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Showing posts from April 12, 2015

an analysis of competition for amateurs

There is a story told about the psychoanalyst DW Winnicott. He was talking to a meeting of clergy. One of them asked him how they should decide whether someone who comes to them for counseling should be sent to a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst. Winnicott memorably said: “If a person comes and talks to you and, listening to him, you feel he is boring you, then he is sick, and needs psychiatric treatment. But if he sustains your interest, no matter how grave his distress or conflict, then you can help him alright.” I think Winnicott’s criteria for separating sick and problematic characters can be extended to what the essayist’s “expertise” is. If, as an essayist, you are dealing with a topic that is boring you, probably it needs to be sent to a specialist. But if it is problematic and fascinating, then you can deal with it. Lately, the topic that I have been itching to write a mini-essay on is “competition”. Competition is one of the colorless words of our time. To be colorless

Spitting out the Bittner taste in my mouth

During his lifetime, Gunter Grass opposed the Vietnam war, the emplacement of Cruise Missiles on German soil, the two Gulf Wars and the triumphalist mood after the fall of the Wall. Naturally, this is the type of character that the NYT editorial board collectively takes dumps upon. Now that he is dead and the obituaries pour in, it is a wonderful time for “contrarianism”, so they publish an incredibly boobish op ed piece by a German they’ve been favoring lately with deadtree space, a cat named Jochen Bittner,  an editor for Die Zeit who was last seen in the NYT pontificating like Charles Krauthammer that the West has to seize the Moral Leadership of blah blah blah. So he’s the NYT gunman on the spot. Here’s a couple of unintentionally hilarious grafs about his Grass problem: "I was able to pinpoint my frustration only when I met Mr. Grass in person. A couple of months ago he came from his home in Lübeck, on the Baltic coast, to visit my newspaper’s office in nearby Hamburg. T