Heading into the holiday weekend I will admit I don’t have much to say. So instead I offer the following links for your enjoyment:
— I recently stumbled on to an interesting piece of short fiction over at Killing the Buddha. In it Steve Almond offers a modern take on the fall of Adam and Eve. It is sort of odd, funny, and tragic all at the same time. Worth a read.
– One of my heroes William F. Buckley announced this week that he would be handing over the financial strings of National Review to the next generation. Newsweek has a short Q&A with WFB on the transition and other subjects. Here is an interesting exchange:
Without pointing fingers, then, do you think that there has been a coarsening in the tone and form of political debate?
Yes, I think it’s so. I worry most that true eloquence should not be acknowledged. This hasn’t happened, but it threatens, and yes, television and dumbed-down education are primarily responsible.
Does it matter?
Yes. It isn’t absolutely obvious that if the Gettysburg Address were given today, it would instantly rivet the world? It’s ironic that an increase in literacy doesn’t bring a corresponding increase in quality speech.
What do we need to do to bring back thoughtful debate?
What’s always needed is the cultivation of impatienceâ€”and even contempt forâ€”ideologically abbreviated declamation. You have to put cotton in your ears when the national conventions come on.
I hope to tackle Buckley’s “literary biography” Miles Gone By in the very near future. It is too bad that Sam Tanenhaus had to put his biography on hold to take over at the NYTRB because Buckley cries out for a good biography (I don’t think the John Judis work will suffice). Interestingly, this volume includes a free audio CD featuring 48 minutes of excerpts read by WFB himself and each introduced by Walter Cronkite.
– Speaking of National Review, the web site has a symposium on summer reading. Interesting to note: Richard Brookhiser is planning to take up David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Oblivion; Thomas Hibbs is taking up Oprah’s challenge and reading Anna Karenina; Andrew Stuttaford plans on reading the latest from David Sedaris Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim; a number of participants, including fellow blogger Terry Teachout, plan on reading the aforementioned Miles Gone By; Ramesh Ponnuru offers: “Elizabeth Costello: I’ve liked everything else that J. M. Coetzee has written, so I’ll probably like this.” Finally, NR deputy managing editor and author of Kings of the North, Alexander Rose offers this:
Well, I can tell you what I wish I hadn’t read last summer: Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Until then, I had labored under the touching misapprehension that Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six was the worst novel ever written. I can’t even begin to describe the number of flaws in Brown’s plot, and his writing is so wooden it’s an insult to furniture.
Moving upwards and onwards, there is Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which I’m halfway through (page 576). I don’t usually like long books â€” I can never finish the things (I still don’t know what happens to David Copperfield in, er, David Copperfield), and so I’ve tended to sympathize with the Duke of Gloucester, who, upon receiving a volume from Edward “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” Gibbon, exclaimed, “Another damned, thick, square, book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?” But I think I shall finish this odd mixture of high-tech skullduggery, treasure-hunting, World War II action, and cryptography.
I am not sure it is fair of Mr. Rose to complain as his book is nearly 500 pages. I suppose length is relative . . .