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Showing posts from May 11, 2003
Bollettino Why is it that we don't like James Wood ? He is to fiction criticism in America what Danto is to art criticism, and what Anthony Lane is becoming to film criticism. One knows that he will be wise about contexts, and his dips into the novel he is reviewing will be, if not typical of the book, at least well chosen enough to make his version of the book plausible. But his grand enthusiasm for Saul Bellow seems, frankly, incredible -- he has never written about Bellow in such a way that I would want to read Bellow -- and his grand aversion for Don Delillo seems incredible -- he has never conveyed his allergy to Delillo in such a way that I would want to avoid Delillo -- and on the greats he seems to aim at that tone mixing just a hint of pop memory and desire -- of that great child's desire to go through the book, to eat it up -- that Trilling could sometimes bring off so that his reading actually haunts the writer. It takes some time to read Babel, for instance,
Bollettino We recently expressed a wish to see to what baroque tergiversations Hitchens would be forced in justifying the usurpation of power in Iraq by one of Henry the K's minions -- since Hitchens credibility is wrapped up in being anti Henry the K. This isn't mere ideology, it is his bread and butter -- it allows a news organization to present him as a man of the left as he spouts reactionary slogans, making it seem as if we are getting that magic thing, balance, and making Hitchens an irresistable sell. Well, he hasn't gotten to it yet, but he does have a hilarious column about Chalabi, his bud, in Slate. He goes to the very bottom of the barrel in this one: in supporting his friend, he even becomes (gasp!) modest about his own abilities. Those abilities have to do with understanding bank fraud. Pauvre H. apparently finds it a matter of some difficulty, not just for himself but for all of humanity (hence, the modesty is transitory). This is truly creamy stuff:
Bollettino In a previous post, I recommended checking out the New Yorker profile of Zizek. In this season's Critical Inquiry there's a heated joust between Zizeck and Harpham. I must admit, as is often the case, I only read one side: Zizek's defense of himself as, to quote Harpham, a "symptom." In the course of doing so, he quotes this beautiful line from Deleuze, which is especially apropos at this moment: �There�s no democratic state that�s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.� We would almost like to make that a motto, but it would be unfair to the serpentine weight of the phrase -- serpentine because the weight of it is redistributed in unexpected ways as one repeats it. However, in keeping with one version of the phrase, let's talk kingship. It seems that the Pentagon mini-Metterniches are lusting to do for the rightful heir to the Peacock throne -- that's right, his solemnity, Prince Reza Pahlavi --
Bollettino Interestingly enough, this is the second week of non-news about why, exactly, the Pentagon has to rent its Iraqi exile group from SAIC. The lack of curiosity in the media is understandable -- after all, a NYT reporter might have plagiarized a story about the DC sniper and even made up some details while sipping lattes on the East Side, and a fertilizer salesman might have cut up and eaten his wife in California -- or something like that. Much more riveting... However, indefatiguable LI has managed to sift out some interesting SAIC stuff -- most notably the notorious and now extinguished partnership between SAIC and Venezuala's state owned Petroleum company -- which, as you will remember, was the leader in the strike/coup/whatever it was against Chavez last year. There are a lot of Venezualan commentators who believe that the synergy between PDVSA and SAIC was like that between Lucifer and others of the fallen angel hosts. SAIC no longer features their partnership w
Notes from former colonial ventures There's a delightful anecdote in Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians concerning 'Chinese" Gordon. Gordon was named governor of the Sudan by the Egypt's ruler, who had become so enmeshed in English debts and advice that he was slowly ceding the country to English rule. Now Gordon, like many a good Defense Department undersecretary in our own time, was a pious man. In fact, he was an eccentrically pious man, who read the Bible constantly, looking a little too aggressively for God's personal messages to him to be quite compos mentis in the opinion of his colleagues. Piety and narcissism are so often mirror images of one another. In any case, here's Strachey's account of Gordon's first intimation of the lay of the land in Sudan: "He took over his new duties early in 1874, and it was not long before he had a first hint of disillusionment. On his way up the Nile, he was received in state at Khartoum by
Bollettino There's been some Iraqis restlessness about the switches in their democratic, freely chosen rulers. Imagine! The ingratitude! Massoud Barzani, the Kurd leader, is quoted by the NYT as expressing a wee bit of concern about the apparent US goal of maintaining Iraq as a vaccum into which we inject our intentions. And: "He also expressed concern about Mr. Bremer's longtime association with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, whom the Kurds blame for their betrayal in the intelligence wars between Iran and Iraq three decades ago." A point that goes right over the massed heads of the American media, who are performing the Mobius maneuver in the wake of the Blair revelations at NYT, trying to see what they ate for breakfast a week ago. LI says: who cares? On other fronts: LA Times, which has consistently been more on the mark about Iraq than any other major newspaper, ran a large article about Ahmad Chalabi's wonderful adventure in
Bollettino The mandate of heaven is a cruel and capricious spirit. Take Smilin' Jay Garner. About a month ago, Iraqis everywhere awoke after a night of bad dreams and thought, collectively, gee we'd like this non-Arab speaking weapons salesman to be the absolute Jefe of our brand spankin' new country! We don't want electricity, garbage pickup, safety from robbery, or those stinkin' museums and libraries -- we want a well protected ministry of oil! we want every exile group, as long as it is led by Ahmad Chalabi, to be supplied with American arms! And we want to give them their choice of residence in the wealthy side of Baghdad! And we want hands off Garner to preside over it all! These messages, ectoplasmically and extrasensorally delivered to the very heartland of Iraq -- Washington D.C. -- were not ignored. Smilin' Jay made a triumphant tour of the country. To reassure the Iraqi people, Smilin' Jay even tried to institute a continuity of style with the
Bollettino LI recommends an essay, Anecdote and History by Lionel Grossman in this spring's History and Theory. Grossman uses the etymology of anecdote to show how the thing's semantic charge changed over time. Anekdoka was, apparently, the title of Procopius's Secret History. As it was translated into European languages, anecdote took on the meaning of unpublished, and the secondary meaning of secret history. Anybody who has read Procopius's history knows how salacious the book is: the vague reputation for tasty salacity became attached to anecdotes. Voltaire, according to Grossman, exhibited extreme contempt for the genre. In particular, the anecdote disturbed Voltaire's notion of what history -- the history of historians -- was all about. Although Grossman doesn't exactly show this outright, Voltaire's agenda, as a historian, was to rescue it from the collectioneering science of the antiquarians. For Voltaire, history's moral bound was defined b