I distinctly remember when I stopped reading online comments about my essays. For some time I had been reading them on a website of a magazine that published me and allowed unedited comments. To my disappointment, no knowledgeable critic had pointed out errors in my work that I could correct, or made informed arguments that forced me to rethink my position. The commenters seemed more interested in insulting one another.

Mrpoophispants, for example. The avatar that went with the name showed a wailing baby in diapers. (I have changed the name and image slightly, to protect the guilty). In the comments section under my essay, Mrpoophispants accused the Incredible Hulk (again, I have slightly changed the name) of being like Hitler. No, the green and musclebound Hulk told the baby in diapers, you are like Hitler. It went downhill… More…

On May 11, 1960, the man who had been living in Argentina under the name Ricardo Klement was coming home from his job at the Mercedes-Benz plant when he was abducted by two Israeli operatives. “What’s your name?” they asked him. “Ricardo Klement,” he answered. The next time he was asked, he offered up the name Otto Heninger, a false identity he’d used in the past. The third time, he told the truth: He was Adolf Eichmann. One of the most elusive participants in the Final Solution was finally in custody.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt. 336 pages. Penguin Classics. $16.

The fact that Israel circumvented extradition law by drugging Eichmann and flying him out of the country under an assumed name meant that the trial for his war crimes —… More…

These are days of crisis for the publishing industry in general and for journalism in particular. The grand newspapers of record — like the New York Times, the London Times, Le Monde — have been slashing budgets and trying to figure out ways to survive in the transformed media environment that the Internet and financial instability have wrought.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

 

Friends often accuse me of being too nostalgic. By afternoon, they say, I’ve become misty-eyed over what I’ve eaten for breakfast. That’s not completely true, I tell them. I’m sure there’s been a few bowls of cereal that have been unremembered or unremarked upon. But my protests are half-hearted, because I know my friends are right. Case in point: On a recent trip to Iceland, I became weepy at the sight of three sheep grazing in a grassy field underneath the summer midnight sun.

Let me explain that this was my first trip to Iceland in several years. In my 20s, over the course of nine visits, I spent what some might consider to be an eccentric amount of time in Iceland. I would like to tell you that I had a grand purpose — that I was translating the… More…

 

What do poets eat for dinner? — Molly M., Chicago, Illinois

The poet Thomas Lux eats boiled potatoes and chicken carcasses among other delicacies cataloged in “Refrigerator, 1957,” but not anything whose ingredients call for maraschino cherries, “full, fiery globes like strippers/ at a church social.” Maybe he is outraged by the cruel treatment the cherries endure in order to become maraschino, but what he actually says is this: “you do not eat/ that rips the heart with joy.” In general, I tend to listen, except when it comes to avocados.

Dinner for poets may be tasty, of course, and possibly themed, but at least for Lux and me, rarely do poets eat anything whose physical qualities and metaphorical applications are superior to their taste. So we eat kidney beans. Mmm, we love kidney beans. But then we… More…

Not too long ago, I was at a party with a number of people who have successful careers in lifestyle journalism. I was chatting with a beautiful, sexy friend who writes for a magazine that covers luxury spa vacations. She got that job, in part, because she wrote a wonderful travel book about bathing culture which one critic claimed “bred a new publishing hybrid, the beauty-travel memoir, Bruce Chatwin by way of Allure magazine.”

As we chatted, I shared some good news with her: I had just been hired to write a newspaper column about spirits and cocktails.

“You should really meet my friend,” she told me. “He’s the perfume critic at the Times.”

“Really?” I said. “Let me just see if I’m hearing this correctly. The luxury spa columnist would like the spirits columnist to meet the perfume columnist.”

“Yes,” she said, with a beautiful, sexy smile.

“Wait,” I… More…

The dingy waiting area at gate 25 in Tromso, Norway, with its stained cloth seats and strewn candy wrappers, could be anywhere. Except for the signs in both Norwegian and Russian. And if the passengers waiting to board aren’t suited up in collars and pinstripes, then many of them are bundled up in all-weather jackets emblazoned with the logo of StatoilHydro, the huge Norwegian oil and gas conglomerate.

I’m the last to board and opt for the middle seat in the back row, bookended on either side by empty seats. Two men in slacks and collared shirts occupy the windows. “Best seat on the plane,” the man to my left says, somewhat flirtatiously. I soon learn he’s a Slovenian living in Athens and ask him what a person living on the Mediterranean would be doing on a flight to Hammerfest, 600 miles above the Arctic Circle. He responds by rubbing… More…

H.L. Mencken was a bastard. He had a core meanness that showed itself in his writing and in his personal life. Without that meanness, though, his writing might never have gotten so startlingly good. Lots of people need lots of things to do what they do. Mencken simply needed to be hard.

In the early part of the 20th century, America needed Mencken. We needed him to wash away some of the Emersonian/Whitmanian enthusiasm that had started to clog up the collective joint. Not that Emerson and Whitman didn’t have their place. As Mencken himself notes in his essay “The National Letters,” it took Emerson and then Whitman, among others, to stand up and defend the possibility of an American Mind and an American Voice. They did so with boldness and with prose falling over itself in its excitement about itself. Sometimes with Whitman it seems that we’re but one… More…

So I’m just settling into work at my Remington, around 11 am, on a lovely southern New Jersey morning — you know the kind, when dawn’s rosy fingers creep up over the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Station. For one moment you almost believe the whole world’s not going to Hades in a handbasket. Then someone starts banging on the goddamned door and you realize you’re just kidding yourself.

“What fresh hell is this?” as my old flame Dorothy Parker used to say. (Ah, Dorothy, all I can do is apologize for that time I snapped your garter. It’s true, it’s true, old Owen was a garter-snapper in his day…)

Anyway, it was the damned courier from The Smart Set. When I open the door some beatnik slouches into the… More…

It’s about 5:00 in the afternoon, it’s been raining all day and now into the night, and the radio says it’ll keep raining well into tomorrow. The phone rings. It’s my arts editor at the Baltimore City Paper. He sounds like he’s ready to go home. “I’ve got a play for you,” he says. The rain is beating against the windows. “Hapgood,” he says. “By Tom Stoppard. You good with it?” Before I can think of an excuse not do it, he thanks me. I pop a burrito in the microwave and watch it expand slowly. Then I find my green notebook, call and cancel on my girlfriend, and grab the car keys. I head out into the cold, wet Sunday night. This will be my 123rd night of Baltimore community theater. But who’s counting?

I started counting five years ago, when the editor at City Paper decided he needed… More…