The Anatomy of Book Reviews

From The Millions, an essay by Darryl Campbell titled, Is This Book Bad, or Is It Just Me? The Anatomy of Book Reviews. He’s looking for a little more meanness in book reviews. His introduction:

The book review is dead. At the very least, it’s very obviously dying. Anyway, we can all agree that it should be killed off, because it’s gotten to be irrelevant. If not downright parasitic. (Though maybe it might be salvaged if the average review was a little meaner.)

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Who Killed the Liberal Arts?

And why we should care. The Introduction:

When asked what he thought about the cultural wars, Irving Kristol is said to have replied, “They’re over,” adding, “We lost.” If Kristol was correct, one of the decisive battles in that war may have been over the liberal arts in education, which we also lost.

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Why Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote All Failed to Write the Great American Novel

From PJ Media:

Many commentators have suggested that the passing of Gore Vidal at age eighty-six on July 31 marks the end of a remarkable generation of postwar American novelists the likes of whom we shall never see again.

When people speak of that generation of novelists, they are usually referring to exactly three people: Norman Mailer (born in 1923), Truman Capote (1924), and Vidal (1925).  All three made splashy literary debuts in the years shortly after the war.  All three were not just writers but celebrities.  Their arrival on the national scene was followed shortly by the advent of television and the TV talk show, on which all three excelled in their different ways at making an indelible impression.

But the author of this piece argues that they weren’t all that great as novelists.

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The Economics and History of Cronyism, with this opening quote: “When you leave the honey jar open, expect ants.”  Or a definition from elsewhere: “where the profits are privatized and the costs socialized.”

And: Why Capitalism Has an Image Problem. An opening quote:

From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.

Well, there is a difference between “capitalism” and “crony capitalism,” the latter being closer to fascism.

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‘Prick the Bubbles, Pass the Mantle: Hitchens as Orwell’s Successor’

From the Humanist:

The importance of Hitchens’ point cannot be overstated: any subject can reach a state of worship at which criticism and free thought is threatened. (Orwell’s willingness to critique Gandhi on some points while praising him on others was along similar lines.) The general principle occurs more subtly as well, and should be taken further to stress that in all matters we’re capable of duping ourselves.

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Is the Web Driving Us Mad?

From The Daily Beast,

Tweets, texts, emails, posts. New research says the Internet can make us lonely and depressed—and may even create more extreme forms of mental illness, Tony Dokoupil reports.

As one commenter said, “Everything in moderation.”

An update: Proof?

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‘Gangsters at Sea’

A brief entertaining essay about boating in the Mediterranean, when it was enjoyable vs. now, from Taki’s Magazine (Hat tip: Maggie’s Farm)

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Why Johnny Can’t Ride

From Bicycling:

Childhood obesity rates are soaring, youth participation in sports and other active pursuits is plummeting, and a generation is coming of age with little understanding of the joy and freedom of unsupervised play. There’s a simple solution—but all across the nation our schools earn a failing grade when it comes to letting kids ride their bikes.
And for your viewing pleasure, Pedal Power displays 49 cycling photographs from around the world.
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More Ray Bradbury

From long-gone Holiday magazine, an uplifting essay about Disneyland and the possibilities of robots: The Machine-tooled Happyland, by Ray Bradbury—October 1965.

And from The Paris Review, an interview with Ray Bradbury on the art of fiction.

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‘The Curious Case of Internet Privacy’

From Technology Review (hat tip: Instapundit) More of the headline:

Free services in exchange for personal information. That’s the “privacy bargain” we all strike on the Web. It could be the worst deal ever.

And a great last line:

There’s a business opportunity for a company that wants to supply arms to the rebels instead of the empire.

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