Toward the end of his life Kurt Vonnegut completed what would be the nearest he ever came to writing his autobiography: A Man Without a Country. Now that so many of us are feeling unmoored, here’s a snippet on the occasion of what would have been Vonnegut's ninety-fourth birthday:
. . . The most I can give you to cling to is a poor thing, actually. Not much better than nothing, and maybe it’s a little worse than nothing. It is the idea of a truly modern hero. It is the bare bones of the life of Ignaz Semmelweis, my hero.
“If there is no struggle there is no progress. . . . This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”
That's the question William Faulkner asked himself after the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, and that's the question Ariel Dorfman has found himself wondering in 2016, during his pilgrimage to Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi.
On October 11, the New York Public Library hosted a panel discussion moderated by Dan Simon (Seven Stories Press) with editors Matt Lord (Boston Review), Katherine Rowland (Guernica), and Dayna Tortorici (n+1) about the difficulties and benefits of publishing politically engaged prose in a politically charged climate and the relationship of the literary arts to contemporary journalism and social action. Check out the audio below.