Both Flesh and Not

[Amazon Link]

A posthumous book of essays and articles issued by the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust.

This is a good book on which to invoke my standard disclaimer: these blog entries for the books I've read are not "book reviews". They're more like "book reports". I.e., I report my reaction to the book, and your mileage may definitely vary.

There are a couple of long (nay, seemingly interminable) essays of literary criticism. It's DFW, so I assume they are not insufferable pretentious crap. It's just that I was unable to distinguish them from insufferable pretentious crap. My bad. I only claim: I looked at every page.

But those two clunkers aside, this is a poignant reminder of the voice that was self-stilled back in 2008. Funny, smart, deeply insightful. (Yes, and also a victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome, as a couple of screedy passages reveal.)

A mark of a fine writer: DFW can get me hooked on writing about a subject I don't care one whit about, like professional tennis. Don't miss the footnotes, where he, for example, muses on Jimmy "Connors's compulsive on-court touching and adjustment of his testes within his jock, as if he needed to know just where they were at all times."

And he also managed to explicate (in "The Nature of the Fun") my own blogging attitude: you can be writing for your own enjoyment, and that's fun; but when you start to get noticed, that fun can transform itself into wanting to be liked. Being liked, well, that's fun too. But it's a different kind of fun, and it can turn you into a different kind of writer.

Damn, I miss him.

URLs du Jour


  • Cafe Hayek brings us the Quotation of the Day from Deirdre McCloskey's new book, Why Liberalism Works.

    The more complex and specialized and spontaneously bettering an economy is, the less it can be planned, the less a central planner however wise and good can know about the trillions of preferences and plans for consumption and production and betterment. A household or your personal life might possibly be plannable, though anyone who believes it with much confidence has not lived very long. But a big, modern economy has vastly too much going on to plan.

    A good thing to keep in mind when Elizabeth Warren says she's "got a plan for that." Because…

  • Kyle Smith looks at 'em: Elizabeth Warren's Plans: Misconceived, Impractical, or Downright Bonkers.

    Time for another episode of Strange Thoughts with Elizabeth Warren. “Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more Americans every year,” Senator Warren said on Twitter. “On World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I’m sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. It’s time to #EndTrafficViolence.

    “Traffic violence” is quite a phrase. In the end, it may be all that anyone remembers of Warren’s decreasingly persuasive but increasingly eccentric campaign. In this bold new framing, cars are not the principal way Americans get around, with fatalities being an unfortunate but blessedly rare occurrence (one per 100,000,000 vehicle miles traveled, a rate that is down more than 80 percent in my lifetime). No, to Warren, cars are instruments of violence like, I don’t know, nunchucks or fuel-injected guillotines, and so she issues her clarion tweet to #EndTrafficViolence. So, right now, November 18, 2019, “it’s time” for us to zero out deaths from cars? How? On what planet?

    Say one thing about "traffic violence": as a concept, it makes about as much sense as "gun violence". And I suspect Senator Liz is living in a reality-resistant bubble where her inner Progressive logic is pushing her to ever more ridiculous positions and schemes.

  • At Reason, Robby Soave reports the latest on right-wing infighting: Young America’s Foundation Excommunicates Michelle Malkin for Defending Nick Fuentes.

    Young America's Foundation (YAF) has removed Michelle Malkin, a right-wing writer and pundit, from its roster of featured speakers. Malkin, the author of a number of books—including, most recently, Open Borders Inc: Who's Funding America's Destruction?—has toured campuses as part of YAF's speakers bureau for 17 years.

    The firing comes as a result of Malkin's vocal support for 22-year-old far-right provocateur Nick Fuentes and his allies, the groypers (yes, that's what they call themselves).

    "YAF gives a platform to a broad range of speakers with a range of views within the mainstream of conservative thought," wrote YAF. "Immigration is a vital issue that deserves robust debate. But there is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists."

    Looking back at Pun Salad archives: I used to link to ma belle Michelle Malkin a lot. A year-by-year count:

    12 2005
    14 2006
    15 2007
    21 2008
    8 2009
    5 2010
    1 2011
    3 2012
    2 2013
    1 2014
    2 2017
    2 2018

    I. e., a huge dropoff starting in 2009, nothing at all in 2015 or 2016, and nothing so far in 2019. And here it is in mid-November.

    So maybe she's changed, or I have.

    I'd like to give her the benefit of doubt: it's silly to call this woman of Philippine descent a "white nationalist", and if she's a Holocaust denier, or even an anti-Semite, I'd think the evidence for that would be … well, more evident.

    And it could be that "vocal support" for objectionable people is more like Michelle refusing to get on the treadmill of condemnation at the never-ending demands of SPLC types.

    Or it could be that she's really gone off the deep end. I dunno.

  • Issues & Insights reports & reminds: FedEx Paid No 2018 Federal Corporate Taxes — A Reminder That The Tax Rate Should Be Zero. It's a good reminder of why a certain breed of politicians love taxes on corporations: it allows them to obscure some simple truths:

    Before anyone gets too worked up about low and zero corporate rates, don’t forget who really pays the taxes: consumers through higher prices, business owners (which makes the corporate tax a tax on capital), shareholders (including retirees who live on their 401Ks and mutual funds) through reduced profits, and workers themselves, who apparently pay the largest share.

    The greediest people on Earth are not those who earn wages, salaries, and profits and wish to keep what they made — it’s the lawmakers who want to forcibly take what belongs to others and use it for their own purposes. Even a criminal sometimes sleeps, said C.S. Lewis, and “his cupidity may at some point be satiated.” But the politicians’ lust for other people’s money never rests.


  • And I've been working through Season Two of "Jack Ryan" on Amazon Prime. But James Lileks in today's Bleat notes why he (and I) have to wince a lot along the way:

    If this was a review it might note the stupidest line uttered on any streaming media platform in late 2019: Jack Ryan, learning that the Right-wing nationalist government of . . . VENEZUELA, okay, I’m trying to get that potato down my windpipe, well, Jack learns the assassination of a US Senator is being blamed on a group fighting the gobermen, as they say “government” down there. The group is hard left-wing, because of course that’s the sitch down in Venezuela now, and he says:

    “The FLA is a small hard-left splinter group. Anti-Americanism isn’t in their DNA.”

    Uh -

    It might be entirely plausible to have a guerrilla group fighting Chavism because it was insufficiently murderous, and did not empty out the cities to put the soft-handed spectacle-wearing intellectual glasses in agricultural camps where they worked until they died, and it is possible this group would be so focused on removing the insufficiently collective government of Maduro, and was so localized in their concerns that they gave little thought to the United States, and it is possible that such a group might have an animus towards the US when they stopped for a smoke and tossed around fundamental ideas, but -

    The idea that a CIA analysts would say “Anti-Americanism is in the DNA of the hard left guerrilla movements” suggests:

    The writers are idiots

    The writers are willfully obscuring a truth

    Note: this is not an either-or choice.

    Yes. I'd bet on "both", too.