Alarums and Excursions: Pundits, Putin and Crimea

By Fredric Smoler

Putin’s seizure of Crimea produced no agreement on the nature of a prudent response, but it did prompt a remarkable number of historical analogies and putative lessons. On the interventionist side analogies to Hitler were initially pretty common—some of the first, predictably enough, were to Munich, followed by a few to the Anschluss. These kicked off a round of post-Iraq scorn for analogies to the 1930s, which are nowadays widely abused as the obsessions of people for whom it is always 1938... Continue reading "Alarums and Excursions: Pundits, Putin and Crimea"

Does the Past Repeat Itself?

By Eugene Goodheart

I have been reading the first volume of Churchill’s history of World War II, The Gathering Storm. How can one not be impressed with his relentless, hawkish criticism of the appeasing Chamberlain and the weak-kneed continental powers that were disarming while German was arming in the 1930s? Is there a lesson for today? Continue reading "Does the Past Repeat Itself?"


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Democratic Promise: An Open Letter to Adolph Reed

By Benj DeMott

I’ve been expecting you to rain on “Obamamania” for years so your Harpers piece last month didn’t come out of the blue. Though it feels a little inapposite to since your analysis nicely eschews authorial narcissism. You don’t go in for the sort of brazen self-aggrandizement that makes other wannabe-prominent leftist critics of our president seem mean and Unger-y... Continue reading "Democratic Promise: An Open Letter to Adolph Reed"

Chattanooga and the UAW

By Nick Salvatore

Nearly forty years ago today, the United Auto Workers (UAW) successfully organized a foreign auto transplant in the United States. The dismal denouement of that sequence in labor history is critical to understanding the defeat of the UAW’s organizing drive at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February 2014. Continue reading "Chattanooga and the UAW"

Phantoms of Liberty

By David Golding

I recently read two memoirs: Luis Buñuel's Mi último suspiro and Reinaldo Arenas' Antes que anochezca...Both books are stalked by the phantoms of dictators. Buñuel, famously and antically, forgave his, while Arenas' hatred for Castro perfected itself as it approached the asymptote of his death. Arenas signed off his suicide note with the following peroration: Cuba will be free. I already am. Those are the words of a fanatic. But, to be fair, Castro never invited Arenas back to Cuba to write novels in the way that Franco invited Buñuel to film Viridiana in Spain. Continue reading "Phantoms of Liberty"

The Anti-War of Harvey Kurtzman

By Bob Levin


Harvey Kurtzman produced what have been recognized as the first "anti-war" war comics. With them, the novelist/newspaper columnist Pete Hamill once wrote, Kurtzman "revolutionized the form...(His) combat stories were hard, bleak, free of rah-rah patriotism. They were about men, not costumed superheroes."...The recent publication of Corpse on the Imjin! (Fantagraphics. 2012), reprinting, in black and white, twenty-five of Kurtzman’s war stories, and reproducing each of his color covers, made it seem a good time for me to look back at this phase of Kurtzman’s career, especially since, throughout the years I and my EC-devotee pals were cramming his inclinations into our skulls, we were also avidly assaulting alleys, storming porches, playing war. Continue reading "The Anti-War of Harvey Kurtzman"

Institutional Memories

By Carmelita Estrellita

don't part your lips on the dementia ward/unless you want to be crammed full of puree/you're in the company of mostly angels/ who've already made it past their judgment day Continue reading "Institutional Memories"

High Low Country: The Baraka/Dorn Correspondence

By Benj DeMott

The 60s correspondence between poets Amiri Baraka (then known as LeRoi Jones) and Edward Dorn—collected this year in a vital volume edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano—swings us in and out of what Allen Ginsberg once termed “the era of good feeling.” At the top of the decade, bohemian Baraka’s in thrall to avatars of the New American Poetry (like Dorn), painters and jazz musicians. But changing times push him away from the Village’s pre-political moveable feast even as he affirms: “Against all that other shit kicking around, there’s still that basically human act, the drunken party..." Continue reading "High Low Country: The Baraka/Dorn Correspondence"


"The program is for
students who already have
a lot on their minds,
who mean to have much,
much more on their minds."
-Robert Hullot-Kentor, Chair

Black Mountains Beyond Mountains

By Amiri Baraka, Edward Dorn & Claudia Moreno Pisano

First thanks Claudia Moreno Pisano for enabling us to reprint the following slightly compacted excerpt from Amiri Baraka & Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters, which is edited and annotated by Ms. Pisano... Continue reading "Black Mountains Beyond Mountains"

Soul Poem, #3

By Roxane Beth Johnson

My father had one—a soul patch—when he was twenty-one... Flanked by ingrown hairs & stubble gritty like sand & rough to touch. I was three... Continue reading "Soul Poem, #3"

From Farce to Koan: Knicks Lure Phil Jackson Home

By Bob Liss

Finding fresh metaphors for Knickerbocker managerial incompetence requires a stretch. Celebrity coaches and general managers like Larry Brown, Donnie Walsh, Isaiah Thomas, and Don Nelson have become distant memories, nearly absorbed into the long history of franchise ineptitude that Red Holzman’s great teams made everyone forget, and to which Pat Riley’s thug squads lent a different coloration. Continue reading "From Farce to Koan: Knicks Lure Phil Jackson Home"

After the Morning: Reflections on Amiri Baraka's Legacy

By Sam Abrams, Ammiel Alcalay, Asha Bandele, Julian Bond, Wesley Brown, Benj DeMott, Tom DeMott, Diane di Prima, Bongani Madondo, Richard Meltzer, Jeremy Pikser, Connor Tomas Reed, Aram Saroyan, Robert Farris Thompson & Richard Torres

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What follows are remembrances of Amiri Baraka by First writers and readers (new and old). While there's nothing official about this tribute, everyone who contributed hopes it might serve as a comfort and/or calmative to Baraka's wife Amina and his sons and daughters. Continue reading "After the Morning: Reflections on Amiri Baraka's Legacy"

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