Leave Jane Austen Alone, You Nazi Scum, and Other News


On the Shelf

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


  • First the white nationalists took that haircut—you know the one, an arty variant on the Marine’s high-and-tight buzz, endemic to white guys in gentrifying neighborhoods circa 2013. Then the white nationalists took Barbour field jackets, depriving a whole generation of the joys of waxed canvas. Now the white nationalists have come for Jane Austen, in whom they mistakenly see a love of tradition, and it is up to us to say: enough. Let them claim some other, lesser Regency writer—an E. T. A. Hoffmann, maybe, or even a Sir Walter Scott—and leave us to read Persuasion in peace, the animals. Jennifer Schuessler writes, “Some alt-right admirers hail Austen’s novels as blueprints for a white nationalist ‘ethno-state.’ Others cite her as a rare example of female greatness … A post on the website Counter Currents called ‘The Woman Question in White Nationalism,’ for example, includes a string of comments debating how the vision of marriage in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fit with the ‘racial dictatorship’ necessary to preserve Western civilization. ‘If traditional marriage à la P&P is going to be imposed, again, in an ethnostate, we must behave like gentlemen,’ one commenter wrote.”
  • Kay Redfield Jamison’s new book, Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire, aims to rehabilitate our understanding of the poet’s mental illness, which tends to be shrouded in the clichés of the eccentric artist. Dan Chiasson writes, “From his thirties on, Lowell suffered the relentless cycles of bipolar disorder, the ‘irritable enthusiasm’ that lurched him upward before landing him in despair … The poet’s cycles of illness and recovery have been judged in scolding moral terms, or, worse, viewed as a kind of lifelong-mishap GIF, with Lowell stuck in a permanent loop. When he was manic, Lowell smashed wineglasses and schemed to marry near-strangers. In recovery, his depressions were severe, his remorse profound, the work of repairing the relationships he’d damaged unrelenting. But the metaphors that came so quickly to hand could again be tamed and put to use. ‘Gracelessly,’ he wrote, ‘like a standing child trying to sit down, like a cat or a coon coming down a tree, I’m getting down my ladder to the moon. I am part of my family again.’ ”

  • The artist Sean Raspet works in a rarefied medium: synthetic meal-replacement products. His work, as A. E. Benenson explains, plays with the headstrong aesthetic assault that is Soylent, Silicon Valley’s popular drinkable pseudo-nutrition ooze: “Having explored artificial scents and flavors in his art for the previous two years, Raspet had recently begun working as a flavor engineer for Rosa Labs, the Los Angeles start-up that makes Soylent. For the exhibition, he filled two commercial drink dispensers with Technical Milk and Technical Food (both 2015): Soylent that he had spiked with molecules common to a broad range of foodstuffs. The resulting flavors were aggressively chemical, an implacable parade of Latex, burnt plastic, damp earth, and smoke … Raspet conceived his flavors simultaneously as artworks and as commercial prototypes for products to be mass produced by the company. Raspet’s first Soylent flavor to reach the market through Rosa Labs was Nectar, launched in December 2016. Nectar has a bright, lemony taste that some say reminds them of the milk left behind in a bowl of Froot Loops. It’s made from a synthetic analogue of the Nasonov pheromone, a scent used by honeybees to mark their hive entrance.”
  • Meanwhile, in T-shirt design: Morrissey has made a mistake. The Smiths’ former singer was briefly selling a tee with James Baldwin’s face on it—Baldwin is so hot right now—and can you guess where this is going? The shirt “features a headshot of the Another Country writer coupled with the lyric from the song ‘Unloveable’: ‘I wear black on the outside / ’cause black is how I feel on the inside.’ Describing the design as ‘completely boneheaded, absurdly tone deaf, pretty much totally racist,’ Claire Lobenfeld wrote for the Factmag fanzine: ‘This unadvisable tee will be available for purchase at Morrissey’s upcoming North American tour. But please don’t get it.’ Pitchfork deemed it ‘problematic,’ Billboard called it ‘all a bit uncomfortable, to be perfectly honest,’ while Spin writer Jeremy Gordon pleaded: ‘Morrissey … rethink this.’ ”