“It turns out that in order to become an intellectual, you must first become a pseudo-intellectual,” Keith Gessen writes, in a postscript to What We Should Have Known: Two Discussions, the second pamphlet published by the journal n+1. The pamphlet is a transcription of a roundtable discussion about intellectual regrets. It’s just out and, as I learned yesterday, it’s already the victim of publicity. I was one of the participants (I’m in the second of the two discussions, which is a bit lighter on Adorno than the first), and as an incriminated party, I am with Keith in hoping that the culture will be as indulgent of pretension as it is of slumming.
“Pamphlet,” by the way, is perhaps a piece of false modesty; it’s more of a book—126 pages, including an eight-page bibliography and lists from each of the ten participants of the books that changed their lives. On the back cover, a note declares “FREE for college freshmen and other 18-year-olds (with ID)—write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you one.” It can also be ordered for $9. Let the canon wars resume.
UPDATE (Oct. 31): Scott McLemee has reviewed the pamphlet for Inside Higher Ed.