October 29, 2004
Bonfire of the vanities

Today's New York Times features perhaps the country's most important reviewer discussing one of the most anticipated novels of the fall season. Michiko Kakutani is unsparing in her dissection of Tom Wolfe's upcoming I Am Charlotte Simmons, declaring him to be rather a has-been:

Other observations feel peculiarly dated: gallons and gallons of beer are consumed by the characters but drugs are hardly mentioned, and Britney Spears and the 1978 movie "Animal House" are cited as cultural touchstones. Mr. Wolfe's depictions of the cultural wars on campus over multiculturalism and gay rights have a faintly stale 90's smell to them, as do his depictions of arguments about athletics and academic standards.
She says little, however, about the salacious language that got the New York Post so incensed.

Thought for the day

So, sown in little clumps about the world,
The fair, the faithful and the uncondemned
Broke out spontaneously all over time,
Setting against the random facts of death
A ground and possibility of order,
Against defeat the certainty of love.

And never, like its own, condemned the world
Or hated time, but sang until their death:
"O Thou who lovest, set its love in order."

—W.H. Auden, "Kairos and Logos"

October 27, 2004
On books

My latest American Enterprise Online column is a review of Alain de Botton's Status Anxiety:

"Every adult life could be said to be defined by two great love stories. The first--the story of our quest for sexual love--is well known and well charted," Botton writes. "The second--the story of our quest for love from the world--is a more secret and shameful tale. And yet this second love story is no less intense than the first." Status Anxiety is thus a tale of unrequited love--because no one gets the complete adulation of all the world.
I had high hopes, as Botton's books are normally witty and charming reads, but he exemplifies what often happens when art is sacrificied for politics.

I also discuss Anne Rice's "blood feud" and the death of one of the greatest poets of recent times.

October 24, 2004
Thought for the day

"No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof."

—William James, The Principles of Psychology

October 20, 2004
Thought for the day

"The Sunday silence was broken by two swans winging slowly upstream, and then by the chugging of a little barge, while she waited for that other sound, a sound more intimately connected with the urban love affair than any except the telephone bell, that of a stopping taxicab."

—Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

October 19, 2004
Thought for the day

"Those are the only marriages that work—where you say to hell with it, and hurt three or four dozen people, and tell fifty more to go to hell, and then move out to Nevada or Alaska, or Brazil. If you don't do that, you're not really married."

—Mark Helprin, "Because of the Waters of the Flood"

October 18, 2004
The new star wars

My latest Brainwash column explores shock jock Howard Stern's upcoming move to satellite radio and the future of the medium:

The FCC has no jurisdiction over radio broadcasts that come from satellites in the sky. Regulators can scare executives worried about their million-dollar bonuses and small station managers struggling to get by. But satellite radio takes programming decisions out of the hands of individual stations with their individual prejudices. Howard Stern has no need to fear the loss of big markets, as he did when Clear Channel dropped him. In fifteen months, his show will be heard in every single market in the country, not just on Viacom's 185 stations. Neither does he have to worry about boycotts of his advertisers--he won't have any... [More]

October 15, 2004
Thought for the day

"Reality, said Philip K. Dick, is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. Some years earlier T.S. Eliot had noted that 'humankind cannot stand very much reality.' The older I get, the more I think that the main driving force in human affairs is not greed or lust, still less anything positive like charity or piety: It is wishful thinking. I want it to be so; therefore it must surely be so! A survey of history suggests that all great civilizations were strongly averse to some aspect of reality; and that the aversion was, in each case, a contributing factor in civilizational downfall."

John Derbyshire

On Books

My latest American Enterprise Online books column is now online. I review The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, by one of my heroes, The New Criterion's Roger Kimball.

October 14, 2004
Thought for the day

I am the man you see here plain enough:
Grant I'm a beast, why, beasts must lead beasts' lives!
Suppose I own at once to tail and claws;
The tailless man exceeds me: but being tailed
I'll lash out lion fashion, and leave apes
To dock their stump and dress their haunches up.
My business is not to remake myself,
But make the absolute best of what God made.

Robert Browning

October 10, 2004
Thought for the day

"I've fallen in love. I'm an ordinary woman. I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people."

Brief Encounter

October 05, 2004
Thought for the day

"'It's stupid being a girl,' said George for about the millionth time in her life. 'Always having to be careful when boys can do what they like.'"

—Enid Blyton, Five on a Hike Together

October 03, 2004
Thought for the day

"Eating, drinking and procreating are . . . genuinely human functions. But abstractly taken separate from the sphere of all other human activities and turned into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal functions."

—Karl Marx

October 01, 2004
Poetry corner

All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay;
This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday;
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

John Donne