October 7th, 2010



Angelo Codevilla wrote an essay, "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution" for the American Spectator. Rush Limbaugh quoted enthusiastically from the essay on his radio show, and subsequently wrote the introduction to a book-length (once it's padded with The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution) version, The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It. If, in fact, we are at a breaking point in our politics, or in a Fourth Turning, it's useful to know where the fractures are. Mr Codevilla is attempting to identify that fracture, suggesting that there's a Ruling Class, notionally the old Eastern Liberal Establishment plus the Country Club Republicans, and a Country Class, not so easily defined but combining some parts of homeschoolers, intact families, and economic libertarians, loosely the Tea Party coalition. Book Review No. 22 recommends readers read the American Spectator essay: it's not yet behind the pay wall, it makes many of the same arguments, and it's shorter.

People who attempt taxonomies necessarily must make some arbitrary choices. Creating broad categories, as a division of the body politic into a ruling class and a country class, takes on the flavor of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be a Redneck" stuff. You might be a member of the Ruling Class if ... you have a degree from an Ivy League or Big Ten university. It's true that the Ivies and the Big Ten provide a lot of technocrats, CEOs, Deputy Assistant Secretaries, and Diversity Boondogglers. On the other hand, you might turn up a lot of graduates who agree with the Tea Party for reasons that are subtle. A manifesto that includes the following is unlikely to encourage more such crossovers.
America's pro-family movement is a reaction to the Ruling Class' challenges: emptying marriage of legal sanction, promoting abortion, and progressively excluding parents from their children's education.
Does that last include school boards that mandate the untestable special creation hypothesis as holding equal intellectual standing to the testable evolution hypothesis?
Close friendships, and above all, marriages, become rarer between persons who think well of divorce, abortion, and governmental authority over children and those who do not.
Self-selection, assortative mating, seeking soul mates?
The home-school movement, for which the internet became the great facilitator, involves not only each family educating its own children, but also extensive and growing social, intellectual, and spiritual contact among like-minded persons.
That's not conducive to understanding the intellectual basis of the Eastern Liberal Establishment or the Country Club Republicans. (Such bases exist, they have weaknesses, but it takes persuasive argumentation to offer anything other than Not of the Establishment as a way of turfing that Establishment out.)

In the stack of books to be reviewed are several dealing with the financial markets melting down, the fault lines in politics, and visions of the world to come. Works that attempt to make sense of the Establishment's sudden loss of credibility tend to be less convincing, in part because they attempt, as Mr Codevilla has, to construct too broad a category of In opposed to Wanting In.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book 56 for 2010

KIlling Floor by Lee Child. 525 pages

Next book finished should have been Under the Dome by Stephen King, but I misplaced it last week and picked this up in the meantime and frankly, by the time I found UTD again, this had gripped me much more.

Jack Reacher arrives in the Georgia town of Margrave, just in time to be arrested  for the town's first murder in thirty years. It's not long before it becomes clear that something is very wrong in Margrave - and that it affects Reacher very closely indeed.

My sister has been recommending this series to me for a while now, so when I spotted the first one in Sainsbury's on their 2 for £7 offer, I bought it (along with UTD).  It's a very well-plotted thriller/mystery with a first person narrator and I liked it a lot. Not for the squeamish though - there are some very nasty and quite explicit scenes of torture and death.  I found some of them a little much, but the plot and the characters were enough to get me past them and I shall be looking for the next book in the series.

16. The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

wood wife
Title: The Wood Wife
Author: Terri Windling
Year: 1996
# of pages: 292
Date read: 3/2/2010
Rating: 3*/5


"Leaving behind her fashionable West Coast life, Maggie Black comes to the Southwestern desert to pursue her passion and her dream. Her mentor, the acclaimed poet Davis Cooper, has mysteriously died in the canyons east of Tucson, bequeathing her his estate and the mystery of his life--and death.

Maggie is astonished by the power of this harsh but beautiful land and captivated by the uncommon people who call it home--especially Fox, a man unlike any she has ever known, who understands the desert's special power.

As she reads Cooper's letters and learns the secrets of his life, Maggie comes face-to-face with the wild, ancient spirits of the desert--and discovers the hidden power at its heart, a power that will take her on a journey like no other."

My thoughts:

This was a good fantasy set in the American Southwest. I liked how Maggie learned about the land and people around her and how she discovers the truth behind Cooper's death.

#4: Movies and plays (contains some cursing)


Mere Anarchy
by Woody Allen

As a confirmed Woody Allen fan, I think I can speak for all of us fans when I say that we're drawn to Allen's particular sensibility: winsome, urbane, intellectual, and smitten with the intricacies of big-city life and the magic of old-fashioned cinema. It's a sensibility that you'll find in most of his comedy films, for example, and it makes those movies worthwhile even when they're not exactly "funny" (I would say that many of Allen's comedies aren't really all that funny). So, it was a nice surprise to find that this book of comic vignettes is actually pretty funny - I laughed out loud several times. True to form, this book features a preponderance of schmucks looking for a big break, in stories set overwhelmingly on Manhattan's east side. Basically, if you like Woody Allen, you'll like this.

Sum-up: A nice treat for fans


In the Blink of an Eye
by Walter Murch
1995, with additional essays from 2001

Walter Murch is a renowned film editor and all-around movie-industry multi-talent; his film credits include two of my all-time favorite movies - "Crumb" and "The Conversation" - not to mention "Apocalypse Now", "The English Patient", and many others. This book is a brief, accessible introduction to some of the basic, underlying concepts of film editing; it's maybe a little too brief and accessible (it started out as a couple of informal film-school lectures) - I mean, I probably wouldn't have read it at all if it were much longer, but I wish Murch could've found space to dive deeper into some of this stuff, or maybe inject some more poetry into his simple, conversational writing style. But, even if you already know a bit about editing, you'll probably glean some interesting ideas from this book - why Murch chooses to edit standing up, for example, or how the cuts in a film relate to the motions of the human eye.

Sum-up: Worthwhile but maybe a bit shallow


Dream Whip #14
by Bill Brown
zines/book arts/travel

This is maybe technically a journal, not a book - it's an issue of a zine - but it's a book, too… writer and filmmaker Brown writes little sketches on themes that will be familiar to any long-time zine reader: travel and nomadism, punk rock, unexpected sources of creativity and community; each vignette tends to coalesce into a thoughtful, funny observation. Brown is a good writer, but his approach starts to feel frustratingly flip after a while: I started wishing for more depth and more context, something to sink my teeth into rather than just a snack. But, these are tasty snacks.

Sum-up: Good, especially if you like this sort of thing


Comic Potential
by Alan Ayckbourn

Without getting into it, let me just say that it's strange - isn't it? - the way certain books come into your life… This is basically a romantic comedy with light science-fiction elements - there are robots in it, you see. Pretty entertaining, but also kinda smug; ultimately, it doesn't add much to the ever-expanding discourse on man vs. machine.

Sum-up: It is what it is


Up Your Ass
by Valerie Solanas

A manic comedy by Solanas (1936-1988), author of the "SCUM Manifesto" - a book which famously called for the elimination of men from society. Solanas gave her only copy (I think) of this play to Andy Warhol, who refused to produce it and lost the manuscript; this event gave Solanas the impetus to try and murder Warhol and some of his friends (these events were dramatized in the film "I Shot Andy Warhol"). The play was considered lost until 2000, when a Warhol archivist found the original among Warhol's old stuff (it remains unpublished, but bootleg copies are floating around). The full title of this work is "Up Your Ass, or From the Cradle to the Boat, or The Big Suck, or Up From the Slime, and A Young Girl's Primer on How to Attain to the Leisure Class". I could go on, but this is probably all you need to know to decide whether or not you'd enjoy this. I did.

Sum-up: What more can I say?