Author: Jared Marcel Pollen

Inside Story—A Review

A review of Inside Story by Martin Amis. Knopf, 560 pages. (October 2020) As literature’s cultural relevance washes out on the high tide of digital media, self-absorption becomes the order of the day. Those who can still be bothered to write “serious” books aren’t interested in telling other people’s stories. They want to tell their own. And in the age of profiles and self-promotion, it’s not surprising that auto-fiction—or what I like to call the ME novel—is the literary genre with the most purchase. ME writing, while centuries old, has exploded in the last decade: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, Ben Lerner’s 10:04, and Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy (to name a few in fiction); Roxane Gay’s Hunger, Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be? and Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering (for non-fiction novels)—while other excesses, like blog novels and memoirs written by 28-year-olds have even managed to find their way to audiences. Now Martin Amis’s new novel Inside Story joins this club of “life writing” (a genre he describes as “rather dubious”). Inside Story is a ME …

The Right Side of History—A Review

A review of The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro. Broadside Books (March 19, 2019) 288 pages. In the prologue to his epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote that the purpose of the book was to “justify the ways of God to men.” The story, in other words, would be a dramatization of theodicy, a key question of the Enlightenment that would clearly demarcate the intellectual and moral boundaries between the traditional religious morality of some thinkers and the emergent secular ethics of others. Paradise Lost, which was first published in 1667, in many ways anticipated one of the biggest philosophical problems of the eighteenth century, and its protagonist, Lucifer, is arguably its finest exemplar. Lucifer is the archetype of man at the edge of modernity, stranded in a Godless void, facing the abyss, with only his reason to understand himself and his new position in the natural order. Milton contrived to portray Lucifer as a proud and spiteful figure—his reason was merely an instrument to rationalize his hatred. But something happened that Milton either …