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January 23, 2007


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Gerhard Riebicke photographed nudes back in the days when "nude" really meant something.

* Some great lesbian-nurse pulp paperback covers can be enjoyed here. Some great Italian erotic-comic-book covers can be relished here.

* Rachel thnks that too much has been made of classics coming off library shelves.

* Prairie Mary once knew both Richard Stern and Richard Benjamin.

* Neil Gaimen reviews Alan Moore's porno epic "The Lost Girls." (Link thanks to that saucey Cowtown Pattie.)

* Half Sigma thinks that it's worth paying more money for better-quality tea.

* Eroticism, avant-garde art, the '70s, trash movies -- if this is a cocktail that appeals, then Jahsonic may be your man.

* Alice suspects that she won't be bothering with any more Martin Amis.

* Thanks to Yahmdallah, who passed along a link to this hilarious list of reasons not to be a writer.

* Yahmdallah dares to put into words what I suspect many millions have been keeping to themselves: "I have never felt 'white guilt'." Given that Yahmdallah is a good liberal, I wonder if his admission represents a major zeitgeist change. I certainly hope so.

* Small-Is-Beautiful alpha dog Wendell Berry has a few things to say about local economies.

* Small-Is-Beautiful revivalist Joseph Pearce is questioning the dogma of global free trade. The debate in the comments on his posting is a lot of fun. UDPATE: The yakfest continues here.

* I enjoyed this charmer of an interview with the souful/sweet actress Valeria Golino. She's very perceptive (without being remotely "smart" in an intellectual sense) about directors, actors, and film.

* Good luck / bad luck.

* Why do our leaders so often seem so wet behind the ears? Another juicy and pithy Fred Reed column.



posted by Michael at January 23, 2007


The Fred Reed column, though entertaining for the first couple of paragraphs, is essentially an ad hominem attack against supporters of the current war. Reed is saying: You, effete, sheltered war supporter, know nothing of real life. Your lack of experiences like mine disqualifies you from leadership. But note the intellectual sleight-of-hand: Reed does not address the actual arguments in favor of the war. Nor does he acknowledge that many Americans with rough-and-tumble backgrounds of the kind that he admires, as well as many non-Americans who are unlikely to be as naive about the world as he imagines the likes of George Bush to be, support the war. How does that reality square with his set-piece homilies? It doesn't, and he ignores it.

Posted by: Jonathan on January 23, 2007 3:41 PM

Hi Blowhards,

Thanks for the plug. Regarding Alice's denigrating comments on Martin Amis, what a pity she didn't get it; Time's Arrow is simply one of the better 20th century reading experiences.


Posted by: Jahsonic on January 23, 2007 4:00 PM

I'm with Alice. I'd read most of Amis's books before Time's Arrow, but that one was bad enough to keep me from getting the urge to ever read another.

Posted by: James M. on January 23, 2007 4:24 PM

Jonathan -- I had the impression Fred was taking on the out-of-touch ruling-elite types who drag us into boondoggles while patting themselves on the back for being tough. No?

Amis-freaks -- I'm odd man out, I guess. I never liked any of the Amis fiction that I tried. Too showoffy for my tastes. The only M. Amis I ever really enjoyed was his tennis columns. Some of the best tennis-writing I ever read!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 23, 2007 4:36 PM

MB, surely there are also out-of-touch ruling-elite types who put us in greater danger by trying to avoid war at all costs, appeasing our enemies and all the while patting themselves on the back for being humane? Reed is making a tired "chickenhawk" argument dressed up as wry sociopolitical analysis.

Different people come by knowledge in different ways. Some "elite" types have been around and are street smart. Some well-traveled "school of experience" types are naive fools who draw the wrong conclusions from what the see. Reed begs the question by assuming that everyone who shares a particular type of background should share a particular world view. Obviously this is not the case.

Posted by: Jonathan on January 23, 2007 7:36 PM

It seems to me Reed is saying that these types have no sense of their country and certainly not of other countries. He is directing this to the neocons: the Kristol, the Podhoretz, the NR kids, many in the Bush administration. These are the people who figured they would heal Iraq's wounds with a democracy band-aid. And the guys who thought the whole world is just one big democracy orgasm waiting to explode in freedom when the neocons whisper sweet freedoms in the Earth's ear. So, it seems legitimate to question their grasp of reality. Reed seems to be searching for an answer to the neocons defficiencies.

I believe Reed is making more of what I would call a literature argument, assigning what he believes the qualities -- or lack thereof -- that these folks possess. While it is not on face a logically laid out argument, with a bit of imagination the logic can easily be determined.
Understandably, one would ideally not want to have a debate soley on such arguments, but certain points are illuminated by the presentation of his case in such a manner. And while it is true that someone with world experience can be an idiot, can a person be smart in political matters without a world understanding? And a mystical aside (which is probably not allowed either): I just do feel the world would be a better place if Fred's man with the pool stick had given some of these neocons a complete lesson in pool.

Posted by: sN on January 24, 2007 4:06 AM

I like that library link. The ancient words remain true: "This is the internet; we can fact-check your ass."

Posted by: Brian on January 24, 2007 10:27 AM

"The only M. Amis I ever really enjoyed..."

Right after knocking him, I trip over this bit from an aldaily link:

***And Martin Amis, speaking to the London Times, had this to say:

"There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children. . . . They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs—well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people.. "

Good, strong stuff, maybe he'll work this into some future text.

Posted by: James M. on January 24, 2007 12:24 PM

Count me in as a Martin Amis fan. "Money" is one of the funniest books I have ever read. It's great. Although it's really for men.

MvB: You know I'm a fan of yours but you're taking this "erotica is great/serious fiction is bad" trend to some seriously loopy lengths.

Posted by: jult52 on January 24, 2007 12:49 PM

Fred is certainly on to something; our elites, pro-war, anti-war, or otherwise, are becoming very detached from the lives of most Americans. Murray and Herrenstein attepted to address this issue in The Bell Curve, and it's a valid concern. But Reed is certainly off-base with regard to the demographics of war-support. The white working class (of whom, I would guess, Fred considers himself the paladin) has traditionally been one of the more bellicose sectors of the American populace. They were the last to turn against the Vietnam War, and are the primary repository of support for the war in Iraq. Who do you suppose is more anti-war right now? Graduates of Ivy League universities, or truck drivers, mechanics, former enlisted Marines, and other members of the working class? All I know is, I never saw a Yale professor wearing a "These Colors Don't Run" T-shirt...

Posted by: tschafer on January 24, 2007 2:48 PM

Reed of course mentions only Bush and his White House minions as the ones being out of touch which begs the question of how Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller, John Kerry, Herb Kohl and their ilk are any more in touch with the American public.

Posted by: pathobby on January 24, 2007 4:43 PM

Fred doesn't really think through his positions, he just vents, although he usually has a decent point concealed in there somewhere, whether you agree with it or not. The problem is, Reed has almost no consistency to his views, except for the fact that he hates feminists, political correctness, and George W. Bush. Any stick will do to beat these particular enemies, and logic be damned. Of course, he's more of an entertainer, rather than a serious analyst, and he is at any rate outrageous and funny. But I agree with Jonathan, I get tired of guys like McCain and Reed constantly throwing their military service in the faces of those who disagree with them. My Dad was a decorated WWII combat veteran, and he never did that.

Posted by: tschafer on January 24, 2007 5:32 PM

Reed wrote a newspaper op-ed in the late'70s or early '80s that was called, IIRC, "The Professor and the Poker Player," that brilliantly made the general point about the inadequate knowledge and judgment of book-learned elitists as compared to people who have learned from hard experience. But back then he was expressing contrarian wisdom about the limits of elites and formal education. Now he's a broken record, using the same old argument to score partisan points against people he disagrees with. Ironically, some of the individuals he implicitly condemns (neocons) got their hard experience as peacenicks in the '60s and '70s who saw aggressive totalitarians piss all over their noninterventionist dreams. Reed obviously doesn't share the neocons' conclusions, but instead of acknowledging that reasonable people can disagree he attacks them personally. He seems to be out of his depth.

Posted by: Jonathan on January 24, 2007 9:54 PM

Reed also never neglects to mention his own (rather impressive) educational accomplishments when he's discussing minority educational attainments or the education system. As so often happens with so many people, education or IQ doesn't matter, except of course when it does.

Posted by: tschafer on January 25, 2007 9:39 AM

"Money" is the Martin Amis book to read, by a wide margin. "London Fields" and "The Information" seemed like murky repeats of its best moments - in some cases, exact copies of its best moments, if you want to be picky about it. Jult is right in the above comment, though - it's a guy book all the way.

I enjoy Amis's criticism and commentary still, but I'm pretty sure he's lost me for good on the fiction.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on January 25, 2007 2:00 PM

My ex-husband's father worked with a tea garden in Assam and we used to have the most amazing tea. I've never had anything like it and I don't know what it was other than the local chai they drank and brought to the states with them. Almost square grains instead of leaves and so smooth. No trace of bitterness. Well, out of all experiences come at least one good thing......what? Did you think MD was completely without a certain amount of bitterness?

:) Don't take that remark too seriously, btw.

Posted by: MD on January 26, 2007 8:37 PM

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