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With Orphans, Ben Tanzer continues his ongoing literary survey of the 21st Century male psyche, yet does so with a newfound twist, contemporary themes set in a world that is anything but. In this dystopian tale of a future Chicago, workers are sent off to sell property on Mars to those who can afford to leave, leaving what’s left to those who have little choice but to make do with what’s left behind: burnt out neighborhoods, black helicopters policing the streets, flash mobs, the unemployed in their scruffy suits, robots taking the few jobs that remain, and clones who replace those workers who do find work so that a modicum of family stability can be maintained. It is a story about the impact of work on family. How work warps our best intentions. And how everything we think we know about ourselves looks different during a recession. This idea is writ large in the world of Orphans, where recession is all we know, work is only available to the lucky few, and this lucky few not only need to fear being replaced on the job, but in their homes and beds. It is also a story about drugs, surfing, punk music, lost youth, parenting, sex, pop culture as vernacular, and a conscious intersection of Death of a Salesman or Glengarry Glen Ross with the Martian Chronicles. Looking to the genre of science fiction has allowed Tanzer to produce something new and fresh, expanding both his literary horizons, and the potential market for his work. Tanzer also looks to the story of Bartleby the Scrivener with Orphans, and the question of what are we allowed as workers, and expected to be, or do, when work is fraught with desperation. Ultimately, Orphans is intended to be a contemporary story about manhood and what it means in today’s world, told from the perspective of work and family, and how any of us manage the parameters that family and work produce; but it’s a story told in a futuristic world, where our greatest fears are in fact already realized, because there isn’t enough of anything, and we are all too easily replaced.
An Anthology of Sources
Lord Acton's Study of Liberty
Lord Acton (1834–1902) is often called a historian of liberty. A great historian and political thinker, he had a rare talent for reaching beneath the surface and revealing the hidden springs that move the world. While endeavoring to understand the components of a truly free society, Acton attempted to see how the principles of self-determination and freedom worked in practice, from antiquity to his own time. But though he penned hundreds of papers, essays, reviews, letters, and ephemera, the ultimate book of his findings and views on the history of liberty remained unwritten. Reading a book a day for years, he still could not keep pace with the output of his time, and finally, dejected, he gave up. Today, Acton is mainly known for a single maxim, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
An Orthodox Perspective
Fighting Slavery and Prejudice in the Old Northwest,1830–1870
In the Old Northwest from 1830-1870, a bold set of activists battled slavery and racial prejudice. This book is about their expansive efforts to eradicate southern slavery and its local influence in the contentious milieu of four new states carved out of the Northwest Territory: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. While the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the region in 1787, in reality both it and racism continued to exert strong influence in the Old Northwest, as seen in the race-based limitations of civil liberties there. Indeed, these states comprised the central battleground over race and rights in antebellum America, in a time when race's social meaning was deeply infused into all aspects of Americans' lives, and when people struggled to establish political consensus.
Political Philosophy and the Claims of Faith
The Teachings of Metropolitan Platon
This valuable study explores the Russian Enlightenment with reference to the religious Enlightenment of the mid to late eighteenth century. Grounded in close reading of the sermons and devotional writings of Platon (Levshin), Court preacher and Metropolitan of Moscow, the book examines the blending of European ideas into the teachings of Russian Orthodoxy. Highlighting the interplay between Enlightenment thought and Orthodox enlightenment, Elise Wirtschafter addresses key questions of concern to religious Enlighteners across Europe: humanity’s relationship to God and creation, the distinction between learning and enlightenment, the role of Christian love in authority relationships, the meaning of free will in a universe governed by Divine Providence, and the unity of church, monarchy, and civil society. Countering scholarship that depicts an Orthodox religious culture under assault from European modernity and Petrine absolutism, Wirtschafter emphasizes the ability of Russia’s educated churchmen to assimilate and transform Enlightenment ideas. The intellectual and spiritual vitality of eighteenth-century Orthodoxy helps to explain how Russian policymakers and intellectuals met the challenge of European power while simultaneously coming to terms with the broad cultural appeal of the Enlightenment’s universalistic human rights agenda.