The Best Thing Ever to Have Come Out of Canada

Ian & Sylvia

If I were inventing a country off the top of my head, I bet it would look a lot like Canada. The landscape is beautiful, the weather perfect. Everyone has health care. The government did not ostentatiously bail out its banks in 2008. The citizens are kind beer-drinking sports fans who will give driving directions to random foreigners. They have quaint, almost absurd-sounding names for their money, which is emblazoned with images of waterfowl. There is a queen.

The Forever Young Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

This hulking paperback, with its 250 pages of introduction, chronology, notes, appendices, acknowledgments, bibliography, and “online resources,” and goodness knows how many fragments, squibs, and variant readings, is all anyone will ever want of Shelley. Rather more than all, in fact. If one comes for Adonais, Alastor, “The Cloud,” “To a Skylark,” “Ode to the West Wind,” “The Invitation,” “Song to Pan,” and perhaps half a dozen others, plus fragments from some of the longer poems, one emphatically does not stay for “Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte” or all 617 excruciating lines of “Julian and Maddalo: A Conversation.”

An Open Letter to Hannah Horvath

Dear Hannah, I am not, in fact, the first person to write you a letter concerning the finale of the television show in which you are a fictional character, but I am almost certainly the only such correspondent whose t-shirt has been praised by your creator (she must be a big Dinosaur Jr. fan!). I am also, I would guess, the …

A Trillion Mindless Robots Dancing

dancing robots

This very silly book begins with a confession. When Daniel Dennett was a graduate student at Oxford in the early ’60s—that benighted era of hayseed conceptualists and pettifogging mystics when, as he puts it, “philosophers weren’t expected to know about science”—his chief interest was not Plato or Kant or even dear old Freddie Ayer, but computers.

Of ICEEs, on their 50th and 59th Anniversaries

An ICEE is, among other things, high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, quillaia and yucca extracts, artificial flavor, sodium benzoate, and FD&C Red #40 or FD&C Red Blue #1 or FD&C Yellows #5 and #6, sometimes plus glyceryl abietate, brominated soybean oil (refined), beginning at approximately 24-26° F; it is cherry, white cherry, or cherry …

Sing a Song for Neil Gorsuch

If one had to choose an object to be struck with by the founder of a nonprofit organization denounced by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group, a homemade felt “Confirm Gorsuch” pennant would probably be near the top of the list. On a beautiful spring day in Washington, with a northerly wind playing on the cherries in full bloom, the banner hits the shoulder very softly, a little vernal puff of embarrassed decency. Besides, this was clearly an accident, and Eugene Delgaudio was quick to apologize.

Where Do Transwomen in Adidas Sweatshops Go to the Bathroom?; and Other Questions

As I write this, the top story on the website of the Washington Post appears—tellingly, I think—under the “Entertainment” tab: “How AP tallied the cost of North Carolina’s ‘bathroom bill.'” The un-bylined authors of the piece seem to believe that it is possible to determine the “cost”—a staggering $3.6 billion—of legislation decreeing that North Carolinian men use …

The Prospero of Theologians

This is the most varied and enchanting collection of essays that has appeared in my lifetime. I say “enchanting” deliberately because every one of these pages left me with the impression that enchantment, in the sense of having been sung to or charmed, is the effect David Bentley Hart appears most to have sought. These 50-odd pieces leave the reader not merely delighted but under a kind of spell.