In his book Real Presences, George Steiner asks us to imagine a society in which all talk about the arts, music and literature is prohibited. In such a society there would be no more essays on whether Hamlet was mad or only pretending to be, no reviews of the latest exhibitions or novels, no profiles of writers or artists. There would be no secondary, or parasitic, discussion - let alone tertiary: commentary on commentary. We would have, instead, a republic for writers and readers with no cushion of professional opinion-makers to come between creators and audience. While the Sunday papers presently serve as a substitute for the experiencing of the actual exhibition or book, in Steiner's imagined republic the review pages would be turned into listings:catalogues and guides to what is about to open, be published, or be released. What would this republic be like? Would the arts suffer from the obliteration of this ozone of comment? Certainly not, says Steiner, for each performance of a Mahler symphony is also a critique of that symphony. Unlike the reviewer, however, the performer invests his own being in the process of interpretation. Such interpretation is automatically responsible because the performer is answerable to the work in a way that even the most scrupulous reviewer is not. Although, most obviously, it is not only the case for drama and music; all art is also criticism. This is most clearly so when a writer or composer quotes or reworks material from another writer or composer. All literature, music and art embody an expository reflection which they pertain. In other words it is not only in their letters, essays, or conversation that writers like Henry James reveal themselves also to be the best critics; rather, The Portrait of a Lady is itself, among other things, a commentary on and a critique of Middlemarch. The best readings of art are art.No sooner has Steiner summoned this imaginary republic into existence than he sighs, The fantasy I have sketched is only that. Well, it is not. It is a real place and for much of the century it has provided a global home for millions of people. It is a republic with a simple name: jazz.
Geoff Dyer
To be sure, Judas Iscariot was not exactly the sort of character that Christian Mjomba - or anyone else at St. Augustine’s Seminary for that matter - would have wanted to be nicknamed after. But the fact was that Mjomba had never made a secret of his views on the world. Everyone in the seminary brotherhood knew his stand on apartheid and things like that; and they were considered very liberal. In the conservative environment that prevailed at St. Augustine’s Seminary, they were also tantamount to betrayal! It was about the most unsavory that anyone could have wished to be associated with. But that was the label he had got stuck with. Everybody knew, besides, that it wasn’t some uninformed gentile or misguided unbeliever who had betrayed the Deliverer and handed Him to His killers. And Judas Iscariot wasn’t just anybody either. Judas was one of the twelve who had been handpicked by the Deliverer to form the core of the convocation that would become the Sancta Ecclesia. In addition to being the Deliverer’s purse bearer, Judas Iscariot also drank wine from the same cup as his Master! The man who would betray the Deliverer with a kiss was a member of the inner circle of the burgeoning Christ Fellowship; and, before long, his name had become so repulsive even among Romans, it had replaced that of Brutus, the friend of Cæsar who had conspired with others and stabbed the emperor in the back, as a symbol of betrayal. A traitor par excellence!Whenever Mjomba thought about Judas’ betrayal of the Messiah of the world with a kiss, it was not the act of betrayal itself that came to mind. It was not even the chilling words Would’st thou betray thy Master with a kiss, Judas? that were addressed to the betrayer by the Deliverer in the moment when Judas, no doubt representing all humanity, embraced the Nazarene and kissed him on the cheek so the temple’s constabulary wouldn’t grab and take into custody the wrong person! It was the Deliverer’s address to Peter a little earlier on in the Upper House as the fisherman, who himself would swear that he did not know the Nazarene, not once but three times, in front of a shivering crowd not long afterward, balked at the notion of the miracle worker and Son of Man could stoop to wash his (the fisherman’s) dirty feet, namely Not all are clean, Peter! And that was, in all probability, after Judas’s feet had already been washed by the Nazarene.That, in any event, was the character after whom Christian Mjomba had been nicknamed by his buddies in what he initially regarded as something that was itself an act of betrayal. The traitors! He could not understand how people could be so insensitive about the feelings of others! And even though he had never said it, he had never liked it a bit - until he started work on his theological thesis.- Joseph M. Luguya, Humans: The Untold Story of Adam and Eve and their Descendants
Joseph M. Luguya
Once on yellow sheet of paper with green lines, he wrote a poemand he called it Spotbecause that was the name of his dog and that’s what it was all aboutand his teacher gave him an A and a big gold starand his mother hung it on the kitchen cupboard and showed it to his auntand that was the year his sister was born-and his parents kissed all the timeand the little girl around the corner sent him a postcard with a row of X’s on itand his father tucked him into bed at night and was always there.Then on a white sheet of paper with blue lines, he wrote another poemand he called it Autumnbecause that was the time of year and that’s what it was all aboutand his teacher gave him an A and told him to write more clearlyand his mother told him not to hang it on the kitchen cupboard because it left marksand that was the year his sister got glasses and his parents never kissed anymoreand the little girl around the corner laughed when he fell down with his bikeand his father didn’t tuck him in at night.So, on another piece of paper torn from a notebook he wrote another poemand he called it Absolutely NothingBecause that’s what it was all aboutand his teach gave him an A and a hard searching lookand he didn’t show it to his motherand that was the year he caught his sister necking on the back porchand the little girl around the corner wore too much make-up so that he laughed when he kissed herbut he kissed her anywayand he tucked himself in bed at three AM with his father snoring loudly in the next roomFinally, on the inside of a matchbook he wrote another poemand he called it ? because that’s what it was all aboutAnd he gave himself an A and a slash on each wrist and hung it on the bathroom mirrorBecause he couldn’t make it to the kitchen.
Earl Reum
The neo-cons, or some of them, decided that they would back Clinton when he belatedly decided for Bosnia and Kosovo against Milosevic and this even though they loathed Clinton, because the battle against religious and ethnic dictatorship in the Balkans took precedence. This, by the way, was partly a battle to save Muslims from Catholic and Christian Orthodox killers. That impressed me. The neo-cons also took the view, quite early on, that coexistence with Saddam Hussein was impossible as well as undesirable. They were dead right about that. They had furthermore been thinking about the menace of jihadism when most people were half-asleep.And then I have to say that I was rather struck by the way that the Weekly Standard and its associated voices took the decision to get rid of Trent Lott earlier this year, thus removing an embarrassment as well as a disgrace from the political scene. And their arguments were on points of principle, not 'perception.' I liked their ruthlessness here and their seriousness, at a time when much of the liberal Left is not even seriously wrong, but frivolously wrong and babbles without any sense of responsibility. (I mean, have you read their sub-Brechtian stuff on Halliburton....?) And revolution from above, in some states and cases, is—as I wrote in my book A Long Short War—often preferable to the status quo, or to no revolution at all.
Christopher Hitchens