Monthly Archives: April 2010

Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone

Not me.  Mark Twain.  He wasn’t in to Jane Austen, it would seem.  And he was plenty pithy about it, as opposed to the 19 Rules of Literary Art his disgust with James Fenimore Cooper forced him to manufacture.  I’m with him on ole Fenimore Cooper, though I myself am an Austen fan.  Seems to me that if you are going to be anti-Jane, you best be able to do it as snarkily as Mr. Clemens did.

Doesn't that skull just beg for a shin-bone smacking?

Want more?  Alright:

Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946):
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

God yes.  I’ve never understood Wilde-worship that goes beyond his unbearably clever one-liners.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost, according to Samuel Johnson:
‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.

I’ve been defeated by Paradise Lost a couple of times.  One of these days.

John Steinbeck, according to James Gould Cozzens (1957):
I can’t read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn’t read the proletariat crap that came out in the ’30s.

A lot of Steinbeck is, unfortunately, proletariat crap.

J.D.Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962):
I don’t like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn’t a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don’t like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it’s so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can’t stand it.

Zing!

William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway:
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

Take that, Bill!

Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888):
Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!

Pow!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, according to Gore Vidal (1980):
He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.

Smack!

Robert Frost, according to James Dickey (1981):
If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes….a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

Damn …

Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett:
It took me years to ascertain that Henry James’s work was giving me little pleasure….In each case I asked myself: ‘What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it’s going to?’ Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

Yup.

And finally, Mr. Clemens gets his comeuppance:

Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922):
A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Thanks to the “Book Examiner” Michelle Kerns for getting these together. There are 50 all told.

Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone

Not me.  Mark Twain.  He wasn’t in to Jane Austen, it would seem.  And he was plenty pithy about it, as opposed to the 19 Rules of Literary Art his disgust with James Fenimore Cooper forced him to manufacture.  I’m with him on ole Fenimore Cooper, though I myself am an Austen fan.  Seems to me that if you are going to be anti-Jane, you best be able to do it as snarkily as Mr. Clemens did.

Doesn't that skull just beg for a shin-bone smacking?

Want more?  Alright:

Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946):
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

God yes.  I’ve never understood Wilde-worship that goes beyond his unbearably clever one-liners.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost, according to Samuel Johnson:
‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.

I’ve been defeated by Paradise Lost a couple of times.  One of these days.

John Steinbeck, according to James Gould Cozzens (1957):
I can’t read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn’t read the proletariat crap that came out in the ’30s.

A lot of Steinbeck is, unfortunately, proletariat crap.

J.D.Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962):
I don’t like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn’t a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don’t like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it’s so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can’t stand it.

Zing!

William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway:
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

Take that, Bill!

Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888):
Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!

Pow!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, according to Gore Vidal (1980):
He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.

Smack!

Robert Frost, according to James Dickey (1981):
If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes….a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

Damn …

Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett:
It took me years to ascertain that Henry James’s work was giving me little pleasure….In each case I asked myself: ‘What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it’s going to?’ Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

Yup.

And finally, Mr. Clemens gets his comeuppance:

Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922):
A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Thanks to the “Book Examiner” Michelle Kerns for getting these together. There are 50 all told.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

I’m an equal-opportunity skeptic.  No religion, howsoever joyless, is more sacred than the First Amendment.  May 20, 2010, folks.  It’s Draw Mohammed Day.

Cartoon via Molly Norris.  Spotted at Idiotprogrammer.  For context on the whole kerfluffle, see this by David Itzkoff.

Note: Please ignore spelling errors … “hearby”??

Tax Day postscript: Tea Party in a public park

Thursday night is Story Time at the library.  The scionness and I drop the scionness mama off at class and now that the weather’s nicer, go to the park for half an hour or so.  There’s an orange turtle there the scionness likes to climb on.

Yesterday the part of the park by the playground had been taken over by teabaggers.  Damned if I was going to deny the scionness her date with the turtle, so we went on ahead and played anyway as crap country music (and I say this as someone that loves country – real country) blared from the speakers and a small clump of palefaces gathered to protest Tax Day.  In a public park.  Paid for by taxes.  I think it’s safe to say the irony was lost on them.

It's lost on them, too.

Not unrelatedly, 2010 likely marks the first year more minority babies than white babies will be born in the US.  The teabaggers don’t like it.  Good.  If everything goes smoothly, the scionness mama and will be doing our part to overthrow the honky hegemony come November.

As the scionness and I were betaking ourselves to the public library (paid for by you-know-what) some cowboy hat had the mike, talking about how this isn’t the country he grew up in anymore. He’s right.  It sure ain’t.

Suck it up, teabaggers

Steve Almond writes fair-to-middling short stories but he’s come up with knee-slapper of a column for Tax Day.  My favorite parts:

You dittoheads know how it works: Every April 15, millions of decent, hardworking Americans get shaken down by the IRS, whose sadistic geeks make them fill out really complicated forms, then send checks. This moolah is handed directly to welfare queens and illegal immigrants, who are required to mate in the hopes of producing a Mongrel Super Race of Criminal Freeloaders. If there’s any dough left over, it goes into the Super Secret Christian Baby Abortion Fund. …

1. Tax Day Forced Me to Get My Fiscal Shit Together

As has been clear to everyone in my life for a very long time, I am super-disorganized and (more insidiously) I am deeply invested in my disorganization, which I consider to be a cute, writerly affectation, à la Dickens, but which is really more like an excuse for being lazy and inconsiderate.

My wife, who is also a writer, helpfully pointed this out shortly after our wedding, in late March of 2006. My refusal to keep records of any kind, my blithe yen for guesstimating figures, my rakish refusal to pay estimated taxes — all these quirks, she argued, might land me in prison. “A little time in the hoosegow wouldn’t be so bad,” I said. “Think about it: lots of free time, almost no overhead.”

My wife, pregnant at the time, did not find this funny. …

2. Children, It Turns Out, Are Extremely Fragile

This hadn’t occurred to me until I had two of my own. I now spend a lot of time worrying about stuff that I never used to worry about. Such as: the quality of my drinking water and food and local public schools and parks and playgrounds and roads. And thus the notion that my taxes actually pay for things required by my fragile children has managed to burrow its way through my thick American skull. Paying a small portion of my income for these collective benefits is not only a basic civic duty, in other words, but it is in my interest.

Funnily enough, paying taxes also forced me to get my fiscal shit together.  Well, that and returning to America and having a kid and getting a job and trying to buying a house and then working on having another kid.  But also Tax Day.

The takehome: suck it up, teabaggers, and pay your taxes.

I got blisters on my fingers

Can you imagine if The Beatles had played this in front of 100,000 at Wembley?  They would have torn the place down. Woodstock?  The hippies would have set the farm on fire.

This song contains all the rocking genres that came after: punk, outlaw country, hard rock, metal, and all the gazillion subgenres that came after.  It’s all in there.

Best listened to as loud as your neighbors can stand.   (An unoriginal observation, I know.)

Kill your commute

Because economists, who are renowned for always getting things right, tell you to:

A few years ago, the Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer announced the discovery of a new human foible, which they called “the commuters paradox”. They found that, when people are choosing where to live, they consistently underestimate the pain of a long commute. This leads people to mistakenly believe that the big house in the exurbs will make them happier, even though it might force them to drive an additional hour to work … according to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer, a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

I’m currently doing a 45-minute commute five times a week and though there are little stretches of good thinking time and it’s also a kid-free opportunity to talk on the phone, mostly I hate it.  Hate it hate it hate it.

These good economists say a 40% raise would ease the pain but I’m not sure.  40% more money doesn’t buy back the 16 goddamn hours a month I waste sitting in a car.  That’s a whole waking day.  One day.  Gone.  Shot.  Down the drain.  Wasted.  And wasted badly, envisioning double-barreled shotguns when the old guy in his damn feed truck drives 40 mph for 15 miles down a two-lane highway to the feedlot.  (Note: a Wyobraska commute is not your typical American commute.)

Fortunately, hope is on the horizon.  The house we’re looking at buying we’re largely looking at because, besides its other virtues, it is walking distance to work. Fifteen minutes, give or take.  A commute, still, but one I hope to find tolerable and hopefully, during the one week of spring and the one week of fall that we enjoy around here, even enjoyable.  Time to put those Swiss economists to the test.

Linky spotted at Pop Economics.

Abandoning paradise

I abandoned “paradise” in Thailand to come home to the high plains. Why? I am sometimes asked.

Well, it’s like my grandfather used to say: if I have to explain it to you, I can’t.

Now, this lady may be a Californian transplant who believes in an illusion of happiness, but she kind of can.