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Showing posts from May 20, 2018

The white novelist

In the sixties, the heavy hitter white novelists often included black and ethnic characters of all kinds in their novels. An interesting change in the field occurred with the advent of neo-liberalism and the spread of what I call euphemism culture (a culture in which racial injustices are corrected by finding soothing words to correct them). White novelists, the heavy hitters, seemed, often, to retreat to a segregated world of whiteness. While you could and should criticize a novelist like Tom Wolfe for stereotyping blacks in his novels, you couldn’t do the same for, say, the Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner because there are no blacks in the novel. Astonishingly, in this novel of the 1970s in NYC, the black portion of the population seems to have been whited out. I think Rachel Kushner is a great novelist, and I’m re-reading the Flamethrowers and loving it, again, but I do think about this. I also think about the fact that few reviewers ever review novels featuring all white ca

strike, NFL players! And let the owners play the game

In my opinion, if the tubby little billionaire owners of football teams in the NFL want to control what the players think, the players should just let the owners play the game. Lets see how many stadiums are filled as Jerry Jones gets tackled by Zygi Wilf. Of course, what I'm expecting is for this to go to court, and for the Trump court to vote down the right to express an opinion as a minor and dispensible thing - in comparison with the enormous right to bear concealed arms at a college campus.  Strike, players, strike!

by the book

Back before the NYT destroyed, or blandified, its Book section, it used to have a regular feature called By The Book. This consisted of questions like: What books are currently on your night stand? Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today? Do you have a favorite genre? Any literary guilty pleasures? Etc. These questions form a sort of program: the writer – the novelist – is part of a profession, and spends his or her time reading and judging texts, which are also part of the profession. Even social time is professionalized: “You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?” The limits of this set of questions imply an image of what the writer – and here, I am mostly talking about the writer of fiction, or poems, or essays, or memoirs – does as a laborer. The NYT is traditionally for management, so the questions are never about the means of production, as in, what do publishing   houses do correctly or not, what

against debating

Most intellectuals don’t have fans. They are lucky to have respondents to pieces they publish in small academic journals. But there are some intellectuals who do have fans. Especially among rightwing intellectuals who achieve a certain name recognition (Christopher Hitchens, Jordan Peterson, etc.) you will find an odd romanticism about “debate”. The fans are always lauding the debating skills of their idols. I was a member of the debate club in high school – as I suspect few of the fans were – and the one thing you learn about debate is that it is not an instrument for truth. Rather, it is an instrument for winning an argument. The mark of the good debater is to win both as a supporter of “x” and as an opponent of “x”. The dispute about the meaning and methods of debate are ancient. Around 500 BC, sophists – to give them a slightly anachronistic name – discovered and developed the techniques of argument and rhetoric. Discovered, here, means simply brought into consciousness s

the lesson of Martin Amis

Martin Amis has led one of the most puzzling careers in the contemporary novel business. He started out of the gate with some obvious advantages. He had a good ear for speech, and an even better ear for caricaturing speech. He could create recognizable types – especially the aspiring Yob – in the great tradition of English comic novelists. And he had a believable misanthropy going for him – like his Dad, and like Evelyn Waugh. These are great strengths. I tried to re-read Money a year ago, and didn’t get far, cause I wasn’t in the mood. But I could still see what a piece of work, in the good sense, it was. With all of these qualities, Amis should have gone from strength to strength in Blairite GB. Instead, he jumped the track, and started producing these novels about Stalin’s Gulag and Hitler's concentration camps. He came to these subjects with heavy handicaps. Amis’s great strength was, as I have said, aural. You could hear a lot of Money. But he has no sense wh

negative externalities, y'all.

It is a semi-holiday here in France. I guess I should include the marker, pre-Uber France. Macronists everywhere despair about these holidays. So it is time to: reference an article by Stefano Bartolini that deals with growth using a Polanyi-style scheme of analysis. Naturally. You know I was a-goin’ there. It bears the rebarbative title (by which I mean a title fit for a cannibal's barbecue) “Beyond Accumulation and Technical Progress: Negative Externalities as an Engine of Economic Growth.” The abstract, however, hearteningly poses questions that economists have generally ruled out according to the icky rule: if it shows that capitalism is icky, forget it. “The traditional explanation of growth based on the primum and secundum movens of accumulation and technical progress, faces two major empirical anomalies. Why do people work so much i.e. why do they strive so much for money? The growth literature provides no answer to these question, nor to the further and very important