John Stuart Mill certainly underwent a spiritual crisis as a young man, which made him unhappy with the colder kinds of rationalism in which he had been instructed by his father. But he never turned toward any idea of God, a conception he regarded as fatuous and unimpressive, not to say self-evidently silly. He turned instead toward a larger and more humane idea of what reform might be, not his father’s ideal of utilitarian measurement but one that took in Mozart, music, love, and literature. He never stopped thinking that alleviating other people’s pain is the first duty of public policy. What liberals have, he thought, is better than a religion. It is a way of life.
The special virtue of freedom is not that it makes you richer and more powerful but that it gives you more time to understand what it means to be alive.
Of all the unexpected things in contemporary literature, this is among the oddest: that kids have an inordinate appetite for very long, very tricky, very strange books about places that don’t exist.
The World Series is played in my doubtless too-nostalgic imagination in some kind of autumn afternoon light, and seeing it exclusively in the bitter chill of midnight breaks the spell of even the best of games.
The coffee shop is a great New York institution, but it has terrible coffee. And the more traditional coffee shops are trying to catch up with more sophisticated coffee drinkers.
Going to a restaurant is one of my keenest pleasures. Meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life.
There are as many attitudes to cooking as there are people cooking, of course, but I do think that cooking guys tend - I am a guilty party here - to take, or get, undue credit for domestic virtue, when in truth cooking is the most painless and, in its ways, ostentatious of the domestic chores.