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The Political Future

Issue #37, Fall 2008

As the old bumper sticker says, "If you aren't pissed off, you aren't paying attention." There is a lot to be angry about these days, but there is also a lot of hope in the air. We've dedicated this issue to looking forward, to finding solutions rather than wringing our hands over the past. In that spirit, Tin house publisher and veteran political writer Win McCormack looks at global political trends, predicting the fall out from their inevitable collision, as well as highlighting the potential for new opportunities. Sickening as it is, torture has become as American as apple pie. Nick Flynn examines the consequences of atrocities committed in the name of all Americans. It is said that the greatest art rises out of the greatest strife. That political tumult is a splendid muse. The fiction and poetry within these pages are evidence of that. Because it is the artist's job to lend shape and meaning to our lives, and, we believe, illuminate the future, we asked over a dozen of our favorite writers what their hopes and fears are for the future. The answers might surprise you. What we hope will engage you are the many different voices and viewpoints represented within these pages. What all of these writers share is their ability to challenge us to reexamine what we thought we knew or believed about the world. To make us see our world with new eyes.

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José Saramago

AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL Death With Interruptions • The child's mother was sobbing and repeating over and over, My son, my father, and her sister came and embraced her, weeping and saying, It's better like this, it's better like this...

J.C. Hallman

ETHAN: A LOVE STORY • Sky Meadow was protected at its base by a gatehouse and a team of geriatric guards in gray uniforms who controlled the white tube arm that blocked passage that blocked passage into the community.

Christopher R. Howard

INTELLIGENT PEOPLE SPEAK REASONABLY • A web of china white from each of the three bullet holes had spread across the windshield in front of the driver's chest. The subsequent burst took the driver's head.

Adam Braver

THE CASKET, AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL November 22, 1963 • People ran chaotically. Newspapermen scurried for telephones. Elected officials milled. Congressmen. Senators. A general stood with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist...

Natalie Bakopoulos

FRESCO, BYZANTINE • They had come of age in such places, those island prisons-during the Nazi occupations, during the civil war, throughout the fifties, and now-and now some were growing old there.

Mary Szybist


Marvin Bell


Kevin Young


Ethan J. Hon


Barry Sanders

AMERICA: A VERY BRIEF BIOGRAPHY • You know there's something happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? It's high time to find out.

Nick Flynn

PROTEUS (TORTURE AND BEWILDERMENT) • Here I am, my fingers tight around Proteus's neck, asking that same question, over and over, as if the answer exists,...as if the answer is there and just needs to be released.

Christopher R. Beha

THE STUDY OF PERFECTION • William F. Buckley and T.S. Eliot aside, you're free to be a conservative in literature and liberal politics.

Francine Prose

OUT FROM UNDER THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING • The author wrestles with the slippery question: What makes a work of art political?

Wallace Shawn

THE UNOBTRUSIVES • With the country riven by class divisions and drunk on imperial hubris, the writer and actor can't help but wonder what role the inhabitants of the Mansion of Arts and Letters have to play in our political destiny.

Bruce Handy, Tim Bower

INTERNMENT, A GRAPHIC ESSAY • From the Japanese internment camps of WWII to Guantanamo, a graphic query into what was and is being done in our names.

Win McCormack

THE END OF DEMOCRACY? • With the United States losing influence in teh world and the rise of authoritarian capitalism in China and Russia, the future of democracy looks tenuous. But can either system survive?

Cynthia Ozick, Dorothy Allison, Charles Baxter, and more.

THREE QUESTIONS • A truly Olympic dream team of writers answers the following questions: What do you fear most about the future? What gives you hope for the future? And, is there a book-fiction or non-that captures your political sensibility?

Slavoj Žižek

SEXUALITY IN THE ATONAL WORLD • Masturbation may be the ideal sexuality for the internet age. The Slovenian cultural critic explains the failure of love in contemporary Western society, summoning French novelist Michel Houellebecq to answer.

D.W. Gibson

ENGAGE CHRISTIAN MOUNZEO • What good is truth if it goes unsaid? Citizens of the Republic of the Congo know all too well the evils of censorship, as they struggle with their country's oil industry and its rampant damage to the environment.

Brian Evenson

THE REFINER'S FIRE • Joseph Smith still reigns as the best fiction writer Mormonism has produced. The author prophesizes that he won't be dethroned anytime soon.

Curtis White

TAKE BACK YOUR EMPTINESS • Let's get real and acknowledge all the lies we've been told so many times and so effectively that we've internalized them.

Mazen Kerbaj

NEW WAR • These pen-and-ink drawings, dispatched from Lebanon, struggle with how to represent the conflict there and, more broadly, life under siege.

David Rees

GET YOUR WAR ON • As a cult phenomenon, this cartoon series has provided an apt and hilarious outlet that sheds light on the ills of the Bush Administration.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga

ADAPT AND INNOVATE • The Daily Kos creator shows how Ukraine's Orange Revolution succeeded, not by being the first effort to oust the tyrannical regime of Leonid Kuchma, but by mobilizing the masses through the internet.

Michael Kobre

ON THE FILM Black Hawk Down

Kim Adrian

ON VALENTIN PAPADIN'S Teach Yourself to be a Madman

Tom Grimes

ON NORMAN MAILER'S Miami and the Siege of Chicago

Judith Paterson

ON LILLIAN SMITH'S Strange Fruit AND Killers of the Dream

Mark Stateman


Edward J. Hill


Win McCormack

ON URSULA LE GUIN'S The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon


Eduardo Galeano

OBJECTOS PERDIDOS • The twentieth century, which was born proclaiming peace and justice, died bathed in blood.