Sunday, February 24, 2013


It would be easy enough to write me off as merely cat obsessed, but they are the critters with whom I hang the most. If Albert were the critter who curled up with me at night, I would undoubtedly get pictures of him in moments of sweet repose.

Oh man. I made it through Frankenstein, but now on to the more difficult task of writing something about it. And I am sorely irritated by the character of Victor Frankenstein to the degree that I want to swear and throw things. Over coffee, M heard me groaning on the couch, momentarily wondered what was up, and then remembered my frustration at the book. What a first-class dick he (Victor Frankenstein) is. 

I kind of want to diss the book. Now this is a reversal of my previous experience of reading, well, listening to Frankenstein wherein I thought it a revelation. My vituperation is tempered with the knowledge that for an 18-year old in 1817 or whenever she actually wrote it, this IS a masterpiece, however uneven. And I might enjoy ruminating on it the more if I were not under a time constraint to write something right away so that I can get along with the pile of other things I must attend.

And I slowly make my way through Magic Hours, the clock of overdue fines ticking to the tune of $.10 per diem. 

From an article about documentaries about war, Rules of Engagement: The Iraq War and Documentary Film:

Film provides audiences with a uniquely reactive vulnerability; a vivid description of a shrapnel wound can certainly be affecting, but a two-story-tall image of the same can move you to slam shut your tyrannized eyes.

Now in the midst of the next essay, Euphorias of Perrier: The Case Against Robert D. Kaplan (first published in 2006).

... these traits have been visible in Kaplan since his first gook, as has his love of intellectual shortcuts and invincible humorlessness. Kaplan's real problem, which has becomng growingly evident is not his Parkinson's grip on history or that he is a bonehead or a warmonger but rather that he is an incompetent thinker and miserable writer. 

Kaplan is said to have briefed President Bush in 2001, and today finds these protean gentlemen in a surlier and far more interventionist mood. They have fused an apparent personal fondness for strutting machismo with a fetishized idea of simplicity's value. Both have willed into unsteady reality forced senses of personal identification wth the common American, whose imagined need for that which is clear and cut trumps all other moral and political considerations. Bush has gone from an isolationist to an interventionist minus the crucial intermediary stage wherein he actually became interested in other places. Kaplan has traveled from the belief that America should only 'insert troops where overwhelming moral considerations crosshatch with strategic ones' to arguing that 'September 11 had given the U.S. military the justification to go out scouting for trouble, and at the same time to do some good' seemingly without understanding that he has even changed. Doubtless both men would sit any skeptic down and soberly explain that September 11 changed everything. What September 11 changed, however, was not the world itself but their understanding of American's role in the world. For President Bush and Robert D. Kaplan, September 11 primarily seems to mean never having to say you're sorry.

Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that war is the extension of politics by other means. Bush and Kaplan, on the other hand, appear to advocate war as cultural politics by other means. This has resulted in a collision of second-rate minds with third-rate policies. While one man attempts to make the world as simple as he is able to comprehend it, the other whispers in his various adjutants's ears that they are on the side of History itself.

Tom Bissell is my new hero. His writing is so insightful, incisive, and hilarious. Here's a review of this book and a video clip of him speaking which only made me like him more.

Okay. Off to the shower, my next book that needs to be read in a day, This Organic Life, writing my paper, and shopping for tacos fixins. 

I love how these little hummocks of dead grass look like blackbirds in a snowfield.

1 comment:

  1. Tom Bissell is a skilled writer. He's also a dishonest writer and a master of distortion, capable of taking a few sentences out of context and using them to portray his subjects any way he wants. In the case of the Underground Literary Alliance, for instance, as a band of semi-literate yokels scarcely capable of grunting, much less writing. The Johannes Lichtman review takes the worst slurs in the essay about the ULA, puts them upfront, and by so doing, further slants the narrative against us.

    I've documented at my own blog how Bissell did little actual research on us; met not a one of us; he had his thesis worked out in advance (protect the big boys of literature-- one of whom, Dave Eggers, of course was paying him); he gave a completely dishonest presentation of our protests over the grants matters involving Moody, Franzen, and Josip Novakovich (whose wife has since become a twitter follower of mine); and went so far as to liken a small band of DIY writers with absolutely no influence to genocidal Bolsheviks! (I guess that part of his essay went past you.)

    I can't comment on the Kaplan piece, but I suspect it likewise is filled with misrepresentations and distortions. What Bissell is adept at doing is giving people what they want to read. Sure, we all enjoy seeing Bush portrayed as a clueless bozo, with Kaplan as his minion. How honest is the depiction? We really have no way of knowing. The essay to me reads like another Tom Bissell propaganda piece, with deck stacked all the way.
    Have a great day.
    -Karl Wenclas