Tuesday Articles

Tuesday Article: Taibbi does it again.

Yes, I know. It's becoming the all-Taibbi, all the time blog around here. I can't help it. Every time I read one of his articles (except for some of the financial ones I don't understand, and don't particularly want to understand), I think, well, right on, Matt Taibbi. Thanks for saying it out loud, even though you must feel like you're banging your head against a wall by now, because NO ONE IS LISTENING.

The article in question last week deals with Bradley Manning and the leak of national secrets to Wikileaks. Taibbi, bless him, points out that the only story anyone can write about this story has to do with the "Is Manning a hero or a villain" storyline, or makes a lot of veiled comments regarding Manning's gender and sexuality, neither of which are really the point.

What is the point? Let Taibbi tell you: "Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names."

Wonder what's being done in our names? Go read the article to start to find out.*

*And here's a fun fact for you, from an article linked to by Taibbi: the Pentagon spends BILLIONS on PR? Gross.

Take that, The Help.

Remember when Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help was all the rage?

Personally, I remember trying to force my way through the first fifty pages, and then tossing it away in disgust, wondering, once again, how a white woman got away with* writing such terrible, stereotypical dialect.

Well, if you didn't care for that book (or maybe if you did, and you're looking for a different perspective), read bell hooks's elegant takedown of it** (and others of its ilk).*** It's everything I always wanted to say about The Help, except that she put it way, way better than I ever could. (One of my favorite bits? "hooks took aim, specifically, at fashionable best-selling novels that romanticize the idea of inter-racial sisterhood and have reduced the idea of feminine solidarity across cultures into light, feel-good sentimental tripe.")

That is all. Now get thee home and read some Shirley Jackson so you're all ready for next week's Book Menage.

*Got away with? More like made out like a bandit with.

**Thanks to Bookslut for the link.

***To be clear: the article is actually a journalist's article about a talk given by bell hooks on this subject.

Tuesday Article: What Broke My Father's Heart

I was not over-impressed with most of the essays I found in the 2011 edition of The Best American Essays, edited by Edwidge Danticat. But one did stand out:

Katy Butler's What Broke My Father's Heart

I highly suggest all of you read it. It will make you very unhappy, probably, about the business of American medicine (and that's exactly what it is--a business--only not a customer service business), but it should be read.

Thursday Article: Take that, State of Wonder.

If you haven't seen it yet this year, you should know that The Morning News is once again running their annual Tournament of Books.

I enjoy the Tournament, and salute TMN for running it, but usually I just check in briefly to see which books are advancing (and who the big winner is). I rarely read all the reviews and commentary, just because they're usually reviewing literary fiction novels about which I've heard but which I also have very few intentions of reading.

That all changed today when I read Wil Wheaton's* judging of Ann Patchett's novel State of Wonder vs. Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.

I gotta tell you: Wil Wheaton is my new crush. Not only did he NOT advance Patchett's novel (of which I was not a fan, you'll remember), this is just an excerpt of what he had to say about one of the main characters:

"Wow, the doctor we’ve been waiting all this time to meet is a giant asshole. That’s good, because what this story needs is less interesting plot and more unlikable characters."

HA! Awesome. Thumbs up to Wheaton for making the ballsy choice of dumping the critically acclaimed Patchett novel in favor of DeWitt's, and thumbs up for a hilarious review explaining, at great length, the rationale for the ballsy choice.

*Here's Wheaton's bio from the site: "Wil Wheaton is an actor (Eureka, Leverage, The Big Bang Theory), author (Just a Geek, The Happiest Days of our Lives), and blogger (Wil Wheaton dot Net: In Exile). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Anne." Please note many people also know him for his acting role on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Friday Article: Remarkable Republicans.

I bet that headline got your attention.

I don't really mean it, don't worry.

What is remarkable is this article by, of course, Matt Taibbi. Now as you know, I love Matt Taibbi with my whole heart and soul and I WILL NOT REST until you love him too. You can start by reading this article, which contains a lovely, succinct description of George W. Bush:

"Then conservatives managed to elect to the White House a man who was not only a fundamentalist Christian, but a confirmed anti-intellectual who never even thought about visiting Europe until, as president, he was forced to – the perfect champion of all Real Americans!"

His earlier paragraphs, about Bill Clinton, aren't bad either:

"'Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution, was the way Ann Coulter put it. 'That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that.'

So they [conservatives] fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there."

What's remarkable about Matt Taibbi is that he's smart, and in his business and political reporting, he sees approximately 1000% more bullshit than any normal person should have to see and assimilate. And yet he still ends an article like this one by saying the process is "remarkable to watch." I get the feeling this guy just loves life, and he'll take a laugh wherever he can get it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I hope not, because I love him for it.

Happy weekend, all.

Tuesday Article: The real problem with the economy.

I really enjoy reading the Christian Science Monitor online, although it's typically depressing as hell.

I found this article (written by Robert Reich) on one of the biggest problems in our economy echoed what I've been thinking for years but could never verbalize so well. If you don't have time to read the whole article, here's one of my favorite paragraphs out of it:

"The crisis of American capitalism marks the triumph of consumers and investors over workers and citizens. And since most of us occupy all four roles – even though the lion’s share of consuming and investing is done by the wealthy – the real crisis centers on the increasing efficiency by which all of us as consumers and investors can get great deals, and our declining capacity to be heard as workers and citizens."

Incidentally, speaking of deals (or things that are not deals), someone posted yesterday on my post from a million years ago about Melissa & Doug products being crap. I share the comment here in its entirety because I will not rest, people, until all of you stop buying Melissa & Doug products. Thank you.

"Heh! I submitted a one-star review of a dreadful M&D product we were given -- a $35 set of dollar-store craft supplies with 'washable' paint that permanently trashed an easel, table, a bit of the floor, and so much clothing I have difficulty thinking about it, before I realised 'washable' was not 'washable.' The review was never posted. I got an e-mail from "Lisa" thanking me for my "e-mail" with an invitation to call her during [rather restricted times]. I wrote back to say I appreciated the response, but was extremely pressed for time and was not going to have time to make a phone call anytime soon; could she please address this in e-mail? Of course I didn't hear back, and of course my review simply didn't make it on the site. melissaanddoug.com is littered with enthusiastic four and five star reviews; I haven't been able to find any poor ratings or reviews. Apparently they are all simply trashed as mine was, perhaps with a half-hearted attempt at contact from "Lisa." At least the paint disaster was bad enough for me to be rude enough to finally ask the person who had been buying us all the M&D stuff to please stop..."

Thanks for the comment, K.

Why write a book when you can just copy and paste and sell someone else's?

If you've got a spare moment, you might find this article* about rampant plagiarism going on under the heading of "self-publishing" at Amazon interesting. Sad, but interesting.

This is my favorite line, personally: "Perhaps, though, Amazon doesn't care if it sells plagiarized works; it benefits from the sale whether it holds back an author's royalties or not."

Hm. Perhaps.

*Via Bookslut.

Thursday Article: Matt Taibbi on Steve Jobs

Yes, yes, I know we haven't had a "Tuesday Article" for a long time, and yes, yes, I know it's Thursday. Be that all as it may:

You have got to read Matt Taibbi's take on Steve Jobs. That sums up how I feel about Steve Jobs, but perfectly. Good old Matt Taibbi. As Georgia would say in the Louise Rennison Confessions of Georgia Nicolson YA novels, I LUURVVE him.

Tuesday Article: Humans and books--messy

I have been bummed lately, feeling like machines and algorithms are taking over the world. I'd be less bummed if I thought they were doing a very good job.*

So I wasn't all that titillated to hear that Goodreads, the social reading/cataloging site, is now offering a book recommendation service based on an algorithm they bought from another company. But I was glad to read this article about it in the New Yorker, where the author concludes that books, and humans, are messy, and algorithms don't always do well with messy. For some reason that cheered me up.

*I swear, now that CRjr's pediatrician's office is on computerized record-keeping, our visits take twice as long. How is that possible?

Tuesday Articles: The bells continue to toll for Borders.

I'm ashamed to admit that I rarely visited my local Borders bookstore--I never felt like I could spend the money and once CRjr arrived it just seemed like too much to do to bundle him up in the winter and go out--but now that it's gone I find myself missing it. (I liked it better than Barnes and Noble, and most of the few indie bookstores in my city are downtown and not so easy for me to just drop in on.)

So I have been reading a number of articles about the end of the Borders era, written by former Borders employees:

Dispatch from a Dying Borders

The Day Borders Got the Wobblies

Those are two of the most interesting I've seen, and I found them both via Bookslut. Has anyone else seen any "memories of Borders" blog posts or articles around?

Tuesday Articles: Viva nonfiction!

I just noticed that Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness has started, along with a few cohorts, something called BAND--the Bloggers' Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees. It's a neat idea--kind of an Algonquin Round Table with various questions about nonfiction, and it's open to everyone!

I particularly enjoyed the last question about how people got started as nonfiction readers (posed by Amy Reads). And I really enjoyed Savvy Working Gal's answer.* It's so nice to see nonfiction getting a little love.

*I too got into nonfiction when I got tired of starting and not liking novel after novel after novel.

Tuesday Article: Anna Nicole Smith

For my money, New York magazine is producing some of the finest print journalism out there right now. Consider a recent article on Anna Nicole Smith:

Paw Paw and Lady Love

They took what could have been (was) a sensationalized story and made it into an article that read like the very best (and of course, saddest) Greek tragedy. It's worth a read. (And, for good measure, here's the latest on the court case discussed in the article.)

Tuesday articles: Reviewing the reviewers

The Tuesday articles are a day late this week, as I wanted to post Joanna Kavenna's email answers together.

Cindy Orr over at the Reader's Advisor Online blog recently had the great idea to compare and contrast how many books are given "starred" reviews in librarian-ish review publications (Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus) vs. how many of those same titles ended up on the year's "best of" lists. It was really kind of an interesting project, and she draws some interesting conclusions:

Reviewing the Reviews: Part 1

and, Reviewing the Reviews, Part 2

I wrote an article for the series about, what else?, nonfiction. Here it is: Reviewing the Reviews, Part 3.

Tuesday Articles: Diana Athill is the best.

We interrupt Women in Finance (Books) Week for a literary Tuesday Article post.

Last week's big literary story was author V.S. Naipaul stating that no women writers are his literary match.

But my favorite part of the story was longtime Naipaul editor Diana Athill's response to his remarks. My favorite line there is at the end: "And Athill has previously said that when she needed cheering up, 'I used to tell myself, At least I'm not married to Vidia.'" Ha.*

Full disclosure: I love Diana Athill.