In accordance with the election on November 6, 2018 between Allan Fung and Gina Raimondo, Nicholas Alahverdian is releasing an infographic detailing the number of Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) foster child deaths under each of the past four Rhode Island governors. Those governors include Lincoln Almond (Republican), Donald Carcieri (Republican), Lincoln Chafee (Independent-turned-Democrat), and current Governor Gina M. Raimondo.
2010 Harvard Barker Center interview with Nicholas Alahverdian
Thomas Wolfe, a writer who lived and worked during what is colloquially called the Southern Literary Renaissance, was a troubled genius. Wolfe was an existentialist. He loved spending money but he never threw things away. Wolfe was concerned about the most basic existence of things, even inanimate objects. We interviewed Wolfe expert Nicholas Alahverdian about the life and work of this enigmatic author.
A troubled genius
“Thomas Wolfe was clearly a genius, but he was quite troubled,” said Harvard Scholar Nicholas Alahverdian. “He had extreme obsessions. Wolfe was at one moment a man of the world: he loved the best food and ate at the finest restaurants.”
“However,” Nicholas Alahverdian continued, “Wolfe began to starve himself day after day, almost as a sacrifice to the gods of writing, ensuring that they knew he would do whatever it took to write the great American novel.”
“Ever the existentialist, he performed a bit of imitation of his idols. Wolfe consumed cigarettes and coffee, perhaps ironically, perhaps not.” he said.
It’s no secret that Wolfe was an alcoholic. Alahverdian said, “While he did work sober on occasion, he spent a prolonged phase of his work completely inebriated. While this may have been due to other strains on his life — women, money, or emotional distress — Wolfe was ordinarily enticed by the power of alcohol.”
“Alcohol helped him work. It helped him forget the perils of life. It helped him reduce the pain he so regularly suffered.”
Thomas Wolfe was just like many existentialists. The troubles imposed by Southern culture as a result of Reconstruction, including discouragement, loss, and anguish led him to be steeped in despair.
Nicholas Alahverdian said that Thomas Wolfe also “had a predilection to talk about his history in conversations with strangers ad infinitum in letters. He wanted to talk non-stop about his desire to highlight the importance of individualism and personal freedom.” Wolfe would occasionally and irrationally treat his contemporaries, even close friends, with unjustified contempt.
Other times, he would contemplate the depths of his heart and mind. “He had an extraordinary talent, but he was very unsettled in his emotional state. Diversions, however slight, would immerse Wolfe in the worst state of hopelessness and desperation, leading him to aimlessly wander the local roads and seek refuge from his ever-faithful liquor and spirits,” said Nicholas Alahverdian.
Wolfe constantly and fruitlessly sought confirmation from whatever deity would reply. He wanted to converse with deity, to confirm his or her existence. Not only would it justify his writing, but he could also interrogate the deity about the form and purpose of his writing, according to Alahverdian.
“Interestingly enough,” said Alahverdian, “Thomas Wolfe thought he was one with the gods. But this was to be expected with a writer of his stature and talent. Thomas Wolfe had what is colloquially known as the “God complex” — that is, he felt that because of his God-like stature, his writing could save the world and cure it of its ailments.”
The Southern reconstruction
This was especially important during the Southern Reconstruction. The region was afflicted by post-war consequences, incessant famine, and destructive community strife. The South, after the American Civil War, was a horrible place to be. Resources were scarce. “There were no easy solutions to the conflict caused between the North and the South,” said Nicholas Alahverdian. “And the Northern states weren’t particularly keen on getting the South back to its prosperous condition.”
“Thomas Wolfe saw all of this. He lived through all of this. And he wanted to somehow utilize his existence to instantaneously cure the troubles of the South. But he couldn’t do it — especially as an author,” said Alahverdian. “However, that didn’t inhibit Wolfe from having a lasting impact on literature and across other facets of Americana, especially politics and contemporary American thought and opinion leadership.”
“No one at that time in the South could precipitate a cultural and socioeconomic revolution,” said Alahverdian. “It would take decades. But Thomas Wolfe certainly left his mark, which, as an author, isn’t an easy feat.”
Nicholas Alahverdian concentrated in political science and comparative literature at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While studying the Southern Literary Renaissance with the preeminent academician on the subject, Harvard Professor Thomas Underwood, Alahverdian gained a passion for the life and work of Thomas Wolfe. Professor Underwood, while being the foremost authority on the Southern Literary Renaissance, is also the author of the widely cited biography of Allen Tate — Allen Tate: Orphan of the South.
Nicholas Alahverdian is currently completing his long-awaited biography on the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, due in mid-2019. Alahverdian’s other interests include reading, memorizing poetry, watching historical documentaries, and learning new skills. In a former life, Nicholas Alahverdian was heavily involved in politics, leading a nationwide coalition to reform the worst orphan and foster care system in the nation.
For years, some professors at Harvard University lobbied for and presented studies conducive to the passing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Now, members of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) are expressing their outrage over what some say is tantamount to a pay cut.
This is hilarious in a very sad way. Political manipulation at its finest. Obama’s healthcare legacy isn’t shaping up to what he or Ted Kennedy purported it would be during the campaigns. For an omnibus bill with varying levels of potential for good throughout its massively complex legislative and judicial history, it is sure to be kept in focus as a primary issue during the 2016 presidential campaigns.
The ever left-leaning New York Times adequately captured the fury with which these rising costs have been welcomed:
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.
Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.
What do you think? Comment in the box below. Disclaimer: Nicholas Alahverdian was educated at Harvard and was a student whose department was under the auspices of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Today I’d like to talk about things that are inevitable. Weather is an especially inevitable consequence of living in this great world, and we see things that we are privileged to see. These things may include tornadoes, snowstorms, the foliage of autumn, and many other supernatural beauties of nature.
In the Midwest, I have found it quite disconcerting that there really is no happy medium. I found that it doesn’t really have a transitional period. Between summer and autumn it has just gone from wicked warm to pretty cold in just a few short days.
Usually in places that I’ve lived such as New England and New York and even Utah, there are transitional periods where one is allowed to become acclimated to the seasons and the transition periods thereof. We sort of depend on this as human beings to invite us welcomingly into the next season. We simply don’t expect there to be such a binary approach to weather, where it goes from hot to cold to freezing with no meteorological intermission. Continue reading Thoughts on Autumn, Harvard, and the Future of Today’s Students