Evan Kindley

  • culture November 12, 2012

    Poets, Protesters, and Proletarians—Oddballs of the Nineteenth Century

    American history is the history of fitful enthusiasms. “On canal boats” in the nineteenth century, Gilbert Seldes records mysteriously in the history of American fanaticism that he published in 1928, which has been reissued by NYRB Classics, “bed-linen was promiscuous.” There were fads in fashion: “Men … wore the enormous cravats which had been introduced by George the Third to hide the swelling on his neck.” Fads in food: “Carrots were scarcely used and the tomato was known as the ‘love apple’ and considered poisonous”; and a little later, “[b]roccoli had been introduced and the tomato accepted.”

  • The Left-Facing Page

    While abstract ideas of “power” and “politics” are catnip to contemporary literary figures, the actual exercise of political power in the American electoral process tends to be their analytic kryptonite. But things were not ever thus. Michael Szalay’s fascinating new book, Hip Figures, reminds us of a time, not long ago, when literary intellectuals set great store by mainstream political parties, and vice versa. Szalay’s book focuses on the postwar era—a high-water mark, he contends, for the mutual influence of mainstream politics and American fiction. “In the decades following the Second World