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Showing posts from March 27, 2022

The insulted and the injured or, the politics of the insult

  William Cobbett hangs on like a ghost in that ghostly gallery, the Penguin paperback classics. He is known now for Rural Rides. In his time, though, the early part of the 19 th century in Britain,   he was a great self-constituted political and moral brass band, producing a weekly paper that   is of a vastness such that few who dive in there swim very far – in short, a man tied body and soul to his time. William Hazlitt, who shared many of his political opinions, is always being rediscovered – Cobbett, not so much. Hazlitt’s essay on Cobbett begins by comparing him to a boxer, and goes on to foreswear comparison at all: “One has no notion of him as making use of a fine pen, but a great mutton-fist; his style stuns his readers, and he 'fillips the ear of the public with a three-man beetle.' 3  He is too much for any single newspaper antagonist; 'lays waste' a city orator or Member of Parliament, and bears hard upon the Government itself. He is a kind of fourth est

will smith and the male fugue

  “And I would like to say”, Julian said to himself, “that I thought it was about time someone shut him up.” This is a key line in John O’Hara’s first and tightest novel, Appointment in Samarra. Julien English is a man who is going down in the little bourgeois court society of Gibbsville, Pennsylvania. The act that precipitates and quickens the fall happens in the country club, as he stands there listening to an ascending boss figure named Harry Reilly, who owns a good chunk of Julian English’s car lot. Reilly is telling a dirty story in a fake Irish accent and is surrounded by suckups who say things like, Harry, I don’t know how you remember all them stories! A Ring Lardner scene, Lardner would have dispatched the entire book in 15 pages, but O’hara is not a humorist, nor does he favor going short on material like this. The American novel – even one in which the characters are all white burgomeister types with Caddies and country club memberships – does a wonderful job of tracing