Tag Archives: Books and authors

Literature rocks

My heavens, this is the sort of thing dreadfully in need of being said (HT Instapundit):

Real life is not like a science experiment . . . . Humans are not purely rational beings. They have phobias, biases and other irrational elements. Ego, hatred and childhood experiences are not something that can be turned into statistics. . . . . [W]orks of literature can help [Obama]. Precisely because they’re not concerned with reducing every event to facts and figures, and because they’re not limited in length and description like policy briefs, they can explore events and people with a thoroughness that factual books and briefs can’t. They describe the world as it really is–and so are essential to making knowledgeable policy decisions.

Or any other kind of decision. The author applies it to Obama as “emotionally detached” and having things go badly for him. Fatuous that, if it’s that which will save this bad presidency. I will ignore the Obama part, if you don’t mind, and welcome the wise words that will lead a decision-maker to do the right thing, or increase his chances of doing it.

He’s puffing a book that makes the point:

This lesson–how great works of literature provide invaluable guidance to understanding events and people–is brilliantly explained in a new book, Grand Strategies, by Charles Hill. In the book, Hill, a . . . former career diplomat who . . . lectures at Yale . . . takes readers on a grand tour through the great pieces of literature, along the way explaining their lessons for policymakers. It’s the perfect primer for the president and his team.

Not quite, though it sounds interesting. The perfect primer would be Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. But big-govt. enthusiasts won’t touch it. Leopards and their spots, and all that, you know.


Men Astutely Trained

This “history of the Jesuits in the American century” is worth spending time with and on. McDonough is cogent and interesting. Rewarding stuff.

For instance, the sociologist John L. Thomas SJ, on p. 439, according to McDonough:

The family [is] the crucial unit of social morality . . .  The church, then, [should] specialize in bolstering the ethical order.

This was Thomas’s view in the 50s and 60s.  His The American Catholic Family was published in 1956 by Prentice-Hall.

This view vied with the vision of socio-political change that eventually overtook and took over Jesuit thinking, with its concentration on “social problems” and emphasis on direct action, usually governmental, to solve them.

A big mistake in my view, having been there and done that as a fire-breathing young Jesuit in the 50s and 60s.  Problem is, this focus on the problems — poverty, racial discrimination, etc. — is essentially defeatist, encouraging as it does the short-term fix to the exclusion of later consequences.

For instance, how has society profited from massive welfare fixes that helped undermine black family structure — paying women to have babies in the absence of resident father, etc.?  Not very much, it seems.

Nuances and evasions: the Obama way

In his America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance,” Steve Sailer compares O. to an art forger who had his principles, among them not to sign Rembrandt to the Rembrandt fakes which he artfully drew on 17th-century paper, figuring that if museums were dumb and greedy enough to buy a masterpiece cheap or think that’s what they were doing, it was their problem, not his. So Obama during his presidential campaign (pp. 184-185)

. . . . prefer[red]to mislead without lying outright. He like[d] to obscure the truth under so many thoughtful nuances, dependent clauses, Proustian details, lawyerly evasions, and eloquent summarizations of his opponents’ arguments that the members of his audience ultimately just make up little daydreams about how he must agree with them. Rather like Hebborn [the forger], Obama seems to feel that he’s not to blame if the press and public want to be fooled.

“I can’t say I blame him,” adds Sailer. Ah those thoughtful nuances.  They send me.

Who wrote Dreams?

Literary mystery here:

Prior to 1990, when Barack Obama contracted to write Dreams From My Father, he had written very close to nothing. Then, five years later, this untested 33 year-old produced what Time Magazine has called — with a straight face — “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”

The public is asked to believe Obama wrote Dreams From My Father on his own, almost as though he were some sort of literary idiot savant. I do not buy this canard for a minute, not at all. Writing is as much a craft as, say, golf. To put this in perspective, imagine if a friend played a few rounds in the high 90s and then a few years later, without further practice, made the PGA Tour. It doesn’t happen.

And yet, given the biases of the literary establishment, no reviewer of note has so much as questioned Obama’s role in the writing, then or now. As the New York Times gushed, Obama was “that rare politician who can write . . . and write movingly and genuinely about himself.” These accolades matter all the more because Obama has built his political persona around his presumably superior intellect, Dreams being exhibit A.

The rest of it is here.  With yet more here, beginning,

Evidence continues to mount . . .

I may vomit some more

The Obamas: Portrait of an American Family

Soon we will vote for our next president, and for the first time in history, one of the two candidates is a Black man. For a year, Essence pursued an interview with the entire Obama family‹to no avail. Finally, this summer ESSENCE became the only Black media outlet allowed a glimpse into the lives of Barack, Michelle and their two girls, Malia and Sasha, when we were invited to their South Side Chicago home. Weeks later, veteran political journalist Gwen Ifill was with the family as they campaigned in a small mostly White western town, and she flew with them to a Black church in the urban Midwest.

Sounds like a real scoop.

Barack Obama is sitting in the back of his rented luxury campaign bus with its granite counters and two flat-screen TVs. The Illinois senator’s arms are wrapped around his wife, Michelle, whom he doesn’t get to see much these days. At this very moment he is, of all things, singing.


No wonder she’s going to ask these questions:

Mayor Palin, Barack Obama is a handsome, charismatic demigod. How many boxes of Kleenex will you need after your crushing loss?

Senator Biden, what is your favorite color? And if you have time for a follow-up question: Why?

Mayor, you talk funny and you own a tanning bed. Why haven’t you released Trig’s birth certificate?

Senator, have you seen those pictures of Obama in his swim trunks? If not, I have them right here.

Etc., here.  And it’s only a partial list!

I may vomit

Doubleday says that [Gwen] Ifill “surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”

. . . in her new book about “the age of Obama.” 

The title is the opening line of the Monty Wooley character in the 1939 Broadway play and 1942 movie and 2000 TV film (Nathan Lane), “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” 

For a rather fetching mockup of the expected Ifill approach tomorrow night, look here.

The poet and the junior high struggle

Here’s to an American winner:

If Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were alive today, he’d be 201 years old and on his 13th knee replacement. He isn’t, having died in 1882 at 75, young by today’s standards. His bust was placed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey after his death. It’s the only American bust there.

“Like T. S. Eliot after him, he spoke with authority on the whole of European literature. He wrote six language textbooks, and was fluent in German, French, Italian and Spanish,” said reviewer Jay Parini in 2001. Translator of Dante, Ovid, Virgil, Goethe, and Heine among others, if there had been Nobel prizes, he would have gotten one.

In addition, he had an Oak Park school named after him, posthumously. 

 There’s more more more . . . .

Who’s who, what’s what in Georgia

“Virtually everyone is wrong” about who started it in Georgia, including APwrites Michael Totten from Tbilisi:

Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Russia seen through Georgian eyes:

Peacekeeper Poster Tbilisi

Totten has his info from a Georgia govt. media advisor, vetted by U. of Montana teacher and author of three books about the Caucasus — Azerbaijan Diary, Georgia Diary and Chechnya Diary — Thomas Goltz, based on his near-20 years of being there.

Read on.

This library knows the score

Chi Trib’s John Kass explains to National Review writer Stanley Kurtz why he can’t have at the Annenberg Challenge files at U. of Ill. at Chicago in order to check on how close Obama was to unrepentant terrorist/school reformer William Ayers.

The Richard J. Daley Library doesn’t want nobody nobody sent. And Richard J.’s son, Shortshanks, is now the mayor.

And nobody sent Kurtz. 

It’s the mayor, stupid, and he defended the non-access to library materials in Chicago’s premier bastion of state-campus learning, where free inquiry reigns and young minds and old rove happily through the groves of truth and beauty.

The Tribune’s City Hall reporter, Dan Mihalopoulos, asked Daley on Wednesday if the Richard J. Daley Library should release the documents. Shortshanks didn’t like that one. He kept insisting he would be “very frank,” a phrase that makes the needles on a polygraph start jumping.

Bill Ayers—I’ve said this—his father [top dog at Commonwealth Edison] was a great friend of my father,” the mayor said. “I’ll be very frank. Vietnam divided families, divided people. It was a terrible time of [sic] our country. People didn’t know one another. Since then, I’ll be very frank, [Ayers] has been in the forefront of a lot of education issues and helping us in public schools and things like that.”

The mayor expressed his frustrations with outside agitators like Kurtz.

“People keep trying to align himself [sic] with Barack Obama,” Daley said. “It’s really unfortunate. They’re friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he’s been making a strong contribution to our community.”

Point is, somebody sent Ayers.

UIC faculty and staff, understandably eager to keep bread and butter on table, are certain not to object to this thwarting of inquiry.  Sure, retired dean Stanley Fish, outspoken in liberal causes, could raise a stink from his now-Florida base, say in a NY Times op-ed.  . . . .  I said he could, ok?

My own Society of Midland Authors, hoary with antiquity by virtue of its founding by Chicago literary greats, could protest by withdrawing its archives from this very special collection which doesn’t want nobody nobody sent.  . . . .  It could, ok?

Meanwhile, what’s this Shortshanks business that the redoubtable Kass tosses into the journalistic hopper?  Well, make it Longshanks, and you have the English king Edward I, a big guy, who among other things in a long life of beating people up and taking over countries, expelled the Jews in 1290 — he needed the money.

The present Mayor Daley is not very tall, nor was his father, hence Shortshanks, with a nod to the powers of a medieval king.  It works for me, but still Kass might want to rethink the ‘Shanks part, or explain it better than I just did,


Reader D: Mayor Daley in this instance may remind John Kass of Long or Shortshanks, but he reminds me of Chief Clancy Wiggum in The Simpson’s, who’s wont to say: “Okay folks, show’s over. Nothing to see here, show’s over, move on ….”

The approaching death of a reporter

As dashed as I am by news of Robert Novak’s end-game illness, I am happy to pass on this assessment of him and his work by the admirable Michael Barone:

I have been reading Novak’s work since the beginning of the Evans and Novak column in 1963, and I have become more and more of an admirer over the years. Here is my review for the Weekly Standard, published just a year ago, of Novak’s riveting autobiography, The Prince of Darkness.

It was an honor to be asked to write the review, and a bit dicey, because Novak’s book takes note of his not-on-speaking-terms feud with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

As I wrote in the review, The Prince of Darkness belongs on the short list of books that tell you just about all you need to know about politics and journalism in the last two thirds of the 20th century—the others being Ronald Steel’s Walter Lippmann and the American Century, Robert Merry’s Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century, and Katharine Graham’s Personal History.

He never stopped being a reporter, Barone notes, and riveting indeed is Prince of Darkness, in which Novak also mentions up front and late in the book in detail his conversion to Catholicism, which he writes gave him the wherewithal to cope with life’s ups and downs in a manner he had not previously experienced.

I am grateful to Barone for naming those other books, which I intend to read, as I am reading now The Way the World Works, by Jude Wanniski, a book that Novak says immensely influenced his view of the world, especially as regards economics.

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