it has become impossible to weed out the scoundrels and creeps until after they’ve done their damage. “Facebook,” Vaidhyanathan concludes, “is too big to tame.” The company will always be cleaning up messes, begging our forgiveness.

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Nicholas Carr – The Washington Post

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Break.up by Joanna Walsh


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Joanna Walsh’s recent novel, Break.up, is motivated by a recently ended—or is it still current?—relationship. In order to forget about her on-again-off-again lover, the narrator, also named Joanna, decides to embark on a solo journey across Europe. Traveling by train, bus, and on foot, she makes her way from London’s St. Pancras Station through France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Holland, Germany, and back again. Joanna seems intent on tiring herself out, hoping to banish the thoughts that keep her up at night. In the meantime, she houses these thoughts in a book, a tactic that also alleviates her self-imposed loneliness. “You’re never alone with a book,” she says, “particularly when you’re writing one.”

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Ruby Brunton — Bookforum

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Juliet, Naked Is Everything a Mainstream Rom-Com Should Be But No Longer Is


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It’s an irresistible premise: an increasingly intimate intercontinental relationship between a superfan’s idol and his own girlfriend. It’s a Platonic cuckolding. Juliet, Naked is based on a Nick Hornby novel that funnels a lot of Hornby’s fanboy impulses — including his self-loathing, paranoid ones — into a single breezy vehicle. Duncan, his dark alter ego, is insufferable bordering on pitiful. When an acquaintance looks at a photo of the young Crowe and pronounces him “gorgeous,” Duncan says, “Thank you,” beaming. Of Crowe’s critics, including Annie, he says, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, however un-nuanced” — a line I should use more often when people disagree with me. He does not know as yet that Crowe’s opinion is similarly un-nuanced.

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David Edelstein — Vulture

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century By Yuval Noah Harari


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A not so nice book review.

So it continues, great swathes of padding followed by dinner-party observations of crushing banality. The chapters cover some big subjects – war, terrorism, nationalism, God – but since most average about fifteen pages, they fall almost comically short of providing the ‘dazzling’ insights promised on the book’s cover. One sentence literally reads, ‘Humans have bodies.’ Amazing. ‘European civilisation is anything Europeans make of it.’ Profound. Where terrorism is concerned, ‘we just cannot prepare for every eventuality’. Dazzling.

On and on it goes. ‘With a single exception, all flags are rectangular pieces of cloth.’ Well I never. ‘A robot army would probably have strangled the French Revolution in its cradle in 1789.’ There’s a good Doctor Who story in that. ‘If the USA had had killer robots in the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre might have been prevented.’ Is this Yuval Noah Harari or Alan Partridge?

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Dominic Sandbrook — Literary Review

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