Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts

The Will to Act on the Environment

April 20, 2006
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The Will to Act on the Environment

An essay for International Earth Day by R. Bruce Hull, author of Infinite Nature. As the saying goes: We live in interesting times. Globalization and fundamentalism seem locked in a death struggle to control world economies and cultures. The biosphere, the thin skin of life that blankets Earth, is now dominated by the products of human creativity. Environmental alarmists look at this domination and see biodiversity loss, a destabilized climate, eroding soils, over-fished oceans, and collapsing ecological systems. Even most skeptical environmentalists—who typically highlight the reliable and abundant supply of food, energy, and other resources—acknowledge serious challenges to meeting exponentially growing demands. Meanwhile, the traditional methods of environmental management are faltering. Rational, centralized environmental planning is an admitted failure in most professional circles, and the science wars have diminished the credibility of all expertise. Environmental issues infrequently find space on the national agenda, and critics say environmentalism’s method and focus must change. These conflicting environmental currents and eddies flow within the larger river of postmodern angst, causing us to rethink answers to our ultimate questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the essence of the natural and supernatural world we live in? How should we relate to . . .

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Against National Poetry Month

March 31, 2006
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Against National Poetry Month

Charles Bernstein is one of America’s liveliest advocates and practitioners of radically inventive poetry. So why does he have a beef with National Poetry Month? A nationwide celebration of his craft during the entire month of April—what’s not to like? Plenty, says Bernstein. In an essay titled "Against National Poetry Month As Such&quot he writes: National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally "positive." The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an "easy listening" station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. "Accessibility" has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn’t be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry. Read the rest of "Against National Poetry Month As Such." Bernstein is perhaps best known as one of the founders of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry movement of the . . .

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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men. History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness. Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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