Nicholas Clairmont

REVIEW: ‘Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk’ by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke

One of the basic premises of Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk is that our ability to give a damn about moralizing claims is a sort of “scarce resource.” So using moral claims to try to accomplish things has diminishing returns, suggest authors Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke in this timely and sharp new work bridging philosophy with online culture.

Review: ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ by Peter Pomerantsev

Too much information is a bad thing

I really wanted to like Peter Pomerantsev's new book, This Is Not Propaganda. His columns in the LRB, the Guardian, and the American Interest (where I was once a staff writer) are almost always incisive and absorbing. And his first book, Nothing Is True and Everything is Possible, established him as a clearheaded capturer of the mind-fogging milieu of Putin Era Russia.

Review: Kevin Williamson’s ‘The Smallest Minority’

The gloves are off

Kevin Williamson is having fun. "You want to do this? Okay, let's f—ing do this," you can almost hear him muttering. In the resultant extended, hilarious, quixotic rant, he takes the gloves off in the fight to get everyone to put their gloves back on and think, damnit! He's going to war in defense of David Frenchism.

Reclaiming Orwell

Review: 'The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984' by Dorian Lynskey

1984 is 70. As much time has now passed since 1984 as passed between that titular year and the book's writing. 1984 has lived a life. And Dorian Lynskey describes that life in his masterly new book The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984.

None the Wiser

Review: 'Socrates' by Tim Nelson

It's clear that Tim Blake Nelson sincerely loves Socrates. You may know Nelson as an actor from his turns in Coen Brothers works like the impossibly sympathetic and goofy Delmar in O Brother Where Art Thou, freaking out about his buddy being turned into a frog. Or, more recently, you may have seen him as the cheery and violent gunslinging "songbird" Buster Scruggs on Netflix. Now he's written a play, Socrates, currently running at the Public Theater in New York, about the second-most salient self-sacrifice in human history. It's poignantly set and incredibly cast, conjuring a world of Plato and Aristotle and Aristophanes that's engrossing. It's full of love, and it's full of rage.

Bumps Against Reality

Review: 'Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism' by Joshua Muravchik

Stalin statueJoshua Muravchik's definitive history Heaven on Earth was originally published in 2002 with the subtitle "The Rise and Fall of Socialism." In order to stay definitive, it is now being updated and rereleased, with a third act added on to the historical drama of socialism in the form of its 21st century "Afterlife."