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He was kind enough to send me the guide to Practical Criticism for first-year undergraduates by J. Subscribe online and gain access to the entire archive. The division between empiricists and fantasists is clearest in politics.

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Perhaps history will view this wave of Arab unrest as another stage in the slow crumbling of US empire. The Battle of Wisconsin is only the latest front in this intra-class culture war. What if a certain neurotic investment is really the source of the best intellectual work? Despite its resemblance to certain strands of modernism, Remainder is most interesting as an allegory of realism.

I had never had a coregasm and my sexual expectations conformed to widely held, government-sanctioned ideals. Both Maria Wyeth and Katniss Everdeen have had nasty experiences that have demystified the empty narratives of success.

Essays in Idleness and Hôjôki

Wilma hit Miami in the middle of the night, and by the time I woke the city was silent. Issue 11 Dual Power Available Now. Or sign in and read it now. Email Password Forgot Password. It only takes 5 minutes to subscribe.


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Sunset has, historically, been a good time for the two men, wherever they have arrived, for at sunset we are all still together: the women are only just back from the desert, or the farms, or the city offices, or the icy mountains, the children are playing in dust near the chickens or in the communal garden outside the towering apartment block, the boys are lying in the shade of cashew trees, seeking relief from the terrible heat—if they are not in a far colder country, tagging the underside of a railway bridge—and, most important, perhaps, the teen-age girls are out in front of their huts or houses, wearing their jeans or their saris or their veils or their Lycra miniskirts, cleaning or preparing food or grinding meat or texting on their phones.

And the able-bodied men are not yet back from wherever they have been. Night, too, has its advantages, and no one can deny that the two men have arrived in the middle of the night on horseback, or barefoot, or clinging to each other on a Suzuki scooter, or riding atop a commandeered government jeep, therefore taking advantage of the element of surprise.

But darkness also has its disadvantages, and because the two men always arrive in villages and never in towns, if they come by night they are almost always met with absolute darkness, no matter where in the world or their long history you may come across them. And in such darkness you cannot be exactly sure whose ankle it is you have hold of: a crone, a wife, or a girl in the first flush of youth.

“Two Men Arrive in a Village,” by Zadie Smith | The New Yorker

It goes without saying that one of the men is tall, rather handsome—in a vulgar way—a little dim and vicious, while the other man is shorter, weasel-faced, and sly. This short, sly man leaned on the Coca-Cola hoarding that marked the entrance to the village and raised a hand in friendly greeting, while his companion took the small stick that he had, up to that point, been chewing, threw it on the ground, and smiled. They could just as well have been leaning on a lamppost and chewing gum, and the smell of borscht could have been in the air, but in our village we do not make borscht—we eat couscous and tilefish and that was the smell in the air, tilefish, which even to this day we can hardly bear to smell because it reminds us of the day the two men arrived in the village.

The tall one raised his hand in friendly greeting. At which moment the cousin of the wife of the chief—who happened to be crossing the long road that leads to the next village—felt she had no choice but to stop opposite the tall man, his machete glorious in the sun, and raise her hand, though her whole arm shook as she did so.

Food is cooked for them.

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We offer to make them food or else they demand it, depending. This is one way they arrive, though they did not arrive that way here, we have no televisions here and no snow and have never lived above the level of the ground. And yet the effect was the same: the dread stillness and the anticipation. Two men arrive in a village by foot, and always a village, never a town. But when two men arrive in a village their only tools may be their own dark or light hands, depending, though most often they will have in these hands a blade of some kind, a spear, a long sword, a dagger, a flick-knife, a machete, or just a couple of rusty old razors.

Sometimes a gun. It has depended, and continues to depend. What we can say with surety is that when these two men arrived in the village we spotted them at once, at the horizon point where the long road that leads to the next village meets the setting sun.

And we understood what they meant by coming at this time. Sunset has, historically, been a good time for the two men, wherever they have arrived, for at sunset we are all still together: the women are only just back from the desert, or the farms, or the city offices, or the icy mountains, the children are playing in dust near the chickens or in the communal garden outside the towering apartment block, the boys are lying in the shade of cashew trees, seeking relief from the terrible heat—if they are not in a far colder country, tagging the underside of a railway bridge—and, most important, perhaps, the teen-age girls are out in front of their huts or houses, wearing their jeans or their saris or their veils or their Lycra miniskirts, cleaning or preparing food or grinding meat or texting on their phones.

And the able-bodied men are not yet back from wherever they have been. Night, too, has its advantages, and no one can deny that the two men have arrived in the middle of the night on horseback, or barefoot, or clinging to each other on a Suzuki scooter, or riding atop a commandeered government jeep, therefore taking advantage of the element of surprise.


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  • But darkness also has its disadvantages, and because the two men always arrive in villages and never in towns, if they come by night they are almost always met with absolute darkness, no matter where in the world or their long history you may come across them. And in such darkness you cannot be exactly sure whose ankle it is you have hold of: a crone, a wife, or a girl in the first flush of youth. It goes without saying that one of the men is tall, rather handsome—in a vulgar way—a little dim and vicious, while the other man is shorter, weasel-faced, and sly.

    This short, sly man leaned on the Coca-Cola hoarding that marked the entrance to the village and raised a hand in friendly greeting, while his companion took the small stick that he had, up to that point, been chewing, threw it on the ground, and smiled. They could just as well have been leaning on a lamppost and chewing gum, and the smell of borscht could have been in the air, but in our village we do not make borscht—we eat couscous and tilefish and that was the smell in the air, tilefish, which even to this day we can hardly bear to smell because it reminds us of the day the two men arrived in the village.