Quick Hits

1. Nepophile Adam Bellow’s National Review piece about Harriet Miers and the history of presidential cronyism is a fresh, informative read. But this line is disingenuous:

“Dynastic families are not like yours and mine (unless your name is Bush or Kennedy).”

Huh. Yeah, or Bellow. I notice he doesn’t have to slave away on a litblog just to get his articles read.

2. Unlike the folks at Bookninja, I really don’t care about the new cartoon-illustrated version of Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style. Elegant writing always risks preciousness, and that line has just been crossed.

3. A bunch of new lit movies are in the news:

Love in the Time of Cholera is my favorite Marquez and has a great cinematic sweep. But the story follows a love triangle from youth to old age, and I wonder how they’re going to pull that off. Not that cheezy Back to the Future plastic makeup, I hope. This will be a tough one. If Ismail Merchant were still alive, this would be a great Merchant/Ivory flick.

Encyclopedia Brown? Well, I want to know that they’re going to stop the reel every fifteen minutes and make the audience guess the answer, or else it’s NOT Encyclopedia Brown. What else is good about these books — the brilliant prose? The characters? The only good character in the book was Bugs Meany, the eternal enemy who always had it in for Brown and Sally. What was his problem, anyway — was he a Soc? A Shark? A Crip? Anyway, they’ll probably get Hilary Duff to play Sally, and it’s just not cool.

Breaking The Rules, straight outta Germany, is a new documentary on underground arts and culture that puts jazz, beat poetry, hippie culture and hiphop in context as four varieties of a single counterculture. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I like the premise just fine — in fact, they just described the CD collection in my car.

4. A lot of people are beating on Time Magazine for an insipid and unnecessary List of 100 Great Novels Since 1923, by Time book critic Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo. I agree that this list is pure dullsville. It’s basically the same titles any consortium of high school English teachers would have come up with, and Henry Luce’s flagship magazine is supposed to be more intellectually adventurous than that.

I have some insights into Lev Grossman, because he and I worked together years ago at Time Warner’s Pathfinder. I was a manager in the tech group and he was an editorial intern, several years younger than me. He was a nice guy, undoubtedly smart, literary and perceptive. He was exceptional among the interns because his first novel, Warp, was just coming out. I read it and liked it. But I also found Lev Grossman bland in conversation, and decidedly uncontroversial. I’ve always been the type of office personality who gets into vicious arguments, makes noise in the hallways and juggles friends and enemies on all sides, but Lev was the type of worker you had to strain to notice. The only type I saw fire in his eyes was in an elevator when the topic turned to video games. Nothing about Lev Grossman shouted out “I will be Time’s book critic in five years”.

But there you go. Another one who doesn’t have to slave away on a litblog just to get his articles read.

6 Responses

  1. Encyclopedia BrownWell, I
    Encyclopedia Brown

    Well, I want to know that they’re going to stop the reel every fifteen minutes and make the audience guess the answer, or else it’s NOT Encyclopedia Brown.

    This is true. It would also be so cool, because, you know, interactive film-going is the wave of the future*.

    I do have to beg to differ with your opinion that Bugs Meany was the only cool character. He was okay, but Encyclopedia Brown was so uncool that he became cool by default, which is the coolest kind of cool.

    Maybe they’ll get Lindsay Lohan instead of Hilary Duff.

    *I just made that up.

  2. breaking the rulesi
    breaking the rules

    i definitely want to see it. should be at film clubs around here soon…

  3. I can picture them getting
    I can picture them getting somebody who looks like that annoying blonde kid who played Charlie in the original Willy Wonka to play Encyclopedia Brown. An anonymous fresh-faced goody-goody nerd. Not sure about so uncool he’s cool — he may have to get a little more uncool to merit that one.

    Bugs Meany, though — there is a character with depth. The whole movie hinges upon this portrayal.

  4. Elements of StyleQuestion:
    Elements of Style

    Question: Have you looked at the illustrated “Elements of Style” to determine whether you liked it or not, or are you just rejecting it out of hand as something that shouldn’t be attempted?

    I haven’t had a chance to look at the illustrations yet (except for one or two in reviews), but it sounds like a fun and original concept to me. Until I actually see the book firsthand, I’ll reserve any further comment.

  5. Well, I saw some
    Well, I saw some reproductions in the NY Times and on one or two other litblogs, and I didn’t like the actual illustrations, which are overly pretty.

    If, say, Robert Crumb or the late Charles M. Schulz had attempted this, I’m sure I would have liked the result. I mean no disrespect to the cartoonists of the world.

  6. Excellent Qualifications re
    Excellent Qualifications re Time BR

    How you described the fellow was perfect perfect perfect for exactly what it seems to me that Time magazine would want.

    The perfect blandness.

    And any actual passion is for video games.

    Perfecting this sort of blandness and presentation of the blandness as if it touches a zeitgeist is a major feat and people who do it do well financially at major institutions such as Time Miggyzeen.

    I think it is mainly an inherent trait, very difficult to be learned.
    Not to knock this guy personally, I don’t know him and mean nothing nasty or personal. It’s just your description of him from around the office was so stellarly apt for someone — anyone — who would rise at a major media outlet like Time.

    You described the perfect qualities and qualifications for that.

    I am repeating myself now I think.

    I’ll stop and I’ll stop and go back to obsessing about CB Colby and that guy who wrote a number of well received boooooooks who isn’t David Foster Wallace who wrote Infinite Mess but could be confuded with him for some reason.

    Oh yeah, and thanks for the list link of Time’s best books from 1923.

    I am fervently awaiting the best books from years which contain a prime number. It’ll be called Time’s Primes — the list of the best of the best from prime number years.

    The info box will be:

    A Primer on Primes

    Prime numbers are numbers that can’t be divided by any other number but itself or one. The 20th century was a big one for years with prime numbers with either 99 or 100 such years depending on how one looks at it. The 21st century has started out with a bang — 4 of the fisrt five years have primes, but over the next 95 years, it’ll have no where the number of primes as did that wild 19th century.

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