Robin Sloan
The Reading Room
November 2021

The appreciator

A painting of a factory belching black smoke, amidst a nice snow-covered town
The Furnace, 1924, Carl Gaertner

Adam Tooze is one of the great syn­the­siz­ers of the global moment; maybe THE great synthesizer, in the Anglosphere at least. As you fol­low his output, in his newslet­ter and essays and books — really seri­ous books; this is no pop historian — you get the sense of some­one surf­ing a massive wave.

Among my friends and correspondents, it has become a run­ning joke to drop his lat­est link into a text mes­sage with the sin­gle exclamation: TOOZE!

I could rec­om­mend almost any­thing from TOOZE!, but his lat­est newslet­ter is exem­plary of some­thing crit­i­cal to his appeal:

Tooze is a great appreciator.

Not always what you expect from the intel­lec­tual of the moment, right? Very often, they are cen­tipetal rather than centrifugal. Not so with Tooze: he is con­stantly commending, convening, loop­ing in, hyping up.

Of course, this endears him to me because I feel, or hope, that I am a ser­vice­able appreciator, too. (My admi­ra­tion is, in its way, a bit vain.)

Appreciators are most use­ful when you’ve read them long enough to know their enthusiasm, although bountiful, is not indiscriminate. The opposite: appre­ci­a­tion can be as sharp and spe­cific as criticism! This fact is … underappreciated.

Tooze’s newslet­ters are addi­tion­ally endear­ing because they are so obvi­ously dashed off, which gives a dual sense of, “wow, even some­one work­ing at this level makes typos, writes weird sentences” along­side “THIS is dashed-off? What does Tooze’s really tight stuff look like??” (It looks like his books, of course, includ­ing the mag­is­te­r­ial Crashed, which is for me, even post-pandemic, THE fram­ing doc­u­ment for the time we live in.)

Enough introduction! Here’s Adam Tooze’s appre­ci­a­tion of Andreas Malm, whose I knew as the author of How to Blow Up a Pipeline (which I haven’t yet read) and, that is all. Even though it’s osten­si­bly just the “liner notes” for a more tra­di­tional essay, the newslet­ter is brac­ing and inspiring.

From Fresno,

Robin

Sent to the Reading Room committee in November 2021