The Boston Review interviews author Arundhati Roy on the global rise of ethno-nationalism, digital surveillance,and political dissent.
Civil disobedience, Herman Melville style.
Are we fundamentally overestimating the scientific soundness of our forensic methods?
Do molecular entities have inventors, and can they be owned? Inside the patent war for DNA-editing technology.
Jessa Crispin on the canon of female travel writers.
Policy-makers and public health advocates have long prized communitarianism over top-down intervention, but new research argues that bottom-up community development projects can just as easily reinforce deprivation and the status quo.
Walsh was an artist, activist and investigative journalist whose book Operation Massacre is credited by many as the first “nonfiction novel,” having been published years before Truman Capote defined the term with In Cold Blood. Phelan explores Walsh’s life and impact on Argentina:
Having famously declared, “The typewriter is a weapon,” he had come to doubt that words alone were any real substitute for bullets in effecting change, and particularly the fine words of literary artists. “Beautiful bourgeois art!” he later wrote. “When you have people giving their lives, then literature is no longer your loyal and sweet lover, but a cheap and common whore. There are times when every spectator is a coward, or a traitor.”
Why do some people react so negatively to the idea of “extreme morality”? An interview with The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar, whose latest book project examines the selfless acts of others:
“If the suspicion is hypocrisy, I think we underestimate the sort of people I’m writing about—it’s entirely possible to live an extremely ethical life without being hypocritical. But besides that, I think people overvalue certain kinds of sins. For instance, many people have said to me, when they hear who I’m writing about, ‘Well, don’t they just act morally to make themselves feel better? Don’t they get all self-righteous and overly proud of themselves?’ I think that pride and self-righteousness are far less important than most people seem to think they are. I think that if you’re doing something that’s hard to do and good to do, and that makes you feel proud, I just don’t see why that’s so terrible. One kidney donor told me that his donation made him feel better about himself—that it was one really good thing he’d done in his life, which he had otherwise made a pretty complete mess of. Some psychologists think you shouldn’t donate in order to feel better about yourself, but it strikes me as an excellent reason!”
Two years after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, the writer returns to the small town of Onagawa, which was wiped out:
“Through repeat visits and long stays as a volunteer relief worker, I would come to know Fujinaka and post-tsunami Onagawa well. Most of my fellow volunteers that summer were Japanese from undamaged prefectures—students with time on their hands, retirees, people in their early-to-middle years who were so casually employed that they could get off work or quit altogether. Many of these were what you might call ‘dropout’ types—musicians and the like. Few of us could say that anything had happened to us on March 11. But we all came to feel we had a stake in Onagawa. We planted that stake there ourselves, and it allowed us to claim that we loved the place too. Some of the younger ones said they wouldn’t leave until the town was fixed, however many years that might take.”
Bill Ayers hosts a right-wing dinner party:
“Right wing blogs erupted, with some writers tickled by Carlson’s sense of humor and others earnestly saluting his courage and daring in service to ‘the cause’ for his willingness to sit in close quarters with us—radical leftists and enemies of the state. But others took a grimmer view: ‘Don’t do it, Tucker,’ they pled. ‘This will legitimize and humanize two of America’s greatest traitors.’
“Carlson got a congratulatory letter from the IHC that offered ten potential dates for dinner and noted that ‘all auction items were donated to the IHC [which] makes no warranties or representations with respect to any item or service sold’ and that ‘views and opinions expressed by individuals attending the dinner do not reflect those of the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, or the Illinois General Assembly.’ I imagined the exhausted scrivener bent over his table copying that carefully crafted, litigation-proof language—does it go far enough?
“Carlson chose February 5—Super Bowl Sunday.”