Is Boston the Next Hot Place?
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 7 2002 3:15 PM


Dear Alex,


Yes, the assassination of Pim Fortuyn—gay, Catholic, bald, waggish, liberal anti-immigrationist Dutch political comer—is a great shock. I believe it is the most prominent political killing in the Netherlands since that of William the Silent in 1584.

You are lucky to be moving to Boston. It is destined to be the most agreeable and vibrant American city of the 21st century. I am not surprised that the Big Dig is taking so long and costing so much—it is, after all, one of the most ambitious civic engineering projects ever undertaken. By sinking the nasty Fitzgerald Highway, it will reconnect the North End with the rest of the city, undoing some of the mutilation inflicted by urban renewal and car culture. Boston is one of the few American cities that has not had all the urban life sucked out of it by suburbs and strip malls. Middle-class and even rich people live there, not just the poor. The street texture is European in quality. You can almost be a flaneur there. And—as a Yankee fan I hate to say it—how about them Red Sox?

For the past few years you've been living in Brooklyn, which has been gentrifying at a rate second only to that of Boston (with San Francisco and Chicago just behind). Before that you spent a number of years in Washington at the New Republic. But basically, as far as I can tell, you're a Beantown boy in your bones, having grown up in Boston and gone to Harvard. If it's not a foolish question, how do you rate the relative quality of intellectual life in these three cities?

I came across a good literary anecdote today. An admirer approached James Joyce at a party and said, "May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?" Joyce replied, "No, because it has done other things."


Jim Holt writes the "Egghead" column for Slate. He also writes for The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine. Alexander Star is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. This fall, he will begin editing the "Ideas" section of the Boston Globe.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.