Tonight: Goofing Off in Harvard Square
October 23, 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Books, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , ,

A quick event plug, should you be looking for something to do in Harvard Square this evening. Hermenaut founder, former Boston Globe “Ideas” section columnist, writer, intellectual flaneur, Jamaica Plain native and general all-around bon homme Joshua Glenn is celebrating the release of the new book he’s co-authored with Mark Kingwell, The Idler’s Glossary. It’s a handy compendium that began life as a piece for the UK publication that is the Bible of the life supine, The Idler. It had a spectral afterlife in the depths of the Hermenaut website for a number of years, and is now full-on, stand-alone book.

When I first read the Idler piece in a copy that I borrowed from the Hermenaut offices, it was a fantastic and much-needed vindication of my itinerant and indecisive life in the early 2000s. Personally, it should be required reading as a counter-balance to a world yammering to normalize the capitalist work ethic as a desireable way of life.

The Idler’s Glossary has received some well-deserved attention from the likes of the New York Times Book Review blog, The Washington Post, Boing Boing, and of course, Brainiac. More coverage here, here, and here. So what am I saying? Go if you have a chance, I’ll see you there. You’ll find me restfully seated in the chair near the window of the second floor lounge. Details below.

WHAT: Release party to celebrate “The Idler’s Glossary”

WHO: Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based author, editor, and former Globe columnist and blogger. Introduction by the philosopher Mark Kingwell; design and illustrations by the cartoonist Seth.

WHEN: Thursday, October 23. 5 pm to 8 pm. FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

WHERE: The offices of The Harvard Advocate, 21 South Street (off JFK), in Harvard Square.

WHY: Wine and beer. No, I mean, because this gorgeous little book is an excellent holiday gift for that quitter, dawdler, or dreamer in your life.

Hope to see you there!


Thomas Frank returns with The Wrecking Crew

I turned on the radio last night midway through “Fresh Air” to hear someone talking about the manner in which conservative governance that has typified government in America for the last 40 years by intentionally and industriously destroying government from within. Instantly I thought to myself, “Somebody read Tom Frank’s article in Harpers from 2003. Good catch.”

When Terry Gross’s fill-in host Dave Davies announced Tom as his guest, I immediately became sad that nobody else had caught on to what’s a pretty apparent point about recent American governance, really an extravagant form of contra-governance, if you will. Yet I was thrilled. I knew that Frank was working on the follow-up to his extremely well-received What’s the Matter with Kansas?, but I didn’t know what exactly he was working on.

I’m happy to announce that Mr. Frank stuck with that important point about conservative governance from his 2003 article and dug deeper to produce his fourth and latest authored work, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. If his interview and audiobook excerpts are any indicators, they bring the allusive and caustic style he cultivated with his journal The Baffler to bear on what is a systematic corrosion of governance in the United States. Frank suggests that this mode of governance is supported by a laissez-faire ideology linking an amorphous ‘market’ as the key operator of the public good and a favoritist modus operandi establishing a private industrial apparatus lingering alongside government to serve public functions. Such an arrangement builds a ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sectors, effectively blurring the lines between the two, and supplants a competent and committed civil service. Instead of delivering on a promise of a more efficient and cost-effective delivery of government service, Frank notes that this system of outsourced governance has made the work of acheiving the public interest increasingly expensive, arcane, feverishly corrupt, and largely devoid of public accountability. This isn’t to exclude the possibility that the justice and fairness of such arrangements are highly questionable in the first place.

(Full Disclosure: I have worked as The Baffler’s ad sales person from Issue 14 to present. It was a natural extension from my work selling ads for multilple publications, including Hermenaut, Loud Paper and n+1.)

Tom Frank will be visiting the Boston area on October 1at the end of a two-month book tour for an appearance at the Harvard Bookstore.