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January 21, 2008

Help Wanted

The third anniversary of Intellectual Affairs is coming up soon. The first column appeared on February 1, 2005, and it looks like the two hundredth will be published at some point within the next few months.*


Over the past several years, various people have suggested that it might be worth putting together a collection of my essays -- which would mean, among other things, making a selection of IA pieces, transferring them from cyberspace to the printed page.

The very idea has tended to induce a deer-in-the-headlights response on my part, at least in the past. The thought of rereading twenty years of my own stuff is not thrilling. All the biting of the tongue it would involve is disagreeable to imagine, and there is a real question whether the occasional pieces add up to some kind of whole. But maybe it's time to find out.

In any case, another more short-term prospect has come up, which is to create a webpage at IHE offering a "Best of Intellectual Affairs" selection -- maybe six or eight columns.

A few possibilities come to mind. But at this point, honestly, after writing about 180 columns, I can't even remember all of them.

So all of this is prologue to asking friends or regular readers for nominations. If you recall anything that made an impression, please either leave a comment here or send a note via the address thing over in the right-hand column. Don't worry about indicating the exact title or date. Just the topic ought to be enough for me to track it down.

Presumably this will also be helpful in putting together a collection of pieces, too, if it comes to that.

* Speaking of anniversaries: Quick Study is coming up on its first birthday. It seems like a lot longer. Then again three years of Intellectual Affairs feels like a decade.

Posted by smclemee at January 21, 2008 9:32 AM


Reading over the titles, these are the ones I remember zealously forwarding:

"Narcissus With an iPod"

"A Child's Garden of Culture and Atrocity"

"We, the People..."

"Beyond Islamophobofascism"

Posted by: Shane Taylor at January 21, 2008 12:53 PM


Speaking of essay collections, when is that new collection of George Scialabba's essays that you wrote an intro for coming out?

Posted by: Rocco DiStreitlmahn at January 22, 2008 11:09 AM

Good question. I don't know. The publisher recently sent a note saying that there would be page proofs soon. It isn't listed at Amazon yet, however, and I'm not sure what the plans are.

If you are reading this and want to give an update, George, by all means feel free....

Posted by: Scott McLemee at January 22, 2008 11:20 AM

I have fond memories of your Lingua Franca pieces; the one Ayn Rand and the one on Baudrillard.

Anything you've written on CLR James is surely worth preserving.

Posted by: Jeet Heer at January 24, 2008 5:50 PM

Congratulations on the anniversaries. You face the dilemma for any journalist: to write in a timely but not disposable fashion, although in your case, you may have the good fortune to come up with your own choice(s) to answer that dilemma -- picking the essays you think are worth anthologizing.

My (negative) suggestion would be to avoid most columns about immediate internet concerns (the rise of blogs, that sort of thing) because, obviously, they're already becoming of mostly archaelogical interest. An exception might be your Wikipedia column because it offered a discussion of systemic and still-present problems with the Wiki approach. I also happen to think your Harry Potter column was an intelligent analysis of the Potter/pop culture/academic study phenomenon: The dissenting comments it received were almost entirely prompted by your admission that you'd not read the Potter novels; they said almost nothing about the content of the column's argument.

Columns that are, more or less, straight-ahead book reviews should also probably be avoided (Not Just for Java, for example). That's not to say many aren't good, but unless reviews link to some wider issue or you've used the book essentially to write an essay (moving into a different form), reviews do tend to age quickly (especially when the book fades from collective memory).

Columns about literary/intellectual uproars or scandals (the two-parter on the Foucault and Baumant accusations being re-heated, for instance) are usually welcome. And me, I'll read anything about Lyndon LaRouche because I find LaRouche-ite crackpottery both laughable and oddly fascinating. Perhaps you might even create a separate chapter devoted to that particular Soviet-cult-conspiracy-paranoid mindset you often write about (i.e., All Plots Move Deathward).

Good luck with it.

Posted by: book/daddy at January 26, 2008 12:29 AM

Vonnegut piece, post-Vonnegut

A Child's Garden of Culture and Atrocity - That is not just a review but says something interesting about time and change and mutating visions of the world.

Write On, for the peek at the writer

Pottering Around - Would've liked more on the whole idea of people becoming obsessed with one writer's created worlds. Also you left out the enormous realm (related to the criticism--"Quidditch, Imperialism and the Sport-War Intertext" is marvelously absurd) of fanfiction and Potterdom, where I hear that one may find additional stories, "alternative history" stories, erotica straight or gay, back stories of minor characters, etc. Of course, that may just make you shiver...

Posted by: marly youmans at February 3, 2008 1:06 PM