Only a Voice

Only a Voice:Essays

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Essays on politics, power, and culture from one of America's most eminent critics

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.


  • Essays from across the storied career of 'critic's critic' George Scialabba. Forthright yet charitable, Scialabba gleans his greatest insights from those he disagrees with and is a model for the practice of independent criticism.

    Ryan RubyThe Millions
  • Never has a writer of such enviable talents displayed such evident and unpretentious pleasure in good prose.

    Sam Adler-BellCommonweal
  • Scialabba is as lively as ever...Only a Voice is filled with provocative arguments that make the reader want to argue right back.

    Daniel LazareArts Fuse