February 28, 2005
Thought for the day

I’m sorry, but “Deep Throat” really was about the joys of oral sex, and from where I was sitting they didn’t even look that joyful. To trumpet its progress as if it were Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” or “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” or, for that matter, “Last Tango in Paris,” which premièred later the same year, is to shrink the potency of art and to invest in the monopoly of junk...

The one thing we can say for certain of “adult” entertainment is that it is never adult; in its very eagerness to fence off sexual abandonment from other forms of lived experience, it betrays its origins in the hearts of the perpetually and perspiringly adolescent. As a caustic Norman Mailer remarks, “The worst thing to be said about us Americans is that we sell our souls for a giggle.” You may declare yourself groovily attuned to the liberties afforded by pornography (remember Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson standing shoulder to shoulder with Harry Reems), or you may rush to enshrine your distaste for it in frightened legislation, but you are falling into the same trap. The thousands who congratulated themselves on their ruttish bravado, simply by virtue of having seen a trashy little flick in Times Square, were no less deluded than the millions who fell away in strangulated horror at the revelation, during the Super Bowl broadcast of 2004, that Janet Jackson, in her capacity as a female mammal, possessed a nipple.

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker

Not one of their favorite things

The Sound of Music has finally come to Austria. One of the world's most beloved musicals is only now receiving its first full staging in the country in which it's set. And what a staging it is:

But some Austrians remain sensitive to the country's Nazi past, and Saturday's premiere - in German, with actors dressed as Nazi storm troopers standing guard in the audience, a theater box filled with mock Nazi dignitaries, and a huge swastika banner draped onstage - dredged up painful memories.
Particularly amongst those who were around during World War II:
"It's too much, too much," said one elderly woman who refused to give her name as she waited at the coat check Saturday night. "I was 12 the last time I saw such things in any theater."
And here's something I didn't know— Forget Mozart. "Austrian tourism surveys show that three out of four Americans come to Salzburg, the former home of the real-life von Trapp family, because of the musical."

February 23, 2005
Thought for the day

"We use each other like axes to cut down the ones we really love."

—Lawrence Durrell

February 22, 2005
Gonzo, but great?

Tom Wolfe has published an appreciation of the late Hunter S. Thompson in today's Wall Street Journal:

I invited him to dinner at a swell restaurant in Aspen and a performance at the Big Tent, where the conference was held. My soon-to-be wife, Sheila, and I gave the waitress our dinner orders. Hunter ordered two banana daiquiris and two banana splits. Once he had finished them off, he summoned the waitress, looped his forefinger in the air and said, "Do it again." Without a moment's hesitation he downed his third and fourth banana daiquiris and his third and fourth banana splits, and departed with a glass of Wild Turkey bourbon in his hand.
I agree completely with Steve Sailer, though, on Wolfe's pronouncement that Thompson is "the century's greatest comic writer in the English language." As SS notes, "Compared to the lifetime output of Wodehouse and Waugh, well, us colonials aren't in the big leagues." (If I had to pick just one, I'd choose the latter.)

Budding Bolsheviks

My latest Brainwash column concerns the alarming news that "when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes 'too far' in the rights it guarantees."

February 21, 2005
Thought for the day

"Extreme love, once it is recognized, has the stamp of the indubitable. I knew to perfection both my condition and what I must instantly do about it."

—Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head

February 20, 2005
Thought for the day

"Being there was like being in heaven, without going to all the bother and expense of dying."

—P.G. Wodehouse on New York City

February 16, 2005
On Books

My latest American Enterprise column is now online.

Mark Edmundson’s Why Read? (Bloomsbury) seems at first glance yet another conservative salvo in the culture wars. An indictment of university liberal arts departments and a defense of the Western canon, the book’s litany of concerns echoes Allan Bloom’s classic The Closing of the American Mind and its many successors.

But if that’s what the book was, it would be more difficult to recommend...

February 14, 2005
Happy Valentine's Day!

Go read this.

Soundtrack for the day: Mozart's Piano Sonata in A Minor, K. 310.

February 09, 2005
Thought for the day

"Jealousy is the most dreadfully involuntary of all sins."

Iris Murdoch, who died six years ago yesterday

February 02, 2005
On Books

My latest American Enterprise Online column is now online:

"Biography is a peculiarly British vice," writes Mark Bostridge in his introduction to Lives for Sale: Biographers' Tales (Continuum). Perhaps that is true, but Americans are certainly catching up. Books about Founding Fathers, for example, are quickly becoming an industry unto themselves. It seems you can always find one on the bestsellers list (as you can right now). Our thirst for celebrity has even taken over our reading habits.

Lives for Sale should appeal to many readers, then. It is a collection of new essays on the art and experience of biography from some of its most distinguished practitioners...