The title is a little mocking, a little sad, and conveys the moral outrage felt by its author upon reviewing the New York Times’ collection of war photos from Iraq and Afghanistan. Ostensibly they exist to merely complement the writing, but how dangerous to forget the power of the photograph! Shields has curated what is essentially a museum exhibit, each photo on a wall of white, organized by theme with accompanying quotes from writers, critics, media. By exalting these photographs this way he in fact exposes them as the political and aesthetic objects they are, puts them on trial for us to consider how they have shaped the way we think of war today.
What the frack is a field philosopher? Adam Briggle narrates his journey from naive newly appointed philosophy professor to community organizer, thereby demonstrating that understanding environmental issues is often a matter of human rather than scientific insight. He explores questions like ‘does opposing fracking make me a hypocrite?’ and ‘is being afraid of fracking irrational?’ Written with a philosopher’s ironic wit and gift for metaphor, this book even teases apart and elucidates technical aspects of fracking I never thought I’d understand. It is a powerful reassertion of the practical value of the humanities in a complex modern world.
Oliver Sacks wrote these four essays as he was dying of liver cancer. Yet he achieves in them all the hallmarks of truly transcendent writing- clarity, brevity, voice, timelessness of subject, elegance.. and most of all, a humanity of such immensity and depth that one feels as if close to the great scientist-writer’s soul, out in some miniature crystalline dimension. This miracle of spacetime, unique to art, was the only kind of afterlife that Sacks believed in, harboring a hope “that some of my books may still ‘speak’ to people after my death.” This book needs to be read, shared, re-read, gifted, re-gifted, whatever- these pages have top-notch magic.