Writing

Tom Wolfe Has Passed-R.I.P.

I’m just glad he was there for so long:

Website here.

Michael Lewis at Vanity Fair: ‘How Tom Wolfe Became….Tom Wolfe

‘New York City was—and still is—the only place on earth where a writer might set himself up as a professional tour guide and attract the interest of the entire planet. That’s mainly what Wolfe was, at least in the beginning: his job was to observe the sophisticates in their nutty bubble for the pleasure of the rubes in the hinterlands, and then, from time to time, venture out into the hinterlands and explain what is really going on out there to the sophisticates inside the bubble. He moves back and forth like a bridge player, ruffing the city and the country against each other. He occupies a place in between. He dresses exotically and is talented and intellectually powerful, like the sophisticates in the bubble. But he isn’t really one of them. To an extent that shocks the people inside the bubble, when they learn of it, he shares the values of the hinterland. He believes in God, Country, and even, up to a point, Republican Presidents. He even has his doubts about the reach of evolutionary theory.’

From ‘The Pump House Gang: Introduction

‘Hefner showed me through his chambers. The place was kept completely draped and shuttered. The only light, day or night, was electric. It would be impossible to keep track of the days in there. And presently Hefner jumped onto . . . the center of his world, the bed in his bedroom. Aimed at the bed was a TV camera he was very proud of.’

As posted:

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

The satire of the liberal intelligentsia is pretty rich, as well as the Southern Gentleman’s WASP ‘rejuvenation.’ You just know Christopher Hitchens had to get-in on that action:

From the Late Show in 1989 with Howard Jacobson:

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Was Tom Wolfe seeing things clearly, as they really are?

Certainly the liberal pieties and the conflicted, activist base is still ripe for the picking…for what is preventing the mocking of the Brooklyn hipster and the echoing of ‘This Land Is Your Land’ across the fruited plain?:

Peter Berkowitz review of Tom Wolfe’s Miami novel here.

What are you looking for in a novel: Ideas and the deployment of ideas? A reflection of your life/times/society? Good prose? Characters that pop into your life? Glimpses of the author? Pleasure?

The deeper divisions, as Wolfe’s novel compellingly presents them, are between those who believe that happiness consists in one form of pleasure or another — including the aesthetic pleasure of sensitively glimpsing one’s own sensitivities and the sensitivities of others — and those who, like Tom Wolfe and his heroes, believe that happiness consists in the exercise of courage, self-control, and the other qualities of mind and character that constitute human excellence.’

A New Yorker review here.

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s for a rich account of the 60′s. I remember reading ‘A Man In Full‘ a while back.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

A Few Saturday Links-War, War Photography & Domestic Politics: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘No, the Syrian Kurds Are Not Terrorists

There are Kurdish Communist militias, but there are still many reasons for America to promote Kurdish interests.  Additionally, there are reasons to help stamp out ISIS and navigate the other players in the region as well…leaving the Kurds to their own fate.  I think this helps explain current American policy in the region:

‘Whatever you think of the “libertarian socialism” of Syrian Kurdistan, it’s not even in the same time zone as the medieval totalitarianism of ISIS, the secular nationalist tyranny of Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath Party regime in Damascus or the Putin-esque rule of the neo-Ottoman Erdogan.

Turkey can call the Kurds terrorists all they want, but that will not make them so.’

Meanwhile, an increasingly authoritarian, populist, Islamic Erdogan has launched a campaign into Syria to battle with Kurdish forces:

and:

As previously posted:

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Two Sunday Links-Turkey, The Kurds, And Affirmative Consent

Domestic Politics And The Tendency People Have To Seek Transcendence And Naked Self-Interest At The Very Same Time:

Beware offering thoughtful critique of the sacred ‘-Isms’ these days (feminism, environmentalism, racism, sexism), even if it’s just pointing out other ways of thinking about injustice.  God forbid should you hold a conservative position on any matter. Problems come with identity politics and political idealism, after all, just as they do with religious belief and certainty and fixed conservative positions.  Generally, such criticism is not welcomed among radically activated and/or ambitious individuals.

If someone doesn’t recognize the moral legitimacy of the rules governing an institution they claim is oppressing them, maybe you want to ask which rules they recognize as morally legitimate before they go end-up controlling the institution?

Civility and a boring politics aren’t desireable for many, for various reasons, especially those people bringing presumed moral goods for everybody through radical change and radical liberation.

It might be useful to try and hold a mirror to many ambitious people in high towers and positions of authority in addition to one’s Self; a perplexing exercise during a time of The Self and a rather compromised politics of celebrity.

There are a lot of decent people out there, and a lot of good in people, of course, away from the madding crowd.

The Church Of Holy Modern Human Progress Shall Be Built!

The Old Catholic Church Shall Soon Be Rebuilt!

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That’s attributed to Eric Hoffer, here.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) takes a look at war photographers to highlight an underlying truth:  Where there’s courage there is also cowardice. Where there’s moral concern there’s also boredom and self-preservation.

Everyone’s got a pet peeve (what this blog is for, really), but honest self-reflection can be much harder (to come by):

‘That people may love what they hate—or say that they hate—is illustrated in extreme form by war photographers. If you asked war photographers why they risk their lives to take pictures of the most terrible conflicts (rather than, say, of the beauties of nature), they would say that it is to inform or alert the world in the hope of bringing those conflicts to an end. But this is far from the whole truth, psychologically speaking; and as a person who has indulged in a little civil-war tourism myself, I can avow to the fact that there is nothing like a sense of danger for solving, at least temporarily, whatever little troubles are agitating one’s soul. When there might be an ambush round every corner, the minor fluctuations of one’s emotional state are of little concern.’

Repost: Clive James At The Prospect On Joseph Conrad-Some Links

James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works.

Of note to this blogger:

‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’

Clive James’ site here.

Michael Dirda on ‘Clive James Last Readings’ review: A Critic’s Final Homage To Literature, Life:’

‘In 30 brief essays James goes on to tell us — in his most digressive, conversational manner — about the books he’s discovered or returned to quite probably for the last time.’

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Not entirely unrelated:

John Gray begins a discussion of his book ‘The Silence Of Animals‘ with a quote from Conrad:

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Added bonus if you act now in the face of no possible objective knowledge.

Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

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Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic.

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’.

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Update And Repost-Death & Tax Credits-From The Observer: ‘New York May Become First State To Incentivize Diversity In Writers’ Rooms’

Egads, New York

Egads, New York:

Update: A7373 here and S 5370 here.  Both have passed the NY Senate And Assembly.

‘Well, thanks to two new bills currently gaining traction in Albany’s assembly and senate, New York may become the first state to incentivize adding diversity to a production’s writing staff.

The bills, A47373 and S 5370, would modify the existing production state tax credit, so that certain New York writing income would qualify as an eligible expense.  A company would have to employ women or people of color, and a portion of their New York salaries would qualify for the credit, which hasn’t been the case previously.  It’s capped at $50,000 per writer, and an overall expenditure of $3.5 million a year.’

So will writers’ rooms have to send-in photos every quarter, or a list of diverse-sounding names to ensure they’re receiving the credit?

Will there be surprise, on-site inspections with a potential room full of white guys fleeing like cockroaches?

On that note, via The Federalist, ‘Get Ready For Racial Quotas In Your Neighborhood:’

Play nice, children:

‘HUD intends to insert itself into local zoning efforts through the AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) program to push affirmative action in housing policy, directing HUD grant recipients to “affirmatively further the Act’s goals of promoting fair housing and equal opportunity.’

You will play nice.  Now, who isn’t playing nice?

Seriously, who?  Where do they live?

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Related On This Site: $8 cheeseburgers, operating losses and writers: From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’

Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

 From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Ah, But Pigeons Can Shit On The Shoulders Of Statues-Gay Talese on Journalism

Gay Talese:

‘They swim in the same pools, they belong to the same clubs. Their wives and everyone goes to the same fucking cocktail parties.’

‘..And they eat these little handout stories. They’re like little pigeons eating the shit sprayed on the sidewalk from the government. They want to be in good with their sources, but they don’t even name the sources!’

Was there a time when more hard-boiled skeptics roamed the newsroom; narrative purists seeking le mot juste and the story behind the story?

Perhaps there’s never really been much space for a writer’s writer, an old-fashioned craftsman looking for some interplay between light and shadow; thought, and the words on the page.

Perhaps like many writers, even good-writing journalists can become bitter with age.

-The linked-to Talese piece on Frank Sinatra.

-Lawrence Wright on his book-Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison Of Belief.  That took some balls.

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As previously posted:

The satire of the liberal intelligentsia is pretty rich, as well as the Southern Gentleman’s WASP ‘rejuvenation.’ You just know Christopher Hitchens had to get-in on that action:

From the Late Show in 1989 with Howard Jacobson:

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Are Tom Wolfe and New Journalism seeing things clearly, as they really are?

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Andrew Potter has his own ideas:

‘The important thing to understand about journalists is that they are the lowest ranking intellectuals. That is to say: they are members of the intellectual class, but in the status hierarchy of intellectuals, journalists are at the bottom. That is why they have traditionally adopted the status cues of the working class: the drinking and the swearing, the anti-establishment values and the commitment to the non-professionalization of journalism.’

and on professors:

The important thing to understand about academics is that they are the highest rank of intellectuals. That is why they have traditionally adopted the status symbols of the 19th-century British leisured class—the tweeds and the sherry and the learning of obscure languages—while shunning the sorts of things that are necessary for people for whom status is something to be fought for through interaction with the normal members of society (such as reasonably stylish clothing, minimal standards of hygiene, basic manners).

The ideas of original thinkers and those of thinkers in academia often trickle down into popular thought anyways, but the easy quote is often just a way to reinforce one’s own beliefs or ideology, or get a quick fix.

Also:

‘In a philosophical debate, what everyone involved is trying to get at is the truth. In contrast, what is at stake in the political realm is not truth but power, and power (unlike truth) is a “rival good”—one person or group can wield power only at the expense of another. This is why politics is inevitably adversarial. Political power is ultimately about deciding who shall govern, and part of governing is about choosing between competing interests’

***In journalists there can be the shabbiness of the second-hand, the designs of the social-climber, the self-regard of the idealist and the possibly deeper aspirations of an artist.  Some are more devoted to finding truth than others.

Related On This SiteFrom io9 Via An Emailer: ‘Viral journalism And The Valley Of Ambiguity’

From The Nieman Lab:-An Oral History Of The Epic Collision Between Journalism & Digital Technology, From 1980 To The Present.

Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Could Amazon and Jeff Bezos Make the Washington Post Profitable?’…‘Sorry, Jeff Bezos, the News Bundle Isn’t Coming Back

Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’

From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

You could do like Matt Drudge, but the odds are stacked against you.

Who Wants To Blog Forever?

Ira Stoll, on blogging, after the Andrew Sullivan announcement:

‘I’ve seen the advantages and disadvantages of the old media world, and of the blog world, too. Blogging runs the risk of solipsism. The reporting resources and reputations of institutions are useful in getting phone calls returned, landing interviews, gaining access, and attention. But the issue isn’t whether, given a choice, we might return to the pre-blog world, or inhabit or invent, as Ben Smith imagines, a “post-blog” world. There is no turning back. Like it or not, we live in a blog media world.

There’s a pretty low barrier to entry and much lower cost to communication since blogs like this one have become so easily available. Since then, personal-style, individual voice and personality can trump institutional authority, and have clearly affected how the media does business (Sullivan ran his blog pretty much like a business).

I’ve found there’s only so much room for depth on a blog, and I think it’s best used as a window on the world, a way to stay current, and to share one’s interests, talents, and knowledge with others, while experiencing the interests, talents and knowledge of others.

Worth keeping in mind: What you write about, how, and why, can often reveal as much about you as it does the subject you’re writing about. So, best to know something about the subject at hand, have some humility and curiosity, and expect some feedback and criticism.

Who you imagine your audience to be, and why you’re writing in the first place still matters a great deal, as it always has whether for knowledge, understanding, money, influence, praise, communication, friendship, attention, problem solving, creative expression…too many to name.

You know some of your reasons.

See you out there.

Some Wednesday Links-Esteem And Prestige

The De Blasio Files-From Via Media: ‘Cuomo-1 De Blasio-0

‘De Blasio and Cuomo are still on good terms in public, and the Mayor has taken pains to say that these new developments will not derail his plans. But this is a major blow to his education agenda. Less than six months after winning on an anti-charter platform, de Blasio’s New York City will be even more hospitable to charter schools than it was under Bloomberg.’

Bad news for the unions and their coalitions, better news for charter students.

From The NY Times:

“Giuliani was a prosecutor, Bloomberg was a C.E.O., and so far, Bill’s a political labor activist.”

Don’t forget the children.

Timothy Larsen at The Chronicle Of Higher Ed ‘For the Persistent Ph.D. Impulse, Gentle Persuasion

‘Artists and athletes, like academics in the humanities, have chosen identity-based professions. Unlike those who do a job simply because it is a way to earn money, these careers are also splendid forms of self-expression and prestige. For a pool of aspirants much larger than the profession itself, they hold a romance that is not usually evoked by, say, retail sales or database administration. Being a professor is, in this sense, literally a dream job for many people’

Too few spots, too many people.

On This Site:…Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’,,,Natalie Angier In The NY Times: Curriculum Designed To Unite Art And Science.

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Repost: Now Not-So-New Book On Raymond Chandler Reviewed in the L.A. Times

When I went looking for a good hard-boiled detective novel, I found Chandler’s High Window.  Here are some quotations of his, if you’re interested.

A lot of writers end badly; and according to the review, Chandler was no exception, though he did give us observations like these:

“Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good-hearted and peaceful. It had the climate they yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America.”

Here is the link.   It’s been a long time since they just reviewed the book and not the author.

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More Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘What Should Colleges Teach-Part 3’

Full post here.

Perhaps it’s necessary to teach (drill?) a series of highly abstract rules that deepen a student’s understanding of his/her own language?
Fish points out:

By all the evidence, high schools and middle schools are not teaching writing skills in an effective way, if they are teaching them at all 

 There’s a lot of truth to this.  Fish, of course, goes after the usual targets:  The people who have put ideology above what may be higher goals:

‘“We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style.”’  

 Yet, how do you pursue those higher goals?  Aren’t there the forces of excessive egalitarianism and individualism at work here as well?(we’re still a young, fairly uncivilized nation with a lot of open space).  

Fish’s answer is pedagogical:

You have to start with a simple but deep understanding of the game, which for my purposes is the game of writing sentences. So it makes sense to begin with the question, What is a sentence anyway? My answer has two parts: (1) A sentence is an organization of items in the world. (2) A sentence is a structure of logical relationships.  

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As a side note, a commenter (the 3rd comment) notes:

Your arguments make sense, if one wants to become a secretary. But if I want to write well, then being forced to write by the rules destroys my creativity just as much if not more than what it teaches me.” 

 Yet, maybe housing creative writing in universities doesn’t help creativity much either.

See Also On This Site:  Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Fish suggested keeping politics out of academia during the Ward Churchill affair:  From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux

Does it have to be political, or is that putting the cart before the horse?  Martha Nussbaum tried to tackle the humanities problem a while back: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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From Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: What Should Colleges Teach?

Full post here.

Fish reminds us of a simple idea:  college writing courses ought to focus primarily on writing…:

“…the students spent much of their time discussing novels, movies, TV shows and essays on a variety of hot-button issues — racism, sexism, immigration, globalization.”

Perhaps at the cost of their writing skills.  Yet, is Fish just going after the easy targets (where political and ideological aims often take precedence) in quoting the ACTA report?:

“Thirty-five years ago there was no such thing as a gay and lesbian studies program; now you can build a major around it. For some this development is a sign that a brave new world has arrived; for others it marks the beginning of the end of civilization.”

“It probably is neither; curricular alternatives are just not that world-shaking.”

Perhaps not.  He highlights what he seems to consider the most insightful bit of wisdom the report (with its own aims) has to offer:

“An “important benefit of a coherent core curriculum is its ability to foster a ‘common conversation’ among students, connecting them more closely with faculty and with each other.”

He seems pretty pragmatic.

Addition:  Of course, as Camille Paglia points out, movies, T.V., popular music etc. arguably is the culture for a great many Americans.  Fish also feels the need to defend his justification of writing in the post.

Another Addition:  Fish responds to his critics.  If we were all held to such standards in our writing…

See Also On This Site:  Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Fish suggested keeping politics out of academia during the Ward Churchill affair:  From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux

Martha Nussbaum tried to tackle the humanities problem a while back: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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