In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Gently Admitting Your Political Position
  2. More Finds
  3. Blogging Note
  4. More Conservative Than Liberal
  5. Bagatelles
  6. Weight and Brains
  7. Bill Links
  8. Finds
  9. Ears Are Ugly
  10. Popular History = Drama

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Erotica Linkage | Main | "Great Jobs" That I Wouldn't Do »

August 22, 2009


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Ilkka's back! Brainy, droll, and observant, Ilkka was always one of my favorite bloggers. I'm very happy he's blogging again.

* Randall Parker lays out some objections to the Cash For Clunkers program.

* The excellent libertarian writer Karen De Coster (here's her blog; she also posts at Lew Rockwell) does workouts that you might characterize as Primal, or maybe Paleo, or maybe Functional.

* Richard Nikoley has a reason why you might want to avoid the sugar.

* Should the director of the struggling LA County Museum of Art really be paid $1 million a year?

* In what ways do politicians resemble psychopaths?

* An interview with designer Rob Janoff, who -- back in 1977 -- designed Apple's logo. Talk about having an influence on our shared visual culture.

* Here's a talk with the brilliant (and controversial) screenwriting guru Robert McKee.

* MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about the art of narrative fiction (and praised Robert McKee) back here.



UPDATE: The ballerina-author Toni Bentley writes a smart and funny review of a new book about sex for pay. Nice passage:

Why is sex supposed to be free? It never is ... While good girls require dinner, trips, “commitment” or even an engagement ring for sex, here is a book by those who simply get the cash upfront.

Even better:

This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal.

Take that, fine-writing connoisseurs.

I raved about Toni's writing back here.

posted by Michael at August 22, 2009


Toni Bentley:

"This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal."

Considering how dreadful the excerpt from Bentley's ass-fuck opus printed in Playboy was, she's awfully arrogant in dismissing good construction, and the swipe at Faulkner (who I've never read, so am not defending) strikes me as elevating oneself at others' expense.

Good construction and complexity and good story telling aren't mutually exclusve, IMHO.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on August 22, 2009 4:29 PM

McKee's whole rules and principals spiel is a distinction without a difference. It sounds like typical self-help guru hugger-mugger bullcon.

Amazing that McKee's analysis is supposed to have a pragmatic payoff in a saleable screenplay, yet it's never worked for him. Kinda like a eunuch lecturing on great sexual technique.

McKee's acolytes are wannabe writers who read one writing book after another instead of actually writing. He should do a duo with Julia Cameron.

I envy the bravado of con men.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on August 22, 2009 5:23 PM

Peter -- Whew, you're a tough audience!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 22, 2009 7:59 PM

Bentley wrote a cheap book about taking it up the ass. Pretty stupid if you ask me. That's no talent whatsoever. Now Eric Ambler -- THERE was a writer.

Bentley? She's Xaviera Hollander for the 2000's. Cheap.

Posted by: whiskey on August 23, 2009 3:17 AM

Whiskey -- Fun seeing you here. I think you're 'way off on Bentley, though. Have you read her other books? They're pretty amazing. And her sex book, whatever your own reaction to it (let alone to the sex act she so enjoyed), is a darned skillful and daring entry in the "slim, spare, shocking, French-style, existential autobiographical-essay, novella-esque tale" sweepstakes.

Can you come up with many American books about sex by women that are much of a match for "The Surrender"? If not, then I think you've got to admit that with it she achieved *something* of note.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 23, 2009 4:07 AM

Sadly, Toni B is never going to live down The Surrender. It's too bad--she is a very fine writer, smart, and has crafted a might fine sentence or two. Her first book (I think) which was a meditation/memoir on her life as a dancer, was superb.

I haven't read The Surrender, but the excerpts I have read were terribly solemn. That tone invited some of the attacks on her, I think. If she'd been jokier--that is, less brave, or less foolhardy more like it--the way Elizabeth Gilbert was in Eat Pray Love, she might be a heroine today.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 24, 2009 1:40 PM

Live it down? "The Surrender" has done Toni's career a lot of good. Thanks to it, she's now the go-to girl (or at least one of the go-to girls) at the Times (and by extension the NY lit-publishing world) for a naughty / sophisticated / self-possessed / arty-intellectual / fearless literary voice. That's a successful book.

Apart from that ... It is also a solemn, arty, and even pretentious book, god knows. But is that automatically a bad thing? The solemnity and artiness of the book are clearly hard things for parts of the American audience to put up with. That said, once again, she's done very well by the book, so there's also an important audience that it works well with. Can't please everyone.

And the predicament provokes an interesting question: What does an American writer who wants to take on eroticism as a topic -- and who wants to do so in a straight-faced and serious way -- do about the jokey-or-prissy-or-uneasy crowd? Does it make sense to spend a lot of time and energy catering to them? Maybe it'd be a waste -- they probably won't be won over anyway. So maybe it makes more sense to think, "The hell with 'em, I'm just going to put my words out there in the best and most intense way I can."

Besides, why shilly-shally about what's important to you, or try to make nicey-nice about it, or crack deprecating jokes about something that means the world to you? If a writer's biggest personal passion were, say, small-plane flying, or mountain climbing, would we expect that writer to be apologetic or jokey about it? We'd want them to be upfront and vivid about the pleasures, trials, and rewards, no? Why should we demand that a writer whose biggest personal passion is sex behave differently?

All that aside ... and more technically ... I think the book also raises an interesting semi-technical question: To what extent can the slim, stylish, autobiographical book of shocking personal revelation -- widely accepted in Europe as a legit and fun form -- work, or be made to work, in America? No idea what the answer is, but it's certainly an experiment I enjoy seeing run.

Besides: a stylish and philosophical book that rhapsodizes about anal sex? That's one of those projects that make me say, "Go for it!"

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 24, 2009 2:32 PM

A (probably mangled) quote occurs to me: a Paul Theroux character muses in one of his novels that "people make love for all kinds of weird reasons . . . why shouldn't money be one of them?"

Why indeed?

Posted by: Narr on August 24, 2009 5:01 PM

It is also a solemn, arty, and even pretentious book, god knows. But is that automatically a bad thing?

It is when lit-fic people write that kind of book.

And Toni Bentley does have to live down The Surrender, despite any Times gig it's gotten her. She is now, and will be for all time, the chick who wrote the ass-f*ck book. She's typecast now, and no amount of other writing will ever get her out of the, ah, sinkhole she jumped into when she wrote The Surrender.

I say this as an admirer of Toni B, and a despiser of American puritanism, especially of the self-described "liberated" kind. She wrote a very French memoir (see my mention of Catherine M for a comparison, even down to the style), and she's paid quite a price in terms of mockery and jokes. People always joke about things that make them nervous, and Toni B wrote about something that makes Americans nervous: the pleasures of receptive anal sex. Receptive anal sex. That is a taboo subject in America, with all its blather about "making you my bitch" and endless faux-masculine on and on-ing. America's pathetic pornified post-masculine culture really looks down--with a positively Talibanesque combination of disdain and denial--on "playing the part of the woman" in sex. Even when a woman does it.

Toni B breached a Talibanical Pushtunite taboo, and has been branded as a result with her own scarlet A. She ended up being her own Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale in one. Screwed herself up the keester, so to speak you might say catch my drift know what I mean?

Toni Bentley's scarlet A. Now what could that stand for, I wonder?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 24, 2009 9:22 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?