Notes Towards a Biography of Martin Van Buren

I’m in the middle of the rightly much-lauded How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr – expect a review shortly. Importantly, although Immerwahr has unimpeachable credentials when it comes to academic history, Hide an Empire is not meant to overturn our understanding of belle-epoque American imperialism; it’s a popular work, briskly written, with at […]

Local Notes No. 2: Clyde Hill, WA’s Coin-Flip Mayor

On one unseasonably warm day in December 1975, two candidates vying for the mayoralty of Clyde Hill, WA, a 3200-strong suburb sandwiched between Seattle and Bellevue, met in the office of the King County Superintendent of Elections. Against all odds, the normal course of count and recount in the scheduled November election had exhausted itself […]

Local Notes #1: The Experience of Economic Change in Central Maryland Since 2000

The builders have picked up their shovels in Maryland. Cajoled, at long last, by the recent bounding pace of economic growth in the state between D.C. and Baltimore, these planners, developers, architects and contractors have brought something not seen in quite some time to the Old Line State – a renovation of the built environment, new neighborhoods, lecture halls, office parks, and glitzy, pedestrian shopping centers presenting a bold vision of what a suburban built environment ought to be. And now this rolling stone of bricks and draft plans presents me, whose vision of Central Maryland was frozen in the lows of recessionary apathy, with a jarring experience of coming home again.

After “Vor dem Gesetz,” At Home, Oct ’20

He was sat in an obscure corner of the world, In Memphis (of late), and left alone to read Obscure histories, of the fishing of sea-bream, And grouper, of the proper ecological relations, Of sponge, tortoise, and the sunlight which scatters Thru the unlanc’d emeraldry of sea-skin, Their holy bilayer. This curriculum Like most, went […]

Review: Peter Zeihan, “Disunited Nations”

If geopolitics ever found itself in need of a fabulist, it could do worse than to give Peter Zeihan a call. To be fair, geopolitics today does need a fabulist – one of the wittier passages in Zeihan’s recent book, Disunited Nations: The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World, concerns the moment in 1990 […]

Sharing some John Ashbery, and Poetry in California

Wanted to pass along some beloved excerpts from John Ashbery, who I try my utmost to imitate. Nothing is like his poetry. An immodest little white wine, some scattered seraphs,recollections of the Fall—tell me,has anyone made a spongier representation, chasedfewer demons out of the parking lotwhere we all held hands? Little by little the idea […]

“Das Wunderkind,” by Thomas Mann

I was asked, after posting my translation of this story, whether I could offer readers a link to the original. Hoping ardently that I’m not running afoul of any copyright laws for posting a 117-year-old story, here it is in full. Das Wunderkind kommt herein – im Saale wird’s still.  Es wird still, und dann […]


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