Howdy, friends! It’s lovely, sunny, and warm, so I’m off on a run. Here are some interesting tidbits I found elsewhere on the world-wide timewasting web for those of you not enjoying perfect autumn weather today:
- Via RealClearBooks, Eleanor Barkhorn on “What Jeffrey Eugenidies Doesn’t Understand About Women,” after reading his new book, The Marriage Plot: “There’s one way, however, in which [the protagonist] Madeleine defies believability: She has no true female friends. Yes, she has roommates and a sister with whom she once had ‘heavy’ emotional conversations, but these relationships are characterized more by spite than affection. And, sadly, The Marriage Plot is just the latest story to forget to give its heroine friends. There are countless other Madeleines in modern-day literature and film: smart, self-assured women who have all the trappings of contemporary womanhood except a group of friends to confide in.” Have you noticed this about recent books and films? I have to say that I hadn’t until Barkhorn pointed it out. She concludes, “The great irony, of course, is that the old-fashioned, marriage-plot-bound books that Eugenides attempts to modernize in his new novel actually do a better job of portraying female friendship than The Marriage Plot.” I think I may read this anyway–a library codex copy of the book, of course–because I’m a huge fan of “marriage plot” authors like Jane Austen and the many Brontes, but Barkhorn makes an interesting argument here.
- Isn’t it cute when right-wing religious nuts start condemning each other to hell? Robert Jeffress vs. Bill Donahue, plus all Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, of course. Taking victimology to new heights, Anita Perry cries that her handsome husband Rick has been “brutalized . . . because of his faith.” Mark my words: the majority of Americans will not reward this kind of religious pride, which just stinks of hubris and un-neighborliness. Even if they privately agree with him, Americans are fundamentally uncomfortable with the Jeffress style of public religious condemnation.
- 1970s flashback: Do any of you remember the sensational book Sybil, about the girl with multiple personality disorder? Check out Laura Miller’s review of Debbie Nathan’s Sybil Exposed, which details the twisted relationship between “Sybil” (Shirley Ardell Mason) and her therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur. Mason had finally moved out of Wilbur’s house and had achieved her goal of becoming an art teacher and even a homeowner by the time Flora Rheta Schreiber published her sensational account of “Sybil’s” 16 personalities, but sadly the publicity for the book (and the fact that Schreiber disguised her case study pretty poorly) led Mason to flee her independent life and move back in with her therapist.
- John Judis actually reviews all 528 pages of Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President. He finds it trustworthy on balance and the annoying small errors the result of “the current practices of some large American publishers, who spend little time or money on copy-editing or fact-checking and rush books out without much editorial pressure. As far as I can tell, Suskind’s errors are not discrediting.” His problem is with the “education of a President” part of the book, as Judis disagrees with Suskind’s optimistic conclusion that President Barack Obama “gets it” about what went wrong in his first two years, and mocks the President’s interest in “telling a story” with his presidency: “In fact, Obama had run for president and governed on the basis of a story—a story he articulated in his Democratic convention keynote address in 2004—of an America that is not red, blue, white, black, or brown, but a ‘United States of America.’ This appeal resonated during the election, but as early as January 2009, when he was informed that Republicans as a bloc would oppose his stimulus program, he should have known that it had little basis in reality. He clung to it anyway. It governed his attitude toward Wall Street and toward the hard-line Republican opposition; and it led him to jeopardize his presidency and the country’s future. Yes, there was a failure of communication, but it was not because the President didn’t have a story. It was because the story was pure fiction. . . . Suskind may have set out to write a book about a president learning from his mistakes, but he may have ended up writing one about a failed presidency.” His words, friends, not mine, so don’t get your panties in a bunch this weekend, m’kay?