The NYT is a mixed bag for LI readers this Sunday. There is the abstinence group article in the NYT magazine, which hangs its hook on the fact that the abstinence group in question forks over tuition at Harvard. I’d prefer an article about a group dedicated to abstinence from writing articles on abstinence groups, myself. It is one of those everyday reminders that the NYT is an incredibly provincial paper, all in all.
The best thing in the paper is James Glanz’ article about the militias in Basra. It almost counterbalances the incredible load of bullshit dumped by Sabrina Tavernise on the innocent reader who desires some clue as to what is going on in Iraq. Think back to the glory days, when NYT journalists were wondering whether Chalabi would be prime minister, or whether the Iraqis would just, unanimously make him king. Tavernise accurately reflects the policy of disconnect and denial that obviously rules in the Bushian Green Zone.
And talking about disconnect and denial – in the Book section there is an essay that drags literature into the ever disheartening world of the Glamour dating quiz by Rachel Donadio. The blogs will be over this like white on rice, and LI, following our new, Lady Bitch Ray driven sprint for popularity, will join them to say that the interesting thing about the essay is the way it tiptoes around a major issue – the startling decline of intelligence among our former lords and masters, the white American male. Ostensibly about conflicting tastes in books and how this plays out in the Indie movie of Valentine Heart relationships that the NYT so cherishes – its bourgeois breath down your neck, you Lords of Acid scumbags – the quotes make it quite clear that the state of play in America is between Dumb and Despairing:
“Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.”
Or this: “Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport,” Augusten Burroughs, the author of “Running With Scissors” and other vivid memoirs, said. “Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough.”
Burroughs, however, shows himself a putz in the next sentence: “As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”
Unwittingly, Burroughs puts his finger on the reason for the stark, hopefully reversible night of ignorance that has fallen on a way too significant portion of the American Male population: the treatment of books as so much fucking impression management in the always popular "hot or not!" contest our dreamland of American Idol judges has cooked up as a national past time. LI could give a fuck about the number of books someone reads, of course - read one, read a hundred thousand. It is the intensity of the third life that counts, the willingness to lose yourself, and to even ask, in the immortal words of my best friend David: what's so important about your life? If you have never gone, like Orpheus in Cocteau's movie, through the mirror, then fuck you, you a nasty motherfucker - that's our general attitude, copped from Kimberley Jones, and we're stickin' with it. The third life switch from literature to action movies and war games affected by the male population is the vast, social wart on our behemoth Uncle Sam’s body – in fact, the wart has taken over the head. Athena’s curse of ate – blindness – is upon the sex. Remember, the next time you hear some bourgeois idiot like Burroughs make fun of some soul reading a used book, or – dating advice from LI! – the man you are going out with calmly states he isn’t a “reader”, look closely at his mouth. The blood of Iraqis is dribbling from his lips.