Hello! I don’t really blog much anymore, but you can find a lot of my work from around the web on this site. Basically, Guy’s Library now works as a homepage, where I collect links to things published elsewhere.

If you look at the tabs at the top, you’ll see that everything is organized into three sections: Essays (longer, in-depth pieces about different topics), Reviews (shorter, more conventional book reviews), and Misc. (everything else). I always post links when they become available, though I’ve stopped posting new blog posts each time something new is added. I mostly write essays, so that’s the place to start.

If you’re new to the site, and are just looking for a quick introduction to my work, these pieces are some of my personal favorites:

Don’t Settle: The Journalist in the Shadow of the Commercial Web

Aristocrats of “Merit”

The Ends Commands the Means: Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary

Fragmentary: Writing in a Digital Age

“More Real to Us”: The Art of Susan Sontag

Thanks for stopping by!

The Commercial Web Trilogy

The third piece in my series about the commercial web went live today at the LA Review of Books website. This one focuses on the concept of hyper-meritocracy, especially as articulated in Tyler Cowen’s book Average Is Over. I see hyper-meritocracy as fundamentally political and even “ethical” in its origins, which stands contrary to Cowen’s more tech-focused view:

But this kind of distinction doesn’t really exist in a hyper-meritocratic worldview. People are valued for their economic use and nothing more, and no other claim is really acknowledged. Essentially it elevates the market economy from a tool into an ethical system, the same way it elevates the computer from a tool to a way of sorting out who is “worthless” and who is not. Far from ideologically neutral, this worldview is exactly what makes hyper-meritocracy possible.

Like I said above, this is the third part of a the series. The first one introduced the idea of the commercial web and looked at Astra Taylor’s (important) book The People’s Platform. The second looked at the idea of digital cosmopolitanism, especially in light of Ethan Zuckerman’s book Rewire. And finally, there’s the latest piece, which examines hyper-meritocracy. They can all be read separately (though I do think of them as a series, and I think you’ll get more about of them if you read them together, in order). I imagine I’ll write about the commercial web again, but these three feel of a piece to me, so I wanted to link them all in the same post.


Another recent essay…

I’ve been really lazy about updating the blog (sorry), but I had a new piece up at the LA Review of Books a few weeks back. This one take a look at the idea of digital cosmopolitanism:

To become a thoughtful person, an imaginative person, we must engage with ideas, beliefs, and experiences that we do not “like.” We must challenge our beliefs and be cognizant of the limitations of our own perspectives. Ultimately, digital cosmopolitanism — like any other thoughtful engagement with the digital world — requires us to push against the architecture of the commercial web.

You can check out the rest here.

If you’re looking for something to read…

I forgot to post here when it first came out, but I have a new piece up at the Los Angles Review of Books. This one looks at the commercial  web through the prism of Astra Taylor’s new book, The People’s Platform:

When you look at culture and media from this point of view — asking not about how art, writing, and music are distributed but who holds cultural power — there has been a lot less “disruption” in the digital era than is often supposed. One of the most appealing aspects of the web is the way it seems to empower individual creators. Anyone can write a blog post or story, record a song, create an image, or film a movie and immediately post it online for anyone to experience. But in practice, a handful of big players dominate the web.

You can read the rest here. I actually have a companion piece to this that will be available soon. I’ll post a link when I get a chance…


My Back Pages

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog… and to be honest, I don’t expect to ever post as much here as I did on the original Guy’s Library. I just would rather devote my writing time to other projects. But I still plan on using the site to share my essays, reviews, and stories. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight a couple older pieces from elsewhere on the web, in case you didn’t see them the first time around. Links to all of these (and more) can also be found on the Essays page.

My piece “The Ends Commands the Means: Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary” is a pretty good place to start. It looks at the life and career of one of the most interesting political writers of the twentieth century, journalist/novelist/activist/revolutionary/dissident Victor Serge. (I’ve actually written about Serge a couple times.)

George Orwell’s work served as my primary introduction to political writing, and in many ways set me down the path to becoming a writer. As an adult, though, I find myself reading him a little differently. My piece “Getting to ‘No’: Snowball’s Chance, Animal Farm, and “Exemplary Truth” looks at how my views of Orwell’s work have evolved over the years.

I don’t always read political literature, of course, so after that I’d encourage you to check out “A Calm Place to Think: On Reading the Classics,” where I try and figure out the place of “classic” books in the digital era (and try to make sense out of my own reading habits).

The essay “Fragmentary: Writing in a Digital Age” is probably the best expression of my views on contemporary writing. It’s also my first attempt to look at how information technology interacts with the arts.

And finally, there’s my piece “More Real to Us: The Art of Susan Sontag,” which looks at the life and work of one of my favorite essayists and critics.

After that… well, it’s up to you. If you’re interested in reading even more of my work, just click on the tabs at the top of the page and dive in.

New essay

I forgot to post this when it came out. (Sorry.) I’ve got a new essay up at the Los Angeles Review of Books. This one takes a look at George Orwell’s Animal Farm, through the prism of John Reed’s parody, Snowball’s Chance:

Orwell, with his innate dislike for ideology and abstraction… [was] sensitive to the excesses of totalitarianism at a time when many were not, and that sensitivity is a prerequisite to any kind of political literature — to any reasonable politics at all. But a political literature, and a political understanding, that stops there is a deeply impoverished one. Problems exist, and they need to be addressed — and only shouting “no” will not accomplish that. Reed’s novel fails on many levels, but it succeeds in convincing the reader that merely removing Napoleon and his “Animalism” does not by itself guarantee that Animal Farm would be a happier place — and in so doing, he finally strikes a blow at Orwell’s original novella. Essentially, Orwell’s late, dystopian works — Animal Farm and 1984 — are the beginning of a conversation, not its end.

You can read the rest of the essay here.

New Essay Online

Hey everyone, I’ve got a new essay up at the Los Angeles Review of books site (check it out here). This one takes a look at Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary:

Serge is ultimately a literary figure, in the sense that watching the push and pull between his unsentimental practicality and the unabashed idealism on display in the Memoirs is essential to understanding his appeal. He can be quite blunt on the weaknesses of human nature, writing, “Totalitarianism is within us,” while at the same time insisting, “The future seems to me, despite the clouds on the horizon, to be full of possibilities vaster than any we have glimpsed in the past.” He is upfront about his inability to turn Soviet society against Stalin, admitting that he was “too much of an intellectual” to be an effective activist. The Memoirs tells a harrowing story — Serge spent most of his adult life in prison and/or exile and saw the Russian Revolution, which for him was the pinnacle of his life in radical activism, lead to one of the most brutal dictatorships in human memory. But it also is a forward-looking book, committed to recording the history of an era in the obvious hope that others will learn from it. It is both realist and idealist, an attitude that is essential to any functional left-wing, or even liberal, movement

Longtime readers might remember I also took a look at Serge’s fiction a few years back. If you haven’t had a chance, you can read that essay here.