A decade since James Frey's memoir was exposed, we're still addicted to fiction packaged as truth.
I was summoned to my tutor’s office a day or so after I’d arrived in Oxford. It was the last day of summer. A bumpkin from the tropics, I’d never seen an autumn before. I watched the first leaves falling outside his window and heard the eighteenth-century staircase creaking with the weight of suitcases being heaved into new rooms. He told me I was to study moral philosophy that term and that if I wanted a head start on the reading I could get going on—he reached for his bookshelf with the air of someone going through a practiced routine—this book: Morality: An Introduction to Ethics by Bernard Williams.
Christopher Hitchens was the ultimate champagne socialist, though as his career progressed the champagne gradually took over from the socialism. Known in his student days as Hypocritchens for his habit of marching for the poor and dining with the rich, he was a public school renegade in a long English tradition of well-bred bohemians and upper-class dissenters. Had he been born a little earlier, he might well have been a raffish spy propping up the bar of a Pall Mall club.
The popular understanding of relativity comes almost entirely from science fiction. A crew of astronauts crash land on a planet populated by apes, where humans are mutes kept as cattle. But it’s only when Charlton Heston screams “You maniacs, you blew it up!” at Lady Liberty that the other moon boot drops: we’re on Earth after a nuclear apocalypse, transported into the future as a result of time dilation, an effect of relativity predicted by Einstein’s theory.
In Oakland, a lesson in cross-cultural communication might come in the form of a political protest, a mural graffitied on the side of a shipping container, or a poetry lesson at a local high school. Or it might come in the form of a sandwich — say, the amazing al pastor banh mi at East Oakland's Saigon Deli Sandwich & Taco Valparaiso, which is probably the only combination banh mi shop and taqueria in the Bay Area.