Moral Suasion


The Review’s Review

I am not sure I will ever agree with the viability of the political trajectory traced in Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future; I don’t think we are going to survive by successfully convincing an administrative class—through science or terror or moral suasion—to administer the world better until climate collapse is averted. But so what? You don’t read books because they say what you already believe. You read books because they take the problem seriously, take the world seriously, don’t counterfeit the dimensions of the predicament. Or, those are at least some reasons to read books, and The Ministry for the Future is one of very few that satisfy those imperatives for me. Interestingly, his books, including this one, are often classified as “Hard SF,” meaning they are based in careful and arguably wonky extensions of hard science. Yes and no. Certainly they take science very seriously, and Robinson is wildly erudite and engaged in such matters. But Robinson’s books have over the last decade increasingly understood that the underlying problem is not science, and therefore has no scientific solution; it lies in political economy, and a sustained change that might preserve the possibility of human flourishing has to happen there. I think that should complicate the categories a little. In any regard, the book is real thinking and real invention, operating at the scale of the whole, which is really the place to be these days. —Joshua Clover 

Listening: Dean & Britta’s beautiful pandemic livestreams were a light during the darkest days of the pandemic, but as I discovered this weekend, their Quarantine Tapes—culled from those at-home performances—are the perfect thing to play at a dinner party. (Also loving: Dean Wareham’s new solo album, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of LA.)

Reading: Esquire Classic is a relatively inexpensive (four bucks a month) web subscription that opens a world of amazing reporting: Joy Williams, Lynn Darling, Gay Talese, Tom Morgan. Lots of new (old) work by writers I love and tons by writers I had never heard of. (Cue: interesting questions about the ephemeral nature of magazine writing.)

Seeing: Jazz pianist Jason Moran’s weeklong residency at the newly reopened Village Vanguard—an annual tradition—and Gnit, which is playwright Will Eno’s reworking of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt: “part horror story, part fairy tale, and part road movie.” And Terraza 7, in Jackson Heights, is not great at updating its events calendar, but it’s still the best club that I’ve been to since getting my J&J jab. —Alex Abramovich

How well do we really know our partners? And—comparatively—how well do we really know ourselves? These are the questions at the heart of Domenico Starnone’s 2019 novel Trust, newly translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri and published earlier this week by Europa. In three sections, each told from a different perspective, Starnone examines the messy, overlapping lives of Pietro, a teacher turned celebrated writer, his ex-lover, and his wife. Before their break-up, Pietro confessed a secret to Teresa, and it is this secret, shaped as it is by a certain carelessness on the part of Pietro, that will haunt these characters for decades. —Rhian Sasseen


Read Abramovich and Clover in conversation about rock ’n’ roll freedom, American capitalism, automobiles, and Jonathan Richman versus the Velvet Underground here