Quarantine has been especially transformative for me because at the very beginning of it, my father died. The causes were unrelated, basically, to Covid, though who knows how he and my mother would have acted if not for quarantine and anxiety about hospitals. He’d had chest pain for a few days, but was feeling better the day of his heart attack. Perhaps they would have gone to a hospital — but he’d had every heart exam there is and they’d all been fine, so likely they would have just sent him home.

In any case, since my father died in…


An op-ed in the Times today rehashed the argument that what motivates Trump voters is status. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/opinion/trump-social-status-resentment.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage). The idea: not material conditions, but the transformation of mainstream values (viz. gay marriage, black president) has left middle-class white voters feeling de-valued and vulnerable.

First, whenever we are told that ideas, not material conditions, are the cause of something, we’re forced to again work out what we think the connection between ideas and material circumstances is. This is difficult; it’s easier to assume a cause is either ideological or material. It is implied, not by this piece per se, but generally, that…


Yikes. Going way back now to 2010, when I was still doing hacky, overwrought music journalism stuff. This is a sort of ‘consideration’ of a musician I knew in college, an acquaintance, whose music I fell instantly in love with. He spurned even indie success, despite an offer from a well-known label. I don’t think I ever submitted this article anywhere, thankfully, because it ultimately ends up being about my own preoccupation with and anxiety about authenticity. I wish I hadn’t moved through my files in reverse chronological order, but here’s some very early writing:

For the last ten years…


Again many years ago, probably 2013, I managed to successfully pitch a Believer editor a snake-oil story about a guy named Bob Weisz, a friend, who I described as a Wavy Gravy-like figure in the post-Katrina New Orleans film scene. The editor, wisely, wanted an interview with him. Despite many conversations with Bob, and through no fault of his own, the results were never worth sending in. Still, Bob says a lot of cool stuff about datamoshing and circuit bending — it wasn’t what the doctor had ordered but I should probably have sent it elsewhere. Too late now. …


Yet another review pulled from the vaults, unpublished — no memory of if or to whom I submitted it. Who cares about DFW anymore. Well, lots of people. Why not, he’s a good writer. Here were my thoughts on Max’s biography, back when it came out.

D.T. Max’s Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, the first book length biography of David Foster Wallace, gives us a thorough and convincing expression of what is, or has become, the “official” story about the writer, at least among his admirers. The story is that Wallace was a moralist: a whiz kid who…


Yet another abandoned review from years ago, this one commissioned by a classy erotic periodical. It’s about the 1968 film of that name, which didn’t find a wide audience for thirty years. It’s a wild, cool movie. I get all bogged down in stuff and I see why it ended up getting cut. Still, here it is:

In ancient Greek tragedy, the meaning of the ‘chorus’ in classicalist discourse, is, famously, an issue that can only be called hot. Some say it represents or guides the audience, like a voice-over; some say it is the voice of the choragi, the…


A few years ago I wrote the catalog essay for a public art installation for The Art Guys — amusing Texas artists, whose worked I like, and who reached out to me to write something. It has since been taken off the internet, so I thought I’d repost. Here it is:

In the most benign of ways, nature preserves present a thesis about the meaning of time. In the cordoning off of Yosemite National Park, or the Betasso Preserve, which borders the city of Boulder, CO, one can discern the relationship between the ideas of God, truth, human free will…


This is an insane paper I wrote on Hamlet and mice for an advanced philosophy class during my PhD. Its thesis, as I recall, is roughly: mice are a manifestation of human madness. I was living in a one bedroom apartment amidst tribes of mice, cockroaches and eventually bedbugs, and had recently ended a seven year relationship. It all made sense at the time.

“The Mouse-trap” and Hamlet’s Interim

Introduction

The following paper will be a close reading of the text of Hamlet.[1] It will aim to answer a simple question: what is the significance of the ‘play within the…


Several years ago, when it was relevant, I wrote a review of Chris Andrew’s Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe. It languished, partly in editorial transitions at the journal in question, and never came to publication. I have no interest in pursuing it anywhere else. So here it is:

A year after Roberto Bolaño won the prestigious Rómulo Gallegos prize in Spain, the poet and scholar Chris Andrews brought translations of three of the Chilean author’s short novels to New Directions. The first of these, By Night in Chile, became Bolaño’s English-language debut in 2003, the same year that he…


This review of Eco-Deconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy (edited by Matthias Fritsch, Philippe Lynes and David Wood) has been sitting on my desk for over a year — the call for new revisions ignored, the editor having by now most likely long forgotten about it. I don’t feel like trying to work on it more, to make it fit either an academic or a popular venue. Don’t want to look at it anymore. So here it is.

The mainstream discourse on ­environmental ethics generally assumes that we humans are rational actors who must take responsibility for the object of nature…

Jeremy Butman

Writer and teacher. PhD in philosophy, New School for Social Research. Bylines: New York Times, Atlantic, LARB, Kenyon Review. jeremybutman.squarespace.com

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