Berfrois

Gassy

Gassy

On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box specially designed by the engineer James Watt for the inhalation of gases, into which he requested the physician Dr. Robert Kinglake to release twenty quarts of nitrous oxide every five minutes for as long as he could retain consciousness.

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Ronald Hendel: Genesis as Magical Realism

Ronald Hendel: Genesis as Magical Realism

It occurred to me that Genesis is such a supreme fiction, or perhaps it is the supreme fiction in western culture, which begat many others.  For thousands of years this book has been the mirror or lamp that reveals what reality consists of – regarding the nature of human...

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“Det er det rene volapyk”

“Det er det rene volapyk”

Johann Schleyer on a harp given to him as a 50th birthday present by his colleagues at Sionsharfe, a magazine devoted mainly to Catholic poetry, which Schleyer edited and in which he first published on Volapük in 1879 by Arika Okrent Johann Schleyer was a German priest whose irrational...

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Emerson and C

Emerson and C

Ralph Waldo Emerson visited England twice – in 1833 and again in 1847. On his first visit, as a young and unpublished writer, he travelled to meet the men whose works had inspired him – one of these giants was Thomas Carlyle, the ‘lonely scholar’.

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Hobsbawm and the CPGB

Hobsbawm and the CPGB

Eric Hobsbawm, Peter De Francia,  c.1955. James Hyman Fine Art, currently on public display in Room One of the stunning curation of art and archives connected to John Berger, ‘Art and property now’ at the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, King’s College London, the Strand, WC2R till November...

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Russell Overcounted

Russell Overcounted

Mezzofanti as pictured in the frontispiece to The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti; with an introductory memoir of eminent linguists, ancient and modern, by Charles William Russell, 1858 by Michael Erard Without a doubt, the most important book in English devoted to Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti (1774-1849), the polyglot of Bologna,...

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Lillian Hellman’s stance was inspirational to a cowed generation…

Lillian Hellman’s stance was inspirational to a cowed generation…

Lillian Hellman From The Nation: In 1952, Hellman was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). It was the height (or should I say “nadir”?) of the red hunt. Senator Joseph McCarthy, with the intimidating attorney Roy Cohn at his side, seemed to be making...

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United

United

Caesar Chavez on the México-Tenochitlán—The Wall That Talks mural project, Avenue 61 and Figueroa, Los Angeles From New Left Review: In any account of the United Farm Workers, there is ample room for recrimination and bitterness; but Bardacke shows none of that in his own spirited history. The story...

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John Bateson: Suicide Bridge

John Bateson: Suicide Bridge

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. While there have been many celebrations to commemorate the design, construction and beauty of the world’s most famous span, one thing that has received relatively little attention is the fact that the bridge continues to be the top...

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White Southerners and the American Civil War by Paul Quigley

White Southerners and the American Civil War by Paul Quigley

In October 1860, Sarah Lois Wadley was a month shy of her sixteenth birthday. Yet even at that age, she was dreadfully concerned about the crisis of the American Union that was unfolding all around her. Just days before the election of Abraham Lincoln, a few months before the...

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We Built This City

We Built This City

Paris Commune, 1871 by Jonathan Moses Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by David Harvey, Verso, 206 pp. It would be impossible to cover here the range of ideas in Harvey’s recent book, Rebel Cities, but it is worth considering one of its...

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In the early modern period, horniness and sexual insatiability are classic female attributes…

In the early modern period, horniness and sexual insatiability are classic female attributes…

Frenzy of Exultations, Władysław Podkowiński, 1894 by Justin E. H. Smith I’ve observed before that until at least the early 19th century, ‘orgasm’ did not mean what it does for us today. In La philosophie zoologique of 1809, for example, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck uses the term to describe something like...

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Rachael Mclennan: Anne Frank

Rachael Mclennan: Anne Frank

Most obviously, writing a novel in which Anne Frank in invoked in any way necessitates that Auslander’s work engages with the difficult ethical questions attendant on any fictional discussions of the Holocaust: questions which have been considered vital ever since Theodor Adorno’s claim that it would be barbaric to...

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Well After 999

Well After 999

by Justin E. H. Smith I am in Iceland for the first time in many years, for no better reason than that Icelandair offers extended stopovers on transatlantic flights at no additional cost. I cross the Atlantic as casually as one might take the subway from borough to borough,...

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Donald Raleigh: Generation Sputnik

Donald Raleigh: Generation Sputnik

Saratov School no. 42, graduation night, 1967 by Donald Raleigh Until recently, my office on the fourth floor of Hamilton Hall at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, was the only one along the corridor not occupied by someone affiliated with Carolina’s distinguished Southern Oral History Program...

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Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Jack “Legs” Diamond is little remembered today, but for the last eighteen months of his life he rivaled Al Capone as the most famous gangster in Prohibition Era America. Whereas Capone was famous for being the CEO of the largest criminal enterprise in the U.S., Jack was famous for...

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Ernst Freud’s Modern Architecture by Volker Welter

Ernst Freud’s Modern Architecture by Volker Welter

by Volker M. Welter In 1992, when I was working as an architectural historian for an architectural firm located in Berlin, I stumbled across the name of architect Ernst L. Freud. At that time, my task was to conduct research for an architectural historic report on a large country...

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Koxinga’s War by Tonio Andrade

Koxinga’s War by Tonio Andrade

This February marked the 350th anniversary of an important but forgotten war: the Sino-Dutch War of 1661-1662. The Dutch, who’d defeated the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish, whose guns and military practices were famous throughout Europe, found themselves outfought, out-led and outmaneuvered by a Chinese warlord named Koxinga,...

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Imperial Ventriloquism and Other Magic Tricks

Imperial Ventriloquism and Other Magic Tricks

The centennial anniversary of the First World War provides a fitting opportunity to review the literature devoted to the origins of the conflict.

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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