The Martyred Crowd: “Cathedral of the August Heat, A Novel of Haiti”

This is a short, feverish, seamy, painful book from 1987 about a revolutionary upsurge among the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. It's written by a dissident journalist exiled by the Duvaliers. It's Communist in rhetoric, and there are moments toward the end when the rhetoric and also the optimism feel really flimsy. But most of the book is given over to tales of life at the bottom: sultry dreamscapes and violent nightmares, phantasmagoric beauty and brutal suffering, … [Read more...]

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“David Foster Wallace and Samuel Taylor Coleridge Had a Lot in Common”

Helen Rittelmeyer: The biggest difference between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and David Foster Wallace is that by the time cardiomyopathy took Coleridge’s life in 1834, at the age of sixty-one, the consensus was that he had died too late. It’s not that no one engaged in rueful speculation about the masterpieces that would go unwritten, it was just that they’d done it years before, when it became clear that addiction and lack of professional discipline had made further serious literary output from Co … [Read more...]

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“The Secret Document That Transformed China”

via Ratty, and definitely read to the end (it's short): In 1978, the farmers in a small Chinese village called Xiaogang gathered in a mud hut to sign a secret contract. They thought it might get them executed. Instead, it wound up transforming China's economy in ways that are still reverberating today.The contract was so risky — and such a big deal — because it was created at the height of communism in China. Everyone worked on the village's collective farm; there was no personal pro … [Read more...]

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