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McLemee on George Scialabba's "Divided Mind"

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Just up: The always thoughtful and committed Scott McLemee has written one of his satisfyingly uncategorizable essay-interviews about the critic and scholar's new collection of essays (whose publisher is inexplicably without a website, Scott points out). As usual, his piece is so deeply focused and intricately patterned that it's hard to scoop out the spoonful of Skippy that makes quick-admiration posts like this easier, but I liked this section quite a lot:

We sometimes say that a dog “worries” a bone, meaning he chews it with persistent attention; and in that sense, Divided Mind is a worried book, gnawing with a passion on the “moral/political” problems that go with holding an egalitarian outlook. Scialabba is a man of the left. If you can imagine a blend of Richard Rorty’s skeptical pragmatism and Noam Chomsky’s geopolitical worldview — and it’s a bit of a stretch to reconcile them, though somehow he does this — then you have a reasonable sense of Scialabba’s own politics. In short, it is the belief that life would be better, both in the United States and elsewhere, with more economic equality, a stronger sense of the common good, and the end of that narcissistic entitlement fostered by the American military-industrial complex.

A certain amount of gloominess goes with holding these principles without believing that History is on the long march to their fulfillment. But there is another complicating element in Divided Mind.... Continued.

Scialabba and Scott have both won the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing (Scott's acceptance speech will slay you). As for me, let's see, I do own a volume of Virgina Woolf essays written in by Nona Balakian, in confident pencil. I've also been acquainted with her poet nephew, whose memoir Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past is unforgettable. The mind writes and writes and lives by writing; praise to them who can concentrate long and honestly enough to bring sound thoughts into being! It is necessary to go through dark and deeper thought and not to turn. I've been paraphrasing. And liking the gerunds!

Speaking of thinking, you may be wondering (is this a Roches song?), what about the Nicholas Lemann piece that's gotten everybody itching like a man in a fuzzy tree? I have links (here's one I haven't read yet), I have thinks, all will come in due time.

Related in McLemee updates:
"The Cultural Equivalent of E-Mail Spam"
Taking Our Galbraith Away
There Is Nothing Like a Dame Helen
Things One and Two, Worth Noting
Plagiarizing? At Least Know the Literature

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