Back in November, I mentioned in a Brainiac post that I'd written an essay titled "The Argonaut Folly" for the forthcoming issue of the journal n+1. Despite Chris Shea's cajoling, I coyly refused to reveal what the title meant. Well, the new n+1 is finally in the mailboxes of subscribers, and will soon be in bookstores everywhere, so the secret is out.
My essay is a galloping history of a particular fantasy, more common than you might imagine, that gripped many of my favorite writers, thinkers, and artists -- from Nathaniel Hawthorne to the Beatles. It's a fantasy about not just working, but living in close company with one's most talented peers. Nietzsche wanted to do so; so did D.H. Lawrence and Andre Breton. I call it the Argonaut Folly because the Argonauts were the original band of talented individuals who together were able to accomplish great things, but whose very superiority (in my reading) rendered them misfits and losers among ordinary mortals.
Oh yeah, there are other fine essays in the new n+1, too. So far, I've enjoyed Gemma Sieff's gloomy report on post-apartheid South Africa; Imraan Coovadia's short story about a Pakistani nuclear engineer's surprisingly sentimental business trip to Pyongyang; and a terrific essay -- penned by Nancy Bauer, a feminist philosopher at Tufts -- which insists that "no philosophical analysis of pornographic objectification will enlighten us unless it proceeds not from the outside, from the external standpoint of academic moralism, but from the inside, from a description of pornography's powers to arouse." On deck: Keith Gessen's analysis of "Torture and the Known Unknowns" and Mark Greif's treatise on "Anaesthetic Ideology."
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.