Two new books—David Van Reybrouck's Congo and Dayo Olopade's The Bright Continent—take a fresh look at the African past and future. Both escape the constant need to treat Africa as a problem, the tedious compulsion to explain what has gone wrong or to prescribe how to fix it, that plagues so much writing about the continent.
In the 1920s and '30s, the Vienna-born biographer and fiction writer Stefan Zweig was the best-selling author in the world. His emotionally charged books captured a culture that was about to fracture beyond recognition. With the rise of Hitler, Zweig, who was Jewish, fled that world to watch it crumble from afar—moving to England, America, and finally Brazil, where he committed suicide in 1942. Seventy years later, his books are still popular and still inspire a range of responses: admiration, sympathy, and, in some cases, loathing.
This charming collection of very personal essays by writers, artists, scholars, and filmmakers does the great service of offering no generalizable advice. Once you finish the forty or so short pieces, you will certainly like these interesting and accomplished people. But if you are considering grad school, you will not find your answer here. And that's a good thing.
FOR ANYONE who has spent several years covering, or even just reading up on, climate change, an inevitable question arises: How can you write something new? So many images—stranded polar bears, shrinking ice caps, rising seas—have grown so clichéd that it’s become hard to convey global warming’s
LAST SPRING, A THIRTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE DROPOUT–TURNED–ENERGY EXECUTIVE named Billy Parish came to talk to my journalism class at Vanderbilt University. The course focused on climate reporting, and Parish had recently been profiled in Fortune magazine as a young virtuoso in the solar industry.
According to New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, we're heading for a sixth extinction, which she characterizes as "the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, [when] we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed."
IT'S PERHAPS AN UNDERSTANDABLE, if by no means a pardonable, oversight to greet the spectacle of a corps of well-dressed, extravagantly staffed, rhetorically skilled lawmakers and imagine that they are devoted to the public's business.
There is a difference between the sexes that has always fascinated me. We women—we're always apologizing: We could have; we should have... Men, on the other hand, they always have an explanation, an excuse—even if they are, like former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, standing over the violently debauched corpse of our present economy, the knife in their hands still dripping blood.
About four-fifths of the way through this collection of letters, Malcolm Cowley writes: "I'm weak, deplorably weak, in knowledge of the sixteenth century lyric." Nobody's perfect! The remark doesn't come off as disingenuous; instead, it reflects Cowley's enduring engagement with literature as a critic, an editor, and one of the most influential men of letters (or freelance intellectuals, if you prefer) of the twentieth century.
It's harder than ever these days to get ahead. But some do. Who are they? To Malcolm Gladwell, it's easy enough: You just have to nearly get bombed, lose a parent as a child, have dyslexia, be less talented (but secretly more talented!) than your competitors, or go to the University of Maryland instead of Brown. Wait, what? you say, just as the author wants you to. It's all so very counterintuitive.