Pages, essays, and books pile up in libraries while pixilated words and paragraphs get packed away on hard disks or float in clouds: permanence versus ephemera. Yet, as underfunded libraries turn into media centers and as digital backup options proliferate, who can tell what pages will last and for how long. These essays have long been stored in volumes of the New England Journal of Public Policy (NEJPP) or made available on the journal’s website. This collection sets them in a fresh context and gives them an opportunity to reach new readers in a format that shows how issues and themes change but never disappear.

In thirty years, between 1986 and 2015, I wrote twenty-one essays, reflections on books and topics of public concern for NEJPP. I was pleased when the journal editor, Padraig O’Malley, invited me to collect a selection of these essays for this special issue of NEJPP, allowing me the opportunity and the space once again to explore some crucial issues of the day (war, AIDS, homelessness, the environment) and to reflect on significant places (symbolic cities: Boston, New York, Dublin). Two essays discuss another matter of personal and public concern: Irish American culture through its representative men. I have chosen to include twelve essays here, omitting some that now seem dated in the books discussed.

It has been a tense task, rereading essays I wrote some decades ago, but in the end satisfying, for they remind me of the times, tempers, and cultural contexts in which they were composed and they have things to say that I had forgotten I said. My hope is that these essays, granted a second time around, will have worthy things to say to current readers.

Included in

Public Policy Commons



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