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March 19, 2009 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Someone commenting at Hot Air, "the world's first full-service conservative Internet broadcast network," has revealed that I belong to JournoList -- the much-discussed (of late anyway) email group* for high-powered journalists and the academics who talk to them.

In fact, this is such a well-kept secret that I did not know it myself.

People do interpellate me as "journalist" from time to time. This is not a category that's ever seemed very useful for understanding what I'm trying to do (the word "writer" is more fitting). Still, I have learned to respond, when so hailed, just to be polite.

But considering the fellow who broke the news about my super-duper-secret membership in JournoList is also gullible enough to fall for one of the Birch Society's more idiotic bits of propaganda, I'll go the extra step and warn him not to accept any business propositions from former Nigerian presidents.

     * or "listserv," as the kids call it
March 18, 2009 2:16 PM | | Comments (3)
From Professor Zero:

The book I am reading now has one of those prefaces I dislike, that list all the funding, leave time, help, and culinary support the author had. Without all of this they could never have taken the first step toward formulating their book. This kind of preface makes sure we know the writer has an élite lifestyle, and intimates that writing is impossible without that. These prefaces thus perform a gatekeeping speech act: if you are not in my social stratum, you cannot write. But it is not true that one cannot write while also doing one's own research and cooking, and it is not true that one cannot do one's own editing.

...I really prefer prefaces that only acknowledge the entities they legally must, and the people who did actual work on the manuscript. I also prefer dedications without long explanations. A marvelous quotation accompanying the dedication can be nice, but I also like the discreet dignity of very formulaic dedications. "To V., in loving memory."

March 15, 2009 1:20 PM | | Comments (5)

March 14, 2009 9:23 PM | | Comments (0)
The National Book Critics Circle board met yesterday afternoon to vote for the winners in various categories, then announced at an event at the New School. Laurie Muchnick's write-up on the results appeared a little later at Bloomberg. I did the introduction while presenting Ron Charles with the Balakian Citation, and later had the honor (however melancholy) of giving a tribute to John Leonard.

There was a reception afterward, which I went to, for maybe a bit more than half an hour, before fleeing. They say that man is a social animal, but you can't prove that by me. 
March 13, 2009 7:51 AM | | Comments (0)
When a website is called BadPaintingsOfBarackObama.com, at least you know what you're getting.

43.jpg


(hat tip: Chris Lehmann)
March 9, 2009 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)

Liverpool Hope University is now offering -- and before we continue with this sentence, let me be clear that I am not making this up -- "a brand new MA in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, the first of its kind in the world."

March 6, 2009 4:58 PM | | Comments (1)
When last I was paying any attention, Ronald Radosh had just published one of the less memorable specimens of the "disillusioned radical turns right" memoir. I have rather a taste for that sort of thing. The psychology of the genre is fascinating, if not full of infinite variety.

But Radosh was no Whitaker Chambers. He wasn't even Ben Gitlow after he'd been doing the schtick for a few years and turned into a bore. Then again, the fault may not have been with the author; at least not entirely. It could be that I have grown jaded.
March 6, 2009 12:24 PM | | Comments (4)

Last month, John Leonard would have turned 70. He was a friend, and an inspiration for Intellectual Affairs; and it has been painful, these past few months, to know he isn't out there reading any more.

I wasn't able to get to New York on Monday for the memorial service, but am glad to see that Charles Kaiser wrote about it for Columbia Journalism Review's website.

In an ideal situation, the comments section below the article should fill up with additional recollections of the event and tributes the man himself. Alas, this is not the case. A spirit of impertinent irrelevance quickly takes over. But at least the first remark -- left by one Hal Davis -- is on topic:

"Leonard once reviewed, in the daily Times, a Marshall McLuhan volume. Each graf started with a large drop-letter capital. The individual letters, reading down, read 'NONSENSE.'"

The medium was the message...Actually that piece also appears in John's collection This Pen For Hire, which I have been hoping to interest some publisher in reissuing for years on the grounds that it provides a critical panorama of American culture (high, low, and all points in between) in the late 1960s and early '70s. And because -- well, hell, I just love the book.

Opening it again now, I find a credo:

"If you happen to be interested in experimental fiction or logical positivism or cybernetics of the brain or ex-Communists or anthropology or Richard Nixon or psychoanalysis or haiku, either your reviews are going to reflect those interests or, when you look into your shaving mirror, all you will see reflected is the other side of the room. And 800 words aren't enough to explain a whole field to a million readers, 95 per cent of whom couldn't care less. So you make some elitist assumptions about the people who will care, and belly flop straight into deep waters."

(crossposted)


March 5, 2009 4:37 PM | | Comments (0)

....lived here my whole life.

circa 1988.

March 5, 2009 3:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Jane Ciabattari, president of the National Book Critics Circle, points out a recent posting at Blographia Literaria giving my column its Seal of Approval:

Scott McLemee's coverage of recently published academic books is one of the real treasures of the internet. On his Intellectual Affairs column, he pulls out consistently fascinating subjects and makes them even more interesting. I don't know how many books he must have to read to find the gems he displays, but he always has something fairly obscure but tremendously intriguing to write about. Here is a recent example, on Liberty Hyde Bailey.
My thanks to Andrew Seal for this. Any sign of recognition is appreciated, just so long as it does not proceed along the lines of my experience at a coffee shop one morning this past weekend.

I was sitting there minding my own business (staring off into space, between chapters of a pamphlet denouncing Ernest Mandel for being the wrong kind of Trotskyist) when I noticed that a woman was trying to get my attention.

"Are you Thomas Friedman?" she asked.

It is fair to say that I was not expecting this question.

"Uh...no."

"Oh. Because you look like Thomas Friedman."

My wife was out of town. Later, by phone, she assured me that I do not look like Thomas Friedman. This was only just so comforting.

I'd like to think someone will demand that Friedman take a stand on Pabloite revisionism, just to restore the balance of the universe.    
March 4, 2009 1:54 PM | | Comments (5)

Somewhere around here I have a copy of the CPC(M-L) pamphlet Northrop Frye: High Priest of Clerical Obscurantism by one Pauline Kogan. Sometime in the early to mid 1980s, the American radical newspaper The Guardian ran a review of Kogan's posthumously published collection of poetry. It seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. Anyone knowing the title, or whereabouts of a copy, please let me know.

While in London a few years ago, I trudged out to the bookstore of the Canadian party's sister organization, in hopes that it would have material by the late Cornelius Cardew, the British composer, who had been a member. In particular it would have been nice to find a copy of Stockhausen Serves Imperialism.

No such luck, though they did have Stalin and Enver Hoxha aplenty. But see the review in Bookforum of the new Cardew biography.

The normally very exacting Bookforum staff have somehow permitted reference to Cardew's group as the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain. This is, of course, wrong. It's the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). This kind of thing is easy to check considering they have a webpage.

March 2, 2009 5:07 PM | | Comments (2)
Now, look, I don't want to seem to be missing the point -- and, just to be clear on this, am fully in support of equal marriage rights. Getting gay marriage on the books in DC is a real possibility in the months ahead. I'm on board for that, and ready for the right-wing shitstorm bound to break if it happens.
 
But doesn't this item, about Annie Leibovitz's problem with mortgage debt, rest on a fairly dubious assumption? It is by no means obvious that she and Sontag would have tied the knot.

To judge by her recently published diaries, Sontag ever getting married again -- to anyone -- is a scenario only slightly more probable than one in which she developed a taste for spending her Saturday afternoons watching NASCAR.*

(Maybe she'd have wedded AL on her deathbed? Except Sontag would never have recognized it as her deathbed.)

See also: Laura Elkin's review of Reborn.

          * I like to picture her wearing a trucker hat while doing this.
March 2, 2009 11:34 AM | | Comments (4)

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