– James Lileks goes shopping for a new duvet:
Several styles are available for purchase: Laura Ashley having a screaming acid fit, Clown Pelt, creepy-crawly paisley, and one sage-hued item that I can only describe as “ribbed for her pleasure.”
Clown Pelt. Heh.
– In Slate, Timothy Noah points out that the Kerry campaign’s close-reading skills are in need of a tune-up.
Last month, Chatterbox urged John Kerry to drop the campaign slogan, “Let America be America again.” Instead, Kerry has wrapped his arms more tightly around the slogan’s regrettable source. As Chatterbox noted in the earlier column, “Let America be America again” comes from a poem published in 1938 by the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes. But Hughes intended the line ironically. A black man living in the pre-civil rights era would have had to be insane to look back to a golden age of freedom and equality in America, and Hughes was not insane. Hughes was, rather, an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Soviet Union at the time he wrote “Let America Be America Again,” which explains the poem’s agitprop tone.
What is worrisome about contemporary book commentary is not that someone with Peck’s habitual mean-spiritedness has carved out a name for himself–though it does suggest that criticism is now as much a part of the entertainment industry as gangster rap and extreme makeovers. People laugh at his jokes, or at the skinhead Paul Bunyan impersonation on the cover of his book, or both. Yet they overlook his efforts to be thoughtful, which are, if anything, just as funny. Adolescents often feel the need to philosophize, after a fashion. And I’m afraid that is precisely the impression left whenever Peck turns from strident denunciation of a particular novelist to sweeping generalizations about the culture. Still, the latter are a necessary element of criticism–part of the job of sorting and judging literature and of making sense of life itself. Peck may do it badly, but what makes the situation a crisis is that scarcely anyone cares.