Celebration’s Invalidation, and Other News


On the Shelf

Oh, god, run away, run away…


  • It’s a new, new year, and in the face of such rampant newness, the poets are feeling a little insecure. Who can blame them? They ply a very old trade, one that most readers don’t much care for. People are always raising their eyebrows at the poets, shooing them from their porches with brooms, cutting in front of them at the bank. But the poets have nothing to fear, Daniel Halpern writes: “A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage—weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays … Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian—but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air … So to the question at hand: Why support poetry? Those of us who engage in the publication and sustenance of the written word do so to insure that language for our future generations remains intact, powerful and ultimately renewed, capable of its role during times of crisis and celebration.”
  • In the fifties, George Plimpton interviewed Ernest Hemingway for this magazine, which was then known as an “apolitical” alternative to critical organs like The Partisan Review. In Cuba, Hemingway donated to the Communist Party and even kissed the Cuban flag—but his Paris Review interview is strikingly silent where politics are concerned. Joel Whitney argues that the Hemingway interview was implicated in a CIA plan to spread anti-Soviet propaganda: “More than a year before it was published, the interview was sought for syndication by at least four CIA magazines … Did Plimpton realize that he was making the defiantly leftist Hemingway into a U.S. propaganda tool, even vaguely? … Did Hemingway know? Though many of the letters between Plimpton and Hemingway are archived, suggesting a near-complete collection of their editorial correspondence, there is no hint in them that Plimpton ever told Hemingway that his interview would be reprinted in covert state lit mags. Amid all their friendly back and forth, in which recreational and editorial endeavors merged, Plimpton never dropped a word that the interview they had worked so hard on together, over which Hemingway toiled against his pain—rewriting it again and again despite health concerns and depression, fighting for time against his paying work in order to finish—could appear in the European and Asian magazines of the CCF.”

  • The philosopher Derek Parfit died this week, but he’d probably say that you shouldn’t mourn “him,” precisely. Dylan Matthews writes, “If there’s a single idea with which Parfit is most strongly identified, it’s the view that personal identity—who you are, specifically, as a person—doesn’t matter … If identity mattered, then this result would be just as bad as death, since both erase his identity. But this clearly isn’t as bad as death; his psychological being gets to keep on going, twice! So identity isn’t what matters. ‘Since I cannot be one and the same person as the two resulting people, but my relation to each of these people contains what fundamentally matters in ordinary survival, the case shows that identity is not what matters,’ he concludes. ‘What matters is … psychological connectedness and/or psychological continuity, with the right kind of cause.’ ”
  • Remember Celebration, Florida, the top-down planned community that Disney tried to get off the ground? It was supposed to be an idyllic place, a sunny refuge for a certain kind of American dreamer. As The Economist puts it, the development traded “on nostalgia for an old-timey America where, as its adverts read, ‘neighbors greeted neighbors in the quiet of summer twilight.’ It would be built around five cornerstones: in addition to ‘a sense of place’ and ‘a sense of community,’ the small town, which was planned to grow to 20,000 residents, would also offer progressive education, world-class health facilities and cutting-edge technology.” But things have not gone according to plan: “The well-intentioned hope to re-create some version of America’s past has been defeated by the country’s present. The parks, pools, and playgrounds in Celebration belong to the residents’ association and are off-limits to non-residents. Sitting on a park bench is considered trespassing. Residents complain about tourists peeking over their fences or the thousands of children from neighboring areas who descend on them at Halloween. Celebration was founded by Disney on the principle of openness—the school and utilities are public, and the county sheriff’s office provides police patrols. Yet it has become a gated community, just without the gates.”
  • Last, let’s mourn the death of the most gloriously, foolishly named cereal in the history of cereals: Kellogg’s Product 19. “What was Product 19, though? For nearly fifty years, it was simply an answer to a business problem, first released in 1967 as Kellogg’s answer to General Mills’ Total, which had hit the market six years prior … The cereal was made up of flakes made from a combination of lightly sweetened corn, wheat, oats, and rice, and promoted itself as providing the full daily amounts of ‘multivitamins and iron.’ On the more modern boxes, this would be specified as, ‘Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Iron, and Zinc.’ The original box was so covered in charts and blocks of text, it truly looked more like some experimental substance than a breakfast cereal.”