No Special Magic

“I had an aged Volvo once (this is not irrelevant), and I was on holiday in Ireland in the summer, as I usually am, and the boot — which you call the trunk — jammed. I went in to the local garage man in my Kerry village and said, “I suppose I should take it to a Volvo dealer.” He lifted up a monkey wrench and hit the back of the car where the boot was jammed with a great belt. As he hit it (and it did spring open), he said, “In matters like this, Volvo dealers wield no special magic.”

-Tyler Cowen interviewing Roy Foster, “Roy Foster on Ireland’s Many Unmade Futures.” Conversations With Tyler. April 6, 2022.

Enjoyed the whole discussion, but since I collect little stories, I was particularly charmed by this bit.

Emily Wilson on Translations and Language – Conversations with Tyler

“I think Homer is psychologically truthful and ethically helpful. The whole question about, ‘Is it literature’s job or poetry’s job to train a politician?’ — I’m not sure that’s quite the right way to see it. By inhabiting worldviews which aren’t our own, we can grow in some way, which doesn’t necessarily have to be, ‘I agree with x, y, z political gnomon that’s articulated in this line or that line of Homer.’…

I think we should stop selling classics as, ‘These are the societies that formed modern America, or that formed the Western canon’— which is a really bogus kind of argument — and instead start saying, ‘We should learn about ancient societies because they’re different from modern societies.’ That means that we can learn things by learning about alterity. We can learn about what would it be to be just as human as we are, and yet be living in a very, very different society…

…So I’m interested in whether all educators are somehow in that double bind of ‘Am I actually helping you find something out, or am I imposing my own vision on you?'”

—Emily Wilson in at interview with Tyler Cowen, “Emily Wilson on Translations and Language.” Conversations With Tyler. March 27, 2019

Emily Wilson is a treasure.