Scialabba was soft-spoken, intensely intellectual, humble and obviously passionate about the books he reads and the ideals he holds for a better world that may yet be possible. He opened by reading his title essay from his recently published book, What Are Intellectuals Good For?, to which he added a coda about the possibilities and realities of public discourse in the Internet era.
From there, the discussion was on. It was a wide-ranging one. Scialabba and the standing room only audience of about 35, nearly all white, mostly middle-aged and above, and seemingly all left-wingers of some stripe dug into everything from the implications of Obama’s presidency for public intellectuals to what would happen if all diseases on the planet were eradicated.
Scialabba was a combination of presenter and facilitator, asking people to elaborate, explaining where he agreed with the questioner, clarifying his positions at points and generally modeling the kind of discourse he in his book advocates.
Following the event, about a dozen of us trooped down to Maza’s for a hearty meal of Lebanese food.
Several other bloggers were in tow.
Geoffrey Kruse-Safford and his lovely wife Lisa sat across from Dunreith and me. Geoff works for Wal-mart on the third shift in the Rockford area and has blogged actively about things spiritual and religious for about three years. I definitely recommend checking out his site.
We also gave a ride home to Michael Kramer, a humanities scholar at Northwestern who blogs about cultural criticism and the role of the scholar as a public intellectual. He’s finishing a forthcoming book from Oxford University Press about rock music and the making of sixties counterculture. From what I could pick up from our conversation, between his dissertation and book revisions, he’s been at the project for about 10 years. That’s longer than many hippies were hippies!
All in all, it was an evening rich in conversation, ideas and good will. Danny is remarkable in his ability to bring together diverse yet like-minded groups of people, and I was glad to be among that number.