Does it pay to be nice?

Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
So it was a breath of fresh air when, in 2013, there appeared a book that brought data into the debate. The author, Adam Grant, is a 33-year-old Wharton professor, and his best-selling book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, offers evidence that “givers”—people who share their time, contacts, or know-how without expectation of payback—dominate the top of their fields. “This pattern holds up across the board,” Grant wrote—from engineers in California to salespeople in North Carolina to medical students in Belgium.  Jerry Useem, theatlantic.


Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama mi piace molto, più del marito. Nel suo discorso al Commencement della Tuskegee University, un'istituzione storicamente nera in Alabama, ha detto di essere nera, infrangendo le regole. 
"How dare she? The right wing does not allow such a reference. “We” let “you people” win the White House, which meant that racism is over with and gone. Difference was abolished. Any mention of it now is “playing the race card”—and was denounced as such by all the many mouths of the Right—by Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh shuddered melodramatically at a speech that could “lead to racial strife unlike any that we who are alive today remember.” How could an inspiring speech to students lead to such a doomsday? In her own quiet way Ms. Obama was breaking all of the four rules of racial discourse the right wing now wants to enforce". 
Poi seguono le quattro regole. Garry Wills, nybooks.



WHEN our family moved from the West Village to the Upper East Side in 2004, seeking proximity to Central Park, my in-laws and a good public school, I thought it unlikely that the neighborhood would hold any big surprises. For many years I had immersed myself — through interviews, reviews of the anthropological literature and participant-observation — in the lives of women from the Amazon basin to sororities at a Big Ten school. I thought I knew from foreign.
Then I met the women I came to call the Glam SAHMs, for glamorous stay-at-home-moms, of my new habitat. My culture shock was immediate and comprehensive. In a country where women now outpace men in college completion, continue to increase their participation in the labor force and make gains toward equal pay, it was a shock to discover that the most elite stratum of all is a glittering, moneyed backwater. Wednesday Martin, nyt.



Aiuto! Stiamo perdendo il vocabolario della natura.
"The substitutions made in the dictionary—the outdoor and the natural being displaced by the indoor and the virtual—are a small but significant symptom of the simulated life we increasingly live. Children are now (and valuably) adept ecologists of the technoscape, with numerous terms for file types but few for differ-ent trees and creatures. A basic literacy of landscape is falling away up and down the ages. And what is lost along with this literacy is something precious: a kind of word magic, the power that certain terms possess to enchant our relations with nature and place. As the writer Henry Porter observed, the OUP deletions removed the “euphonious vocabulary of the natural world—words which do not simply label an object or action but in some mysterious and beautiful way become part of it.” Robert MacFarlane, orionmagazine.



Emilie Chatelet portrait by Latour
Molto lavoro ancora da fare per i giovani studenti di filosofia.
"In his first work, published in 1747, Immanuel Kant cites the ideas of another philosopher: a scholar of Newton, religion, science, and mathematics. The philosopher, whose work had been translated into several languages, is Émilie Du Châtelet.
Yet despite her powerhouse accomplishments—and the shout-out from no less a luminary than Kant—her work won’t be found in the 1,000-plus pages of the new edition of The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. In the anthology, which claims to trace 2,400 years of philosophy, the first female philosopher doesn’t appear until the section on writing from the mid-20th century. Or in any of the other leading anthologies used in university classrooms, scholars say.
Also absent are these 17th-century English thinkers: Margaret Cavendish, a prolific writer and natural philosopher; Anne Conway, who discusses the philosophy of Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza in The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (which is influenced by the Kabbalah); and “Lady” Damaris Masham—the daughter of a Cambridge Platonist and a close friend of John Locke who published several works and debated ideas in letters she exchanged with the German mathematician and philosopher G.W. Leibniz.
Despite the spread of feminism and multiculturalism, and their impact on fields from literature to anthropology, it is possible to major in philosophy without hearing anything about the historical contributions of women philosophers". Susan Price, theatlantic.



The first time I read Fran Ross’s hilarious, badass novel, “Oreo,” I was living on Fort Greene Place, in Brooklyn, in a community of people I thought of as “the dreadlocked élite.” It was the late nineteen-nineties, and the artisanal cheese shops and organic juice bars had not yet fully arrived in the boroughs, though there were hints of what was to come. Poor people and artists could still afford to live there. We were young and black, and we’d moved to the neighborhood armed with graduate degrees and creative ambitions. There was a quiet storm of what the musician and writer Greg Tate described as “Black Genius” brewing in our midst. Spike Lee had set up a production studio inside the old firehouse on DeKalb Avenue. Around the corner, on Lafayette Street, was Kokobar, a black-owned espresso shop decorated with Basquiat-inspired paintings; there were whispers that Tracy Chapman and Alice Walker were investors. Around the corner, on Elliott Street, Lisa Price, a.k.a. Carol’s Daughter, sold organic hair oils and creams for kinky-curly hair out of a brownstone storefront. Danzy Senna, newyorker.

Fran Ross, Oreo (Northeastern University Press), un libro che bisognerebbe tradurre!



Much of contemporary fiction has slimmed down, become more performative, single-minded, and direct. Portnoy’s Complaint, ahead of its time, can almost be sung aloud. But Saul Bellow’s novels are digressive, dripping with intellectual and physical life simultaneously, what one film producer described to me as “high/low.” When I assign Herzog to my students, I am essentially bringing a slab of foie gras to a vegan party. 
Dall'introduzione di Gary Shteyngart alla nuova edizione di Ravelstein di Saul Bellow da parte di Penguin Books. nybooks.


The Perfection of the Paper Clip

It takes a confident writer to begin a book with a long discussion of the evolution of paper clips, push pins, and binder fasteners before even touching on sexier subjects like glue, sticky tape, and pencil erasers. Fortunately, James Ward, the author of the quirky history of stationery The Perfection of the Paper Clip (Touchstone), has a gift for isolating the kind of odd detail that counteracts the human eye’s tendency to glaze over. June Thomas, slate.


Trollope e l'arte del pettegolezzo

If we want to understand why e-mail arguments are dangerous (“The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should make his confessions always by word of mouth if it were possible”), or if we want to understand why professional politicians hate “principled” stands (not because they hate principles but because they believe that the cost of the principles is already priced into the politics), or if we want to know how scurrilous gossip can eat away at its subject without actually damaging his reputation—for all the permanent, practical questions of the politics of existence, Trollope remains the man. Adam Gopnik, newyorker.


Wasting Time on the Internet

The 15 undergraduate students in “Wasting Time on the Internet,” an English course offered by the University of Pennsylvania, plus professor Kenneth Goldsmith, plus me, are participating in an activity. Actually, a few students opt out, but I don’t. For the exercise, which Goldsmith calls “30 seconds of heaven,” we rotate our laptops Lazy Susan-style around the long conference table. Everyone has 30 seconds with each laptop, to open whatever files they choose. The experience—surreal, funny, nerve-wracking—falls halfway between regretting an email and seeing a therapist. When I get my computer back, almost all of my applications are running. Katy Waldman, slate.
Un'altra idea, per un racconto, forse.


Sulla pazzia

"The number of those who actually do go insane is small. For Barbara Taylor, the trouble began when she got it into her head that her dissertation was going to be, in a literary sense, really good. Then a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Sussex in England, Taylor was writing about the Owenites, a minor group of nineteenth-century English utopians. As a socialist, a feminist, and a Canadian, she felt an affinity for these obscure and decent people. However, she didn’t know just what to say about them, which caused her great anxiety. This situation lasted for months, with the anxiety getting worse. Finally, in a scene reminiscent of the Muses inspiring a poet, her idea came to her, with dazzling suddenness; in her memoir, The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times (University of Chicago, $20), Taylor dates the epiphany to a November evening in 1977, “at about eleven.” James Camp, bookforum.

Potrebbe essere l'inizio di un romanzo, no?


La crisi del romanzo

More than 150 years later [l'articolo si riferisce a Dickens], the publishing industry is in the doldrums, yet the novel shows few signs of digging into its past and resurrecting the techniques that drove fans wild and juiced sales figures. The novel is now decidedly a single object, a mass entity packaged and moved as a whole. That’s not, of course, a bad thing, but it does create a barrier to entry that the publishing world can’t seem to overcome. Meanwhile, consumers gladly gobble up other media in segments — whether it’s a “Walking Dead” episode, a series of Karl Ove Knausgaard ’s travelogues or a public-radio show (it’s called “Serial” for a reason, people) — so there’s reason to believe they would do the same with fiction. What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.


Love and Merit

There are two great defining features of child-rearing today. First, children are now praised to an unprecedented degree. ...
The second defining feature is that children are honed to an unprecedented degree. The meritocracy is more competitive than ever before. Parents are more anxious about their kids getting into good colleges and onto good career paths. ...
These two great trends — greater praise and greater honing — combine in intense ways. Children are bathed in love, but it is often directional love. Parents shower their kids with affection, but it is meritocratic affection. It is intermingled with the desire to help their children achieve worldly success.
Very frequently it is manipulative. David Brooks, nyt.