Why do you want to be a storyteller?

“Why do you want to be a storyteller?” I asked my freshmen.

It was the second time I had asked. The first time had been on the second day of class, an eternity earlier, during the last week of August.

Then, most of them looked at me quizzically. A couple of them looked downright bored. They weren’t here to be storytellers, they told me; they were here to be journalists and public relations executives and television reporters and magazine writers.

“That’s not storytelling?” I asked. Continue reading

Tony Judt, Hero

Tony Judt has been a leading historian of, and thinker about, the post-war world for a number of decades. Any regular reader of The New York Review of Books will be familiar with his output, in which he regularly embarrasses most of the rest of us with his understanding, judgement, and, perhaps equally important, his humanity. He has been a near-singular and powerful voice for reason on any number of issues, including the mid-east, where he has been actively involved in Israeli issues since before the six day war (during which he volunteered on a kibbutz to replace settlers off fighting), and post-war Europe. He has taught modern European history for a number of years at New York University, and of course has received his share of academic honors, all deserved. Born in London’s East End of Jewish immigrant parents, he received his Ph.D. from Cambridge before eventually settling in America, as the English are fond of doing. On any number of grounds, he is one of the positive contributors to the world.

He also has amytrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease, and he is degenerating rapidly. Continue reading