Best Of The Web
“Denis Diderot’s incarceration at Vincennes took place exactly halfway through his seventy years on earth. Prison became the dramatic pause that gave shape and meaning to both sides of his life. Before prison, Diderot had been a journeyman translator, the editor of an unpublished encyclopedia, and a relatively unknown author of clandestine works of heterodoxy; on the day that he walked out of Vincennes, he was forever branded as one of the most dangerous evangelists of freethinking and atheism in the country.
During Diderot’s three-month imprisonment, his jailer the Count d’Argenson and the count’s brother the marquis had looked on with amusement while this “insolent” philosophe had bowed and scraped before the authority of the state. In a diary entry from October 1749, the marquis related with glee how his brother the count had supposedly broken Diderot’s will. Solitary confinement and the prospect of a cold winter had succeeded where the police’s warnings had failed; in the end, the once-cheeky writer had not only begged for forgiveness, but his “weak mind,” “damaged imagination,” and “senseless brilliance” had been subdued. Diderot’s days as a writer of “entertaining but amoral books,” it seemed, were over.
The marquis was only half right. When Diderot was finally released from Vincennes in November 1749, he certainly returned to Paris with his tail between his legs. Entirely silenced, however, he was not. Two years after he left prison, the first volume of the Encyclopédie that he and Jean le Rond d’Alembert were editing together appeared in print. Its extended and self-important title, which indicated a systematic and critical treatment of the era’s knowledge and its trades, promised something far beyond a normal reference work…”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges..."
"What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change."
"...the pendulum of history never stops moving. Indeed, one of the few constants of history is unceasing change. While we seem to be heading in one direction, we must remember that there will surely be pauses, turns, and reversals."
""Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé," premiered early Wednesday and it was the fulfillment of all the ancestors' hopes and dreams. Beyoncé also dropped "Homecoming: The Live Album.""
"Seven in 10 adults ages 18 to 34 received financial support from their parents in the last year, including more than half of those in their early 30s. Almost three in five millennials said they couldn’t afford their lifestyles without the support."
"Social media influencers have helped turn public lands into tourist-infested swamps. And one cantankerous man is fighting back."
"One particular myth that attached itself to Ledger was that his death was somehow a result of immersing himself in the character of the Joker."
"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."
"Egg freezing had become so routine among my single peers that when I hit 35, I never thought twice. Here’s what I wish I had known."
"When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday."
"A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see."
"Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people escaping slavery in Egypt. It is often referred to as the “festival of freedom.” My Passover in prison was at a place called the Wallkill Correctional Facility..."