Robert Musil: if you read The Magic Mountain and thought it was too linear and straightforward, please to see The Man Without Qualities. here’s hoping that pages 400-600 of this book are not an argument between two cardboard cutout characters representing liberal democracy and totalitarianism.
Baudelaire: the finger. try complaining less. esp vid the poem where he complains that dogs prefer the smell of excrement to that of perfume. OK, great, i’ll remember that there’s no accounting for taste, that’s a new one.
greil marcus: take a deep breath and calm down. his appeal and fundamental flaw are one and the same, which is to say, he takes rock music a bit too seriously at inopportune moments in the thought process. also, not clear how much instructive vale there is to be had in dissecting dada/situationists. sort of the cultural studies equivalent of civil war reenactment. one sees how it’s clearly an enjoyable activity, but there is a major failure of the will implied. also, it’s hard to consider sid vicious a topic for scholarly inquiry. that said, greil marcus, at least in lipstick traces, wins, because he talks about medieval heresies, which is the #1 permanent way to my heart.
richard hofstadter, anti-intellectualism in american life: excellent history, if written in a gnarled and slow style. at the same time, there are gripes with the subject matter. hard to critique its relevance, especially now with intelligent design roaming the countyside. i’m just waiting for an article in the chronicle of education wherein a group of two-PhD households announce they’re moving to a compound in the woods. or that a bio professor somewhere in the deep south was arrested for alchemy or trying to breed unicorns or something. halting recommendation, halting only because it isn’t that fun to read.
American Tabloid, James Ellroy. 1 million x yes. Is The Cold Six Thousand this good? I read this book in something like 12 hours. revisionist pottymouthed secret histories of the JFK path to glory + weird undiscussed narrative about the nature of male friendship + special condoms made out of other people’s conspiracy theories = the best book.
“We’re just boyhood friends. You were still a child, Clarisse, when the two of us were already showing the unmistakable signs of a fading schoolboy friendship. Countless years ago we admired each other, and now we mistrust each other with intimate understanding. Each of us would like to shake off the painful sense of having once mistaken himself for the other, so now we perform the mutual service of a pitilessly honest distorting mirror.”