paper trail

Leslie Jamison to discuss her recent essays and obsession; James Wood on the critical art of quoting

Leslie Jamison. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, author Jill Lepore urges us to “let history, not partisans, prosecute Trump.” “Surely, post-Trump, when that day comes, there will be investigations,” Lepore writes. “A bipartisan, 9/11-style commission to study the federal government’s response to the pandemic seems not only likely but essential. And Harvard Law School’s Mark Tushnet has argued for a non-prosecutorial, fact-finding “commission of inquiry” to investigate possible abuses of power by the Trump-era Justice Department. But the Trump administration is not Nazi Germany, nor is it a nation defeated in war. Its wrongdoing—a litany that includes corruption, fomenting insurrection, separating parents and children at the border, and violently suppressing political dissent—should be investigated by journalists, chronicled by historians and, in some instances, tried in ordinary courts.”

In a new interview, James Wood (How Fiction Works) dwells on the aesthetic principles of criticism, names his favorite stories about disease and medicine, and discusses the art of quoting material in reviews. “I like what Stanley Cavell says is the critic’s job—to point at the thing and say, ‘do you see/hear/feel that?’ The quoting is the pointing. Of course, it’s an essential element of the re-imagining or re-telling that brings the work alive: you plunge the reader into the text via quotation. But it’s also an essential part of making a rational argument. Indeed, I’d say that precisely because the critic’s task isn’t quite propositional—because we don’t deal in proofs—our rhetorical or persuasive argumentation has to be as scrupulously quote-heavy as the reader can bear.”

Former New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani’s Ex Libris—a celebration of her own personal canon (fiction, sports books, children’s lit)—is out now.

Editor and author James Ledbetter (One Nation Under Gold) has launched a newsletter on financial technology, which, he says, he became interested in while working at Inc. “We ran a few smart features on it, and I began to sense that this could be transformational (not in exclusively positive ways, of course),” he wrote to a reporter at Talking Biz News. “Since then the sector has only continued to explode; by some estimates the market size will triple in the next five years. Also, it’s a truly global phenomenon, which is not always the case with some of the industries that Silicon Valley funds.”

Forty years after the publication of Maus, Pulitzer-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman talks about “fame, switching styles, and why he doesn’t want to draw Trump.”

Tomorrow at 8 PM EST, via Zoom, Leslie Jamison will celebrate the publication of the paperback edition of her essay collection, Make It Scream, Make It Burn, by discussing her work and “the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.” Joining her in the talk, hosted by the PowerHouse Arena, will be authors Lynn Steger Strong, Gregory Pardlo, Andre Perry, and Esmé Weijun Wang.