August 19, 2016

A New Yorker article that begins "A year ago, I lost my best friend, Oliver Sacks" uses Sacks as a way to attack Donald Trump.

Any other dead heroes we could dig up to opine on the transitory politics of the day?

Jeez, this is disgusting. I loved — I love — Oliver Sacks. I'm very sad he's gone, and I wanted to share that feeling with the writer of what looks like a sensitive piece on the wonderful author. The title is "A YEAR WITHOUT OLIVER SACKS" and we see a photo of Sacks — standing in a city rooftop garden — with the caption "Oliver Sacks’ greatest gift was sensitivity—seeing, feeling, and sketching what the rest of us had never even noticed."

Okay, yes... sensitivity... that greatest gift... and then the name "Trump" — why???!! — appears in the first paragraph:
For many years, each week, Oliver and I would cruise north on the West Side bike path at sunrise. Alone, our bicycles a few inches apart, we spoke about everything and anything, but mostly about interesting patients, natural history, and food. His voice was soft, and I struggled to hear his words. But his volume and pedalling cadence always accelerated when the massive TRUMP PLACE buildings appeared to our right. He detested the giant protuberances that unpleasantly punctuated the view from our bike seats, and often cursed them.
So... he didn't like big buildings? But you've got him cursing the capitalized name Trump. Did you stop there, you trusted friend of the ultra-sensitive writer? No. We also have, after some nice anecdotes:
He would have been crushed by the rise of Donald Trump and the electoral success of Brexit. Intolerance and fear-mongering, he knew, are rudders that steer societies in dangerous directions....
You admire his sensitivity and then instead of respecting it, and leaving him with only what he actually thought and wrote and said, you — the "you" is  Orrin Devinsky, director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center — appropriate it as a platform for your own political opinions.

I read Oliver Sacks's memoir, "On the Move: A Life," and he showed strikingly little interest in politics. Here's the closest I can come to finding something political in that book:
I did not seek American citizenship and was happy to have a green card, to be accounted a “resident alien.” This accorded with how I felt, at least for much of the time— a friendly, observant alien noting everything around me but without civic responsibilities such as voting or jury duty or need to affiliate myself with the country’s policies or politics.
That's the politics of being nonpolitical. I appreciate that and I know what he means. I have that feeling too — a friendly, observant alien noting everything around me.... Well, maybe not always so friendly.

65 comments:

David Begley said...

Why?

Because politics is 24/7 for the Left. It is their life.

The larger goal is to trash conservatives at every chance. The big issues like taxes, the economy, immigration and ISIS must be ignored at all costs because then Hillary might lose on the merits.

Mike Sylwester said...

The New Yorker has funny cartoons.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The rhetorical technique I most loathe is the appeal to authority when the authority is unavailable for comment. This usually takes the form of future generations will look back and say..., or something along those lines. Putting words into a famous dead person's mouth works too.

But, of course, if we could be trusted to know and say what those people would say then we wouldn't need them to say it, we could simply say it on our own authority.

Original Mike said...

If they didn't before, the New Yorker sure knows who Ann Althouse is now.

rhhardin said...

For many years, each week, Oliver and I would cruise north on the West Side bike path at sunrise. Alone, our bicycles a few inches apart, we spoke about everything and anything, but mostly about interesting patients, natural history, and food. His voice was soft, and I struggled to hear his words.

Unreadable filler is what puts me off. AP uses it in human interest writing.

DELTA JUNCTION, Alaska — The Humvee's headlights shone brightly, casting daylight clarity on a line of spruce trees, every needle standing out in stark contrast to the dark night of Alaska's interior. Next to the vehicle, the incandescent lights on another Humvee glowed like mere candles.

They're winners in the bad prose contest.

David Begley said...

The New Yorker needs to realize that Althouse is the competition. Dinosaur media is dead. None of my friends read The New Yorker. I don't know anyone who is voting for Hillary. But I live in flyover country and don't count.

chickelit said...

No doubt people will enlist the spirit of Christopher Hitchens against Trump.

Bob Ellison said...

My toaster yesterday popped up a slice with an image of Jesus and a caption that clearly said "I hate Trump".

chickelit said...

I mean, isn't WFB the reason why NRO remains obstinate?

PB said...

It's solid evidence of delusional behavior.

virgil xenophon said...

With his first comment Begley rolls right out of the chocks to pretty much cover the waterfront in four sentences..

Amadeus 48 said...

Bob Ellison--Brilliant! It's a miracle.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Seems to me that the guy is mostly just making things up, anyway.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrisnavin.com said...

You're on a roll.

Not literally on a roll, I trust.

***Bob, beneath the 'I hate Trump' Upper West Side toast phenomenon, there have been reports of weeping activist statues.

Jupiter said...

Original Mike said...

"If they didn't before, the New Yorker sure knows who Ann Althouse is now."

Dear Ms. Althouse,

We regret to inform you that your subscription has been cancelled ...

Sebastian said...

"and then the name "Trump" — why???!!" Back to faux surprise?

What Begley said. Progs are all politics, all the time. They are, if you pardon the mixed metaphors, in 24/7 stuff-it-down-their-throats, scorch-the-earth mode.

AJ Lynch said...

Bob Ellison at 8:15- excellently funny unless you were serious. Heh.

Gunbunny62 said...

I'm sure Oliver will still get to vote in November.

BDNYC said...

Yes, disgusting. Extremely disrespectful. I don't even like it when widowed spouses pull this kind of crap.

Tommy Duncan said...

David Begley said: "The New Yorker needs to realize that Althouse is the competition. Dinosaur media is dead. None of my friends read The New Yorker. I don't know anyone who is voting for Hillary. But I live in flyover country and don't count.

The dinosaur media is not yet dead. It is lying on the floor bleeding red ink and thrashing about. Wounded animals are dangerous. Thrashing dinosaurs can do great damage.

Meanwhile, notable elements of the new media (Facebook, Twitter, Google...) are doing their best to tilt the playing field to the left. The good news is we have other new media resources that allow us to recognize and expose the bias.

MikeR said...

FWIW, I didn't like Trump Tower either. My wife and I were on a sightseeing walking tour of Manhattan last year. We passed Trump Tower and I wanted to go in. We were immediately presented with a booth for Trump Mementos, another for Trump T-shirts, another sign about Trump Towers... Went up the Trump Escalator to the Trump Cafeteria and Trump Drinks and Trump Snacks, and down to the Trump Bar and Trump Dining Area. I don't remember all of them, but I very literally could not find a direction to look where I did not see his name. Eventually I went to the Trump Toilets, but I think the sign must have fallen down or something.
I was amazed; what a country full of losers we are: there must be hundreds of thousands of buildings in the USA, and no one thought of putting his name on every visible surface until Donald Trump came along.
My candidate.

William said...

I gave up on the NY Times, but still subscribe to The New Yorker. The cartoons are ok, and some of them are not even directed against Trump. The articles cover a lot of areas besides politics, and there's generally something worth reading.......Artists and intellectuals have gotten a lot of things wrong in the past few hundred years. Why should our present moment be any different than the past?

tim in vermont said...

What are they supposed to do with their derangement syndrome now that they are all in for Bush Lite, Hillary the neocon? It has to go somewhere.

damikesc said...

He would have been crushed by the rise of Donald Trump and the electoral success of Brexit. Intolerance and fear-mongering, he knew, are rudders that steer societies in dangerous directions

I'm certainly glad the media isn't using fear-mongering and intolerance towards people who support Trump...hey, didn't Cokie Roberts say his supporters were "morally tainted"?

Well, never mind then.

I was amazed; what a country full of losers we are: there must be hundreds of thousands of buildings in the USA, and no one thought of putting his name on every visible surface until Donald Trump came along.

In Trump's defense, politicians have done that for decades. They just use your money to praise themselves.

tim in vermont said...

No doubt people will enlist the spirit of Christopher Hitchens against Trump.

All the while studiously ignoring his book about the Clintons No One Left to Lie To

Hitch was like me, not nearly cynical enough.

tim in vermont said...

At least Trump used his own money, unlike Robert Byrd.

damikesc said...

All the while studiously ignoring his book about the Clintons No One Left to Lie To

Hitchens became persona non grata to the Left until he died because of his reporting about the Clintons and their behavior.

Robert Cook said...

@MikeR:

Trump Tower is a different building than the Trump Place apartment buildings referred to in this article. Trump Place overlooks the Hudson River on the Upper West Side. Trump Tower is actually a rather handsome building. Built decades ago, it could have been designed and built this year, while the Trump Place buildings seem somehow anonymous and dated. Trump Place looks like the 70s. (This is true of other Trump apartment buildings I've seen. It's possible Trump didn't even build them, but simply bought existing structures and attached his name to them. The Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle was once the Gulf and Western building.)

I have no idea what Oliver Sacks thought of politics or of Donald Trump, and his friend's recollection is intended, I think, to have us believe Sacks' objection to Trump Place was an objection to the man. As one who rides up and down the West Side bike path to work and back several times a week, I can believe his objection was merely to the buildings themselves, as they present a wall that completely blocks the view of the city. Below them, cyclists, runners and walkers can enjoy the splendid vista of Manhattan in its changing appearance from mid-town down to the Battery.

buwaya puti said...

Hey!
I am one of those resident aliens.
I feel just like Mr. Sacks.
Though I'm not as nice and dont write as well.

Robert Cook said...

"Hitchens became persona non grata to the Left until he died because of his reporting about the Clintons and their behavior."

I think Hitchens became anathema to the left when he took up the cause for Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

Ann Althouse said...

"Unreadable filler is what puts me off."

Your comment motivated me to search for the most purple-prose word in the New Yorker essay — sunrise — in Oliver Sacks's memoir. It appears once and I'm quoting it so you can compare prose quality:

"I would ride through the night, lying flat on the tank; the bike had only 30 horsepower, but if I lay flat, I could get it to a little over a hundred miles per hour, and crouched like this, I would hold the bike flat out for hour after hour. Illuminated by the headlight— or, if there was one, by a full moon— the silvery road was sucked under my front wheel, and sometimes I had strange perceptual reversals and illusions. Sometimes I felt that I was inscribing a line on the surface of the earth, at other times that I was poised motionless above the ground, the whole planet rotating silently beneath me. My only stops were at gas stations, to fill the tank, to stretch my legs and exchange a few words with the gas attendant. If I held the bike at its maximum speed, I could reach the Grand Canyon in time to see the sunrise."

Sacks, Oliver (2015-04-28). On the Move: A Life (Kindle Locations 1461-1463). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

BrianE said...

"Intolerance and fear-mongering, he knew, are rudders that steer societies in dangerous directions...." -Ms. Althouse

I assume you mean the intolerance and fear-mongering by leftists that want to drive traditional morality from the public square to be replaced by a grotesque hedonism or the fear-mongering by the same statists with AGW, i.e. 'climate change'?

James Graham said...

The current management has turned The New Yorker into all-politics all-the-time.

I will probably cease my (decades old) subscription and switch to The Atlantic or something similar. I can live with left-wing slants but if you turn a great general intellectual magazine into another version of The Nation you are giving the finger to your readers and deserve to be dumped.

It's all egotism. Running a magazine isn't enough. Telling readers how to vote/think is more satisfying to pathetic over-mommied individuals.

Ann Althouse said...

"You're on a roll. Not literally on a roll, I trust."

Yeah, I'm literally on a roll.

That was sarcasm! Like it? Donald Trump does sarcasm sometimes. But what of the dead? Are they ever sarcastic?

Yeah, I love being dead. It's just great.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, BrianE, please don't attribute that terrible sentence to me. I could make a list of 10 reasons why I would never write that.

BrianE said...

I apologize. My indignation meter spiked when I read that.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

I come in peace.

Ann Althouse said...

I said "Hey, BrianE, please don't attribute that terrible sentence to me. I could make a list of 10 reasons why I would never write that."

The sentence is: "Intolerance and fear-mongering, he knew, are rudders that steer societies in dangerous directions."

Here are my 10 reasons:

1. I wouldn't purport to say what another person knows unless I knew of him saying he knew it.

2. Unlike Dr. Devinsky, I had no access to the man Oliver Sacks.

3. I'd be especially restrained in saying something about the mind of a person who is now dead and therefore unable to respond and correct.

4. I would be especially careful talking about Oliver Sacks because I have so much respect for him.

5. I wouldn't use the cliché metaphor of a rudder. I'll bet in the 46,000+ posts on this blog, I never once used the word "rudder" as my own metaphor (as opposed to quoting someone else), and I'm saying this without checking.

6. If I did use the rudder metaphor, I wouldn't use it for "intolerance and fear-mongering," which have an effect on society, but don't seem to really work like a rudder.

7. It's verbose to say "rudders that steer."

8. It's boringly vague to say "dangerous directions."

9. The plurals — "rudders," "societies," "dangerous directions" — are ugly and distracting, even aside from the way they increase the suspicion about whether Oliver Sacks really thought such things.

10. The plunked in "he knew" makes the propaganda move — OS said the thing that I want to say — so glaringly obvious. If I wanted to do propaganda, I'd be more subtle.

I could go on, but I said 10, so I just wanted to check my work.

chrisnavin.com said...

One night while camping, I used a 24-pack of cheap rolls as a pillow, so I know what it's like to literally be on some rolls. Better than rocks.

I actually don't mind the sarcasm, Althouse, recalling how often you've connected vivid mental images with the written word.

Merely observing a fellow observer doing a pretty good job of observation.



Unknown said...

Sacks couldn't keep from bashing Reagan in his best-known work, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." That you've always been charitable enough to overlook his partisan demagoguery is a credit to you, Ann. What a shame that neither Sachs, nor evidently his associates, could exhibit enough civility or character to do the same.

Michael said...

I read the New Yorker article yesterday and it put me off my feed for a bit. The Trump bit was distasteful. Wrong. Now I yield to no man in my disdain for Trump's architectural taste but I would not attribute political motivations to it. Nor would I put political words in the mouth of a dead friend who was moments before described as apolitical

William said...

During the worst part of the depression, John D. Rockefeller Jr. put up Rockefeller Center. He used the Rockefeller name not for reasons of vanity but in order to help sell space in the building and to secure labor and material from the contractors. It was assumed that because of the Rockefeller name the project would not go broke. The project provided over 75,000 union jobs during its construction. I believe students of architecture continue to give the complex high marks for its clean lines and modernity.......The Mexican artist, Rivera, created a mural within the building that featured the likeness of Lenin as one of the benefactors of mankind. Rockefeller had it destroyed. He was criticized for being a philistine, and Rivera was praised for his artistic courage and integrity........That's the way it goes with artists and intellectuals. They venerate a mass murderer like Lenin, and slime a man like Rockefeller. It's not fair, but that's the way it goes.

Ann Althouse said...

" I'll bet in the 46,000+ posts on this blog, I never once used the word "rudder" as my own metaphor (as opposed to quoting someone else), and I'm saying this without checking."

I'm checking now. "Rudder" is a word that appears only 5 times in the entire 12-year history of the blog.

1. This post, quoting Devinsky.

2. Here — not really the word, but somebody's name, Christian Rudder (a co-founder of OKCupid).

3. Quoting Jacques Barzun: "A Self is interesting to oneself and others, it acts as a sort of rudder in all the vicissitudes of life and it thereby defines what used to be known as a career." I wouldn't write like that either. Oh! And I see I complained about the use of "rudder": "The elder Barzun likens identity to a path and then to a rudder. Life is a journey. That's a very widely used metaphor. All these people who think of life as a journey: What are they picturing? Do they see a wilderness where you can find — or break — a path? Or do they see a map where you can mark a path? Or is it a journey over the ocean, in which your body is a ship, and what you want is a rudder? The seafaring image implicit in Barzun's "rudder" made me think of that popular old poem that ends "I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul." I haven't heard that poem — "Invictus" — quoted in a long time, perhaps because it was overquoted to the point of triteness and nowadays people don't read poetry...."

4. Here — quoting Charles Krauthammer (in 2005): "The idea that Bush is looking to appoint some kind of closet liberal David Souter or even some rudderless Sandra Day O'Connor clone is wildly off the mark." Sandra O'Connor as a boat... and a clone... and off the mark. Yeesh. How many dying metaphores in that sentence?

5.  Here — quoting Ron Silver's daughter (after Silver spoke at the GOP convention): "[H]e is still a registered Democrat, and Mr. Silver told his convention audience that he has not disavowed the left's social agenda. But at the moment he represents a particular slice of the American political spectrum: voters who put national security before ideology and want to keep President Bush's hand on the nation's rudder."

There! I won my bet. Are you not impressed?

Robert Cook said...

"What a shame that neither Sachs, nor evidently his associates, could exhibit enough civility or character to do the same."

Why is any elected official deserving of our civility? These are people who seek power--presumably to work for the American people, (but often merely for self-aggrandizement). If they are willing to have millions of bosses, they should expect to receive millions of job reviews--bluntly, and daily. Given the polarity of political views, if George Washington were resurrected and re-installed as president, he would, no doubt, be assailed by vicious attacks from those who disagreed with his policies and practices. As someone said, politics is a blood-sport, and is not for those without big egos and tough skins.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
damikesc said...

I think Hitchens became anathema to the left when he took up the cause for Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

He was "bad" before then.

If all it took for somebody to become anathema to the Left was support for the Iraq War, Hillary would be losing this election right now.

Whether you like it or not, the Left has zero issues with the Iraq War. Never did. They had an issue with Bush.

Jim Stronach said...

Ironic of the author to bring him up since Sacks is one person who would have had the skills, and hopefully the integrity, to honestly vet the conditions of both candidates, primarily the Hillary neurological glitches that might have legs.

rhhardin said...

Rudders on airplanes don't even steer. They overcome adverse yaw.

When you roll left to turn left, the downgoing left wing has less drag than the upgoing right wing, since one is going downhill and one is going uphill. This swings the nose to the right, exactly the wrong direction! It's a yaw in the wrong direction, hence adverse yaw. So you step a little on the left rudder to keep the nose from swinging right.

When you roll out level, the upgoing left wing has more drag and you step on right rudder to keep the nose from swinging left.

Various modern airplanes automate this, and even some ancient ones like the Ercoupe, but that's what the rudder is for, whether automated or not.

Martin said...

"Well, maybe not always so friendly"

Don't sell yourself short. You're not always so observant either.

rhhardin said...

Rudder in literature

The existence of tics having been established, let none be surprised to see the same words recur more than their fair share: in Lamartine, the tears which fall down his horse's nostrils, the colour of his mother's hair; in Hugo, the darkness and the broken man; these are part of the binding.

The science I undertake is a science distinct from poetry. I do not sing of the latter. I strive to discover its source. Through the rudder that steers all poetic thought, billiards professors will discern the evolution of sentimental theses.

The theorem is mocking by nature, it is not indecent. The theorem does not ask to be allowed to serve as application. The application made of it belittles the theorem, turns it indecent. Call the application the struggle against matter, against the ravages of the spirit.

- Lautreamont

Fred Drinkwater said...

Evidently MikeR has never been in West Virginia, aka the Senator Byrd Memorial State.

Yancey Ward said...

Robert Cook wrote:

"I think Hitchens became anathema to the left when he took up the cause for Bush and the invasion of Iraq."

Well, this is pretty demonstrably false, isn't it? They don't seem to have a problem with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, do they?

Yancey Ward said...

And Damikesc beat me to it.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Martin said...
"Well, maybe not always so friendly"

Don't sell yourself short. You're not always so observant either.


Zing! But really, start your own blog if you're so dissatisfied, Martin.

Rusty said...

Ya ever notice. The dead always work for the left. I wonder what they're getting paid.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The rhetorical technique I most loathe is the appeal to authority when the authority is unavailable for comment. This usually takes the form of future generations will look back and say...

My favorite version is the science-fiction scenario featuring incredibly advanced space aliens with surprisingly emphatic opinions whatever humans are arguing with each other about at the moment-- opinions which align perfectly with the politics of the author. That's how you tell the aliens are incredibly advanced.

Joe said...

The contempt of Brexit by the powerful makes total sense. Why AMERICAN liberals [not in power] have such contempt for it boggles the mind. It fascinates me that liberals have now stopped even pretending to champion the proletariat.

Big Mike said...

A great little article. Since it was published in the New Yorker one has to wonder how much of it, if any, was true.

Robert Cook said...

"Well, this is pretty demonstrably false, isn't it? They don't seem to have a problem with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, do they?"

Who on the left favors Hillary Clinton or John Kerry?

cubanbob said...

Robert Cook said...
"Well, this is pretty demonstrably false, isn't it? They don't seem to have a problem with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, do they?"

Who on the left favors Hillary Clinton or John Kerry?

8/19/16, 9:34 PM"

According to the polls they aren't voting for Jill Stein and they for sure aren't voting Republican..... I'm pretty sure you will be voting for Stein once the polls show Hillary winning by a comfortable margin otherwise you will be "holding your nose" and voting for Hillary.

Robert Cook said...

I'm voting for Jill Stein regardless of any poll margins. I voted for her four years ago. There's no circumstance where I would vote for Hillary Clinton.

Brian said...

The most irritating people on the planet are not the Trumpsters, but the lecturing, above-the-frey, anti-anti-Trump individuals.

That means you, Althouse. Not you alone, but you're a pretty good example.

tim in vermont said...

Yet here you are, voluntarily reading her blog. Go cocoon yourself if dealing with ideas bothers you so much.