December 30, 2008

Richard Cohen reacts to that Karl Rove column about how President Bush read a lot of books while he was President.

And by "Richard Cohen," I do not mean my ex-husband Richard Cohen. I mean that WaPo columnist to whom people have often asked me if I am/was married.

The never-slept-with-Althouse Cohen writes:
One of [the books Bush read] was Albert Camus' "The Stranger," with its unforgettable opening lines: "Mother died today. Or perhaps it was yesterday, I don't know." After reading Rove's Wall Street Journal column, it's clear there's much we all don't know.

Bush's choice of the Camus classic is odd on the face of it. It is a novel about estrangement, about an amoral, irreligious man (Meursault) who never shows emotion. It is a book out of my Gauloise-smoking youth, read in the vain pursuit of women of literary bent,* and not something I would think an over-60 president would read. Maybe this is what happens when you have to give up jogging.
And what's Cohen's excuse for forgetting so much of the book he claims to have read? Or did he just read the first page? Or was that just the only part of the book that was "unforgettable"? If you want to skewer Bush for reading "The Stranger," you should bring up the part where he kills an Arab for virtually no reason at all.
[T]hat Bush is a prodigious, industrial reader... does not conform at all to his critics' idea of who he is.
"Industrial reader" is a good phrase, one that makes me think I'm being too mean to RC.
They would prefer seeing him as a dolt, since that, as opposed to policy or ideological differences, is a briefer, more bloggish explanation of what went wrong.
Bloggish? Bloggish? As if your column — your column that is entirely parasitic on Rove's column (ugh! that sounds like Rove needs a medicinal ointment) — is so damned deep. Cohen, you're losing me.
[But] the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend. They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page....

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle.
Metastasized into a debacle? That's one of those dead-metaphor mixed metaphors. I wonder what George Bush thinks about mixed metaphors....
Bush read David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," which is about the Korean War, but not on the list is Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest," which is about the Vietnam War. Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies, plotted not written, and lacking the beauty of worldly cynicism. I recommend Giuseppe di Lampedusa's "The Leopard." Delicious.
Delicious? Are women attracted to men who pronounce things that are not food/drink "delicious"? I think not! And what's his point? From the novel:
"We were the Leopards, the Lions, those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth."
So... the Democrats are jackals and sheep?
_____

* That might have impressed Althouse. But the truth is that I can't think of a single time that I found a man attractive because I noticed the book he was reading. And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading. Be careful with the books, lads.

_____

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
"I wonder what George Bush thinks about mixed metaphors...."

Best bloggish idle musing of the year!
I really appreciate that. Meade has my number.
NOW will you sleep with me?
More things to wonder about.

Anthony said:
C'mon already, Althy, we're waiting for what books would make you throw yourself in a blind passion at he-who-would-be-reading-one.
Well, there's "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry"...
A friend once told me that (this was in the late '80s, mind you) if I just went into a local coffee shop wearing my spandex biking shorts and read Sartre I'd "get all the p*ssy you want". Maybe so, but it'd be hairy and wearing Birkenstocks. No, I never tried it.
Who wears shoes that way? Is it like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and socks? (NSFW.)

Chip Ahoy said...
Why Literature Is Bad For You, Peter Thorpe

A onetime professor of literature at CU Boulder. Here, let me save you $3.20 on the secondary market. The book amounts to a screed against the people with whom Professor Thorpe shared a Department, and the Masters students with whom he came into contact. He apparently studied their traits closely, eagerly tallied their most damaging characteristics and categorized them, then described how it was Literature that distorted otherwise perfectly good personalities. It's hilarious. It's horrible. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't eat or sleep for days. I'm fairly certain I made up this last part, or possibly I read it somewhere.

Yes, that's right, I'm doing it too. Cohen reminds me of someone I've previously met somewhere in literature. His archetype has already been perfectly delineated in a book by a writer good at describing people. I automatically subsumed Cohen to a characterization I have already meet, thus I deny his unique contribution, if there is one.

Actually, Cohen's review, which I'm smart enough to avoid, makes me go, "Gah!" Reminds me of real people I know in real life, irritating people, always eager to tell me what books I really must read, lists of them, in order to become enlightened like themselves. The unstated assumption sits flatly, that I'll remain dull and unenlightened until then. I reflexively spit on the floor and immediately regret having spit, because it is uncivilized, and because now somebody must clean it up, most likely myself.

And have you ever cleaned spit off a carpet? A dampened rag, a little Oxiclean, it's not all that bad. But I wouldn't have to do it! If everyone would just stop telling me which books I must read, and stop using words like Galuoise instead of cigarettes, industrial instead of industrious, and delicious instead of good. Yes, it reminds me of overlapping cases in Peter Thorpe's book. Students of literature, avoid them.

On the other hand, I'm reading Robert Sabuda's delicious adaption of Barrie's Peter Pan. Well, I'm not actually reading it, but rather, I'm studying the industrial pop-ups. A real tour de force in pop-uppery, and you're really not sufficiently educated in paper engineering pop-up mechanisms until you've studied Robert Sabuda.

This is a fun game to play. Let's bludgeon each other with the names of books we supposedly read, or possibly scanned the cover jackets or the Cliff Notes, or possibly heard about, and then use inappropriately artsy adjectives in an effort to elevate ourselves at each other's expense. Sniff.
Wow! Now, I think "Why Literature Is Bad For You" would work.

As for "Robert Sabuda's delicious adaption of Barrie's Peter Pan"... delicious... Chip Ahoy is named after a cookie, so it might be okay to call him delicious.

AND: About Chip's fun game — naming "books we supposedly read, or possibly scanned the cover jackets or the Cliff Notes, or possibly heard about, and then us[ing] inappropriately artsy adjectives in an effort to elevate ourselves at each other's expense" — may I suggest the adjectives "luminous" and "astonishing."

106 comments:

Host with the Most said...

Hold on!

The never-slept-with-Althouse Cohen writes:


Hmmmmmm. Fascinating descriptive.

never-slept-with-Althouse

That line places pretty much every person on the planet into one of 2 distinct categories.

Perhaps another post? Care to elaborate further on this vital issue of undoubtedly great interest, Professor? (and no, there is no sarcasm involved in the question).

Richard Fagin said...

Funny how Mr. Cohen highlights the types of books the President read to try to reinforce the image of the President being a dolt. "He reads about what he already knows", says Mr. Cohen, which of course shows the President to be intellectually incurious, and therfore, of course, a dolt.

The reference to Eisenhower, who was also thought of as a dolt by the hoity-toity, was intended to make the same point.

We get it, Mr. Cohen. We wish you would, too. Go read and report on half the stuff Bush had to read as an MBA student and then we'll take your word for it.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies, plotted not written, and lacking the beauty of worldly cynicism.

That line says a lot more about Cohen and the crowd he runs with than Bush. "Worldly cynicism" gets real boring real fast to normal people.

El Presidente said...

People will work harder to defend their prejudices than to feed their families.

Anthony said...

I can't wait until we learn that Obama doesn't read much. Of course, it will be hailed as proof that he is so devoted to his job of Serving The American People that he doesn't take the time to read and is, in fact, far more intellectually curious (I get 5 points for using that phrase) because he prefers face-to-face interaction over passive reading.

Or he'll read a lot and that will be hailed as magnificent, too.

AJ Lynch said...

The Wapo's Richard Cohen sounds a bit depressed. Perhaps we can get him into some group therapy with our own Loafing Oaf?

Happy New Year everyone!

tim maguire said...

FWIW, the use of "delicious" to describe something not food related gives me the willies. Much like Hannibal Lector's yummy noises when describing fava beans--and I didn't like that either.

Simon said...

"The never-slept-with-Althouse Cohen"

The underlying cause of Cohen's frustrations with the world, perhaps.

Maguro said...

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle.

That Bush is such an idiot for not reading whole shelves of books about what an idiot he is.

John Burgess said...

An heretofore unmentioned flaw in the alt.cohen piece is that he criticizes Bush for not having read certain books. As the Rove piece covered only those books read during the President's term, it does not include books that might have been read earlier.

To me, that's a rather gaping hole in the argument.

Joe said...

The stunning, though not surprising, subtextual revelation is that Richard Cohen apparently chooses his reading material entirely on how someone else would interpret his list, rather than on whether they are good reads.

AJ Lynch said...

Maguro:

LOL.

therandomelectron said...

One wished that Cohen would have taken one of the many buyouts the Post has offered to rid itself of deadwood and try to pushback the once great newspaper's day of reckoning.
btw, Cohen supported the war before he opposed it.

Sisyphus said...

Does Cohen not get the point of The Stranger? Camus' point was not to highlight the flat, alienated self of modern life (even if such a thing were true), it was to light the path away from such alienation from one's own existence. The Stranger is not about the first pages, it is about the last pages. * Spoilers * Even as the protagonist goes to execution, his acceptance of reality is sufficient for him to overcome his profound alienation against the world, and die happy.

Perhaps the worldly cynicism of which Cohen is so proud is a merely a symptom of his profound alienation? Accept the absurdity of life, Richard Cohen! The world is big enough to encompass a President who is intelligent and well-read, but thinks and does things you and your alienated friends don't agree with.

Meade said...

"I wonder what George Bush thinks about mixed metaphors...."

Best bloggish idle musing of the year!

NOW will you sleep with me?

PatCA said...

Heh, well said, Sisyphus. This "beauty of worldly cynicism" trope is something a sophomore would fall in love with, and then presumably grow out of.

Synova said...

Delicious? Are women attracted to men who pronounce things that are not food/drink "delicious"?

No.

Though some women think they are.

William said...

Don't let the Frenchiness of Camus' reputation confuse you. He was much closer in his politics and clarity of expression to Orwell than to Sartre. His writings on Algeria and the Algerian war are particularly worth reading. If Camus' vision had been realized, subsequent generations of Algerians, both Arab and pied noir, would have had a better life. Camus was as vilified by leftists then as Bush is today.....Puerto Rico is a better place to live than Cuba. This simple fact would never be the subject of a Cohen column. Any third world regime, no matter how barbaric, is preferable to a goverment that was spawned by the USA......Incidental rant: Mbekei in his bigotry and ignorance allowed over 300,000 South Africans to die of AIDS. Something like twelve people were killed in the Sharpeville massacre. How much do you think will be thought and written about the Mbekei corpses versus the death toll from apartheid? These corpses join the piles from Lenin's collective farms and Napoleon's abandoned armies in the ghastly pile of gore that are not within the left's vision of history and the future.

Ron said...

A woman who would snap-judge me because of the book I read isn't a woman whom I would want to go out with anyway. Check your condescension at the door, ladies!

Michael said...

Anybody who thinks someone who says things like this is even the least bit intellectual or an avid "reader" is out of their frigging mind:

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." September 29, 2000

Ken Begg said...

It seems to me that Cohen's column speaks more of a man seeking "vindication" of his prior beliefs than Bush's reading list does.

Tibore said...

Okay, just as a fun derail: Any way we can get stats on how many visitors come from Googling "slept-with-Althouse"?

I think it'd be hilarious to know that.    :D

Trooper York said...

Would that include all the people who slept through her classes?

Tibore said...

The Cohen-who-does-not-know-Althouse-in-the-Biblical-sense wrote:
"[T]hat Bush is a prodigious, industrial reader... does not conform at all to his critics' idea of who he is."

And yes, that's true. This harkens back to my previous post about Bush being one of those "Rorschach blot" figures: We get tons of projections onto him, but few analyses truly about him.

Again, so many are willing, intentional suckers for the zeitgeist. Makes it hard to really know a person when so many are shoving the manufactured character (or caricature) in your face in place of the real person.

Tibore said...

"Trooper York said...
Would that include all the people who slept through her classes?"


Awww, man, thinking about it that way would be boring...

Cedarford said...

I sometimes think of Bush as becoming a late-blooming reader who begab diligently reading once he became President off a list, thinking the exercise would improve him. But books were not a big part of his life before then.

Certainly, he got a little too enthusiastic about some books and got into his TDR phase and the infamous "Case for Democracy" by Israeli Right Winger Anatoly Sharansky as a way of justifying his stubborn "stay the course" actions.

Reagan and Clinton were fairly well read. TDR was, too..as well as a good author.

Nixon perhaps the best read of the 20th Century Presidents, a voracious reader even in childhood, and his own books compare well with even Grant and TDR's product. He didn't just read Camus, he had Andre in the White House to discuss literature. Nixon famously noted how Chou en-Lai and Mao Zedong were huge, broad lifelong readers and part of their meetings were discussing their own libraries contents, books, when they first discovered authors like Hemingway, Tolstoy, a range of other good authors they recommended to one another....

While Nixon noted when they were discussing fine works, he was also well-aware that Chou had personally executed dissidents while smoking a cigarette, and Mao - surpisingly urbane and intelligent and a gifted poet - had the blood of millions on his hands.
Pity Nixon wanted to get things done and not spit in their eyes. Would have been a great series of toasts: "To the great poet Lais-song!" "To Marcel Proust!" "To the 28 million people you two helped butcher!"

In Bush's case, maybe we can see the importance of early education. A person in their youth may be transformed and shaped in later life by early assimilation of knowledge, a sport, becoming accomplished in a musical instrument and supplemented in wisdom by additional reading later. But a person lacking this, who strives late in life to consume wisdom, develop a craft when they are already well-formed and well set in their views is at a disadvantage to someone who made it a lifetime part of who they are.

I think there is truth to the belief that Bush was intellectually incurious for the 1st 45 years of his life, read books when he had to, then decided that the Gov and Presidency required him to become curious and make up for past lack of that character element - with not so good results.

Being well-read is not required to be a good President or a wide range of most other jobs - (Palin suporters take heart!) - but it is an asset.
Obama intellectually curious, a careful observor, analytical. That is what really stands out in his books - the guy observing and thinking of what he sees and experiences and reads a great deal. That is an asset for him.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading."

Which books? Information, please!

Meade said...

"Be careful with the books, lads."

So true and I always am.

For instance, right at this very moment I am sitting in a local independently owned and operated coffee house with my black Comme des Garcons Classic Leather Zip Wallet placed casually on the the table while wearing my black John Varvatos Chelsea Calf Boots (Italian made, of course).

Lot's of babes of every age coming and going. Some even taking furtive glances in my direction. Not one knows the whole truth: that the book I am reading, "Pheromones: Unlocking Women's Uncontrollable Desires In 12 Days" is wrapped by the the cover of Eric Weisstein's "Trigonometric Addition Formulas". Wolfram MathWorld.

Let me put it this way: The. Chicks. Are. Back.

Oh, and a special shout out to my mentor, RH: Thanks, man. You were right... maths rule, chicks drool.

Patm said...

Rove says Bush reads two books a week. This seems reasonable to me, if you're a guy who likes to turn in early with a book, which is what Bush has said - often - he and Mrs. Bush do. I do the same and I read about two books a week.

Cohen is trying to kick Bush on his way out, as are many on the left. I think they're panicking that he's leaving and they just don't know what to do with themselves. Who will they sneer at, 24/7 now?

KLDAVIS said...

I met my wife while she was ranting about people misusing the term Machiavellian. I happened to be reading The Prince for the third or fourth time as part of the UofC's ever more ridiculous common core.

Chip Ahoy said...

Why Literature is Bad for You, Peter Thorpe

A onetime professor of literature at CU Boulder. Here, let me save you $3.20 on the secondary market. The book amounts to a screed against the people with whom Professor Thorpe shared a Department, and the Masters students with whom he came into contact. He apparently studied their traits closely, eagerly tallied their most damaging characteristics and categorized them, then described how it was Literature that distorted otherwise perfectly good personalities. It's hilarious. It's horrible. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't eat or sleep for days. I'm fairly certain I made up this last part, or possibly I read it somewhere.

Yes, that's right, I'm doing it too. Cohen reminds me of someone I've previously met somewhere in literature. His archetype has already been perfectly delineated in a book by a writer good at describing people. I automatically subsumed Cohen to a characterization I have already meet, thus I deny his unique contribution, if there is one.

Actually, Cohen's review, which I'm smart enough to avoid, makes me go, "Gah!" Reminds me of real people I know in real life, irritating people, always eager to tell me what books I really must read, lists of them, in order to become enlightened like themselves. The unstated assumption sits flatly, that I'll remain dull and unenlightened until then. I reflexively spit on the floor and immediately regret having spit, because it is uncivilized, and because now somebody must clean it up, most likely myself.

And have you ever cleaned spit off a carpet? A dampened rag, a little Oxiclean, it's not all that bad. But I wouldn't have to do it! If everyone would just stop telling me which books I must read, and stop using words like Galuoise instead of cigarettes, industrial instead of industrious, and delicious instead of good. Yes, it reminds me of overlapping cases in Peter Thorpe's book. Students of literature, avoid them.

On the other hand, I'm reading Robert Sabuda's delicious adaption of Barrie's Peter Pan Well, I'm not actually reading it, but rather, I'm studying the industrial pop-ups. A real tour de force in pop-uppery, and you're really not sufficiently educated in paper engineering pop-up mechanisms until you've studied Robert Sabuda.

This is a fun game to play. Let's bludgeon each other with the names of books we supposedly read, or possibly scanned the cover jackets or the Cliff Notes, or possibly heard about, and then use inappropriately artsy adjectives in an effort to elevate ourselves at each other's expense. Sniff.

AllenS said...

Lase week on ebay, I purchased a Devilbiss HVLP Auto Paint & Touch-Up Spray Gun System. I plan on reading the instructions when it gets here. I see that I share one thing with Richard Cohen.

Henry said...

Althouse comments on Cohen who comments on Rove who comments on Bush. Truly, this is an important topic. Yet the real hero is the headline writer, the individual who wrote a title -- "Reading Into Bush's Book List" -- that became a link that made Cohen's silly essay sound like something worth reading.

The jig is up with the first clause of Cohen's first sentence:

In what without a doubt is the most astounding op-ed piece of the year...

Astounding to whom?

Deirdre Mundy said...

"It is a book out of my Gauloise-smoking youth, read in the vain pursuit of women of literary bent,* and not something I would think an over-60 president would read"

Of course, Bush is married to a "woman of a literary bent."

Do you REALLY think a librarian's husband would get to go years without reading ANYTHING?

Seriously... do any of these people KNOW any librarians? They're constantly bringing books home for you to read. And then trying to discuss them with you! Even if Bush wasn't a reader before his marriage, he'd have to be afterwards.

(Though how likely would a librarian be to find a non-reader an even remotely interesting conversationalits?)

Full disclosure: My husband is a librarian....

Meade said...

Lol-ing (and when I say lol-ing, I mean ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) at Chip and thinking, "Hmm... Pop-up artist... maybe if I become one of those, I could finally get her to sleep with me."

Henry said...

BTW,

Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies...

Has not Mr. Cohen seen The Leopard, starring Burt Lancaster?

JohnAnnArbor said...

I know a professor of English who REALLY likes Michael Crichton. I'm guessing, though, that she doesn't share that fact with her colleagues; she's smart enough to know that he's not an approved author as far as the literati are concerned.

He passed away recently, which was sad; I always wondered what subject he'd take up next.

Sigivald said...

To riff on what Sisyphus said, President Bush strikes me as a thoroughly un-alienated man.

(And to go off of what Chip Ahoy said, damn straight. It's not what one reads that's important, as much as how one reads.

An uncritical, thoughtless reading of a very good book still amounts to indoctrination or mere parroting.

A critical reading of a mediocre - or in some cases even a very bad - book can be illuminating.

Or as Nock might say, that one really reads at all, rather than just processing words in series.)

Tibore said...

While we're talking about reading, let me walk away from talking about Bush for a bit: Anyone notice that Oprah got suckered again? But, apparently a bunch of other people did too, so who can blame her? Heck, I didn't know that story was fiction when I heard it. It's kind of disappointing that it wasn't true.

Christopher said...

Ah, poor Cohen, taking one last whack at the Bush pinata. The sniffy Mark Kurlansky beat him to the punch three years ago:

"According to the White House, one of three books Bush chose to read on his five-week vacation is 'Salt: A World History' by Mark Kurlansky. . .Kurlansky said he was surprised to hear that Bush had taken his book to the ranch: 'My first reaction was, oh, he reads books?. . .what I find fascinating, and it's probably a positive thing about the White House, is that they don't seem to do any research about the writers when they pick the books."

(H/T to The Anchoress, who added, in her post titled "That Moron Bush Is Reading My Book?:"

"Think about that for a second. Basically, what Kurlansky, the 'liberal' is saying is that he is surprised and fascinated that the guy he hates is. . .umm, not prejudiced. . .as he himself apparently is."

If the President of the United States ever read MY book - whether he be Chimpy McBusHitler or Black Narcissus - I'd be flattered beyond words.

ricpic said...

If I remember correctly, Eisenhower's bedtime reading consisted of whodunits. Which didn't keep him from presiding over an era of unprecedented prosperity and relative peace while simultaneously battling the military-industrial complex's continual attempts to raid the treasury, for 8 years! In other words, after a day of cracking heads with head cracking problems Eisenhower used a book to unwind and fall asleep. As it should be for a heavily pressed executive.
Cohen's disappointment that Bush didn't crack books on Iraq after sitting in conferences with his generals all day bespeaks an astounding lack of insight into the strains a president faces, every day of his administration.

Shanna said...

A woman who would snap-judge me because of the book I read isn't a woman whom I would want to go out with anyway.

I kind of half agree, except that you know when you are in public you are being judged on your appearance, your clothes, the car you drive, and yes, the books you read. I think you should be comfortable enough with yourself to be able to take whatever judgment or criticism comes form that book or you shouldn’t’ leave the house with it.

Men make similar snap judgments. Some of it is useful, because maybe someone who is reading a certain book is not going to be compatible with you. Then again, maybe they are reading it for a class or a book club or on a dare or simply out of curiosity. You never know why someone is reading a book.

The only thing I remember from The Stranger was the guy saying “the arabs” and possibly talking about the light in his eyes. Maybe. It’s been a while.

Tibore said...

Aw, crudski, I didn't know that Professor Althouse already posted about the Oprah/Rosenblat story debacle yesterday.

This is what happens when you're without an internet connection on vacation. You miss things.

Simon said...

KLDAVIS said...
"I met my wife while she was ranting about people misusing the term Machiavellian. I happened to be reading The Prince for the third or fourth time as part of the UofC's ever more ridiculous common core."

Could you clarify: it sounds almost as if you're suggesting that placing "The Prince" on the required reading list is ridiculous. That would seem strange, however, as it's a very short, interesting, practical book with many applications in everyday modern life?

Simon said...

Ron said...
"A woman who would snap-judge me because of the book I read isn't a woman whom I would want to go out with anyway."

What if, as here, she's a total knockout?

Anthony said...

C'mon already, Althy, we're waiting for what books would make you throw yourself in a blind passion at he-who-would-be-reading-one.

A friend once told me that (this was in the late '80s, mind you) if I just went into a local coffee shop wearing my spandex biking shorts and read Sartre I'd "get all the p*ssy you want". Maybe so, but it'd be hairy and wearing Birkenstocks. No, I never tried it.

Somehow, I don't think women in general get all hot'n'bothered over a guy reading Science or American Antiquity.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Somehow, I don't think women in general get all hot'n'bothered over a guy reading Science or American Antiquity.

I would /wink.

traditionalguy said...

All hail the power of words to regulate behavior in a shared language community. Books often open our mind to new pieces of the great puzzel of life around us on this earth. Let it be written! Let it be shared! I thank God for all good teachers. In the book called How the Scots Invented the Modern World all credit was actually given to a 92% adult literacy rate in Scotland caused by John Knox's demand to free the people by educating everyone so they could read the Bible. Does reading a Bible in public still attract anyone or scare them off?

JohnAnnArbor said...

Read "Dianetics" in public and see what happens.

And let me know. I'm not willing to try that experiment, myself.

KLDAVIS said...

Simon said...

Could you clarify


The Prince is fine, but it seems like it was on the syllabus for at least half a dozen required classes...in any event it appeared for more than was necessary. But, I wasn't insulting it as much as the winnowing of the Core that was, I'm told, once a grand and nearly exhaustive selection of 'Great Books'.

I'll also point out that my wife was a librarian at the time.

Zeb Quinn said...

I'm trying to wrap my head around the concept of a supposed liberal-minded and forward-thinking member of the educated and elite set who latches upon one or two books amongst many a person has read and bootstraps that little sampling into an all-encompassing critique and judgment of him the reader for having read them.

MadisonMan said...

I could never read Camus. I think in 12th grade we had to read it (L'Etranger) in French Class. My Dad the microbiologist says the microbiology in The Plague is fairly accurate. But I found the books duller than dishwater. I also tried to read Tristam Shandy once, and my experience mirrored Harriet Vane's in Have His Carcase (a book that I love). Tristam Shandy was my Mom's book from college, she was an English major.

One of my french teachers in high school, though, had an affair with him (Camus). She showed letters from him to my sister's class. This was the teacher who was, at the end of WWII, on the way to a camp. She was a member of the French Resistance and had been caught.

They don't make teachers like that anymore.

blake said...

The Wapo's Richard Cohen sounds a bit depressed.

Well, yeah. He's never slept with Althouse! (And he was so close! Just a "Lawrence" away!)

Ralph said...

MM, everyone was in the French Resistance.
I read the Plague 20 years ago, waiting for something interesting to happen. What was the allegory there?

Smilin' Jack said...

It is a book out of my Gauloise-smoking youth, read in the vain pursuit of women of literary bent*...

* That might have impressed Althouse....


Good grief, a man trying to impress by reading a book most people are assigned in high school while smoking stinky cigarettes might as well have "fool" tattooed on his forehead.

And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading.

What did that take? The Greening of America?

JohnAnnArbor said...

MM, everyone was in the French Resistance.

Yeah, that was what my grandfather (traveled extensively in Europe in the 1970s for business) said was the impression you got from French people in conversation. Similar phenomenon in Germany: the person you were speaking to hadn't been a Nazi, but that guy down the street....

BJM said...

Michael said:

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." September 29, 2000

Taking this quote literally is Greenpeace's goal is it not?

The quote signifies little of the author and/or speaker and can be turned to whatever use the critic wishes.

Act 1, scene 5 of "Twelfth Night" may be more illustrative of my point.

Synova said...

When I got my first apartment and started college a guy I knew happened over. We'd gone to the same Bible School and were friendly but there was zero chance of anything else even *before* he suggested that the American Scientific and US News and World Report magazines on the sofa were props. Props!

Egad.

I once thought I'd like prop glasses because women with glasses looked smarter. (I think contacts were very new.) But prop books? What do you do if you actually meet someone who really reads them? Or are you trying to impress people who don't read them but think they ought to be impressed by them? In that case I'm a snob in reverse anyhow. I'm less likely to be impressed instead of more and have a real attitude about books that are supposed to be worthier than others.

Reading books that other people have read is useful because you can pull examples from them to illustrate discussions. It can be everyone talking about Harry Potter and wanting to read the books in order to join the conversation that everyone else is having... or those vampire books for teen girls that had been entirely off my radar... or the particular aspect of character interaction development I was discussing with my son the other day, using the character Ivan from Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan novels as an example.

Duscany said...

"I can't think of a single time that I found a man attractive because I noticed the book he was reading. And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading. Be careful with the books, lads."

Real men don't care about what women think of the books they read.

Henry Buck said...

If you really want to get a strange reaction, read Lolita while sitting on a bench in a shopping mall!

Joe said...

RE: Prop books

You can still buy fake book spines or an entire shelf of them!

Ron said...

If you really want to get a strange reaction, read Lolita while sitting on a bench in a shopping mall!

Or better still, read the Anarachist's Cookbook on an airplane!

Hey! Is 'never-slept-with-Althouse' a tag yet?

reader_iam said...

Althy?!?!

reader_iam said...

Wow, compared to that, Simon and Meade seem positively distant toward our beloved Prof A!

amba said...

NOW will you sleep with me?

I think that's what these comment threads are really about: which commenter is Althouse going to reward with her favors? Never mind egg salad . . .

And, of course, Althouse revealing almost nothing of substance about her off-blog life keeps the fantasy alive.

JAL said...

the beauty of worldly cynicism.

Excuse me while I puke.

rhhardin said...

And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading.

Poetry writing is the way to go.

Your velvet words of purple tint,
In France they would be famous,
Like all that belly-button lint
From Kierkegaard and Camus.

Meade said...

reader_iam said...
"Wow, compared to that, Simon and Meade seem positively distant toward our beloved Prof A!"

reader, interesting approach don't you think? For now anyway, I've decided to reject that - calling her pet names and posting them in her comments - as a strategy for bedding her. At the moment, it strikes me as potentially more efficacious to refer to her as Althouse or Professor Althouse.

You know - save the sweet nothings for pillow talk. I can imagine they might come in handy in the event. But I'm open to any and all friendly advice. I'd hate to lose out to this Anthony bounder simply because I misread her desire for weird familiarity.

Meade said...

Oh shit! And now RH is making a play of his own.

I'm doomed.

reader_iam said...

You know, it means something that "Althy" sort of shocked me, while the other stuff doesn't. Reading Althouse has done a job on us all, methinks.

ballyfager said...

Industrial reader may sound good but industrious reader would be more apposite.

Simon said...

reader_iam said...
"Wow, compared to that, Simon and Meade seem positively distant toward our beloved Prof A!"

I'm appropriately restrained as a gentleman ought to be. ;)

Simon said...

Some formalities ought to be observed, I think.

Donald Douglas said...

I'm with Host With the Most:

"Perhaps another post? Care to elaborate further on this vital issue of undoubtedly great interest, Professor?"

Some real Althousiana...

chickenlittle said...

'We were the Leopards, the Lions, those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth.'

So... the Democrats are jackals and sheep?


Not so fast. I think what di Lampedusa was getting at had to do with the passing of dyanastic rule--at least that's what they taught at the UW (French and Italian Department).

The Clinton and Kennedy clans could stand to read it too.

Meade said...

Simon said...
"Some formalities ought to be observed, I think."

Damn. I'm really boxed in here. Simon has the gentleman's inside while Anthony is coming up fast on my bad boy flank. Just when I was going to throw a hail mary dylan parody ode on a hot law professor, RH swoops in with his high tone intellectual humor.

Alright Meade, breath. One foot forward and now the next. Fundamentals... back to the basics. Remember - those bastards are no more or less than were any of the myriad vanquished opponents from our storied past.

Remember: they too each put their short pants on one leg at a time.

Simon said...

Meade said...
"Just when I was going to throw a hail mary ... ode on a hot law professor"

It's been done. Sort of. In the "tone poem" way Joe Satriani might do an "ode." Ahem.

Ron said...

That settles it: Meade and Simon sleep with Althouse in a big tub of egg salad! As long as I get the pay-per-view rights, you may switch it to dill relish instead.

TRundgren said...

Some people have made the mistake of seeing Camus work as a load of rubbish about railway timetables, but clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants, see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanized world. The points are frozen, the beast is dead. What is the difference? What indeed is the point? The point is frozen, the beast is late out of Paddington. The point is taken. If La Fontaine's elk would spurn Tom Jones the engine must be our head, the dining car our oesophagus, the guard's van our left lung, the cattle truck our shins, the first-class compartment the piece of skin at the nape of the neck and the level crossing an electric elk called Simon. The clarity is devastating. But where is the ambiguity? It's over there in a box.

Thyca said...

Did I mis-step in called Brad Pitt "luminous" in Thelma and Louise? It fits, I think. He was so shiny (in the Firefly sense).

John Stodder said...

Chip Ahoy said...
Why Literature Is Bad For You, Peter Thorpe


Oddly, the idea that "literature is bad for you" is a theme of what some consider the earliest novel, Don Quixote. Chivalric romances drove the man of La Mancha insane and set him on his quests.

http://tinyurl.com/867ra6

I think it's part of the romance of literature that it takes you away from reality. Sometimes it leaves you there.

Todd said...

I've finally figured out why Althouse is the liveliest blog around and why it's on my "read everyday" list: It's the only blog (Ann's the only blogger?) with groupies.

That's right. Groupies. Own it you all, who know exactly who you (all) are.

Tom Spaulding said...

Something tells me I'd much rather hang with the bourbon-drinking Bush youth than the Gauloise-smoking young Cohen.

Trooper York said...

Toot’s Shors Saloon, April 15, 1951
After a workshop at the Actors Studio Arthur Miller decides to go slumming and goes across the street to Toot’s Shors Saloon carrying a copy of Albert Camus “The Stranger.”
Toots: Hey Artie you fuckin Bloshie how they hanging.
Arthur Miller: Good evening to you Falstaffian vulgarian. I have come in for a small libation.
Toots: Hey there is someone I want you to meet. Might loosen you up a little (walks Miller over to a banquet where Marilyn Monroe is sitting with her agent) Hey Kid, I want you to meet Artie Miller, he’s an egghead and a commie but a nice guy even though he is afraid to show it….Artie this is Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn: (in a breathy sexy voice) Hi Artie. Nice to meet ya. (She stands up and extends her hand shyly and extends her hand)
Arthur Miller: (Shakes with Marilyn and stands awkwardly, puts hands in his pocket) Hello Miss Monroe. I actually prefer to be called Arthur.
Toots: Hey lets siddown and have a couple of pops.
Marilyn: That sounds like fun. (Marilyn sits down opposite Arthur, and as she does her legs are slightly open. She is not wearing any underwear) So Arthur what do you do?
Arthur Miller: I am a playwright Miss Monroe.
Marilyn: Wow you must be a real egghead like Toots said. What is that you are reading?
Arthur Miller: Oh just something by Camus. I feel very existential tonight. That’s why I am out with proles.
Toots: Wait a minute, she ain’t a pro.
Marilyn: You must be very smart. How do you keep all those words in your head? You probably can fit an entire library in you head.
Arthur Miller: Not really. It’s normal for an educated person and not anything you should brag about.
Marilyn: On the other hand I bet I can fit your entire penis in my mouth
Toots Shor: Blleeaaaahhhh (spits out his drink he’s laughing so hard)
Marilyn: What do you think about that Artie
Arthur Miller: I think that is definitely something to be proud about. Check.
Toots Shor: (still laughing) Don’t worry about it kid it’s on the house. Youse guys go out and get all existential on each other.

Trooper York said...

See what can happen when you take a book into a bar. True story.

Big Mike said...

I was too busy this morning to read the Post before I dashed out the door to work, and even when I do read the Post I seldom bother with Cohen. I once saw him on a PBS talking heads show announce that he hates all Republicans, and it occurred to me that that statement made him the intellectual equivalent of a member of the KKK.

Hmm. Let's see now. He says that Rove's article "does not conform at all to (Bush's) critics idea of who he is. They would rather see him as a dolt..." Since Cohen himself has been one of those critics pushing the "Bush is a dolt" meme, I imagine that Rove's article came as an unwelcome surprise.

Going into Iraq may have been based on faulty intelligence, but what if Valerie Plame and her crew of analysts had been right and Iraq was developing biological weapons? And what if those weapons fell into Al Qaeda hands, perhaps by someone suborning key people in the Iraqi weapons program? What then?

Well, I live in the Bos-Wash corridor so I'd be dead. Most of the limousine liberals of the Upper West Side and Long Island and Bethesda-Chevy Chase, would be dead, and Cohen would be dead. But the "journalists" left behind would be demanding to know why Bush didn't act on the intelligence that Tenet presented to him, am I not right?

Meanwhile, while Cohen wasn't looking Iraq "metastasized" yet again and now looks like a win for the good ol' US of A. While it's scarcely a model democracy, put next to the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois it isn't looking half bad.

I think history will be very kind to George W. Bush, it's just that he won't live to see it -- it'll be Jenna's and Barbara's children that live to see it.

Kirk Parker said...

Wow, the "beauty of worldly cynicism" is right up there with the lede from Pinter's NYT obit the other day:

"Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday..."

I think most real people would have called that ability a curse, not a gift.

zefal said...

All the proof one needs that Bush isn't the intellectually curious man Cohen is is that Bush never banged Peter Jennings' wife behind Peter's back or in front of it for that matter.

This guy's thought processes has always left me gape-mouthed.

One can only hope that he's mentally deranged and not that honestly dense.

zefal said...

One more point about Cohen. He's so sure that people that don't have his viewpoint (his isn't a POV but the objective truth) is proof of their ethnocentric bias and not the product of his own smug ethnocentrism.

Simon said...

Ron, that sounds the stuff of her nightmares, doesn't it?

Todd, sure. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

section9 said...

There is Good Professor Althouse in her modest home in Madison, earnestly knitting a massive wall hanging of Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, her home has been invaded by drunken, loud, obnoxious suitors like Host with the Most, Trooper York, Anthony, Michael, Simon, and a host of others as hundreds vie to win the greatest prize in the Blogosphere: the Hand of Ann.

She has promised her Band of Groupies that she will pick a Suitor when the Picture of Palin is done, so she creeps through the mass of drunken, sleeping bodies every night and undoes the weave of Our Sarah so she might start again the Next Day after her Con Law class. This upsets Glenn Greenwald, who fancies himself quite a dandy....

What the suitors don't know is that their Doom is At Hand:

Sir Archy is about to descend on the Althouse home and kill all the suitors, as in days of old, to protect the Lady's Sacred Honour.....

Ron said...

Trooper: Toots Shor punching out Gleason, doesn't get any better!

Host with the Most said...

It's the only blog (Ann's the only blogger?) with groupies.

That's right. Groupies. Own it you all, who know exactly who you (all) are.


Me: Hi. My name is Host and I'm addicted to "Althouse".

Everyone else: Hi Host.

Host with the Most said...

Meanwhile, her home has been invaded by drunken, loud, obnoxious suitors like Host with the Most, . . .

Present and accounted for!

. . . Trooper York, Anthony, Michael, Simon, and a host of others as hundreds vie

Wake up you guys! Sir Archy is coming and we must prepare!

rcocean said...

Per Rove these are some of the books Bush read:

David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle," Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War," Stephen W. Sears's "Gettysburg" and David King's "Vienna 1814." There's also plenty of biography -- including U.S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs"; Jon Meacham's "American Lion"; James M. McPherson's "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief"

No wonder Bush invaded Iraq. These books are awful! Badly written (Grant's excepted) - middlebrow, conventional, superficial.

Twisting history to conform to an ideology, a personal agenda, or comfortable present day belief. Mostly just Hacks and mediocre Newspapermen writing history.

Halberstam is the worst. Verbose and agenda driven. The man needed a paragraph to express a sentence of thought. And every thought expressed the viewpoint of the NYT Op Ed page.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday...

What the heck is so hard about that?

Jason said...

In the future, everyone will have been in the French Resistance for fifteen minutes.

mydismalswamp said...

God I'm glad I'm me. Not he... or she.

Meade said...

" I mean, what's to prevent Meade showing up in a wig and breeches?"

Theo: You crack me up, man! And thanks for the great idea. Keep 'em coming.

Henry said...

I propose the ability to write 9 dense paragraphs with strange capitalization, spelling, and even stranger punctuation, on any odd topic...oops, 'topick'...say, the history of putty, to the satisfaction of a committee consisting of Althouse, Darcy, Freeman Hunt, and Bissage, who I'm sure will appreciate the company. In case of a tie, reader_iam will be brought in to cast the deciding vote, mainly because I think she has a contrarian streak that would make things interesting.

That almost sounds like the All England Summarize Proust competition.

Kirk Parker said...

Amba,

Maybe I misunderstood the poor, moribund NYT writers. But I thought by calling it a 'gift' they were implying that Pinter was able to find ominousness where the ordinary person wouldn't. That truly is a curse, and a drag on the cultural body politic. Give me Chesterton any day!

Trooper York said...

"Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday..."

Hey Mickey Spillane did the same thing and he had a bunch of hot chicks with big tits hanging around.

And a really cool fedora.

Kev said...

I haven't gotten to visit "the vortex" nearly as much as I'd like for the past month or so, but posts like this remind me why I keep coming back.

Happy (be-earlied) New Year to all, and I'll try to chime in more in the months ahead.

Meade said...

Good to see you, Kev. Have a great 2009.

Pogo said...

Cohen's been pissed off ever since he found out in college he couldn't expand his circle jerk beyond n=1.

That long summer with carpal tunnel syndrome didn't help, I'm sure. And for the past 5 years, the interns have been inexplicably assigned elsewhere, depriving him of any live fantasy material. Worse, he's recently been getting error 404 when attempting to access his johnson.

So he awakens to find that Bushitler actaully reads, and quite a bit at that. Well, at least he reads all the wrong books, so he still has that going for him.