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Least. Convincing. Argument. Ever.

[ 76 ] August 28, 2010 |

Shorter Beverly Willett: New York should have kept its anachronistic divorce laws so that more women could go through the immensely painful, expensive, and futile attempt to maintain a marriage with a jerk who treats them horribly.

[Via Lindsay and AWB]

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[ 9 ] August 28, 2010 |

Oh Sweet Jeebus

[ 23 ] August 27, 2010 |

Our last commander in Afghanistan was an avowed fan of Bud Light Lime. His replacement?

Despite admitting that he has not purchased a compact disc in years, General David Petraeus revealed Wednesday that he is “an Enya guy,” referring to the new-age Irish musician.

“I do like Celtic music. And Enya is among those,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Fox News Channel’s Jennifer Griffin in an exclusive interview.

Petraeus said he has not had the opportunity to enjoy his favorite artist in the battlefield, saying he has not listened to music since he’s been on the ground in Afghanistan.

“Maybe over time I’ll get to that,” he added.

Maybe the Taliban will decide that killing Enya fans isn’t worth the trouble?

UPDATE [by SL]:  I can’t resist once again quoting one of my favorite hatchet jobs:

Pondering the fate of post-September 11 pop, everyone predicted what they already wished for–Slipknot undone, Britney in hiding. What happened instead was the unthinkable–sales of Enya’s first album since 1995 spiked 10 months after release. (And she thought that movie where Charlize Theron fucked Keanu Reeves and died of cancer was a promotional coup!) Two years in the making with the artiste playing every synthesizer, the 11 songs here last a resounding 34 minutes and represent a significant downsizing of her New Age exoticism since 1988’s breakthrough, Watermark–it’s goopier, more simplistic. Yanni is Tchaikovsky by comparison, Sarah McLachlan Ella Fitzgerald, treacle Smithfield ham. Right, whatever gets folks through the night. But Enya’s the kind of artist who makes you think, if this piffle got them through it, how dark could their night have been? Like Master P or Michael Bolton only worse, she tests one’s faith in democracy itself.

Member Of Self-Proclaimed World’s Greatest Deliberative Body As Stupid As Rob Dibble

[ 3 ] August 27, 2010 |

Whenever you think he’s exhasuted every possible way of being an asshole, Jim Bunning can always suprise you.

Making Your Own Judgment Is So Politically Correct!

[ 7 ] August 27, 2010 |

If I understand Krauthammer correctly, I think I have to conduct a public opinion survey before I can decide whether or not this is racist. Omitted from the former:  an explanation of what non-bigoted motives might lead to intense opposition to the Burlington Coat Factory Islamic community center.

On Book Reviews and “Literary” and “Popular” Fiction

[ 33 ] August 27, 2010 |

Since this discussion of a conflict between the authors Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult and the New York Times jumbles some valid and some silly critiques together, I thought I’d try to untangle them:

  • The underlying ressentiment on the part of the two bestselling authors doesn’t inspire a lot of sympathy.   There are two good reasons for venues like the Times to focus (to the extent that the diesgnation is meaningful) on “literary” fiction: it’s likely to inspire the best criticism, and it’s most valuable to readers to alert them to novels they wouldn’t otherwise know about.    Discussions of more “commercial” fiction can be valuable too, but the priorities of the Times book review strike me as right.   There aren’t many venues for the discussion of “literary” fiction, and authors like Weiner and Picoult are hardly obscure whether or not they get reviewed.
  • Weiner does make a good point about the kinds of genre fiction the Times examines.   I can’t make any judgments about her fiction specifically, but it does seem right to say that discussions of “commercial” fiction in the Times focus on genres that are primarily read by men.    I think she has them dead to rights there — it’s hard to justify special sections for mystery or detective fiction but not, say, popular family dramas.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, as Gawker unkindly but not inaccurately notes Picoult invoking Dickens and Shakespeare in this context is pretty risible.    It is of course true that there’s no necessary contradiction between popularity and artistic merit; many more recent examples from Kind of Blue to A Fine Balance show that masterworks can appeal to broad audiences.    I don’t think this fallacy is all that widespread, but it is a fallacy.   But of course the logic cuts both ways; popularity doesn’t require any durable artistic merit either.    Selling lots of books doesn’t make James Patterson Charles Dickens, and selling lots of records doesn’t make Jessica Simpson Miles Davis.   I haven’t read Picoult’s books, so I can’t say anything about whether they merit more discussion from critics, but the fact that they sell a lot is neither here nor there.    That she seems to be demanding not merely reviews but nice reviews (apparently these atypically biting takes from World’s Nicest Reviwer Janet Maslin doesn’t count) gives away the show.
  • Is the Times book review unduly focused on male writers from Brooklyn?   Possibly!  It would require a much more systematic analysis than I’m willing to do.    I can say that coincidentally four of the five works of fiction I’ve read most recently — Marcy Dermansky’s very well-turned noir Bad Marie, Anne Lamont’s Imperfect Birds, Lorrie Moore’s typically exceptional A Gate at the Stairs, and Alice Munro’s Selected Storieshappen to have been written by women.   All but the first*, for what it’s worth, received positive notices in the Times. Munro is another good example of the fact that major work can appeal to a broad audience, and the first two blur lines betwen “literary” and “genre” fiction, but I if I had to guess I don’t think the attention paid by the Times to female “literary” novelists is especially low.    Scanning my shelves for other recent favorites, I would also say that other important authors such as Enright, Gaitskill, Zadie Smith have also gotten a reasonable level of engagement.    Whether it’s high enough is a matter of judgment, but at a minimum I don’t see the kind of easy prima facie case you would have against, say, the Washington Post op-ed page.  [*Dermansky, generously responding to my inquiry, notes that Bad Marie was discussed in this Times article and did receive a variety of other prominent notices.]
  • The really glaring bias in terms of what the Times chooses to review, I think, is just straightforward backscratching.    The multiple reviews given to Lee Seigel’s witless anti-internet rants and Joe Lelyveld’s still-widely-ignored memoirs still strike me as much more egregious than any attention paid to hot young Brooklyn novelists.

Like Investing In Subprime Mortgage Bonds

[ 13 ] August 27, 2010 |

I hope that Stephen Strasburg’s injuries turn out to be relatively minor and he’s ready to go next year. But for the reasons cited by Posnanski and Neyer, I continue to think that paying the kind of money the Nationals did for Strasburg is a really, really bad bet. Most young pitchers won’t be able to sustain a major league workload, and even if they have short-term success most pitchers who start off very well as starters typically aren’t the ones who enjoy the greatest careers.

UPDATE: Oh no. The one ray of hope is that many pitchers have come back from Tommy John surgery, and in terms of his long-term success missing a year isn’t the worst thing in the world. Also, Posnanski put this more politely toward the end of his post, but Rob Dibble is an utter yutz.

Friday Lost Cat Blogging

[ 12 ] August 27, 2010 |

No sooner did I proclaim that my kids are more interesting than my pets than the cat made a desperate bid for renewed attention on the blog, and our lives have definitely become more interesting. My week in FB updates: Read more…

What Do Grover Cleveland and Woody Allen Have in Common?

[ 26 ] August 26, 2010 |

Creepiness.

Now THAT’S Some Discrimination!!!!

[ 7 ] August 26, 2010 |

For whatever reason, our spam filter has kicked into overdrive in the past few days.  It has, I kid you not, defined both Michael Berube AND David Horowitz as spammers.  I leave the punch line to your fevered imaginations…. In any case, if you’re not seeing your comments pop up, send an e-mail (address on sidebar) letting me know, and I’ll try to solve the problem.

Nope, Parody Is Still Dead

[ 19 ] August 26, 2010 |

Shorter David Broder:   Now that the primary is over, John McCain is finally free to be the principled maverick he’s always been.   Now, where is that damned Easter Bunny with my afternoon hot chocolate?

Verbatim David Broder, I swear: “One obvious area where he will be needed is his favorite field, national security. Iraq, where he was prescient and persistent, still poses challenges, and Afghanistan, where Obama badly needs a Republican partner, is likely to be in crisis before it can be called a success. Behind them looms Iran, which could be this nation’s next big test.”

Fire Simpson

[ 11 ] August 26, 2010 |

In a rational world, this would be a no-brainer. In ours…