Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Powerful agents of truth, experts in nothing, and collective amnesia.

By Jaime Fuller

Friday, March 23, 2018

Flag, by Alida Schuyler and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, c. 1777. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1956, in memory of William Willis Reese.

• The United States of Amnesia: “It’s never the immediate present, no matter how bad, that gets normalized—it’s the not-so-distant past. Because judgments of the American experiment obey a strict economy, in which every critique demands an outlay of creed and every censure of the present is paid for with a rehabilitation of the past, any rejection of the now requires a normalization of the then.” (Harper’s Magazine)

• Translating the classics in real time on Twitter. (NewYorker.com)

• The latest entry in the “Interview with an Old Person” series: “I have voted in every election that I could vote in since I was twenty-one years old, because my daddy could not read or write. I don’t know when I learned to read and write, Christina. I can’t print, but I write what they call cursive. I went to school a little bit, until I got old enough to pick cotton. I finished eighth grade, and I was promoted to the ninth, but never showed up. When I found out my daddy couldn’t even read his name—I didn’t know until I was a grown person, and I was just devastated. So when I got to Ohio that’s the first thing I did: I registered to vote. And that’s the first thing I did when I got to Arizona. I registered to vote and I got a library card. And I pack in my purse, every day, I’ve got my voting card, I’ve got my library card, and I’ve got my insurance card.” (Slate)

• The practice of using horses to judge people: “Popular eighteenth-century wisdom held that horses were powerful agents of truth. While near them or on their backs, nothing their riders did could be hidden from onlookers.” (Aeon)

• “The Woman Who Fought Bulls”: “Getting tossed sounds sort of merry, but I saw a matador tossed once, and he looked like a saggy bale of hay flung by a pitchfork, and when he landed on his back he looked busted and terrified.” (Deadspin)

• An “expert in nothing” searches for medieval wonders in Britain: “Landscapes can stand up to time better than human records, but some of the wonders have clearly been lost for good. A pond with different species of fish inhabiting each corner is probably filled in. A northern island of swimming birds could refer to a seabird colony, but there’s little clue as to which island it might have been. Another wonder, the miraculous tomb of Arthur’s son, was likely once in the town of Wormelow Tump, but in the twentieth century, perhaps even earlier, locals leveled the substantial burial mound. Now the only features there are a gas station, a pub, and a bus stop.” (Atlas Obscura)