Link of the Day

A Princeton professor of mathematics begs all of us to come to our senses and recognize that there’s absolutely nothing racist in the idea that there are right and wrong answers in math.

That this needs to be said is in itself quite sad.

A Warning from Kazuo Ishiguro

What Ishiguro forgets to add are the crucial words “in English.” This is a problem of people writing in English. Everybody else writes with complete freedom.

In the twentieth century, literature in Russian was destroyed in this way. Now literature in English is following suit. This is a very culture-specific phenomenon that should be analyzed as such.

The New Soviet Jews

There are people who were offered refugee status in the US because they were receiving the same treatment in their country as Asian Americans are receiving in the US. Late Soviet and early post-Soviet Jews had to demonstrate that there were quotas limiting how many Jews could be accepted into a prestigious college program (and there were), and that was it. Back then, preventing a minority from college admission because its members were “too smart” was considered beyond the pale in the US (pun intended).

Every totalitarian regime has an internal enemy that consists of people who are “too smart” and have to be taken down a notch.

Book Notes: John Williams’ Stoner

Your executive function is what helps you identify and achieve goals. Some people can organize a comfortable life for themselves while others exist in a constant state of discomfort. Their family life is never what they hoped. At work they are always doing what they don’t want to. They mope and complain but never actually do anything about it.

Stoner is a novel about a guy with a faulty executive function. He’s so helpless he can’t even organize a comfortable place for himself to read and grade papers. He’s neither stupid nor mean yet he spends his life in a state of bovine helplessness that turns out to be extremely destructive to people around him.

The novel’s great strength lies in the contrast between the placid tone of the narrative and the quiet horror into which the perennially helpless Stoner turns his, and what’s much worse his child’s life.

For those of us who have known a real-life Stoner this is a devastating novel. The harm such a person causes is too deep. People who haven’t been in close contact with a Stoner, however, might see him as a victim or a noble sufferer.

A great novel; highly recommended.