Tobi Haslett

  • Irrational Man

    Something is happening out there in the dark fields of “the discourse.” Incoherence is now a virtue. Rather than irony, modesty, discernment, ambivalence, or the mental sprightliness needed to parse conflicting views, a proud refusal to make solid arguments may be the cure for our divided times. Incoherence strikes a blow to partisan bickering and campus groupthink. Incoherence recoils from “tribes.” If an opinion sounds half-baked, or a claim brashly obtuse, it’s simply plowing through your pieties and wrenching open your padlocked mind. Incoherence is courage, incoherence is pluralism,

  • Jean-Luc Godard

    SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL is Godard at his worst—full of fumbled “experiments,” pompous pseudo-militancy, and flat, failed, cryptic jokes. I love it. Made in collaboration with the Rolling Stones and originally titled One Plus One, it serves as a kind of stool sample of 1968—the year of the Paris insurrection, the year of the Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations, the year that brought the student movement in advanced capitalist countries to a screeching ideological climax that must have looked, at the time, like revolution.

    And what role was culture supposed to play in the

  • Moving On Up

    When Making It was first published in 1967, it ripped through the airless parlor of American letters like a great belch. The man responsible, the literary critic Norman Podhoretz, sat smirking with relish at the revolting thing he'd just done. At the time, he was the editor of Commentary, the magazine that, along with Partisan Review, had published many of the midcentury writers who came to be known as the New York Intellectuals, so he'd had a private view of their jousting egos and venomous political squabbles. Making It pried all this open. It electrified the previously staid public reputations

  • interviews March 31, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Darryl Pinckney

    Pinckney’s fine, erudite, allusive novel is a kind of chamber drama set against a dilapidated backdrop. Black anomie is crossed with the pleasures of the sexual underground and the dynamics of the Cold War. Love sprouts, then wilts.

    Darryl Pinckney’s second novel, Black Deutschland, is drifting and elliptical. At its center is Jed, a recovering addict from the South Side of Chicago who makes several long visits to West Berlin. It’s the 1980s, an era Pinckney portrays as blank, scattered, purged of optimism: perfect for a gay black man like Jed, who wants only to snap free of the burdens of “identity.” He falls into affairs and agonizes over the ones that work, all the while navigating an uneasy emotional détente with his cousin Cello, a failed pianist raising mixed-race children with her white, bourgeois husband.


  • politics September 14, 2015

    Hearing Voices

    Last month, part of the street I live on was renamed “Do the Right Thing Way,” after the Spike Lee Joint. It’s a taunting slap to this little strip of gentrifying Brooklyn. Do the Right Thing, which was shot a few blocks from my building, is a film about racial hatred and police slaughter, but it’s also a point of pride, a grittily cheerful claim to fame. The street itself seems oblivious to the honor. A line of stately brownstones still squints down at the bodegas and beat cops. There’s no new street sign, no twinkling plaque, nothing but the vague glimmer of the aesthetic, a sense that the