Quick Study: February 2009 Archives

I have a friend who is writing a book for Random House where his editor was Colin Robinson -- a very happy situation, while it lasted. Colin's article about his departure appears in the London Review of Books.

It is not too surprising that he quickly turns it over into a precise description of the economic mechanisms involved in his fate. Without giving too much away, it happens that we share a background in a certain political movement tending to emphasize such things.
February 26, 2009 12:55 PM | | Comments (3)
Yesterday was John Leonard's birthday. He would have turned 70. The memorial service for him is in New York on Monday, and unfortunately I can't make it because of a bunch of deadlines. There should be some kind of tribute to him at the NBCC awards event next month.

About six years, John agreed to write the introduction to a collection of my essays that I was planning to put together -- a process that somehow never got beyond whatever list was made at the time. There is no word for the feeling that comes from remembering this. I tried to pay tribute to him in November but can't bring myself to reread it.
February 26, 2009 10:30 AM | | Comments (1)
If you come around Quick Study very often then chances are you will also want to take a look at Michael J. Kramer's blog Culture Rover.

(Before anyone asks: Yes, it is.) 
February 25, 2009 4:09 PM | | Comments (2)
My piece about Vivian Gornick's essay collection The Men in My Life is compact, like the book itself....

Meanwhile in other news, Inside Higher Ed has redesigned its website. The growth of IHE over the past four years has been remarkable, and no doubt this is just the beginning; it could reach a million readers a month before long.

There's a new page for Intellectual Affairs. At some point it will include a section of selected columns. The photo credit there should go to Rita, who otherwise focuses on documenting our cats.  
February 23, 2009 12:33 PM | | Comments (4)
Does this mean that the world will finally get to see Jerry Lewis's forbidden masterpiece The Day the Clown Cried (1972)?

Harry Shearer is among the very few people ever to see the film:

With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself.  But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object.  This was a perfect object.  This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. Oh My God! - that's all you can say.
It is time for the Academy to pull out all the stops and get this thing released, somehow.   
February 22, 2009 3:37 PM | | Comments (9)
An afterthought from my column today....

While the artwork inspired by the Book of Mormon might not hold a candle to the lost paintings of the prophet Mani, I think Joseph Smith got one thing right: If you want to create a viable world religion, it's probably best not to treat procreation as an instrument of evil.
February 18, 2009 7:36 PM | | Comments (1)

Danielle Ate the Sandwich has a new album. I ordered the first one via the MySpace page and liked most of it quite a bit, and will probably get this one, too, in spite of my growing sense that purchasing CDs is evidence now that one is a relic. So be it.

February 17, 2009 7:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Levi Stahl has been reading Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280. As with the rest of the best of Thompson's work, this is a deeply unhinged novel that -- being pulp, and beholden to few restraints and to nobody's ideas of good taste -- wanders a few steps beyond anything you can see coming on any given page. A lot of pulp fiction was formulaic hack work, of course, but Thompson was out on the edge. I haven't read anything by him in at least a dozen years, but Levi makes me want to do so again, and soon.

By the way, Thompson was briefly a member or sympathizer of the Communist Party in Oklahoma and wrote at least one or two pieces of proletarian fiction. I have no idea whether his work in that vein is any good or not.

As it happens, a different CP-affiliated figure created another, still more extreme sub-genre of pulp that I have been collecting for a while. While Thompson was a literary wild man, Shaver was just insane. Evidently they both have followings in France, where they probably are taken as embodiments of the deepest levels of the American psyche. Which is, of course, true.   
February 15, 2009 8:46 PM | | Comments (3)

February 13, 2009 2:01 PM | | Comments (0)

A short introduction to the Bush Tetras -- one of the best bands to come out of the early '80s No Wave scene. Or, at any rate, the one with the records I play the most often...

February 9, 2009 7:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Now that there is a Democrat in the White House, it is time for the American right to have a go at bringing the funny.

Actually they already tried that -- late in the Bush era, even -- with a conservative version of The Daily Show. Let's not dwell on the abyss of ironies involved in having a fake news show on the Fox Network, and instead take a look at the hilarity being promoted by Richard Viguerie, the pioneer of direct-mail fundraising.

Unfortunately the horizontal dimensions of "The Gentleman from Lickskillet" prevent reproducing the whole thing, but here is a recent cell:

lick.jpg

This is called a comic strip, and I think we can all see why.

A comment at Sadly, No! describes the cartoon as being "drawn like a Jack Chick pamphlet." I consider the remark extremely unfair. "Lickskillet" is toothless banality in search of a niche market. By contrast, Jack Chick's booklets fuse profound sectarianism with being not quite right in the head. His work has a certain integrity and aesthetic power.

Sorry, Mr. Viguerie, but you can't just bankroll that combination into existence. The week's worth of cartoons devoted to the inauguration should have told you something -- a sustained effort to pander to craziness, without having the right accent.
February 9, 2009 3:19 PM | | Comments (3)
Sometime last month it dawned on me that in 2008 nearly everything I wrote was published exclusively online. The pieces appearing in newspapers, magazines, or books could be counted on the fingers of one hand, probably.

This came as a surprise. The general trend had been underway for a while -- per the first entry here more than two years ago -- but this marked a big acceleration of it. Economics has been a factor, to some degree; the online venues paid better than the dead-tree ones. Even so, it was not deliberate, and I expect to reverse the tendency as much as possible in '09.

Then again, the results of the latest ABC audit (via Jeff Bercovici) make you wonder how well newsstands will do over the rest of the year:
February 9, 2009 12:31 PM | | Comments (2)

Turns out that Monty Python got it right. According to Karl Steel there really was a holy Book of Armaments....

Bless the rifle and cannonball, and let the above blessing of the arms [be done] with all the appropriate changes, and let them be sprinkled with holy water. Let the gunpowder [pulveris tormentarii] be blessed, and the projectiles: namely, the bullets, whether of lead or iron, whether collectively or individually.

It was the 18th century -- rather post-Arthurian. Still, close enough.

(crossposted)

February 6, 2009 12:17 PM | | Comments (0)

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Quick Study in February 2009.

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