Only a Voice

Only a Voice:Essays

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In Only a Voice, George Scialabba examines the chasm between modernity's promise of progress and the sobering reality of our present day through studies of the most influential public intellectuals of our time. In Scialabba's hands, literary criticism becomes a powerful tool for expressing political passion and demonstrating the generative power of argument and an inquisitive mind. Drawing together a diverse group of thinkers, artists, activists, and philosophers-including Edward Said, D. H. Lawrence, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ellen Willis, and Noam Chomsky-Scialabba tours western intellectual history to find that no matter the stakes, critical thought remains a necessary precondition for politics.

Every writer, Scialabba writes, faces the choice of whether "to tilt at the state and capital or ignore them" - and the world now is too dire not to choose the former.


  • I am one of many readers who stay on the lookout for George Scialabba's byline. His reviews and essays are models of moral inquiry. He cuts to the core of the ethical and political dilemmas he discusses. Scialabba reads very widely and very carefully; he is as illuminating about Nietzsche and Ortega as about Orwell and Trilling.

    Richard Rorty, author of Pragmatism as Anti-Authoritarianism
  • George Scialabba is one of a handful of public intellectuals who are keeping the critical spirit alive in a time of stupefying complacency. His essays are unfailingly fresh, provocative, and pleasurable.

    Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation
  • George Scialabba belongs to an endangered species, the independent writer and reviewer. In an era of literary razzle-dazzle, he is easily overlooked. Neither portentous nor ponderous nor pretentious, without a university or think tank imprimatur, he simply gives us what he has: crystalline prose and a supple intelligence unafraid to criticize heroes of either left or right. His writings are a priceless guide to contemporary intellectual life. Read them and know that when the party is over, his work will remain.

    Russell Jacoby, author of On Diversity