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.