Why Salute George Scialabba?

The Committee to Preserve George Scialabba and Others Like Him (If Any)

Why salute George with a ticket to the event or a donation to The Baffler? Listen, here, to what his neighbors and fellow citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, think of him, for starters. The City Council recently passed the following official resolution:

Resolution 2015 #658, adopted by the Cambridge City Council on August 10, 2015

WHEREAS: George Scialabba is retiring on August 31, 2015, from his job stationed in the basement of Harvard’s Center for Government and International Studies, having diligently fulfilled the room scheduling needs of overpaid professors for 35 years; and

WHEREAS: Scialabba has published over the same period nearly 400 essays, reviews, and commentaries concerning literature, science, politics, and morality from the perspectives of the bemused, the nonprivileged, and the unsmug; and

WHEREAS: To that end, Scialabba has spent thousands of hours pacing his apartment on Washington Avenue, gnashing his teeth over the sorry spectacle of American politics and the fearful mayhem of American capitalism, while himself hanging on by his fingertips,

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge hereby proclaims September 10, 2015 “George Scialabba Day” to honor Scialabba for staring unflinchingly into the abyss and reporting what he has found there in sensitive, true, and graceful prose; and further

RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge encourages those of its residents who still practice the habit of reading to place their collective tongues in their collective cheeks and to celebrate the achievements of George Scialabba on September 10, 2015; and finally

RESOLVED: That the City Clerk is hereby requested to forward a suitably embossed copy of this resolution to the “Committee to Preserve George Scialabba and Others Like Him (If Any).”

You heard ‘em, folks, big brother wants you to purchase a ticket to this event and/or make a donation.

If you intuit how easy it is to procure such a resolution / tend not automatically to believe politicians mean all what they say, we can offer no shortage of other reasons to salute Scialabba. In the below encomia we’ve collected from the republic of letters, an authentically meritorious citizen Scialabba emerges through kindnesses and compliments rendered unto him by some of our more celebrated public intellectuals.

In Brief

“One of America’s best all-round intellects.” — James Wood

“Erudite, unpretentious, engaging, and wise.” — Katha Pollitt

“One of the best commentators of his generation.” — Jonathan Schell

“I doubt there’s a more generous yet penetrating critic at work.” — Bill McKibben

“Unfailingly fresh, provocative, and pleasurable.” — Jackson Lears

“A priceless guide to contemporary intellectual life.”— Russell Jacoby

“Lucid, ardent, immensely thoughtful.” — Vivian Gornick

“As illuminating about Nietzsche and Ortega as about Orwell and Trilling.” — Richard Rorty

“He writes with wit and economy, and his work gives pleasure, as it enlightens.” — Norman Rush

“George knows just about everything.” — Barbara Ehrenreich

“Koestler’s Rubashov lay in jail ‘under the familiar and fatal constraint to put himself in the position of his opponent, and to see the scene through the other’s eyes’. George Scialabba shows, with his combined eloquence and modesty, that this critical intellectual faculty can transcend the prisoner’s dilemma.” — Christopher Hitchens

Interviews

What Are Radicals Good For? An Interview with George Scialabba
Boston Review, November 20, 2013
“I still think any politics have to be invested with moral imagination.”

An Interview with George Scialabba
The New Inquiry, March 23, 2012
“It’s essential to slow down and deepen the pace of life, or the culture will continue verging toward aimless, endless chatter.”

Me and George. Talking
Our Man in Boston, November 5, 2014
“I had always assumed I would go to college, go to graduate school, and then teach at a college. But instead I had this nervous breakdown.”

Reviews

Making the Case for Intellectuals
NPR Books, April 28, 2009
“Scialabba is one of the last of the free-range eggheads. . . . Just reading his collection will make you feel smarter.”

Free Radical
Times Higher Education, August 20, 2009
“A superb writer and a master of the extended review essay.”

Divided Mind
Inside Higher Education, August 9, 2006
Divided Mind gnaws with a passion on ‘moral/political’ problems.”

George Scialabba: The Best Since Gore Vidal
CounterPunch, June 7, 2013
“George’s reviews are manna from heaven.”

Modernity and Its Discontents
The Millions, January 24, 2012
“I’m going to wager that George Scialabba is the best political critic you’ve never heard of.”

The Year in Reading
The New Yorker, December 16, 2011
“A shrewd, learned, undogmatic guide to contemporary debates about theology and postmodernity.”

Radical Reviewing
Harvard Magazine, November–December 2013
“Scialabba can accomplish a great deal with a few words and a wicked sense of humor.”

George Scialabba Seminar
Crooked Timber, August 6, 2009
“One of the great public intellectuals of our time.”

Praise For George’s Books

for-the-republic George Scialabba

Praise for For the Republic (2013)

“T.S. Eliot once observed that, for a literary critic, ‘the only method is to be very intelligent.’ George Scialabba raises the bar. He is not only astoundingly intelligent, he knows just about everything—history, politics, culture, and literature. Reading For the Republic has made me a whole lot smarter.” — Barbara Ehrenreich

“In the tradition of a George Orwell or a Nicola Chiaromonte, George Scialabba, one of the best commentators of his generation, refines common sense into a kind of art. Running decades of political thinking through his fingers, he sifts, judges, appreciates. These elegant essays inform, educate, and—always—shed abundant light on whatever they take up.” — Jonathan Schell

“I doubt there’s a more generous yet penetrating critic at work than George Scialabba. These essays are the product of a mind that’s figured out what to make of this confusing world, and they are an extremely helpful guide to the rest of us as we stumble through it.” — Bill McKibben

 

modern-predicament

Praise for The Modern Predicament (2011)

 “This is another eloquent, engaged, deeply intelligent book of essays by one of America’s best all-round intellects. There is a quality of thought here, a bracing political and philosophical pressure, a range of interests, and a humane clarity, that recall the golden years of the New York Intellectuals. Anyone who cares about the fate of belles-lettres will want to read this collection.” — James Wood

“Each piece in this collection is a gem. Together they offer nothing less than a grand syllabus for the study of modernity.” — Lewis Hyde

“How wonderful to have these reviews and essays gathered in one volume, where even the earliest raise still-crucial and still-unresolved questions about our perplexing age. Scialabba is that rare social and literary critic who manages to be at once erudite, unpretentious, engaging, and wise.” — Katha Pollitt

 

what-are-intellectuals-good-for

Praise for What Are Intellectuals Good For? (2009)

“George Scialabba is one of a handful of public intellectuals who are keeping the critical spirit alive in a time of stupefying complacency. His essays are unfailingly fresh, provocative, and pleasurable. Anyone who cares about the future of public life in this country will profit from reading this book.” — Jackson Lears

“George Scialabba belongs to an endangered species, the independent writer and reviewer. In an era of literary razzle-dazzle, he is easily overlooked. Neither portentous nor ponderous nor pretentious, without a university or think tank imprimatur, he simply gives us what he has: crystalline prose and a supple intelligence unafraid to criticize heroes of either left or right. His writings are a priceless guide to contemporary intellectual life. Read them and know that when the party is over, his work will remain.” — Russell Jacoby

“This book is the work of a gifted critic who restores to authority an idea of the public intellectual as one whose prose itself—lucid, ardent, immensely thoughtful—makes educated citizens of us all.” — Vivian Gornick

 

divided-mind

Praise for Divided Mind (2006)

 “I am one of many readers who stay on the lookout for George Scialabba’s byline. His reviews and essays are models of moral inquiry. He cuts to the core of the ethical and political dilemmas he discusses. Scialabba reads very widely and very carefully; he is as illuminating about Nietzsche and Ortega as about Orwell and Trilling.” — Richard Rorty

“Koestler’s Rubashov lay in jail ‘under the familiar and fatal constraint to put himself in the position of his opponent, and to see the scene through the other’s eyes’. George Scialabba shows, with his combined eloquence and modesty, that this critical intellectual faculty can transcend the prisoner’s dilemma.” — Christopher Hitchens

“George Scialabba has, over the years, delivered perhaps the most reliably acute cultural commentary to be found anywhere on the ethical left. He brings the review-essay to a state of high development, incorporating elements of memoir and skillfully deploying the wide range of literary and historical reference he commands. As this sample shows, he writes with wit and economy, and his work gives pleasure, as it enlightens.” — Norman Rush

How can you can join George’s fellow critics and scribblers in saluting him? Purchase a ticket to the September 10 event or make a contribution to the cause of preserving the likes of Scialabba.