Episode 501 – William Deresiewicz

Virtual Memories Show 501:
William Deresiewicz

“I like to say that our age is characterized by two kinds of phenomena: things that can’t get worse, but keep getting worse, and things that can’t happen, but happen.”

Author & critic William Deresiewicz joins the show to celebrate his new book, THE END OF SOLITUDE: Selected Essays on Culture and Society (Holt). We get into the selection process for more than 30 years’ worth of his pieces, what he noticed about the changes in his writing and viewpoints over that span, what real leadership is and why most institutions are terrified of it, and the house of cards of higher (especially elite) education. We also get into the progression of political correctness and identity politics at the expense of class solidarity, how one can (and should) criticize the illiberal left without becoming a right-wing fellow traveler, why his ideal Presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders, the way things that “can’t get any worse” somehow keep getting worse, the failures of academia, and why he sees teaching as a pastoral vocation. Plus, we discuss his most controversial position — or least the position that garnered the most vituperative response from readers — that food is not art. Give it a listen! And go read The End of Solitude!

“Everything I see now [in terms of political correctness] is a linear descendant of what I experienced starting in 1989. What’s happened between now and then is that this ideology has managed to propagate itself through the institutions. It’s broken out of campus . . . into media, the non-profit world, the arts.”

“Teaching is a pastoral vocation.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

William Deresiewicz‘s writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, the American Scholar, and many other publications. He is the recipient of a National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in reviewing and is the New York Times bestselling author of Excellent Sheep, The Death of the Artist, and A Jane Austen Education. His new book is The End of Solitude.

Follow William Deresiewicz on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Deresiewicz by Aleeza Jill Nussbaum. It’s on my instagram.

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