My new “Think Again” column is called “Remember Bush’s Vacation” and it’s here.
Thoughts I had while reading the first three articles in The New York Review of Books at lunch today, (and one later one).
1) David Thompson’s article on Cary Grant is a complete waste of time. So Cary Grant’s daughter has written a worthless book about her dad. Big deal. Who cares? Why devote so much space to saying so over and over? If you want to know about Cary, who is my favorite actor of all time, read Ben Schwarz in The Atlantic, but even more than that, read Pauline Kael’s 1975 New Yorker essay, “A Man From Dream City” which is among the most thrilling magazine articles I’ve ever read in my life. And it’s here.
2) I read David Brooks’ book. It was sort of worth it because I learned a lot about current research in science. As a novel, it’s not much, and as an argument for Brooks’ version of conservatism, it doesn’t quite work. Apparently it’s got some significant other problems as well. I do want to second Mr. Orr’s recommendation of Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (Penguin, 2009) which changed the way I thought about knowledge, work and their relationship to one another.
3) I think I agree with Elizabeth Drew on everything she says here.
4) This article by Edward Mendelson on Alfred Kazin, while speculative in many places, is really first rate. Smart and challenging in equal parts. These diaries, much like Saul Bellow’s letters, are a really wonderful gift to those of us who care about this kind of thing and this piece is filled with observations that inspire others on matters large and small. It also contains what I expect will be the epigram of the book I’m beginning about the remaking of American culture by this generation of Jews (and the one that followed): It’s from Alfred’s diaries: “"The beggarly Jewish radicals of the 30s are now the ruling cultural pundits of American society—I who stood so long outside the door wondering if I would ever get through it, am now one of the standard bearers of American literary opinion—a judge of young men."