By NOEL IGNATIEV
DEC 19-JAN 20 | Field Notes
In a lengthy review in the New Yorker of David W. Blights recent book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,1 Adam Gopnik calls Douglass the progenitor of the pragmatic-progressive strain in American thought that led to Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.2 Douglass is an attractive figure, and it is easy to understand why he fills the need of American mainstream thought for a Black political hero now that George Washington Carver (the one Black figure in the textbooks when I went to grade school) no longer serves. But the notion of pragmatic progressive suggests an alternative tradition, which we might call impractical revolutionary. Nat Turner, John Brown, and Malcolm X come to mind as exemplars.
By Hilary Reyl
MAR 2018 | Books
The Gargoyle Hunters is a father-son story set in the 1970s about New York City’s movement between past and future. Part caper, part tragedy, it’s a coming-of-age book that leaves me wondering if we ever really come of age—our city certainly doesn’t. The novel is richly observed, I think, because there is no fixed judgment or overruling nostalgia. John’s characters, especially his winning young protagonist, Griffin, and his beloved urban landscape are always evolving, but they are not taking for granted the things they leave behind. There is a sense of mourning all bound up with a sense of celebration. Discovery and rediscovery.